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Rough Sawn Hemlock–the Unsung Hero of Timber Framing

By Mike McLaine on October 15, 2013

Here in New England we have a number of species of trees in our forests, which is why we have such spectacular foliage.

Fall foliage

Fall Foliage in all its splendor

One of my personal favorite trees is the Eastern hemlock, Tsuga canadensis, a coniferous water-loving species.  Hemlock is one of the species we recommend for a number of reasons:  it is durable, available locally, is a relatively strong species, and takes a stain very well.

Arched Timber Braces

Arched Timber Braces

Traditional joinery or steel joinery are both possibilities with hemlock.  We built the timber frame for this school in Northern Vermont using hemlock beams and steel plates.

Hemlock Timbers with Steel Joinery at Green Mountain Tech

Hemlock Timbers with Steel Joinery at Green Mountain Tech

And let’s not forget our very popular Texas Barn in Shiner, TX!  Hemlock was the species used in this barn.

Hermes Barn

Hemlock timber frame with natural finish

What kind of species do you like?

If you have any questions, we encourage you to get in contact, ask an expert, or share your thoughts in the comment section below!


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  1. Jessie Adams says:

    I personally like douglas fir. Though it’s not local, it has greater strength and I like the red hue.

  2. Sandy Connolly says:

    Hemlock, rough sawn and semi- sanded with golden oak stain applied. How’s that for specific? Great post Mike!

  3. Tom says:

    I think hand hewn Hemlock will be my wood of choice. Then again, my wife says were using Douglas Fir. Guess I’ll have to use Hemlock for the barn/ workshop.

  4. Paul Goebel says:

    I have been told and have read that it is fine to build a hemlock timber frame home with green ( not dried ) timbers.
    Just looking for some reassurance. I will be building with plates not joints.

    • Caitlin says:

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your comment. It is fine to build with green Hemlock. Most of the Hemlock we build with is green as well. Good luck with your project!

      – Caitlin

      • Doug Moore says:

        I have a large stand big Hemlock trees in NC that have died due to a moss infestation. They are still standing but have lost their needles. Can I consider using them? If so, for what? Or just have them pyshed over and pkant something else. They are dangerous to be left standing.

  5. Leonard says:

    How long can Eastern Hemlock dry before its too hard to nail?

    • Caitlin says:

      Hi Leonard,

      We’ve never heard of Eastern Hemlock being so dry that it’s too hard to nail. So we’re going to say, never.
      Thanks for your question!

  6. Carlton Boon says:

    I am looking to open up a load bearing wall on a ranch style house we just bought. Full basement below and only attic and roof above. Span is approximately 14′ that I want to open up. Have a sawmill that can cut up to 16″ x 16″ x 26′ using Hemlock. How do I calculate the beam size I need to avoid any interim posts? Thanks.

  7. Joel Lacelle says:

    If I want to open a wall and a Hemlock beam across a 22 foot stand
    Would 10″x10″ be big enough?
    Or should I go 10″×12″?

    • Caitlin says:

      Hi Joel,

      Unfortunately, to answer this accurately, we’d need to do a full engineering analysis of the existing structure, the site location, applicable loads, etc. Your best bet is to have a local engineer come out and make a site visit, then go from there.


  8. Louis Piergross says:

    Because of local on-site timber, I’d like to use Eastern Hemlock and Eastern White Pine in the same building I’m planning. Is the amount of shrinking, rate of drying and amount of twisting or checking too different between the two that it wouldn’t be advisable?

  9. Doug Perilli says:

    I am going to build a cabin in Maine. The front porch timbers are 10″ x 8″ horizontal and 6″ x 6″ verticals. The building center recommended using fir instead of pine for the timbers (siding is going to be pine tongue and groove 8″ siding. A friend of mine told me he did not think the fir would stain the same as the pine because of the color difference. He suggested using Hemlock for the timbers as they will stain close to pine. Can you confirm if this is true? Thank you.

  10. Robert says:

    I’m building an exterior veranda with exposed beams . Wondering if eastern hemlock posts would be a good choice
    Worried it would rot at the base!

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