Last edited 02 Oct 2020

Timber post and beam construction

Timber post and beam construction is a building method that comprises vertical structural posts and horizontal beams, jointed to form a structural frame into which walls are ‘placed’. As this frame is structural, and carrying the roof load, the number of interior walls can be reduced, making it suitable for creating open plan spaces.

Timber post and beam construction differs from the technique referred to as ‘timber frameconstruction, which is a system of panelised structural walls and floors constructed from small section timber studs and clad with board products. For more information, see Timber frame.

Post and beam construction dates back to the 1600s, and typically comprised timbers which were hand-hewn and jointed using hardwood pegs or slotted on top or alongside one another. Oak timber was traditionally used for the beams and columns, as well as the floors and roofing. Sometimes, diagonal posts would be required to resist lateral loads. Contemporary post and beam construction often uses engineered glulam, or modular techniques whereby sub-sections are prefabricated before being hoisted and bolted in place on-site.

It is usual for beams to be visible inside the building, while an exterior skin fully conceals them on the outside which may be rendered or otherwise clad. This can means that post and beam buildings are difficult to recognise when viewed from outside.

Post and beam construction is very flexible and can be used to create interesting and dramatic features. For example, an entire gable end can be used for a double-height window, using beams at the top of the glazing to bear the load of the roof. Late changes and modifications can also be made during the construction phase.

However, post and beam construction can be more expensive than timber frame, due mainly to the additional labour that is required to erect it. It can also be more time-consuming to construct.

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