Post and Beam vs Pole Barns, Mortise and Tenon, Log, and More
Post & Beam Vs Other Types of Construction
As a post and beam company, we know firsthand that not everyone knows exactly what post and beam is and/or how it compares to other types of construction. And that’s ok! That’s what we’re here for. Today, we will give a brief overview of the different types of construction post and beam is most often compared to, which should also provide clarity on the construction form itself. Though we are biased to post and beam, each type of construction is great in its own way and has its own place in the market. As always, we encourage you to reach out with specific questions or for more information on any of the items mentioned below.
Stick Frame/Conventional Buildings
This is the most standard form of construction today. Buildings are constructed from 2×4 or 2×6 dimensional lumber, which is an extremely easy material to access and a main reason this construction method is so common. Stick frame buildings have a long lifespan, are durable, versatile, and affordable. They differ from post and beam in that they are often reliant on interior supporting walls for strength, which can dictate floor plans. Additionally, the building materials are not visually appealing and need to be covered up with drywall. This limits the usable space on the second level and makes workarounds necessary for vaulted ceilings. From a price perspective, post and beam costs a little more than a stick frame structure, but not as much as most people think. If you are trying to make stick frame look like post and beam, it costs less to just go with post and beam from the beginning.
Pole Barn/Post Frame
Because the term post frame is similar to post and beam, people often get us confused. In reality though, post and beam is completely different than post frame and we fulfill much different needs in the market place. A pole barn or post frame building is a structure that uses large poles/posts buried in the ground for its support. A foundation is not required, which makes these a very low cost and attractive option for those needing a purely functional barn or storage space where longevity is not a high priority. The downside to these structures is that they carry very little aesthetic appeal and have short lifespans, often less than 50 years. This makes it hard to recoup the investment, especially if you’re looking at doing a home, cabin, or commercial facility. Additionally, to pass most city/county codes, the living and/or customer space is often only feasible on the second level.
This form of construction has been around even longer than post and beam and results in beautiful wood structures. Customers considering log buildings are often drawn to post and beam because they both feature fully dimensional, exposed wood components. There are many differences between the two though. First, the price point on a log home is often much higher than post and beam. Second, log homes require more reoccurring maintenance (due in large part to the settling of the logs). Third, the support systems are much different which has a few key effects on the building we’ll briefly discuss.
Log homes get their strength from an interlocking horizontal framework where the logs are notched in the corners to join together. This framework forms the walls and in many cases, stick frame trusses are put on top of the log walls. This results in the same limitations mentioned with stick frame buildings of less usable space on the second floor, and the lack of a ‘true’ vaulted ceiling. Additionally, because of the log walls, a log home is through and through a wood home, meaning you can’t pick and choose which walls you want drywall on unless you duplicate a wall.
Mortise and Tenon Timber Frame
Mortise and Tenon and post and beam are both forms of timber frame construction. Both utilize fully dimensional timbers formed into bents as the support system of the building. This allows for open floor plans, truly vaulted ceilings, and beautiful exposed wood to be a part of the showcase of the facility.
The biggest difference is how the timber materials are connected. Mortise and Tenon uses wood and peg joinery, which involves a hole and a tongue that fit together securely. This is the most traditional form of timber framing and is undoubtedly beautiful. However, it is expensive because of the extra work of creating these intricate joints. Both the kit cost and the on-site construction cost are increased.
Post and beam uses the same concept, but uses a steel plate with bolt connection in place of the wood and peg. This simplifies the joinery, which drives down the costs of both the kit and on-site construction. Additionally, the bold look of the steel plates against solid Douglas fir timbers creates a rustic look with an industrial flair that draws many customers to it.
Post and beam joins many of the benefits of each of these construction types together. It accommodates both rustic and contemporary design styles, as does stick frame construction. It comes at a price point between a post frame building and a timber frame or log building, making it one of the most affordable ways to attain an attractive, longstanding structure. Finally, it utilizes fully dimensional timber bents, which allows for a wood structure with truly vaulted ceilings and open floors.