Traditional Timber Framing - A Brief Introduction


5 Construction Elements

Upper floors in timber framed buildings were relatively rare until the 1400s. Where floor spans were relatively short the structure was simply created using joists, however the typical span for the majority of floors necessitated the use of additional support for the joists and these were frequently jointed into more substantial bridging or summer beams which divided the span.

Plastered ceilings were rare in all classes of building until the 1600s. This meant that the floor structure was exposed and where these were contained within rooms occupied by the owners, ornate treatment of the beams and joists was common.

The majority of timber framed buildings were built with externally exposed timber frames. The most common form of enclosure was applied between the exposed timbers of the frame and is known as wattle and daub. It consisted of vertical timbers or staves fixed between two horizontal members of the timber frame, which supported timber laths woven between them. This element is the wattle. It supported the daub which was a rough lime-based plaster (containing animal hair, dung and locally found aggregates) which was trowelled onto the wattle and finished flush with the external face of the timber frame. The most common treatment following the application of wattle and daub was to limewash both the panels and the frame. This was commonly regularly re-applied (in some cases annually) and acted as a waterproofer, a filler of shrinkage gaps between the timber frame and wattle and daub panels, an insecticide and a decorative coating. Evidence suggests that the lime wash was the most common finish for all timber frames. It was usually coloured using locally available materials, coloured soil, blood and other materials. The ‘black and white’ treatment of timber frames is largely a Victorian fashion.

Window frames and door frames were incorporated into the timber frame itself rather than separate components as is the case nowadays. The glazing of windows became increasingly common in the early 1600s; until then most windows were open to the elements with protection being provided by sliding or hinged internal, or external, shutters.

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