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There are many different types of wood that can be used in a timber frame and each has its own working characteristics, strengths and beauty. Below is a discussion of the types of wood found in timber frame construction and links to some examples from our Home Galleries section.


Image Not Available Southern Yellow Pine (SYP)
Southern Yellow Pine is one of the premier structural woods in the world and it is our most popular timber product. It is very stiff and, when dry, quite hard. One of the colloquial names for SYP is "Hard Pine." It is available in large sizes, long lengths and is of consistently high quality. It is also very amenable to kiln drying so it need not be used green. When dried properly, it distorts very little and checks are small and scattered. It has a bold grain pattern and a color range from golden brown to reddish brown as it ages. It finishes and stains very well. Southern Yellow Pine is a commercial classification for four related species naturally occurring in the southeastern United States. The species are Longleaf, Shortleaf, Loblolly and Slash pines. The mix of species changes as you move from the Atlantic seaboard to East Texas. In our area Shortleaf and Loblolly are predominant with a fairly substantial quantity of Longleaf in areas with sandy soils. The majority of logs that we buy are Shortleaf Pine. See the award winning home we built in Livingston Texas for an example of a timber frame using Southern Yellow Pine.
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Douglas Fir
Douglas Fir, like Southern Yellow Pine, is one of the most sought after structural woods in the world. It is available in virtually any grade and size. It has a very pleasing dark reddish brown color as it ages. It is very sensitive to ultra violet radiation and darkens very quickly when exposed to light. The grain pattern of high quality Douglas Fir is often even in both color and pattern. Planed Douglas Fir seems to glow when a clear oil finish is applied.

Douglas Fir, although very strong, has an Achilles Heel. It splits very easily along the grain. It is therefore necessary to design joinery in such a way to avoid this characteristic. This is seldom a problem for experienced timber framers. We kiln dry new Douglas Fir before using it in a timber frame. Kiln drying stabilizes the wood and reduces movement in the timbers and checking. Douglas Fir is one of the more expensive woods on the market.

Image Not Available Recycled Douglas Fir
Although we use both new kiln dried and recycled Douglas Fir, recycled material has its own special characteristics and beauty. In addition to the environmental benefit of using recycle wood, the material is often very dry and stable. The nail and bolt holes present often leave character marks that are pleasing evidence of its previous use. Building with recycled material often gives the home a history far older than its apparent age. Visit the home in Argyle Texas to see an example of recycled Douglas Fir from Canada.
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Red or White Oak
Oak is a relatively strong wood (not the strongest by any means), has a pleasing grain pattern, takes a finish well and is easily worked when green and is moderately priced. We have used it often. Both our Timber Shop and Planer Barn are Red Oak. Most often Oak is used green, or freshly cut, which means it has a high moisture content. As the wood dries, it checks and shrinks a great deal. This is unfortunate in that both the joinery and timber faces distort after a frame is raised.

Since we are committed to using local materials, when Oak is a clients wood of choice, we most often use the southern species of both Red and White Oak. Northern species are available, but are in no way superior. Due to Red Oak's pleasing color, we most often select Red Oak, although White Oak does offer better resistance to rot and insect damage. This is only important if a frame will be subject to the elements, as would a pavilion or possibly a barn.

Visit the home in Austin Texas for an example of a Red Oak frame.

Image Not Available Cypress
Over the years we have used a limited amount of Cypress, mostly for pavilions and porches. High quality Cypress is rot resistant, has a very pleasing color much like Southern Pine but with a more subtle grain pattern. It often has very high moisture content when green. In our experience it shrinks and checks relatively little as it dries. On the down side, high quality Cypress logs are hard to find and are usually quite expensive. They also tend to come from environmentally sensitive areas. Cypress is not a particularly strong wood and prone, more than most woods, to ring shakes (separation of the wood along the annual rings).


Walnut, Pecan and Other Hickories
Yes, we do have access to all these woods and we use them from time to time for accents in a frame. All of these woods check and distort significantly (much like Oak) as they dry and are not available in quantity and quality enough to warrant their use for a complete timber frame. However, each wood has its own beautiful and may be used for splines, wedges and other frame parts that are relatively small but visually interesting.
Other Choices
Occasionally we have a client who wants something just a bit out of the ordinary. For these people we have access to numerous other species of timber such as Eastern White Pine, Hemlock, Sitka Spruce, Port Orford Cedar and Western Red Cedar. We have even used the local aromatic cedar (actually a Juniper) in a frame. Options are limited only by the imagination.