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Vermont Timber Works Blog

Timber Framing in Central America

By Mike McLaine on October 01, 2013

We were recently contracted to design the timber frame for a resort in Central America.  The project was fairly complex due to the building’s proximity to the ocean, the area’s seismic activity, and the function of the building.  The design, with hipped trusses, also added to the complexity of the job.

Blown-up view of roof system

This is a view of each of the pieces that go into the roof system

Although we were willing and able to travel to help with the installation of the frame (who could say no to the Caribbean?) the client was confident in the abilities of his local carpenters to be able to fabricate the pieces, put the timbers together, and install the trusses.

Timber Truss

Typical Timber Truss

We were able to use our cutting edge software to come up with detailed shop drawings that showed precisely where each of the notches, mortises, tenons, etc. were located on each piece.  The timbers are Santa Maria, a tropical hardwood.

Timbers in production

Timbers in production

With our full set of drawings the crew was able to order the timbers from a local mill.  They then laid out each piece according to our shop drawings and fabricated them on site.

Precision fabrication

Precision fabrication

Although the carpenters didn’t have any timber frame experience per se, they were able to cut each of the pieces to the precise dimensions that were on our shop drawings.

Double Tenons

Double Tenons

The end result is one of which we would be proud.  The team of carpenters can now put a feather in their cap for a job well done!

Truss Assembly

Truss Assembly

Let us know what you are thinking of for your timber project, whether it is in the tropics or not! We encourage you to get in contact or share your thoughts in the comment section below.

5 comments
  1. Doug Friant says:

    Nice blog post Mike! It is a very cool job.

  2. Sandy Connolly says:

    Unique project, great post Mike, thanks for sharing!

  3. web page says:

    Would a authority be able to fill out a waiver for carpentry?

  4. Jade Brunet says:

    We are excited to be working with a home builder to build our home, and we decided that we want timber frames. It is good to know that cutting edge software can tell you where each of the notches, mortises, and tenons are located on each piece of timber. It was also convenient for you that you were able to order timber from a local mill. We will have to look into where we will be getting our timber, thanks.

    • Doug Friant says:

      If only it were so easy. We custom design all of our joinery using a sophisticated software package called CadWork. It is very powerful and very expensive. There are some great books on the subject, and the Timber Framers’ Guild is always a good resource for finding a local timber framer. Cheers, Doug

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