What is a timber frame?
Timber is the most commonly used material for building Australian house frames. Timber framed houses are usually built using radiata pine, however a number of other species are also commonly used. The timber used for framing must be quite dry, as timber with a high moisture content has a tendency to shrink and warp as the water leaves the fibres over time. This could cause structural problems in the future. For this reason, unseasoned timber (which has a moisture content of at least 25%), should not be used for house framing. Seasoned timber with a moisture content no greater than 15% is the best choice. Timber is often treated with chemicals to improve its resistance to white ants, rot and fire.
Why install a timber frame?
The popularity of the platform framing style of light frame construction in Australia means that councils, architects, builders and other tradespeople are familiar and comfortable with timber frames, making their jobs easier and less complicated. Timber frames are for this reason often the easiest option, as a house built using the platform framing style is more familiar to builders and is less likely to go wrong. Timber is an excellent building material as it is cheap, light and strong, requiring minimal labour to install relatively quickly. A timber frame also allows you to choose from numerous external wall cladding options.
How are timber frames constructed?
Timber can be used to create a house frame using a number of different methods. In Australia, platform framing is by far the most common. In this construction method, planks of timber (known as studs), are attached at a perpendicular angle to other pieces of timber that lie across their tops and bottoms (wall plates). A strong but flexible material (such as plywood or oriented strand board) is then attached to the studs on their external side. This sheath helps to give the frame structural stability.
Struts fitted diagonally between studs will also enhance the strength of the building. This arrangement of studs, plates, sheath and struts is constructed lying flat on the ground. Once the house’s foundations are prepared, the frame is erected and fixed into place. From this point, the ceiling joists and roof rafters are attached. Plumbing, wiring, insulation, floors and internal and external wall materials are then added to the frame, and so on until the house is complete.
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