A Douglas Fir Timber Frame
Douglas fir is a quality softwood which is readily available in the UK and ideally suited to structural framing. Although technically not as strong as oak, it can confidently be used in the same way as oak within frames in very similar sections. Douglas is a pinky orangey timber when freshly cut, which mellows to a more ‘burnt orange’ colour over time. We frequently use Douglas fir for frames as it has many advantages and characteristics which lend itself to a particular way of building.
Douglas fir Building Qualities
Douglas fir is very straight grained, this means that you won’t find any curves in a Douglas frame, unless they are very gentle curves ‘forced’ out of larger sections. It is more stable and predictable than oak and holds a decent edge when cut. Its stability means it works well as a planed timber, its sharp edges, clean lines and smooth surface making it perfect to incorporate into a modern or contemporary space.
It is comparatively lightweight but retains a good strength. It has a much lower moisture content than hardwood and loses its moisture more quickly. By the time a frame is constructed and raised it is already much further towards being seasoned than one would expect from a hardwood. This makes surface finishes a much safer option, and many of our clients opt for a limed finish which is achievable with a wash, oil or wax. This finish has the effect of toning down the orange hue and lightening the timber.
Douglas combines well with steelwork to achieve spacious, clean-lined frames, allowing for a very light and airy feel to the room. If your preference is simple, modern, contemporary, then you might want to consider this approach.
Douglas is cheaper than oak, and incredibly it is one of the only building materials not to have increased significantly in price over the last 15 or 20 years. This saving can be a bonus for those who chose it, but the raw material cost is only a small percentage of the price of the frame. It represents a marginal saving and should probably not be the deciding factor for your choice, but instead go with your aesthetic preference.
There are excellent sources for Douglas fir on Longleat and Stourhead Estates as well as slower grown suppliers further north.