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What’s a tree doing up there?

By Derek Folsom on February 09, 2015

Have you ever been driving by a construction site and thought to yourself, “Why is there a tree on top of that building? It seems like a very odd time to be celebrating Christmas? Furthermore, why would they go through the trouble to get it up there, they’re just going to have to take it back down!”

Spruce Peak

Timber Frame Raising DONE  SVWC5

Maybe you didn’t have those exact thoughts, but hopefully I can shed some light on the situation. “Topping Out” has been around since 8th century Scandinavia, when the last or highest beam was set on a structure to appease the tree dwelling spirits that were displaced during construction. This event was also marked with a meal for the workers, and a toast to continued success.  Below you can see Mikey, at what I can only assume is a topping out feast provided by VTW.


Topping out is considered a Builders Rite and has evolved over the years depending on the region and the type of construction. For instance, my favorite tradition belongs to Holland. The Dutch practice “pannenbier”, where a national flag is hung at the highest point and stays in place until the building’s owners provide the workers with free beer. It is considered insulting if the flag is flown for more than a couple days.

Timber Frame Party Barn

The Steel industry has its own variation, where before the last beam is flown, the beam is painted white, and all workers involved in the construction sign it, where the signatures will remain for the buildings lifetime.


Vermont Timber Works have put our own spin on Topping Out over the years. The ever popular Hermes Barn in Shiner, TX was topped out with, what else but a cactus.

Texas Tree

Topping out is a time honored tradition, and signifies the highest point of a project, Vermont Timber Works has topped out a number of projects, but we are far from topping out when it comes to fabricating handcrafted timber frames.   We plan on placing trees, or cacti, at the top of our frames for years to come.

Thanks for stopping by our timber framers’ blog! If you like this post, or have any timber work questions, we invite you to get in contact, ask an expert, or share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Derek Folsom

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