Modern engineered lumber and trusses make it easy to build massive rooms with vaulted ceilings and large volumes; these days, at least half of our projects feature a great room with a vaulted ceiling. Historically, those big, open spaces called for timber framing with large timbers to support the roof structure. Timbers are still popular today, but instead of serving a structural purpose, they are more often just large trim details.

One way we create a timber look is to build hollow box beams out of 1x12 pine. We have developed several tricks for making test cuts, fitting beam pieces, and attaching beam parts, but for the most part, we build these timbers piece by piece, in place. We always use a smooth finish, whether we stain the beams (which is typical) or not.

Occasionally, clients ask for a more rustic look, which requires solid wood beams. In Northwest Arkansas, we can order rough-sawn fir or cedar timbers and even get custom-milled air-dried oak beams from a local sawmill, but for the project shown here, the clients were looking for something with a little history. Their research led them to Heritage Restorations (, a company that finds, disassembles, and restores vintage barns, but that also has a huge inventory of reclaimed beams, siding, and other old barn parts.

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