Timber frame barns are beautiful structures that are built using a construction method that’s been around for millennia. They’re rustic, unique, are of the highest quality, and are just plain gorgeous to look at. If you’ve decided to take on building your own timber frame barn but aren’t sure where to begin, here are some ways to make the whole process a little easier.
How Is Timber Framing Different than Conventional Construction?
Timber frame barns have a long history. Believe it or not, this type of construction dates back all the way to the Neolithic Era and was used historically throughout Europe and parts of the Roman Empire.
Back then you had to work with what you had, and the post and beam construction style depended heavily on what building materials were available. In areas of the world like Finland, Sweden, and Norway, log construction was preferred because tall straight lumber like pine and spruce was everywhere.
In areas surrounded by hardwood (deciduous) trees, timber framing was the standard. The method involves using large-sized timbers cut directly from trees, utilizing hand tools to hew the logs and cut the joinery. This meant that anyone with the right tools and knowledge could build a structure long before sawmills, power tools, and home improvement stores existed.
Today, these old building techniques are having a resurgence and are often used as an alternative to conventional "stick frame" building methods. How do they differ? In conventional (stick) frame construction, small framing boards are spaced close together and joined using nails or other machined fasteners. Because timber framing uses large pieces of material, the wood is placed farther apart and held together using a variety of joints and wooden pins and pegs.
So, if you want to build a timber frame barn, the first thing you need to do is embrace these old techniques.
Why Timber Framing?
One of the main reasons timber frame construction for barns is so appealing is that they’re just beautiful. It’s a style that can’t be created using other construction methods. Because timber framing was used all over the world, there are many different timber frame styles. The method can be used to create a range of styles so you can give your barn a Victorian, New England, or rustic twist.
Structurally, timber frame barns are very sound. Because the size and strength of the timbers, you can create a larger structure without having to worry about load-bearing walls. This makes construction faster and easier, with an end product that’s much more durable than structures made using traditional building methods.
How to Build Your Own Timber Frame Barn
If you've decided that having a custom timber frame barn is for you, here’s a general guide for how to go about building one.
The very first thing you need to do is figure out what kind of barn you want. Most large barns will require working with a company that specializes in timber frame buildings and kits. There are many aspects to building a barn like this that are a lot easier with the help of a professional contractor.
There are some decisions that you’ll have to make to be sure that you get the barn of your dreams. Are you adding the barn to a property you already own or are you going to purchase a new plot of land? Is it going to have power and plumbing? Will you be living in it? Will it meet all local building codes?
There’s a lot to think about but if you break it down into small steps, the process is a little more manageable.
First, decide where you’re going to build. If you’re planning to have electric lighting and plumbing in your barn, pay attention to access. The closer you are to existing plumbing and power lines, the easier it will be. Make sure you consult with a professional if you’re planning to add electricity and plumbing so that you can be sure everything is safe and up to code. On the other hand, if you’re not concerned with these things, you can do almost all of the work yourself.
When it comes to location, choosing a large open area of land that’s relatively flat and free of debris is ideal, though this might not always be possible. Understand that some work may need to be done before construction can begin to clear away rocks, plants, debris, and even trees. Plus, the more uneven the land, the more work it will be to level and lay the foundation.
Second, begin the design process for your barn. Once you know where the custom timber frame barn will go, it’s time to start on a design. There are many different timber frame kits available that make this process relatively easy and keep the cost pretty straightforward. If you’re choosing a kit, it’s as easy as looking at designs and choosing the one that you want. Everything needed to build is included so you’ll have almost everything you need to start construction once the kit is delivered.
Laying the foundation is the first step in the construction process. You can build your barn with a concrete foundation, wood joists or even a dirt floor. The most common foundation is a slab - to lay this type of foundation you usually simply frame out the area and pour the concrete. If the land isn’t level and you’re working around different elevations, you may need a skid steer or other small piece of equipment for dirt removal.
When using a kit, all of the wood will already be shaped and cut to size. You’ll also receive all the hardware needed to build the structure. Depending on the size of your barn, you may also need access to some construction equipment. These materials are big and heavy and not exactly easy to lift and position.
Beauty that Lasts a Lifetime
With the right timber frame barn kit, you can build your own beautiful barn of the highest quality without having to harvest your own trees, prep your own lumber, or come up with the perfect design. You’ll still get the satisfaction of actually building your barn with your own two hands but the process is just a little easier because all of the prep work is done for you.