Timber Frame History
The art of timber framing dates back to some of early man’s first primitive structures. Europe is full of timber-framed structures dating back hundreds of years, including manors and castles, homes and inns, whose architecture and techniques of construction have evolved over the centuries. In Asia you will find timber-framed structures, many of them temples, that have stood for centuries.
Wood from local forests provided a convenient supply of building materials. Craftsman shaped these logs into rectangular hand-hewn posts and beams through the skilled use of axes. Instead of using metal hardware to connect the timbers, the craftsmen carved precise mortise and tenon and dovetail joints, which they secured with wooden pegs. The skill in creating this precise joinery and intricately engineered timber frames was the source of great pride and competition among the timber frame artisans. So much so, that it became a tradition for craftsmen to inscribe their initials next to the joinery they created.
European settlers brought the art of timber framing with them to America and the practice was the predominant means of construction until the middle of the 19th century. The invention of mass-produced nails and the ability to manufacture smaller timbers quickly and cheaply gave rise to more economical forms of light frame construction using structural studs and braces connected with nails.
Light frame construction enabled builders to enclose large areas with minimal cost, while achieving a wide variety of architectural styles. On the rapidly expanding American frontier, the demand for quick and cheap housing meant that light frame construction soon replaced timber framing as the dominant building method. This is still true today, as these techniques evolved to become what is commonly known as stud construction.
Although the majority of homes are still built using stud construction, America is in the midst of a revival of the art of timber frame homes. New manufacturing techniques have increased the precision while reducing the labor involved in creating timber frames, and the introduction of structural insulated panels (SIPs) has helped speed up construction of timber frame homes. Woodhouse® The Timber Frame Company is at the fore of this movement. As the premier provider of modern timber frame homes, Woodhouse® enables discerning buyers to enjoy the warmth and elegance of this time-honored old-world architectural style in a state-of-the-art, energy efficient custom timber frame home. Woodhouse® began life with a different name—Solar Northern Inc.—in 1979 and was the brainchild of 2 partners: Steve Keller, our founder and current CEO, and John Saveson, an architect and designer. At that time there was a significant energy crisis caused by the OPEC oil embargo and the US government, led by the Carter administration, had put incentives in place to encourage people to build energy efficient homes. Solar Northern’s specialty was passive solar design—using the path of the sun to naturally heat and cool a home—and this design concept, coupled with a high degree of insulation, could earn a monetary grant for the homeowner. The need for excellent insulation led Steve and John to the investigation of, and subsequent use of, structural insulated panels or SIPs. In order to support the SIPs, Solar Northern used traditional trusses until a client requested a post and beam structure or what is now known as a timber frame. After quotations for the timber frame came in at a very high price, Steve decided that they could make the structure themselves and Solar Northern produced its first timber frame in 1980.
As the energy crisis lifted, and the Reagan administration eliminated the grants that funded the passive solar design part of the business, timber frame building became the focus of the company which was now known as Solar Northern Post and Beam. John sold his share of the business to Steve who again changed the name of the company to Woodhouse, The Timber Frame Company in 1986. By that time, Woodhouse was the largest consumer of SIPs in the country but Steve was unhappy with the quality of the SIPs he was purchasing. Accordingly, he started Murus in 1987 to produce a higher quality SIP. Today, Murus is the leading producer of polyurethane SIPs in the world.
In 2004 Steve formed a partnership with Pat Seaman who is now owner, President, and General Manager of Woodhouse. The company is one of the largest timber frame manufacturers in the US shipping all over the country on a regular basis (we have also shipped to Japan, the South Pacific, the Caribbean, England, and Germany) and is growing rapidly.
Our heritage is one to be proud of—it is based on environmental responsibility and community service—and it has taken us to a leadership position in a beautifully artistic and craft-oriented industry.
Everyone at Woodhouse® is committed to being exceptionally responsive to your needs and concerns. We are dedicated to providing the highest level of satisfaction through the delivery of the most skilled custom timber frame home design service, the finest building materials and the most well-crafted timber framed homes available. Woodhouse® has always been the first to offer the best—and we are only improving upon this standard. We look forward to being at your service.