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The Difference Between Building a Timber Framed Home and a Conventionally Framed Home

By Caitlin on May 11, 2018

Most people who are interested in building a custom home are already somewhat well-versed in the building process and what it entails. However, when using a timber frame instead of a stick frame for your custom home, the building process can look a little different.

People often ask us how a timber frame home differs from a conventional, stick built home. In this post, we’ll address some of the primary ways a timber frame home differs from a conventional stick built home.


The Differences:



A Conventional framed home relies on load bearing walls to keep the structure from collapsing. Obviously, you can have someone design a home for you with any layout, style or design you want, but no matter what, you will need to have walls in certain areas to bear the load of the structure and ensure structural stability. So while a conventional home is very customizable, there are still engineering requirements that you will have to work into your design.

With a stick framed home, during the actual framing process, small changes can be made to the plans or design since the framing is being done gradually on site. So if the owner decides to put an extra window somewhere, it can be done easily if that part of the home hasn’t been framed yet.

With a timber frame, the posts and beams and the trusses are supporting the entire load of the structure. So technically, no walls are required to bear loads. This gives a designer the freedom to place or not place walls wherever they’d like.

Because of the nature of the timber frame being fabricated off-site, and the SIP panels that are used as walls for the timber frame being precut off-site, everything must stay relatively true to the plans during assembly.



The framing is obviously the main difference between these two building methods. With a stick built home, small dimensional pieces of lumber are nailed together on site to create the frame on the foundation.

With Timber Framing, the large pieces of the frame are fabricated ahead of time in a workshop and then brought to the building site in pieces and then fitted together. The assembling of a pre-fabricated timber frame is a much faster process than the on-site framing process for a stick built home. The Timber Frame is also going to cost more than the stick frame. This is due to the cost of materials as well as the highly skilled labor required to fabricate the frame itself.



There are a variety of insulation options when insulating a stick framed home. There’s spray foam, compressed cellulose, rock wool, and fiberglass batts. There are several ways to insulate and places to insulate. The choice is up to the homeowner and designers and it offers a lot of flexibility and options to consider for the homeowner.

With a Timber frame, the insulation that is easiest, most cost-effective and what we most often recommend, are SIPS or Structural Insulated Panels. SIPs act not only as insulation but as the entire envelope of the structure itself. They are custom designed and ordered for each project and can include covering such as drywall or tongue and groove pine on the interior. The SIPs are more expensive than other types of insulation, but generally, you’ll save money on the cost of labor which is reduced with SIP installation. The installation process is much faster as well and they are highly energy efficient.


Walls and roof envelope:

Walls in a conventional home are built upon layers of stick frame, particleboard sheathing, sheetrock and then drywall with insulation filling the interior cavity.

When using SIPs with a timber frame, the SIPs act as outer envelope with insulation and can come prefabricated with drywall on the inner side so that no further layers are needed or required. However, inner room partition walls will not require SIPs (unless you’re interested in noise reduction) and those inner walls will need to be conventional walls.


Wood Species, Size and Amount:

A conventional home requires smaller pieces of wood, but in larger quantities. Generally, spruce, pine or fir are the species used for the 2x4s and then particle boards are used for the exterior sheathing.

A timber frame requires less wood than a conventional frame, but the pieces will be much larger and have a higher cost. There are many wood species options to choose from when timber framing. Some of the more common wood species used are Douglas fir, Hemlock, Oak, Pine, and Cedar.


Fabrication Process:

The conventional home is fabricated on site. The materials are brought to the work site and the contractor or builder cuts and assembles the pieces to frame and build the home.

The Timbers that make up the timber frame are cut and shaped in our workshop beforehand. The frame is assembled in our workshop to ensure everything fits perfectly and it is then disassembled and shipped to the building site in pieces to get erected on top of the foundation.


Time to Build:

Because the stick frame of the home needs to be fabricated on site, and because of the layering needed for the walls and insulation, that part of the building process will be slower in a conventionally framed home.

Once the pieces of the frame have been fabricated in the shop and arrive at the building site, the time from the erection of the frame to when the SIPs are installed will be a faster process than stick framing. For an average size home, this would take less than than 10 days. Then, the rest of the finishing components will take the same amount of time as a conventionally framed home.


Have any questions about building with Timber Frames? Submit a question on our Ask The Experts Page. Interested in your own Timber Frame Project? Email us at [email protected]. Want to sign up for our Newsletter? Sign up here.

About the Author


Caitlin is a writer and a full-time Marketing Assistant. She has worked at Vermont Timber Works since 2017.
  1. Thank you for this informative and important information. I did not realize the difference between the two styles of building and am glad to know this in advance.

    LOVE TIMBER FRAME and can’t wait to get started!

  2. Bruce Lau says:

    Thank you so much for these information there’re very helpful.

    In average how much more cost in comparison between the both?

    • Caitlin says:

      Hi Bruce,

      It can be hard to compare the costs because when building a custom home it really comes down to the design and what you chose. Things to consider that would likely raise the cost of a timber frame would be the location of the home (snow and wind loads), the size of the home, and the complexity of the design. A common practice is to also build a hybrid frame that is partially conventional and partially timber frame.



  3. stucco says:

    Wow it helped a lot and I also found out the differences from each other

  4. Louis Carbone says:

    Looking to add on a 12×14 bedroom.

  5. Fantastic comparison between timber-framed and conventionally framed homes! This article sheds light on the unique benefits and considerations of each construction method. Very informative for anyone planning their dream home. Thank you for the insightful read!

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