Post and Beam Construction

by Matt Goering

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Post and beam construction is one of the most tried and true building methods out there. It's been used for thousands of years and works for everything from timber frame construction to the Greek building style using stone pillars and beams.

How Does it Work?
Post and beam is exactly what it sounds like. The basic building model includes placing solid vertical beams as supports, with similarly sound cross beams attached over the top. The result is a free-standing frame, incredibly strong, with wide open, spacious floor plans to boot. Another attractive feature of post and beam construction is the fact that the beams are often left exposed in the interior of the home, creating a beautiful, antiquated appearance. Older European architecture with its exposed beams in interior rooms is a good example of what to expect aesthetically from a post and beam home.

Different Styles
As with any building style, there are several different schools of thought when it comes to post and beam construction. Traditionalists use mortise and tenon joinery as their trademark, meaning there aren't any metal braces or brackets used to hold the structure together. Instead wooden pegs and fitted beams are used to join the timbers. This style of building, which doesn't sacrifice structural integrity at all, is commonly referred to as timber framing. Less traditional builders, however, use more modern conveniences such as metal brackets, braces, and fasteners to hold the timbers together. Again, there really isn't a difference in quality, just in cost and bragging rights, since true timber framing runs quite a bit more and lets you talk up the purity of your new home.

What if My Home Is Made of Stick Construction?
Stick construction, or the type of construction that is most common in homebuilding today, isn't exclusive to post and beam additions, if that's what you're looking for. A post and beam addition is an easy task if you're looking to add a great room or other spacious area onto your pre-existing home. In fact, your contractor will take great care in blending the two styles so you will hardly be able to tell the difference once the work is done. On a side note, if you enjoy the look of post and beam, but don't want to undertake a new home build, you can purchase faux wood beams at very reasonable prices. These beams, made of lightweight composite plastics, are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing, and can add beauty and timelessness to any stick-built constructed home.

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Talk to an Experienced Contractor
If you're of the mind that post and beam construction is for you, be sure to talk to a contractor experienced in this kind of work. Traditional contractors might know how to put one of these buildings up (it's actually much more straightforward than conventional building styles), but you're always better off hiring someone who has made post and beam their specialty. Talk to a post and beam contractor today about getting your new home build underway.

Matt Goering, formerly a carpenter and house painter, is a freelance writer for the home improvement industry who has published over 600 articles.