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half-timbered house

English translation: A house (or part of one) "built half of timber", usually with the timber framing exposed on the exterior.

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GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
English term or phrase:half-timbered house
English translation:A house (or part of one) "built half of timber", usually with the timber framing exposed on the exterior.
Entered by: Christopher Crockett
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13:11 Jul 1, 2003
English to English translations [PRO]
English term or phrase: half-timbered house
I'd be pleased if somebody could explain to me what "half" refers to in a half-timbered house.
Krokodil
Germany
Local time: 16:10
A house "built half of timber"
Explanation:
Jarema has most of it, but there seems to be some confusion on a few points.

Here's the O.E.D. :

1Built half of timber.

1842-76 Gwilt Archit. Gloss., Half timber building, a structure formed of studding, with sills, lintels, struts and braces, sometimes filled in with brickwork and plastered over on both sides.

1874 Parker Goth. Archit. i. i. 10 Half-timber houses..of which the foundations and the ground-floors only are of stone, and the upper part of wood.

2. Made of timber split in half.
--------------------

This last definition is new to me, and I believe that the most common sense is that of no. 1 --for the simple reason that it is nearly impossible to build a house from "timbers" which are, literally, "split in half".

The process of building such a house explains the term :

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-07-01 14:38:09 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Trees are felled, preferably in winter, when their sap is down and they contain less water (and would therefore dry faster and shrink less), and they are trimmed and cut into logs.

The logs *can* be sawn (traditionally in a \"saw pit\", much later, at a saw \"mill\", attached to a grain mill) but this is a quite laborious process and, wherever possible (only with straightgrained, relatively \"clear\" --knotless-- timber), splitting or \"riving\" was the prefered method.

The log could be riven --using wedges and \"beetles\" (huge mallets)-- several times, if the tree was large enough, until the rough size of the piece of timber desired was reached.

The timber was then \"squared up\" to the precise size needed, by marking lines (with a gooseberry-soaked string or \"chalk line\") on the face of the wood, then using a \"broad axe\" (very large, with a perfectly flat bottom face) to remove the excess wood and yield a relatively smooth, flat surface, \"hewn to the line\", as they say.

When all four sides of the timber were \"squared\" the timber was cut to the precise length needed, the necessary joint-member (usally some sort of tenon\") was cut on the ends and any mortices needed for intervening lesser timbers in its length were cut in the appropriate faces.

The timber was then \"joined\" to the other timbers of the future wall (say), on the ground (or the floor of the second floor, if it was a second story wall), all the tenons were \"driven home\" in their mortices and \"pegged\" secure with a large wooden peg (a \"treenail\").

Frequently, especially in Late Medieval houses (esp. in Kent), *curved* timbers (riven from the larger branches of the tree, retaining their natural shapes) were used in the minor timbers, which provided both extra strenght and also a quite pleasing decorative effect, when the exterior faces of the timbering was left exposed.

When the whole wall was fully assembled it would be moved to the appropriate \"sill\" and \"raised\" --in a very large building (like a barn) the latter could require the help of a large number of men (hence the term \"barn raising\", which was a great communal event in all agrarian societies).

Once all the walls, floors, and roof were assembled and in place the interstices between the timbers were filled in. Although brick or small stones could be (and was) used, the most economical and traditional filling was \"wattle and daub\" (\"interwoven twigs plastered with clay or mud, as a building material for huts, cottages, etc.\").

Not to contradict the OED, but the interwoven \"twigs\" were actually *filled in* with the clay or mud, which also provided a rather good insulation in the wall, as well.

Traditionally the interior was plastered --though (in more expensive houses) it could be covered with wood, either wholly (\"paneling\") or in part (\"wainscoting\").

The exterior could be finished in a variety of ways : the interstices between the large timbers could be plastered, or stuccoed, and then painted ; or the whole exterior (major timbers and all) could be covered with a local material, say, slate (i\'ve seen medieval houses in Angers like this) or relatively thin, long strips of wood (\"clapboards\"), which were intially \"riven\" (yielding a triangular transverse section, useful in their overlapping), then planed smooth and, sometimes, given a decorative \"bead\" on their bottom exterior edge, \"for show\".

This latter solution was particularly popular in the timber-rich areas of New England in the 17th and 18th centuries, where we find houses which are, essentially, *identical* in their half-timber construction to those built in the (late medieval) tradition \"at home\" in England, but which are covered on the outside with clapboards (later called \"clabbording\", in Southern Indiana), hiding their beautiful timber joinery.

This type of construction, which was quite sound and durable, but which was also *very* labor intensive, persisted in house building in the U.S. until the 19th century, when mechanized saw mills (originally driven by water, then by steam, finally by electricity or gasoline) made the mass production of standarized, uniform \"timbers\" (esp. \"2x4s\") possible, at which time a new kind of \"framing\" (\"baloon framing\") came into vogue.

Virtually all modern houses built of wood are \"baloon framed\", a cheap, fast method of construction requiring relatively little skilled labor which, nowadaze, usually results in a proliferation of ticky-tacky, characterless matchboxes strung out across the landscape in \"Pressboard Estates\" (at least in \"The Simpsons\").

But, that\'s part of another question, i suppose.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-07-05 19:02:56 (GMT) Post-grading
--------------------------------------------------

I\'ve modified the definition a bit :
\"A house (or part of one) \'built half of timber\', with the timber framing exposed on the exterior.\"
Though the houses of 17th c. New England are essentially *identical* in framing construction to their late medieval predecessors, they probably shouldn\'t be called \"half-timber houses\", since their construction is hidden by the clapboard siding of the exterior.
In common usage, the term is usually only applied to houses with their timber framing exposed and visible on the exterior --no matter what the \"filling\" in between might be.
This causes some difficulty, as, in France and elsewhere, the current custom frequently is to strip off the (usually stucco) covering of these houses, in order to expose the \"rustic\" timber framing, thus transforming an \"ordinary\" house into a \"half-timber\" one.
Then there\'s the practice of adding *fake* \"timbering\" (complete with a transparently bogus \"hand-hewn\" texture) to the exterior of *new* construction, which apparently is sufficient to fool the majority of fast-moving tourists passing by on their busses.
Selected response from:

Christopher Crockett
Local time: 10:10
Grading comment
Many thanks - I really hadn't been reckoning with such a comprehensive answer!
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
5 +4A house "built half of timber"
Christopher Crockett
4 +3half-timbered
Jarema
5 +1it´s a house whose structure is timber, but the spans are ...
Clauwolf
5Half timbered:xxxmgonzalez
4half-timbered
jerrie
3as opposed to completely timberedjohn mason


  

Answers


2 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +3
half-timbered


Explanation:
A "half-timbered" building has exposed wood framing. The spaces between the wooden timbers are filled with plaster, brick, or stone.


Illustration from ArtToday In Medieval times, many European houses were half-timbered. The structural timbers were exposed. In the United States, harsh winters made half-timbered construction impractical. The plaster and masonry filling between the timbers could not keep out cold drafts. Builders began to cover exterior walls with wood or masonry.

http://architecture.about.com/library/blgloss-halftimbered.h...

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-07-01 13:13:58 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

In the 19th and 20th centuries, it became fashionable to imitate Medieval building techniques. Many Queen Anne and Stick style houses were given false half-timbering. Timbers were applied to wall surfaces as decoration. Tudor, or Medieval Revival, style houses were often lavishly covered with ornamental half-timbering.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-07-01 13:14:58 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

The term \"half-timbering\" refers to the fact that the logs were halved, or a least cut down to a square inner section. In other areas of Europe, such as Romania and Hungary, there was no comparable hard wood available, houses were more frequently constructed using whole logs.
http://www.britainexpress.com/History/half-timber.htm

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-07-01 13:22:06 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

It is FACHWERKHAUS in German.


    Reference: http://architecture.about.com/library/blgloss-halftimbered.h...
Jarema
Ukraine
Local time: 17:10
Native speaker of: Native in RussianRussian, Native in UkrainianUkrainian
PRO pts in pair: 16

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Amy Williams
3 mins

agree  DGK T-I
2 hrs

agree  J. Leo
21 hrs
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

3 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
half-timbered


Explanation:
Usually the 'top half'...see link for picture to fully describe the style.


    Reference: http://www.grahamrix.co.uk/halftimbered_purley.htm
jerrie
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:10
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 773

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Christopher Crockett: Mmmmm... it's usually the top half in *faux* half-timber in U.S. suburbs but that's not the origin of the term, i'm afraid.
1 hr
  -> Your ref: foundations and ground floor are made of stone! I wasn't claiming to know origin, just simple explanation and picture to say the rest ;-))
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6 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +1
it´s a house whose structure is timber, but the spans are ...


Explanation:
made of masonry.

Clauwolf
Local time: 11:10
Native speaker of: Native in PortuguesePortuguese
PRO pts in pair: 350

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Teresa Jaczewska
2 mins
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30 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +4
A house "built half of timber"


Explanation:
Jarema has most of it, but there seems to be some confusion on a few points.

Here's the O.E.D. :

1Built half of timber.

1842-76 Gwilt Archit. Gloss., Half timber building, a structure formed of studding, with sills, lintels, struts and braces, sometimes filled in with brickwork and plastered over on both sides.

1874 Parker Goth. Archit. i. i. 10 Half-timber houses..of which the foundations and the ground-floors only are of stone, and the upper part of wood.

2. Made of timber split in half.
--------------------

This last definition is new to me, and I believe that the most common sense is that of no. 1 --for the simple reason that it is nearly impossible to build a house from "timbers" which are, literally, "split in half".

The process of building such a house explains the term :

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-07-01 14:38:09 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Trees are felled, preferably in winter, when their sap is down and they contain less water (and would therefore dry faster and shrink less), and they are trimmed and cut into logs.

The logs *can* be sawn (traditionally in a \"saw pit\", much later, at a saw \"mill\", attached to a grain mill) but this is a quite laborious process and, wherever possible (only with straightgrained, relatively \"clear\" --knotless-- timber), splitting or \"riving\" was the prefered method.

The log could be riven --using wedges and \"beetles\" (huge mallets)-- several times, if the tree was large enough, until the rough size of the piece of timber desired was reached.

The timber was then \"squared up\" to the precise size needed, by marking lines (with a gooseberry-soaked string or \"chalk line\") on the face of the wood, then using a \"broad axe\" (very large, with a perfectly flat bottom face) to remove the excess wood and yield a relatively smooth, flat surface, \"hewn to the line\", as they say.

When all four sides of the timber were \"squared\" the timber was cut to the precise length needed, the necessary joint-member (usally some sort of tenon\") was cut on the ends and any mortices needed for intervening lesser timbers in its length were cut in the appropriate faces.

The timber was then \"joined\" to the other timbers of the future wall (say), on the ground (or the floor of the second floor, if it was a second story wall), all the tenons were \"driven home\" in their mortices and \"pegged\" secure with a large wooden peg (a \"treenail\").

Frequently, especially in Late Medieval houses (esp. in Kent), *curved* timbers (riven from the larger branches of the tree, retaining their natural shapes) were used in the minor timbers, which provided both extra strenght and also a quite pleasing decorative effect, when the exterior faces of the timbering was left exposed.

When the whole wall was fully assembled it would be moved to the appropriate \"sill\" and \"raised\" --in a very large building (like a barn) the latter could require the help of a large number of men (hence the term \"barn raising\", which was a great communal event in all agrarian societies).

Once all the walls, floors, and roof were assembled and in place the interstices between the timbers were filled in. Although brick or small stones could be (and was) used, the most economical and traditional filling was \"wattle and daub\" (\"interwoven twigs plastered with clay or mud, as a building material for huts, cottages, etc.\").

Not to contradict the OED, but the interwoven \"twigs\" were actually *filled in* with the clay or mud, which also provided a rather good insulation in the wall, as well.

Traditionally the interior was plastered --though (in more expensive houses) it could be covered with wood, either wholly (\"paneling\") or in part (\"wainscoting\").

The exterior could be finished in a variety of ways : the interstices between the large timbers could be plastered, or stuccoed, and then painted ; or the whole exterior (major timbers and all) could be covered with a local material, say, slate (i\'ve seen medieval houses in Angers like this) or relatively thin, long strips of wood (\"clapboards\"), which were intially \"riven\" (yielding a triangular transverse section, useful in their overlapping), then planed smooth and, sometimes, given a decorative \"bead\" on their bottom exterior edge, \"for show\".

This latter solution was particularly popular in the timber-rich areas of New England in the 17th and 18th centuries, where we find houses which are, essentially, *identical* in their half-timber construction to those built in the (late medieval) tradition \"at home\" in England, but which are covered on the outside with clapboards (later called \"clabbording\", in Southern Indiana), hiding their beautiful timber joinery.

This type of construction, which was quite sound and durable, but which was also *very* labor intensive, persisted in house building in the U.S. until the 19th century, when mechanized saw mills (originally driven by water, then by steam, finally by electricity or gasoline) made the mass production of standarized, uniform \"timbers\" (esp. \"2x4s\") possible, at which time a new kind of \"framing\" (\"baloon framing\") came into vogue.

Virtually all modern houses built of wood are \"baloon framed\", a cheap, fast method of construction requiring relatively little skilled labor which, nowadaze, usually results in a proliferation of ticky-tacky, characterless matchboxes strung out across the landscape in \"Pressboard Estates\" (at least in \"The Simpsons\").

But, that\'s part of another question, i suppose.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-07-05 19:02:56 (GMT) Post-grading
--------------------------------------------------

I\'ve modified the definition a bit :
\"A house (or part of one) \'built half of timber\', with the timber framing exposed on the exterior.\"
Though the houses of 17th c. New England are essentially *identical* in framing construction to their late medieval predecessors, they probably shouldn\'t be called \"half-timber houses\", since their construction is hidden by the clapboard siding of the exterior.
In common usage, the term is usually only applied to houses with their timber framing exposed and visible on the exterior --no matter what the \"filling\" in between might be.
This causes some difficulty, as, in France and elsewhere, the current custom frequently is to strip off the (usually stucco) covering of these houses, in order to expose the \"rustic\" timber framing, thus transforming an \"ordinary\" house into a \"half-timber\" one.
Then there\'s the practice of adding *fake* \"timbering\" (complete with a transparently bogus \"hand-hewn\" texture) to the exterior of *new* construction, which apparently is sufficient to fool the majority of fast-moving tourists passing by on their busses.

Christopher Crockett
Local time: 10:10
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 124
Grading comment
Many thanks - I really hadn't been reckoning with such a comprehensive answer!

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Amy Williams: Looks like everyone could be right!Not convinced by the second def. either (posted agree before Jarema's 13:14 post). Like your other defs, which combine the other answers.
22 mins
  -> I've never seen/heard that second definition, either, but it's in the OED, so it's got to be right. The first one is just more commonsensical. Thanks, Amy.

agree  DGK T-I
2 hrs
  -> Thanks, Giuli.

agree  Kardi Kho
10 hrs
  -> Thanks, K.

agree  J. Leo
20 hrs
  -> Thanks, James.
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
as opposed to completely timbered


Explanation:
Half-timbered dwellings were traditionally for poorer folk - timber being (then) cheap. There were, I presume, wholly timbered houses though wholly timbered constructions were probably mainly for stock.

john mason
Local time: 16:10
PRO pts in pair: 4

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Christopher Crockett: Yes, not "completely timbered", but true "half-timber" house were not particularly cheap to build. The real "poor folk" lived in hovels, mud huts and the like. Half-timbering was for the Middle Class. Stone for the Rich.
10 mins
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8 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
Half timbered:


Explanation:
'Descriptive of buildings of the 16th. and 17th. cent. which were built with strong timber foundations, supports, knees,, and studs, and whose walls were filled in with plaster or masonry materials such as brick' (Cyril M Harris, 'Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture'). El 'Diccionario Temático de Arquitectura Urbanismo y Construcción', de Menéndez Martínez y Salto-Weis dice que es una casa con entramado de madera relleno de ladrillo o yeso, o bien listones de madera. Un saludo. MG.

xxxmgonzalez
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