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By Chris | November 11, 2009 - 6:55 pm - Posted in Big Timbers, New Products, Structural Components

This is a pretty concise “list” (pdf) with images of timber truss designs you can pick from. It covers the basics – the timber trusses most used. To repeat, these are for TIMBER trusses – not pressed or manufactured trusses – so, please, no emails about all the dainty little truss designs I missed. Oh, and yes, there are TONS of custom designs available, too.

scissor timber truss design from American Pole and TimberIt’s no secret I think American Pole and Timber is one of the coolest companies because of their ability to make just about anything and their willingness to say yes to just about any project thrown at them. There are not many companies that could handle the diversity of products American Pole and Timber handles but they have been doing it for nearly two decades now with steady growth.

Aside from their pdf of timber truss designs, you will be interested in the timber truss options they offer and, especially, how they ship exceptionally large timber trusses – timber trusses that are too large to fit on a truck assembled.

Shipping Large Trusses

Kind of off-topic here… They ship nationwide but some of their trusses are GIANT so they actually build the timber truss in their shop in Houston, TX (fully assembled) to ensure the truss is made properly and meets all the required dimensions and specs once assembled. They then mark each component and disassemble each truss for shipment. Depending on the client and truss, they will send one of their employees with the truss to guide and/or help with the reassembly on the job site.

After 10 years in and around the lumber business, I still think that’s pretty cool.

An industry-changing product is now available in the US. It is “treated” wood without any chemicals. Nature’s Choice Deck, distributed by Building Products Plus, is made of premium grade southern yellow pine, uses no chemicals, and comes with a 20 year warranty.

Think about it – “treated” wood with zero chemicals – 100% natural wood.
thermally modified wood - Nature's Choice

Thermally Modified Wood
Although thermally modified wood has been proven effective in Europe since the mid-90’s, it is new to the US where it took on the brand name Nature’s Choice. Developed in Finland, thermally modified wood is kind of baked (for lack of a better word) until the composition of the wood changes such that it is no longer attractive to termites, fungus, and other forms of decay. Using special kilns, the wood is heated for about a day to just below flash point and cooled using carefully timed applications of water to maximize its strength and longevity.

As Green As It Gets
Nature’s Choice ( is as green as it gets. It is made of easily renewable southern yellow pine from managed forest land and produced in the heart of Amish country in production facilities that use relatively zero electricity. It’s seriously green from start to finish. It contains no chemicals so you don’t have to worry about your gardens, lawn, ground water, or kids. And, finally, since it is long-lasting the wood will not need to be replaced often. However, when you do replace it the wood can be thrown away, re-used, or even burned (unlike chemically pressure-treated wood).

This is the stuff dreams are made of, eco-speaking.

Physical Properties
Its strength is up to par, too. You can cut, drill, nail, screw, and everything just like regular wood. No special fasteners are required but you can use a hidden deck fastener system is you wish. In other words, it is regular wood – except, you know, with no chemicals.

Here are the stats from Nature’s Choice Deck technical info page.

    • Uniformly Darker Color
      Increased Surface Hardness
      Resistant to Decay
      Decreased Absorption of Moisture
      Moisture Deformation Decreased by 30 – 90%
      Splitting Strengths Reduced 0 – 50%
      Bending Strength Changes -15% – +20%
      Resins Dry Out or Evaporate
      Equilibrium Moisture 10 – 50% Smaller than in Untreated Wood
      Overall Increased Stability
      Increased Longevity
  • Beautiful Appearance – Darker Color
    Nature’s Choice is made of premium grade (better than #1) southern yellow pine so the boards are about 100% free of wane and nearly totally free of knots. The faces of the boards are different (one side smooth, the other grooved) and since the wood is so highly selected, the boards are essentially reversible.

    The thermal modification process darkens the wood to a beautiful light-mahogany color. The picture above is unstained pine (really!). See the Nature’s Choice Deck website for more pictures. According to the guys at Building Products Plus, all of the pictures on the site (as of the date of this writing) are southern yellow pine. Hard to believe but see the comparison image here.

    Dimensions & Availability
    Currently, Nature’s Choice thermally modified wood is available in 1″x5″ (actual dimensions) deck boards. They say they will offer more in the future. In fact, they mentioned plans for large timbers made with the stuff and maybe even pilings. Yes, chemical-free pilings. These guys are kind of quietly leading their own green movement.

    Expect to see more Nature’s Choice Deck in the future. People have been looking for this sort of thing and it’s finally here.

    By Chris | February 8, 2009 - 10:11 pm - Posted in Big Timbers, Plans, Structural Components

    MERIDIAN, ID–(Marketwire – January 27, 2009)

    In October 2008, Mountain Architects launched a new line of log cabin plans referred to as the Rustic Luxury™ series. With each passing month, people worldwide have watched the team at Mountain Architects transform simple, low-end cabin designs that log home enthusiasts know all too well, to distinctive cabin designs blending rustic elements with high end finishes and inspiring design attributes, at attractive turnkey costs.

    With the close of the first month in 2009 just around the corner, Mountain Architects releases its final design in the Rustic Luxury™ Log Cabins & Plans series. The Truckee log cabin plan is a unique log post and beam design with stone integrated throughout. This single-level log cabin home, with just over 1,500 square feet of livable space, brings together rustic tradition with a touch of elegance. Its layout is simple yet offers the perfect blend of warmth combined with attractive natural materials.

    Work one-on-one with Mountain Architects to design your own Rustic Luxury™ Log Cabin home. Or, let Mountain Architects modify the Truckee to fit your own lifestyle and architectural taste:

    — Change its layout or size to accommodate your lifestyle.
    — Choose between handcrafted log, milled log, and timber frame, in combination with other materials that will make your home stand out.
    — Make your own architectural statement by varying roof ridge lines, roof pitches, corners, etc.

    Learn more about how you can customize a log home plan with Mountain Architects.

    A look over the past three months reveals an eclectic and moving collection of cabin plans designed for discriminating homeowners who seek the best in mountain style living, but in a smaller, more intimate home. The Rustic Luxury™ series kicked off in October 2008 with the introduction of the Telluride, a milled log cabin home featuring a unique combination of stone, bark siding, beautifully crafted character logs, glass and milled log walls. In November, the team at Mountain Architects released the Trian, a cozy timber frame cabin home complete with barreled tile roofing and stone commonly seen in the French countryside. And, more recently, Mountain Architects showcased its December plan, the Targhee — a three-level cabin design with a master suite on each level. View the entire Rustic Luxury™ Log Cabin collection at

    What’s next for the team at Mountain Architects? As a sponsor of the 2009 GREEN LOG Homes & Lifestyle Awards (an awards program created to shine the spotlight on those companies that are working to provide green alternatives in the building industry), Mountain Architects now turns their attention to highlighting green design techniques. Stay tuned for an exciting kick off to a 3 month long endeavor focused on designing and building green, including examples of green homes designed and built over the last couple of years.

    Together, Mountain Architects and PrecisionCraft offer a proven team approach. From initial design through completed construction, your Mountain Architects and PrecisionCraft team is there every step of the way. Visit PrecisionCraft’s Log Homes & Timber Frame Design Center at to learn more about creating your dream home!

    By Chris | October 23, 2008 - 12:25 pm - Posted in Marine Structures, Structural Components

    Sites & Pages Dedicated to Covered Bridges (by State)

    These sites and pages about covered bridges relate perfectly to the last LumberTalk post about wood bridges.

    Wood bridges in New York.

    Vermont’s covered bridges by county.

    Covered bridges in Oregon by county.

    covered wood bridge Harrisburg, TN Covered Wood Bridge

    This covered bridge in Harrisburg, TN has an interesting history and the story explains a little about how covered wood bridges were built back in the day. The townspeople contributed money (willfully, not through taxes) and the town gave the rest.

    By Chris | October 21, 2008 - 7:51 am - Posted in Big Timbers, Plans, Structural Components, Treated Wood

    Wood bridges offer ways of crossing natural settings with structures that fit the surroundings.? Although wood bridges are not practical for every application they are perfect for many – affordable, simple, durable, and beautiful.

    Affordable:? Depending on the design, wood bridges can be built for as little as 1/3 the cost of steel and concrete bridges and have lower maintenance costs as well. Building wood bridges over crossings might be a great way for landowners and small municipalities to save money as well as add aesthetic value to their byways.

    Simple:? Many practical wood bridge designs require less skilled labor (no welders or concrete workers and smaller equipment) to assemble and less time than steel and concrete bridges.? Simplicity equates to a savings of time and money.

    Durable:? Effectively designed and constructed wood bridges should easily last 50 years and there are many that have been in services for much longer than that. Wood treatments and coatings available today should protect the foundational structure of a bridge so it will last virtually forever.

    Materials for Wood Bridges

    Like any project, wood bridges will last longer when built with three major components in mind.

    • Quality Design
    • Quality Materials
    • Quality Construction

    We will focus on quality materials for wood bridges here.? You can buy bridge plans or have yours custom engineered and you can hire a bridge building company, local contractor, or build the bridge yourself with the proper design and instructions.

    Use properly treated wood for your bridge components, especially for the pilings and other foundation materials.? .60 pcf treated wood should be sufficient for most locations but if you are building around saltwater, you should probably use a stronger treatment for the foundation components – especially if the bridge will actually be in contact with saltwater.

    To add longevity to your bridge use poly coated wood like the stuff from American Pole And Timber (they also have a full line of bridge timbers and bridge decking) for all of the ground contact components.? It is sprayed onto treated wood before installation and provides an extra layer of protection that should easily add another 25 years to the wood (at least). It actually bonds to the wood but you can still cut, nail, or drill into it.? It is really good stuff – initially designed for use on saltwater marine pilings (where is has a 25 year warranty).

    Your wood bridge’s hardware should all be stainless steel, galvanized, or zinc coated.? There are other special hardware coatings out there but stainless, galvanized, and zinc are proven and affordable.

    Plans for Wood Bridges

    Buy Wood Bridge Plans Online:? There are numerous places to buy wood bridge plans online – so many, that I will not even link to them here.

    Bridge Plans from Competition:? Here are some great bridge designs and plans I found recently. It is a wood bridge building competition for University-level engineering students. “The? National Timber Bridge Design Competition? is open to student chapters of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and Forest Products Society (FPS) in the United States and Canada. Joint or cooperative entries (ASCE and FPS working together) are eligible and even encouraged. A chapter may also submit multiple entries.”

    The young folks in this competition come up with some creative, effective, and practical designs for wood bridges.? You might be able to apply a few of them to your wood bridges. Note:? That is not a suggestion to copy the designs or use them directly as reliable and tested plans but there are some great ideas there.

    Book about How to Build Wood Bridges:? This is a really nice book that has some designs and plans for building wood bridges as well as plans for building other wood projects.

    Wood bridges can certainly be built as a diy project. Please make sure you have your bridge professionally designed, though, or at least hire a professional contractor to help you. Using the right materials will not only improve the safety of your structure but will ensure that your bridge will be long-lasting as well. Wood bridges should be built to last – they should stand as legacies to be used for generations to come. That might sound nostalgic or something but, well, I guess it is.