How are Timber Framed Homes Fire Resistant?

Hamill Creek   |   Apr 3, 2023

Due to the fact that timber framing is made entirely of wood, its structural integrity is often called into question by those who are unfamiliar with this building method. Since wood is widely known for being an excellent fuel source, it’s easy to assume that a timber frame home will easily burn.

Contrary to popular belief, timber framing elements are actually more fire-resistant than more popular building materials like 2×4 lumber and steel beams.

What is Fire Resistance?

The term “fire resistance” is used by builders insurance providers, and regulatory agencies to describe the structural integrity of construction materials when exposed to the heat of a fire. According to the Law Insider website, “fire resistance means the time during which a fire resistant material … fulfills its function of contributing to the fire safety of a building when subjected to prescribed conditions of heat and load or restraint.”

Whether building a stick-built house or a timber frame home, your construction materials of choice must meet the fire resistance standards of local municipalities and counties. Since timber framing is entirely made of wood, timber frame fire safety is often misunderstood.

Is Heavy Timber Fire Resistant?

A little-known fact is that large pieces of timber are actually extremely fire-resistant. One of the primary reasons that timber framing elements hold up so well in a fire is a concept known as “char rate.”

When a piece of timber is exposed to extreme heat, the area on the outside of the log chars – thus creating a protective layer. If you have ever walked through a forest and seen living trees with fire scars, you have seen charring at work. As the International Timber website explains, charring protects timbers because  “the build-up of carbon on the surface will limit the oxygen supply to the wood below and act as an insulator. Therefore, the wood below the charred level will be cool and retain 85 to 90 percent of its structural integrity” in the event of a fire.

No matter if you are interested in green timber vs kiln dried timber, you can count on this material being fire resistant due to char rate.

Fire Resistance of Timber Structures vs Stick-Built Homes

Since timber framing is made of large pieces of wood instead of 2x4s, timber frame homes are more fire-resistant than traditional stick-built homes.

One of the most basic properties of a good fuel source for fire is that of “surface area.” In the end, the more exposed surface area of a piece of wood, the easier it will burn. When you look at the amount of surface area created by 2x4s in a stick-built home compared to a similar structure made out of timber framing, it’s obvious that a stick-built structure will burn much faster, because 2x4s present far more surface area than large timbers.

Your Trusted Timber Frame Builder

As industry experts in timber frame homes, Hamill Creek is dedicated to educating people about timber frame fire safety. Not only are these houses beautiful and durable, but they will also keep your family safe in the event of a fire. From initial site planning, to creating an electric plan and lighting layout for wiring a timber frame home, our team will work with you every step of the way in building your dream home. Contact Us to discuss our timber frame home kits, floor plans, and custom designs in more detail.

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