The term post and beam as it applies to home construction can be very confusing. Just what does it refer to? In general post and beam is just a term for building with heavy timbers, be they logs, or milled square timbers. A post after all, in its simplest definition, is a long study piece of timber or other material set upright on the ground and used to support something, such as a beam. A beam can be defined as a heavy piece of timber, metal or stone used horizontally as a construction support, usually for a floor or roof. Consequently, the term Post and Beam Homes can be generically used to describe any home that uses these two basic building pieces in their construction.
What is Post and Beam Construction?
Post and beam construction most commonly refers to:
- Post and lintel building – a beam or lintel placed over an open or unsupported area, and supported at both ends by a column or post. This is a basic and very ancient type of construction, which include such luminaries as Stonehenge, and many eastern Asian temples.
- Pole building or framing – a simple form of construction, mainly for agricultural uses such as the building of large barns and storage buildings. Poles or logs are sunk into the ground or placed on a foundation, and other poles are spikes to them for horizontal support to form a (usually open) framework, which is then roofed.
- Timber frame – heavy timbers forming a structurally supportive framework. The timbers are connected with wooden joinery and wooden pegs.
- A combination of any of the above, the most common being square or round posts connected to beams and other framing pieces with metal straps, plates and bolts.
How Is Post and Beam Construction Different from Timber Frame Building
The most defining element of timber framing is its joinery. It is this joinery that sets timber frame buildings apart from any other type of construction that uses posts and beams. This joinery is crafted into every timber piece, and these pieces are then connected through their joinery to form a totally independent, structurally supporting, timber frame; all made of wood and connected with wooden pegs.
The aesthetics are that of beauty of wood and workmanship. This joinery is mainly centered on the mortise and tenon, the tenon being the tongue of the joint and the mortise the slot. Post and Beam construction, in contrast, generally relies on a connection system that is composed of metal fasteners.
While the marriage of wood and metal is a wonderful combination, this does not provide for a connection that is as strong or as intrinsically true. Post and Beam or Timber frame, it is all in the joinery.
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