Timber Frame Terminology You Should Know

Hamill Creek   |   Aug 1, 2019

Undertaking a timber frame project is extremely rewarding, yet challenging. It is a significant commitment that requires time and focus. One way you can make the project easier is to familiarize yourself with the terms and vocabulary specific to this type of build. It will help you better communicate with building contractors, designers, and construction crews. Below, we have provided a basic glossary of words you will likely come across when using timber framing.


  • Adze: An axe-like tool with a blade at right angles to its handle. It is used to shape or dress timbers.
  • Anchor Beam: This is a major tying beam. It is joined to post with shouldered through-tenon, wedged from the opposite side.
  • Anchor Bolt: A bolt that protrudes from the top of the foundation onto which the sill plate is fastened with a nut.
  • Auger: A tool that bores holes in wood.
  • Back-filling: Replacing excavated soil around a foundation.
  • Baseboard: Interior trim along the floor used on the wall of a room.
  • Batten: A narrow piece of lumber used for covering panel or siding edges.
  • Bay: The space between two bents.
  • Beam: A  horizontal timber used in the structure’s framework.  Beams are supported at the ends and can be either load bearing, supporting joists or non-load bearing.
  • Beam Pocket: A notch in a wall prepared to receive the ends of a beam.
  • Bent: A truss or structural network of timbers or that makes up one cross-sectional piece of the frame.
  • Bevel siding: Boards of varying width, tapering to a thin edge, and used as covering for sides of buildings.
  • Braced Frame: Another phrase for timber frame.
  • Bridging: Short pieces of wood set between beams or joists to prevent lateral movement.
  • Buck: Frame of dimensional lumber set into a log wall and used to encase windows and doors.
  • Buckling: Bending of a timber resulting from compression force along its axis.
  • Building Code: Standards of construction designed to protect the health and safety of the occupants.
  • Building Permit: Authorization issued by a city or town that allows construction work on a specific site to go forward according to approved plans. Ensures that all proposed construction work meets building code.
  • Cant: A triangular strip of lumber made by ripping a square timber diagonally.
  • Cantilever Beam: A timber that projects out from a wall or post and supports an overhang.
  • Dead Load: Weight of building (roof, floors, walls, etc.).
  • Depth: The vertical thickness of a beam.
  • Eave: That part of a roof, which projects beyond the face of a wall.
  • Edge Distance: The distance from the center of a peg hole to the edge of the member, measured perpendicular to the grain direction.
  • Edge Grain: Lumber that is sawed along a radius of the annual rings.
  • Egress: A door, window or skylight people can use as building exits.
  • Embellishment: A decorative detail or feature added to a timber frame truss.
  • Girder: Significant timber that sits between sills.
  • Girt: Major horizontal timber that connects posts.
  • Jamb: The side of a window, door, or other such opening.
  • Joinery:. The process of connecting timbers with wooden pegs, mortise, and tenons. It can also refer to the fasteners used in connecting the wooden components.
  • Joint: Where two timbers meet.
  • Joists: Timbers that support a floor system generally running parallel to each other.
  • Knee Brace: A knee brace is a timber that is placed diagonally between a post and a beam to provide greater support.
  • Mortise and Tenon: A method to attach two pieces of wood. One piece of wood has a slot, while the other component has a projecting piece that fits in the slot.
  • Peg: A piece of wood shaped into a dowel. The wood is usually round or octagonal.
  • Plate: Horizontal timber that supports and ties together vertical posts. 
  • Post: A vertical timber.
  • Post and Beam: Construction that is composed of horizontal and vertical timbers similar to timber frames. This method uses exposed steel brackets and plates instead of traditional mortice and tenon joinery.
  • Purlins: Horizontal timbers connecting rafter trusses.
  • Ridge: The uppermost point of the triangle created by the rafters of a roof. It could be a joining point of a pair of rafters, a ridge beam or a ridge purlin.
  • Ridge Beam: A beam that supports rafters and other roof timbers at the ridge.
  • Structural Insulated Panels: Also known as SIP, they are an option for enclosing your timber frame.  They are created by sandwiching a layer of foam between two layers of boards forming a structural panel.
  • Tenon: The projecting end of a timber inserted into a mortise.
  • Tie Beam: A tie is a horizontal beam placed at a point along the rafters, creating a smaller triangle, adding strength to the roof and rigidity to the rafters.
  • Timber Frame: This traditional method of construction uses large-sized lumber to create a framework that remains exposed. Traditional woodworking methods including wooden pegs, mortise, and tenon joinery are used instead of nails, screws or other metal fastenings.
  • Trunnel: Another term for pegs and fasteners used in joinery.
  • Truss: A framework of timbers based on triangular shapes, generally designed to support a roof. 

This list will be greatly helpful as you undertake your timber frame project. Keep in mind, however, that while this glossary is significant, there are even more terms out there relating to timber frame builds. Make it a point to prioritize educating yourself throughout the process. 


Final Thoughts

By making the decision to work with Hamill Creek, you have a team of professionals at your disposal to help you every step of the way. We have built scores of timber frame homes and additions and are excited to put our expertise to use. We look forward to helping you bring your dreams into reality!

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