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What species can I use for roundwood timber frame?

 
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Looking at building a 12x24 cabin next year and I want to use the wood I have on the property.  Wondering what species will work, which are better than others, any to definitely NOT use? My forest is mainly Beech, Red Maple, Balsam Fir, Hemlock, Cherry, and Spruce.
 
pollinator
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Have you done any research on the matter?
What area are you planning to build so the trees can be investigated.
Do they rot?
From Uses of Balsam fir timber
"What are balsam trees good for?
It has good pulping properties and is used principally in the manufacture of pulp.
Balsam fir is also widely used for interior knotty paneling, fish box construction, crates, cooperage, millwork, and similar products not requiring high structural strength."
https://wildadirondacks.org/adirondack-tree-list.html
HEMLOCK from; /white-pine-hemlock-mill-run
Is hemlock wood durable?
Hemlock is locally widely used for raised garden beds, fencing, and barn construction and repair. There is no guarantee as to how long the wood will last in the ground, but in the right conditions, some people report that it lasts 5 to 7 years.
USES OF RED MAPLE
https://www.ehow.com/list_7257748_uses-red-maple-trees.html
CHERRY
uses of cherry wood
SPRUCE used here for a log cabin https://ownwoodenhouse.com
 
pollinator
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I don't know anything about beech.

Our bigleaf maple rots pretty fast. Blackcherry less so but no knowledge of it for construction...

Spruce and hemlock are commonly used in conventional construction; they are not rot resistant. Balsam I think sometimes is used in the same SPF blanket designation.

So, all three would be OK if kept thoroughly dry. Rot resistance may vary, your spruce is probably a different type than ours...


Finding someone with more local knowledge would be wise, I suspect you are a continent width away...
 
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beech is decent wood but it rots pretty quickly in contact with the ground or if it stays wet.
 
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greg mosser wrote:beech is decent wood but it rots pretty quickly in contact with the ground or if it stays wet.

I was about to say this. It decays really fast if damp. Really REALLY fast.

We had a beech tree down in our woods about 15 years ago. We left it where it fell. The trunk and limbs have rotted away to nearly nothing in that time.

I have fallen oak and chestnut in the woods that fell 40 years ago. The sap wood has rotted away, but the heart wood is as good as the day it fell.
 
greg mosser
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yep. we have a lot of beech in our woods. i try to collect windfall for fuel as soon as i notice it. by the next year it will have become marshmallow.
 
Blue Naomi Sky
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Michael Cox wrote:

I was about to say this. It decays really fast if damp. Really REALLY fast.
We had a beech tree down in our woods about 15 years ago. We left it where it fell. The trunk and limbs have rotted away to nearly nothing in that time.
I have fallen oak and chestnut in the woods that fell 40 years ago. The sap wood has rotted away, but the heart wood is as good as the day it fell.


If kept dry do you think it could be used for construction, or do you think just the moisture from every day in the house would end up rotting it?
 
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Beech is used a lot for furniture making ,tabletops and frame, kitchen counter tops ,and worktop islands, its usually varnished or oiled but definitely lasts indoors ---spalted beech is the highly sought out option of beech timber--that has already had some kind of fungal attack whilest being a living tree that creates the inner pattern once sawn/milled into planks. University Fairbanks Alaska has a roundpole load pdf on its site ,gives some good info on calculations and species   but of course nothing on beech --its all spruce ,hemlocks and cottonwoods mostly.
 
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Black cherry is quite rot resistant, more than ash or maple but less than Black locust. It may be somewhat on a par with oak though it doesn't start out as strong.

Maple is strong enough but splits very easily; therefore I would not use it for any mortised timber frame member, or for a deeply notched tenoned member.

Old growth hemlock got a reputation for being very rot resistant (they can live up to 600 years), but younger fast-grown hemlock is not in the same league.
 
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Blue Naomi Sky wrote:Looking at building a 12x24 cabin next year and I want to use the wood I have on the property.  Wondering what species will work, which are better than others, any to definitely NOT use? My forest is mainly Beech, Red Maple, Balsam Fir, Hemlock, Cherry, and Spruce.



A lot of things depend on where you live, eg, are there termites. Good building practices [GBPs] should make rotting a NON-ISSUE as long as you follow GBPs. What type of foundation will you do? Are you in a cold area where frost heave could be a problem? Slab on grade or wood floor?

Are you in an area with big snow loads? If not anyone of those trees would be fine. Use a span table available from any state agencies/national building code for framing for your area for cut and planed 2 by material, eg, 2x6, 2x8, ... , the kind of lumber that is available at your local Home Depot, Lowes, ... .

If cut 2 by X material will carry the loads you anticipate then the full rounds will carry even greater loads. What are the diameters of some of your trees? All of those species will be fine for vertical loads, eg. as posts/columns, walls and dividers.

What is the diameter of your trees? The only real crucial factor is for the roof loads which you will likely want to be clear span to have as open a floor space as possible. With the roof slope going the 12 foot way the rafters really do not have much load to carry [again depending on local snow loads!!] The span tables/rafter tables will delineate what you will need for whatever snow load your area has. Same for your floor joists, you'll likely shoot for a 40 PSF floor load, which, AGAIN, for only a 12 foot span you don't need much big size lumber. Are you going to try mill these these into 2 by X boards/material or try to use all roundwood for the framing?
 
Terry Byrne
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Blue Naomi Sky wrote:Looking at building a 12x24 cabin next year and I want to use the wood I have on the property.  Wondering what species will work, which are better than others, any to definitely NOT use? My forest is mainly Beech, Red Maple, Balsam Fir, Hemlock, Cherry, and Spruce.



To give you a better idea of what my first post tries to explain, Naomi [cool name], I live in a 20 x 20 foot shack. My shack sits on 3 sets of 2 ply beams [2x10]. There is a crawl space and each beam is supported by 16"x16" mobile home footings, which are 2x4s 16 inches long nailed cross hatched to create load bearing pads. With the beams securely attached to these pads.

My floor joists are 2x6 SPF [spruce/pine/fir] which span about 10 feet from the outside "beam" to my center support "beam", then the same on the other side. The pad is a sand covered piece of earth and the beam bearing pads are not preserved in any fashion, they just don't get rain/moisture to them because the earth is sloped away from the crawl space and any wee bits of moisture that COULD get in, DRAIN AWAY thru the SAND. We have about a 35 PSF snow load in my area. The roof is one slope from the high 17 foot front wall to the 8 foot back wall. There is a center line 2 ply- 2x10 SPF beam at the ceiling so the roof joists are also just 2x6 SPF, which have just a tad longer span than 10 feet because of the slope.

This is, of course, the easiest roof to build for folks who are not good framers. Do an overhang, 2 feet at least, [on the downhill slope to move water away from the house/foundation.

I did the high ceiling/sloped roof to give my small shack a feeling of greater spaciousness and later I also added a 10' x 10' 2nd floor/loft for another sleeping area and more storage. When it's super cold my horses like to come in and cuddle on this warm "second floor". It took a bit to get them used to the vertical ladder but they learned to push each other up and the last one shares my bed with me and my cat. Outside the sheets!!

Good luck with your cabin, Naomi!
 
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There's some really good information here on timber species and shrinkage.

https://arrowtimber.com/post-beam-timbers-drying-wood-species-shrinkage/
 
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