When someone mentions “timber framing” the usual response is, “Oh, you mean log homes”. But the two building styles are very different. The basic building technique called “timber frame construction” dates back to between 500 and 200 BC and is made up of a basic joining method called mortise and tenon. This joinery method was refined over the centuries in medieval Japan and Europe. The heavy square beams and strong joinery allowed for much larger and wider open spaces within a structure and the buildings stood for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Timber frame construction almost became a lost art but over the years has seen a resurgent’s in popularity. This has been due to its lasting beauty, graceful art form and structural integrity. As a result, timber framing is enjoying a renaissance in the home building, commercial construction and equestrian industries. With the desire for larger, more open great rooms, large span riding rings and barns and strong stable commercial structures, timber framing is the perfect answer. The strength as well as the beauty of timber framing is unmatched in conventional construction methods. The weight of heavy snow, extreme slopes and seismic conditions in the mountainous regions, and the powerful winds of hurricanes in the coastal and tropical regions are all accommodated and handled easily by a timber frame structure.
One of the industries leaders in timber frame design, construction and engineering is Dreaming Creek. Based in Powhatan, Virginia, just a bit south and west of Richmond, Virginia, Dreaming Creek has been following the centuries-old tradition of handcrafted architectural timbering in creating some of the most dynamic structures in the country for over 25 years. They currently build in 38 states as well as the Bahamas.
Dreaming Creek is owned by Bob Shortridge, with his son, Bobby Shortridge, Jr. acting as the General Manager. “We work closely with architects, builders, contractors and owners to help provide solutions to their problems and achieve their visions. It’s a collaborative process”, says Bob. “You’ll find Dreaming Creek timber frames spanning large public spaces, retail stores and centers, restaurants, churches and offices across America. In fact, you may see our crews raising a frame anywhere from a 19,000 square foot mountain home in Utah, to a 26 stall equestrian facility in Wellington, Florida, a church, chapel or simple gazebo”.
With a dedicated group of designers, engineers, Timberwright’s and other support staff, Dreaming Creek has become synonymous with quality, creativity, capability and on time, on budget projects. No matter the complexity or simplicity of the project, the people of Dreaming Creek are passionate about their work.
The Corporate offices of Dreaming Creek, as well as their “show house” and one of their two saw mills, are located on 70 acres of wooded land. Bob and his son have painstakingly gone through the forested property and cleaned out the unwanted brush and saplings so that the sunlight, air and water can help the larger trees to flourish. To date, they have also planted well over 3,500 Cypress trees on the property.
The Eco-Friendly “Green” characteristics of timber frame construction have also created great interest in this building technique. Bob is very much an environmentalist and every part of the timber framing process, from procuring the trees to the cutting of the timbers, has been reviewed and modified to be sure no part of the tree is wasted and there is as little impact on the environment as possible. Dreaming Creek buys timber from managed, regrowth forests from North Carolina west to Washington State, depending on the species. Any timber not used specifically in the frame or structure is milled into flooring, casework, doors, furniture or beautiful, hand carved details like acorns and pineapples. Even the saw dust is recycled into compost. Nothing is wasted. Another fact most people are unaware of is that it takes fewer trees to build a timber frame structure or home than it does using conventional “stick framing” methods.
Dreaming Creek’s process of treating timbers that will be exposed to weather, moisture and insects is on the cutting edge of newer more environmentally safer methods as well. They use a Borate treatment rather than the long used “ACQ” or Copper or Zinc Napthenate method. Borate, or Boric Acid, is that white powder we have all used behind our kitchen cabinets to kill ants and roaches. The nice thing about it is that it’s basically harmless to humans (about as toxic as table salt) and the environment while it does its duty on roaches and ants. The pressure treatment process on the timbers involves combining Boric Acid with a polymer which binds it to the wood fibers, and the polymer also prevents the Boric Acid from being dissolved by moisture. The end result is a timber that resists rot, fungus, mold, termites, beetles and other boring insects. And unlike the typical “green” treatments for wood exposed to weather, the wood maintains its natural color and can be stained or painted.
With this new treatment process, Dreaming Creek has been able to open up new markets in wet, coastal climates where wood structures were once frowned upon. One great example of a timber frame home holding up to hurricane winds and water comes from Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005. Two years prior to Katrina, Dreaming Creek designed, engineered, fabricated and installed a timber frame addition to an existing home on the water’s edge near the Mississippi/Louisiana border. After Katrina made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane, Bob and his staff became concerned for their client’s safety. After finally reaching the homeowner, Bob learned that they were fine and the house was still standing. The final report from FEMA indicated that their client’s home was actually the only one left standing out of one million destroyed.
Beauty, strength, longevity and versatility are easy words to come by when you think about a timber frame home or structure. And Dreaming Creek has taken the art of timber framing to a level most other companies can only “dream” of. If you would like to learn more about timber framing and see the beautiful work of Dreaming Creek, please visit their web site at www.dreamingcreek.com