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What to Expect on Frame-Raising Day

What you should know about the day your home’s timber frame goes up.

Mark Sorenson photo; Timbercraft home
Throughout the process of planning the timber frame home of your dreams, there are plenty of exciting milestones along the way. But none is quite so thrilling (or nerve-racking!) as frame-raising day. Will the weather cooperate? Will everything fit together correctly?
“It’s the culmination of design and engineering and all the work that has gone into it finally comes to fruition,” says Dennis Marcom, who helped raise approximately 400 homes during his 40 year tenure as Bensonwood Home’s timber frame shop and safety director.
Knowing what to expect on the big day will help you feel prepared and at ease so you can enjoy the experience.
For starters, it’s essential to keep in mind that your property is a live construction site. “There is potential for danger and mishaps, so it’s really important to allow the crew to do their work safely with no distractions,” Dennis explains. (Plus, they’re building your home. Allowing them to stay focused is in your best interest.)
Raising the frame will be done in one of two ways: wall building or bent building. The first and most common approach involves the structural elements being preassembled and raised in sections parallel to the ridge. “A wall gets raised and braced off then an adjacent wall gets raised and braced off, then the connecting timbers are put in place,” explains Dennis. “Once the walls are up, the rafters are the last thing land-ing on top of the walls.”
The second, less common approach known as “bent building” calls for the structural elements to be erected perpendicular to the ridge. “A bent goes up, then an adjacent bent goes up and then the connecting timbers,” he says. “The last timbers to go up are the purlins connecting bent to bent.”
While many companies employ a crane to speed the process along (“It’s faster and more efficient, but it’s also noisier,” says Dennis) some still do it the way it’s been done for centuries — with lots of hands on deck. Regardless of how the frame goes up, other traditional tools at the site will likely include mallets, chisels, squares and crowbars.
Once the frame is raised, it’s celebration time. Often, an evergreen bough is tacked at the highest part of the frame signaling good luck. Another common practice is for the homeowners and crew to enjoy a meal or libation together. Still others have poetry recitations, take photographs and even open the floor for speeches.
However you choose to commemorate frame raising day, Dennis says one thing is clear: “It’s an occasion worth celebrating.”

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