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The Benefits of Roundwood Timber Framing

The Benefits of Roundwood Timber Framing

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
Mar 28, 2018

Round wood timber framing is an ancient art that has been used by generations of people from different cultures and continents. Unlike milled wood or industrially processed wood, round wood uses the entire tree for framing purposes. Not only does this add an essential aesthetic factor that brings nature into your home, but there are also numerous other benefits to this art form.

One significant problem with the modern-day home is the design is that there is no visible reminder of the natural world where our building materials originate. Most housing frames are wood, for example, but industrial processes have reduced the trees from which the framing comes from to such an extent that we cover it up the wood with drywall. A chemically treated 2x4 or piece of plywood, for example, does not remind us of a beautiful tree or forest. In almost every home, synthetic materials that further conceal the natural origins of the homes we live in cover natural materials.

Why is this an issue? Connecting to nature is key to our psychological health. Biophilic design is a term for recognizing the innate human need to connect to the natural world. We should incorporate this into building design, and it has been gaining more traction in the world of architecture. There are numerous known advantages to biophilic architecture, and a timber frame home is but one approach to biophilic architecture

The History of Round Wood Timber Framing

Ancestors have built their homes with wood for centuries. The Neolithic log house in northern Europe was built around 6,000 B.C. and is one of the oldest known wood-built structures in the world. Milling wood into squared timbers was impossible in an earlier time before the invention of metal tools. It was an extremely labor-intensive task when metal hand tools were invented. Carpenters and builders developed different ways to connect round wood timbers.

Different species of trees were cut down in the woods, the bark stripped, and the timbers were left to dry. Once dried out, these tree trunks were cut to size and then attached through a variety of techniques. An early application was to use the round wood timber as poles to form a load-supporting wall structure from the ground up through a system of interconnecting the logs themselves.

Later, in Britain and other parts of Europe, carpenters began to develop the art of attaching round wood poles with the use of cruck frames. These are triangles or trusses of round wood pegged together to make an A shape. One compelling component of this building technique was the ability of carpenters and artisans to join pieces of wood together through intricate pegs and holes using the wood itself

roundwood timber framing home
Photo courtesy of Rudi Fowler

What Are The Benefits of Roundwood Timber Framing?

Round wood timber framing offers several advantages over traditional wood framing that rely on milled wood such as 2x4s, 6x8s, or other standard rectangular dimensions used in modern-day construction.

  • Less waste. To get a 6x8 piece of lumber, the diameter of the tree has to be more significant. Thus, milling wood to get a squared or rectangular piece of lumber will waste a large part of the timber. Mills will often utilize the waste in other ways, such as selling it to use as fuel or paper pulp. The beauty of timber framing is that you use the entire log.
  • Stronger structure. Round wood timbers are much stronger than rectangular wood used for framing. The continuous wood fibers are not interrupted through milling, meaning there is protection for potential weak spots such as knots and other anomalies within the round pole. There is much less chance that round wood timbers will bend or twist when drying, as often happens with milled wood.
  • Ability to use smaller trees. Because round wood timbers are stronger than square wood, it is possible to use smaller diameter timber. It allows the builder to more efficiently and sustainably source the round wood poles.
  • Less energy used. The milling process relies on vast amounts of power to transport the wood to a factory, cut it to the correct dimensions, and then ship it around the world. In many parts of the developing world, the waste wood burns in open-air pits that further contributes to the carbon emissions associated with milling lumber.
  • More aesthetically pleasing. Homes that incorporate a round wood timber frame offer a unique aesthetic quality. Instead of hiding the framework of the house behind drab walls and ceilings made of drywall, expose round wood timber frames. This exposure is so you can see, touch, and even smell the natural world in your own home.
roundwood timber

How to Build a Round Wood Timber Framed Home

Round wood timber framing is certainly DIY friendly, and the best way to begin is to read the book titled Round Wood by author Ben Law. This definitive manual offers step-by-step instructions on how to build your own home from round wood timbers. If you are looking for professional help, look for contractors and natural building companies specialize in round wood timber framing.

Bottom line

Timber frame homes are beautiful, strong, less wasteful, and connect you to nature even when you are indoors—an excellent example of sustainable home material.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2020-05-14T16:18:07+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.