What Is Post and Beam Construction? A Complete Guide (2023)

Today, there are many different types of building construction systems available to home builders. One of the most popular is post and beam construction. Post and beam construction consists of heavy timber components assembled in both an upright and horizontal orientation.

Post and beam construction is a derivative of classic timber frame construction. It uses vertical structures (posts) and horizontal structures (beams) to create a framework that allows for expansive flooring and flexible wall structuring. It gives the building strength and a rustic appearance.

This article will help you understand everything about post and beam construction, including giving you an overview of this construction system and its design considerations. You’ll also learn about the difference and similarities between post and beam and timber frame construction.

What Is Post and Beam Construction?

Post and beam construction is a building system that involves using vertical and horizontal timber structures to create a frame for a building. These vertical and horizontal structures are called posts and beams, respectively.

If you’ve ever been to a construction site where this type of design is being used, you’ll notice the builders laying a concrete floor, erecting timbers on that floor, and laying other wood members over the vertical ones.

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Unlike the dimensional lumber used in light wood framing, post and beam construction uses heavier lumber or structural components. Other materials that can be used as posts and beams include steel and concrete.

This type of construction dates back to the 16th century when timbers were modified manually and joined using hardwood pegs. They were also sometimes joined by removing a part of timber so it can slide over another. These days, however, gusset plates and other mechanical fasteners are used to join adjacent timbers in post and beam construction.

Design Considerations in Post and Beam Construction

As simple and flexible as the post and beam construction is, it cannot be taken for granted. From the anchoring of the posts to the floor, the connection of the beams to the posts, and the finishing you choose, it’s important that you understand what fits what and how to achieve your desired result.

Foundation

We all know that any structure’s strength depends, to an extent, on the strength of its foundation. Erecting a building depends on posts and beams because they make up the building’s skeletal part and require a foundation that suits their connection type.

Post and beam construction can be used on any foundation type because of its characteristic point-specific load-bearing nature, mostly at the erected posts. However, other important considerations should be made, such as the pier.

(Video) Post and Beam tutorial

Pier

The pier is a concrete structure that holds the post anchor. It is embedded in the foundation and can be of different shapes. The shape of the pier you choose is mostly determined by the type of soil your foundation is laid in.

Generally, circular or round piers are costlier than other pier shapes. However, it costs less when used to improve the rigidity of post and beam construction. Another factor that determines the shape and size of the pier is whether it will be visible or not after the building is completed.

Post-Anchor

The post is a vertical timber structure that supports the beams to form the building’s framework, and it is held in the post anchor. Similarly, the post anchor is held in the pier.

The post anchors can be custom made or generic and are made of steel. Since posts come in square or rectangular shapes, post anchors come in these shapes too. A large part of the post anchor is not visible as they are embedded in the concrete to hold the structure together.

Usually, you can choose if you want the remaining part of your anchor to be visible or concealed.

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Slab

The floor slab is done in layers. The first layer is made of crushed rocks. The base of the foundation is filled to a shallow level with bits of rocks. After this layer, the rigid insulation is installed, and the slab follows it.

The concrete slab is the upper layer of the floor and is likely not the final finish of the floor, depending on your choice. You must know before-hand what your floor finish material will be. The thickness of your floor finish material will determine the height and dimensions of the slab and piers.

Beam-to-Post Connection in Post and Beam Construction

Post and beam construction is so named because of the constituents that make up the structure. The beams need to be attached to the posts to make them stand. Apart from this connection, other connector hardware is used to fasten beams to posts and create a more rigid framework.

Here are some of the fasteners and hardware employed in beam to post connections.

  • Braces: Braces are supports and fasteners that hold a beam to a post. They are usually placed diagonally between a post and a beam to share the load between them.
  • Mortise and tenon: This connection is one of the strongest in woodwork construction. This connection technique involves creating a hole (mortise) in the timbers that will serve as beams and tongue (tenon) on the lumber that will serve as posts. This method of connecting beams and posts has been around for a long time.

In post and beam construction, the beam to post or beam to beam connection is usually either exposed or concealed.

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Concealed connections are made in such a way that they are embedded into the posts or beams. Exposed connectors are just that. They are visible and are left that way mainly because they serve an aesthetic purpose.

Differences Between Post & Beam and Timber Frame Construction

Post and beam structures are often mistaken for timber frame construction despite the apparent differences between them. The main difference between these two construction systems is in the connection that exists among their parts.

In timber frame construction, posts and beams are joined using timber joinery. In most cases, the mortise and tenon are held in place with pegs. This design is usually more costly because it requires precision and intensive, highly skilled labor.

In contrast, post and beam construction uses steel pins and steel plates cut in square and rectangular shapes to hold beams and posts together. These pins and plates can either be concealed or exposed. Due to the modified fastening, it requires lesser-skilled labor and also reduced labor cost.

Another difference is that post and beam structures can be built with engineered wood, while timber frames mostly require solid timber. However, current construction practices have seen timber frame structures use engineering wood such as glulams.

(Video) Post and Beam House Build

Similarities Between Post & Beam and Timber Frame Construction

Despite the differences in the joinery, they share some similarities in the visual element that gives them their class.

If you look at buildings constructed using the post and beam method or timber frame method, the rustic appearance is what catches the eye. The structures, made of wood, are the basis of both construction types. Also, their skeletal framework, timber upon timber, timber into the wood, is similar.

Pros of Post and Beam Construction

  • Rustic appearance: The beauty of the post and beam construction is the exposed wooden skeletal frame. The timber used in this construction, polished and solid, gives a naked beauty to its interior.
  • Construction time: Compared to other building construction systems, post and beam structures take less time to construct.
  • Fire resistance: The wood used in this type of construction is usually denser than in other building systems. As a result, they are usually more fire-resistant.
  • Building strength: This construction type provides rigidity and strength to the building, helping it withstand the harsh treatment of the elements and natural disasters.
  • Reduced skilled labor cost: The cost incurred in erecting a building using post and beam construction is reduced mainly due to the modification made in connecting posts to beams.

Cons of Post and Beam Construction

  • Rot and rust – Modifications made in the joinery used in timber frame; steel pins and steel plates now used in post and beam construction is susceptible to rust. The steel can begin to rust when moisture condenses on it. Also, the beams can rot after some time as they are often exposed to the outside of the building.
  • Material incompatibility – Metals and wood aren’t the most compatible materials. When metals are fastened to woods, they cause fast deterioration when they begin to rust.

Conclusion

Post and beam structures are one of the most stable construction systems that exist. If you’re looking to build your new home with posts and beams, it could very well be a great fit. Apart from strength, post and beam construction offers large living space and an open floor area and makes the building more aesthetically pleasing.

Sources

FAQs

What is the definition of post and beam? ›

Post and beam is a general term for building with heavy timbers. More specific types of post and beam framing are: Timber framing, an ancient traditional method of building using wooden joinery held together with pegs, wedges and rarely iron straps.

What is post and beam structural system? ›

The post & beam construction system uses laminated wood columns (vertical members) and beams (horizontal members) to create the building's load-bearing structure. These loading elements are arranged in such a way as to guarantee total flexibility for the design of the facades and internal partition walls.

What is post in building construction? ›

A post is a main vertical or leaning support in a structure similar to a column or pillar but the term post generally refers to a timber but may be metal or stone.

What are the disadvantages of post and beam construction? ›

Cons of Post and Beam Construction

Moisture can condense on steel surfaces, causing the steel to rust and the surrounding wood to decay. Depending on the complexity of the metal plates, post and beam construction material costs can be more expensive than traditional timber framing.

What are the benefits of post and beam construction? ›

Advantages to Post and Beam Construction
  • Stronger Framework Opens Up Interior Spaces. In a post and beam building, fewer supports are needed because of the strength of the timbers. ...
  • Timely Construction. ...
  • Easily Customizable Floor Plans. ...
  • Extraordinary Strength. ...
  • Natural Elegance. ...
  • Environmentally Preferable.
13 Sept 2017

What is the basic form of post and beam construction? ›

Post and beam construction is a derivative of classic timber frame construction. It uses vertical structures (posts) and horizontal structures (beams) to create a framework that allows for expansive flooring and flexible wall structuring. It gives the building strength and a rustic appearance.

What is a post-and-lintel system of construction? ›

The post-and-lintel system is a simple method of construction involving the use of vertical and horizontal elements. The verticals support the horizontals, creating one storey of a building. Additional verticals can be placed atop the horizontals to create structures with more than one level.

When was post-and-beam construction used? ›

These two methods both use heavy timber, but the joinery is different. Post-and-beam construction has been around for centuries and can be traced back to 2000 B.C. Post-and-beam buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries still standing today are a big testament to the durability of this construction method.

What joints are used in post-and-beam construction? ›

Post-and-beam construction uses half-lap joints between the timber beams that are often augmented with metal plates. It's the least expensive of the two forms of timber construction, as there are fewer precision cuts required, and it's less time consuming to build.

What is beam construction? ›

In building construction, a beam is a horizontal member spanning an opening and carrying a load that may be a brick or stone wall above the opening, in which case the beam is often called a lintel (see post-and-lintel system).

What is the difference between post and beam and timber frame? ›

The main difference is in how the timbers are connected to each other. Post and beam typically uses half lap joinery with hidden fasteners, and sometimes decorative metal braces; whereas Timber Frame uses mortise and tenon joinery secured with wooden pegs.

Do post and beam houses have load bearing walls? ›

They lack load-bearing walls and have pre-fabricated fixtures so that they can be constructed quickly. The designs of many post-and-beam homes are highly versatile, and they can be customized to fit the client's requirements and needs for the projects – doors, panels, and windows can be added where they are suitable.

How long will a post and beam house last? ›

With the proper wood preparation, exacting construction techniques and regular maintenance, a timber home can last 100 years or more.

Are post and beam homes strong? ›

Furthermore, post and beam houses usually feature high vaulted ceilings, creating a large, roomy living space. The heavy lumber construction makes a very strong durable (and fire resistant) building frame and this strong framing also allows for large windows if desired and open building designs.

What type of wood is used for post and beam? ›

Douglas fir

Fir is an excellent wood for highly finished post & beam frames and commercial work because of its strength and beautiful grain. It is one of the most abundant wood species in North America and is one of the most popular choices for Timber Framing.

What is importance of beam in construction? ›

Beams act as structural elements that transfer loads from the slab and to columns. This means transfer beams are installed to carry the load from one load-bearing wall to another. They are typically horizontal members. The purpose of a beam is to carry walls and to avoid loading a concrete slab.

Is post and beam construction cheaper? ›

Cheaper and Less labor-intensive. The cost to build a Post and Beam structure can be significantly less due to the decreased labor-intensive methods to develop the joinery.

What are the advantages of post frame construction? ›

Post-frame construction is a remarkably affordable building method. Because post-framing doesn't require foundation (an estimated 15% of the cost of a traditional stick-frame building), requires fewer materials, and consequently requires less labor, post-frame construction buildings are very economical to install.

What are the 4 main types of construction? ›

The four key types of construction include residential, commercial, industrial, and infrastructure, which covers nearly every construction project.

What are the 4 types of beams? ›

Types of beam structure
  • Continuous beams. A continuous beam is one that has two or more supports that reinforce the beam. ...
  • Simply supported beams. Simply supported beams are those that have supports at both end of the beam. ...
  • Fixed beams. ...
  • Overhanging beams. ...
  • Cantilever beam.

How were post and beam houses built? ›

The sections of the timber frame (called bents) are put together on the ground and then raised, one by one, until the framework is completed. With post & beam construction, the structure is built from the ground up, with components being built on top of each other.

What is another word for post-and-lintel construction? ›

In architecture, post and lintel (also called prop and lintel or a trabeated system) is a building system where strong horizontal elements are held up by strong vertical elements with large spaces between them.

Why is post-and-lintel construction important? ›

It supports a large amount of weight, thus allowing buildings to rise higher than one story and broadening doorways and windows. There are many variations to the post and lintel design, with crossbeams, arches and walls added for extra support or as design elements.

What is post-and-lintel meaning? ›

post-and-lintel system, in building construction, a system in which two upright members, the posts, hold up a third member, the lintel, laid horizontally across their top surfaces.

Who invented post-and-lintel construction? ›

A post and lintel is an architectural system where a horizontal piece is supported by two vertical posts, or columns. This is a basic form of architecture that has been used since ancient times, but the Egyptians used it for monumental architecture, or buildings that are massive in size and scale.

When did post and beam open? ›

Timber Frame or Post & Beam construction is a building method that goes back to 2,000 B.C. In Europe, there are post & beam buildings that have been standing since the Middle Ages, while in North America many of the remaining 18th and 19th century structures were built using post & beam construction.

What is post and beam foundation? ›

A pier and beam foundation use a concrete pier that is strengthened with a steel beam. This foundation is also known as post and beam foundation. It is an elevated structure and it has crawlspace for foundation support. That crawlspace could have units for electrical and plumbing system for supporting the home.

How are post and beam timbers attached? ›

In post and beam buildings the timbers are usually connected with metal fasteners and connectors, which can either be hidden or decorative. Post and beam usually use half-lap joinery. The fasteners securing the timbers may be hidden within connections or exposed and decorative.

How do I join post and beam? ›

Joining beams over posts can be done by either cutting a notch out of the post and splicing the beams together over the notch or by butting the ends of each beam together on top of the post and joining them using galvanized metal post caps.

What is a beam simple definition? ›

A beam is a structural element that primarily resists loads applied laterally to the beam's axis (an element designed to carry primarily axial load would be a strut or column). Its mode of deflection is primarily by bending. The loads applied to the beam result in reaction forces at the beam's support points.

What is a beam in simple words? ›

countable noun. A beam is a long thick bar of wood, metal, or concrete, especially one used to support the roof of a building. The ceilings are supported by oak beams. Synonyms: rafter, support, timber, spar More Synonyms of beam.

What is a beam called in construction? ›

A cantilever beam is a rigid horizontal beam supported only on one end. A cantilever beam can be in the form of a typical beam, slab, or truss. We use these beams in towers, bridges, and buildings over spans that need to allow for an overhang.

What are the three types of frame construction? ›

Different Types Of Frame Structures
  • Braced Frame System. One of the main frame structure types is the braced frame system. ...
  • Gabled Structural Frames. ...
  • Portal Structural Frames. ...
  • Light Frame Structure. ...
  • R.C.C Frame Structures. ...
  • Pin Ended Rigid Structural Frames. ...
  • Why Choose US Framing for Your Different Framing Structure Needs?
10 Dec 2021

Is a post and beam foundation good? ›

The advantages of pier-and-beam foundations often come down to cost, flood protection, and flexibility. Protection from flooding. Since the house is elevated above the ground, sitting atop posts, it will be protected from flooding.

What walls are not load bearing? ›

To determine if a wall is a load-bearing one, Tom suggests going down to the basement or attic to see which way the joists run. If the wall is parallel to the joists, it's probably not load-bearing. If the wall is perpendicular, it's most likely load-bearing.

Can a house be built without load bearing walls? ›

A: You can build a multi-story home with no bearing walls. It's been done for decades. Amazingly, it's done using regular 2-by-4s to solve the problem.

How much does it cost to put a beam in a house? ›

Written by HomeAdvisor. Installing steel beams costs between $1,323 and $4,727 (including labor) for most homeowners, with an average cost of $3,009. The price varies and depends on the size and span of the brand beams and posts. Expect a higher project quote if you need to replace a load-bearing wall.

Can I get a mortgage on a timber framed house? ›

Can you get a mortgage for a timber framed house? It is certainly possible, but as many lenders consider them non-standard construction properties, your choice of lenders will be more limited. There's a number of factors that can influence a lender's decision, such as the build quality of your chosen home.

How far can a beam go past a post? ›

What is this? The span of the joists the beam is supporting also determines the maximum deck beam span between support posts. According to IRC, a two-ply 2×10 beam supporting a joist that spans 8 feet between supports requires beam support posts every 9-feet. Whereas a 10 feet can span up to 6 feet 6 inches.

What is the strongest structure for a house? ›

Research-wise, concrete foundations, insulated concrete form framing (ICF), and a corrugated galvanised steel roof are the strongest house materials. Foundations are usually constructed from concrete because it is our strongest building material and it's important to have a sturdy house foundation.

Where is the strongest part of a house? ›

Interior stairwells and the areas around elevator shafts generally are the strongest parts of the building.

How long will a post frame house last? ›

For most purposes, a post frame constructed building will be indistinguishable in service and lifespan to a traditionally constructed building. Treated wood posts in the ground will last 40-60 years with proper drainage – the same lifespan as a poured basement wall.

What is the difference between beam and post? ›

Unless you're familiar with the two, it can be tough to tell any difference at all. However, they are entirely different methods of construction. Posts are vertical, beams are horizontal, and timber frames are roof systems. Post and beams are on porches, holding up porch rafters, in kitchens, holding up the loft, etc.

What is the best timber for posts? ›

One of the best timber for post and rail fencing is treated pine, as it's incredibly versatile to work with and durable. Used extensively in the building industry in a range of outdoor constructions, you can expect to find treated pine in everything from decks, pergolas to retaining walls and cladding.

What wood makes the best posts? ›

Pine is the most common and, when pressure treated, can last for up to 30 years. Other long-lasting types are Redwood and Sweetgum. Some tree species don't need to be treated and can last up to 25 years. Primary among them are Black Locust and Osage Orange.

What is the difference between post-and-lintel? ›

One of the oldest forms of construction in the world is the system of the post and lintel, in which a large horizontal piece is supported by two vertical pillars. The pillars are the post, and the horizontal piece is the lintel.

What is a post and beam roof? ›

What Is Post And Beam? This modern adaptation of the traditional timber frame uses metal fasteners to connect timbers together. The posts are vertical pieces of wood that support the roof. The beams are horizontal pieces of wood that connect the posts together and form the base of the roof truss.

When was post and beam construction used? ›

These two methods both use heavy timber, but the joinery is different. Post-and-beam construction has been around for centuries and can be traced back to 2000 B.C. Post-and-beam buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries still standing today are a big testament to the durability of this construction method.

What wood is used for post and beam? ›

Western Red Cedar, Alaskan Yellow Cedar, Douglas Fir / Larch, Pine / Spruce, Hemlock , and California Redwood, are the most commonly used species of wood for post and beam applications.

Is post-and-lintel load bearing? ›

But, in its pure form, the post-and-lintel is seen only in colonnades and in framed structures, since the posts of doors, windows, ceilings, and roofs are part of the wall. The job of the lintel is to bear the loads that rest on it (and its own load) without deforming or breaking.

What is lintel in simple words? ›

: a horizontal architectural member spanning and usually carrying the load above an opening.

What is a construction beam? ›

Construction beams are structural elements used in buildings, and they resist loads applied laterally to their axis. They are characterized by the manner of their supports, shape of the cross-section, length, material, and equilibrium conditions.

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