by Paul and Makenzie Benander
My partner and I have been building a tiny timber-framed house for a little over a year now. We thought you or some of your readers might find it interesting or helpful to hear about our project. When we started our build we had a hard time finding other people in the tiny house community who were doing a timber frame on a trailer. I’ve attached some pictures of the frame raising and some recent shots, as well as a brief synopsis of the project. For more pictures we have a blog at TinyTimberHouse.wordpress.com
Thanks for your time and keep up the good work! We’ve spent countless hours perusing your blog throughout our journey and gotten lots of great info and ideas!
We first heard of the tiny house movement during our senior year at college. With so much up in the air in terms of job opportunities and additional schooling we were immediately intrigued by the idea of living simply and taking home with us where ever we ended up.
We got the idea to try and do a timber frame construction after I had taken a timber-framing workshop. We had always loved the look and feel of post and beam construction and after putting together a small shed in the workshop I had attended, we thought ‘Why not a tiny house?’. Two major factors to consider in a tiny house frame are strength/stability and weight.
As it turns out, timber frames have a long history in New England and are a tried and true form of construction that relies on careful joinery. They are however, traditionally heavy frames. We decided to go with 6×6 hemlock timbers as opposed to the standard 8×8 to save on weight and room. Once the frame had been planned out we were then able to calculate the wet vs. dry weight of the timbers to know exactly what we were dealing with. As another precaution we also opted for a new trailer (as opposed to used) rated for 10,000 lbs.
Equipped with a mallet, set of chisels and books, we began construction on our tiny house in October 2012. The winter was spent working on the timbers and preparing the trailer and this May we were able to have a ‘tiny house-raising’ where friends came and helped us to raise the frame.
Since the raising we have spent the summer and fall months closing in, insulating, installing windows and doors, and beginning our systems work.
Dimensional lumber — 2x4s, 2x6s, etc., are about as ubiquitous as suburban sprawl is in America. (Maybe there’s some kind of relationship there..?) 2x4s are an industrial product, only becoming a dominant building material in the last century. As priorities have shifted to speed, uniformity, and ease of production, more traditional building styles have fallen out of favor.
However, it is almost certainly time to rethink how we build our homes, addressing not only downsizing possibilities, and the size and efficiency of spaces, but how we build houses themselves, and what materials we use. I believe timber framing, and specifically roundwood timber framing, fills a great need, enabling more holistic and sustainable home construction.
Here’s a great passage from the USDA Forest Service’s “History of Yard Lumber Size Standards” (warning: PDF link) that hints at industrialization beginning to seep into the world of construction:
Until the middle of the 19th Century, building lumber was usually produced in a locality close to the place where it was to be used. Sizes were not a problem. The needs of builders in the locality were well understood and carpenters were accustomed to much more hand fitting on the job than they are today. As the forests were cut back from the centers of population, lumber had to be shipped greater distances. By the last few decades before 1900, lumber was no longer a locally made commodity. It then became apparent that the sizes used in different trading areas were not uniform and as a result sawmills had to cut lumber for the markets they wished to serve. Continue Reading »
Brian Liloia also known as Ziggy to his friends and well known for his cob house, which I have covered in the past here on the Tiny House Blog, is building a new home using a timber frame structure.
The house, code named Strawtron, is designed to be a passive solar, straw bale-insulated house using timber frame as the main structure.
The interior living area is 13 ft x 24ft which is about 300 square feet, it also has a loft and a green house area that is used to bring in passive solar heating.
Brian is making the small timber frame house plans available for free.
As a side note if you would like to help build this house Dancing Rabbit is offering a Natural Building Workshop in the summer of 2012. This includes two workshops one a Timber Frame Workshop and the second a Straw Bale Workshop. Only 12 spaces are available so click here to learn more and to apply.
P.S. Ziggy just sent me the full details so I am including them below.
by Jon Anderson
Over the years, I’ve built a few log structures and along the way, timber framing got into my blood. I love the beams, the posts, and the tight fitting joints made by a builder using mortise and tenon.
I remember the first time I viewed the clean lines of a timber frame structure. The frame was draw pinned together with Red Oak pegs that were cut by hand on a shaving horse—I was hooked. And, for framing, you don’t need fancy or high-tech tools—framing square, hand saw, chisel, and auger bit have performed quite well for hundreds of years.
When I decided to build a timber frame, I was clueless in regards to technique. Of course, like always, this didn’t stop me. Normally, I just plod blindly ahead (or in the case of the TV remote—I just mash every button randomly on the four separate remotes that are clearly critical to the operation of my cable system—something is bound to happen). However, in this case I decided to at least gain a basic understanding of the process, as there is a certain liability associated with handing big heavy things, like timbers. So, I read a few books that described traditional timber framing techniques and I took a framing class at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota. Continue Reading »