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How To Incorporate Steel In A Timber Frame

By Margaux Friant on September 05, 2016

How To Incorporate Steel In A Timber Frame

This post is for people interested in timber frames that incorporate steel. The decision of whether or not to use steel in a frame is made during the conceptualization & design process. Timber frames with wide-spanning trusses, hammer beam trusses, or softer woods may require steel for structural support. In the case that steel is required, but the client does not want it to be visible, our team can work to design the frame so the steel is hidden. Steel can also be visibly incorporated into a frame for purely aesthetic reasons, for example, if the client is interested in a frame with an industrial look.

A timber frame is different from a post & beam frame. Derek, one of our sales reps, wrote a great post that explained the difference between timber frame construction and post & beam construction. Check it out here! But in sum, the main difference between the two types of construction is whether or not there are traditional joints. A timber frame is supported structurally through the joints. A post & beam frame uses plates & bolts to make connections.

Here at Vermont Timber Works, we build timber frames. The joinery in our frames is always traditional. Although, we do cut frames that incorporate steel for both structural and aesthetic reasons. Here are some of the ways we can use steel in a timber frame:

Steel Plates – A thick steel sheet that is used for connections. It is fastened to a beam with bolts. Plates can help support heavier structural loads than timber alone, which allows for wide-spanned truss designs. They can also be used to provide shear resistance and resistance against other types of force.

how to incorpate steel in a timber frame - gusset plate

Gusset Plate

how to incorporate steel in a timber frame - sheer plate

Shear Plate

Steel Tie Rod – A thin steel rod used to resist tension in a truss.

how to incorporate steel in a timber frame - steel tie rod

Steel Tie Rod

The steel can be painted different colors. The cidery timber frame, pictured above, is a beautiful example of a frame with steel painted red. Spruce Peak Base Lodge, at Stowe Mountain in VT, is a beautiful example of a timber frame with steel painted black.

steel painted black

Steel Painted Black

One of the best parts of working with Vermont Timber Works is that all of our frames are custom. We can work together during the design process to create a frame that is your vision and your style!

If you like this post, or have timber work questions, we invite you to get in contact, visit our ask an expert page, or share your thoughts in the comment section below! To learn more about timber framing with steel, check out our steel joinery page. Thanks for stopping by our timber framers blog!

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3 comments
  1. Doug Friant says:

    This is a great explanation of traditional joinery and steel joinery used in heavy timber construction.

  2. Marton says:

    I would like to thanks for explaining the process for incorporating the steel in a timber frame.

  3. Braden Bills says:

    It’s interesting that you can incorporate steel into a wooden timber frame structure. I can understand why the extra structural integrity would be nice! What material is better than steel for improving the durability of your structure?

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