Highly recognizable for its exposed structural webbing, half-timber construction may be more interesting for its “filler” than for its frame. It is a visible structure used to support load-bearing walls and roofs. The wood frame and pegged fasteners are exposed, making the means and methods of construction available for all to see. Technically, some of the timber members are in compression (being pressed), while others are in tension (being stretched).

Half-timber construction was far more expedient to build than its counterpart method — masonry load-bearing walls — and they required less labor, heavy lifting and materials.

Heavy-timber construction was typically clad or covered in wood siding, tiles or plaster to protect the wood members from the effects of weather, especially rain and snow, in North America. If the timber framing became wet, it would expand and contract and eventually twist, warp and deteriorate. Ephrata Cloister, circa 1733, is an example of half-timber construction clad in wood siding.

All half-timber construction includes a non-structural “filler” and, like a sandwich cookie, sometimes the filling is more interesting than the biscuit. The name for this filler depends on what it’s made of (see below).

Today, the look of half-timber construction is common to Tudor-style homes and is achieved by applying a pattern of boards and plaster to the exterior wall surface to replicate the historic patterns.

Where is half-timber construction common?

North America and Central Europe, especially Germany and France.

What material was used to construct half-timber?

Typically, squared oak timbers joined with wooden pegs.

What is the infill material called?

It depends on the material used to fill the voids. Waddle and daub is made with branches, wooden strips, clay, sand, animal dung and straw. This ancient technique gave way to the use of brick when bulk manufacturing processes were developed. Brick infill is referred to as “nogging.” Patterns can be quite elaborate and decorative, including herringbone and basket weave.

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