Medieval timber frame construction

From houses with gables facing the front to houses with roofs facing the front

In medieval building construction half-timbered buildings definitely outnumbered the stone buildings of more affluent citizens.

Houses become more solid

Houses developed from pit houses to wooden constructions in post technique and finally to half-timbered buildings. The carrying posts in post technique were dug into the soil. This proved to be a huge disadvantage as the posts were exposed to the dampness of the soil and hence susceptible to rot. From the 12th century onwards the timbered framework of the houses was raised on foundation beams that from the 13th century onwards were additionally fitted onto stone plinth walls. This resulted in a more permanent construction. The fact that half-timbered buildings in numerous cities survived proves that point. The oldest half-timbered buildings preserved in Braunschweig date back to the middle of the 14th century.

The gables are turning

During the 13th and 14th centuries it was common practise to use buildings – presumably with more than one storey - with the gables facing the roadside. These were normally narrower than the plot of land. Hence there was open access to the courtyard. During the 14th century the building technique changed to using the whole width of the property. The position of the houses now changed to one where the roof faced the road. A majority of these houses included an entry into the courtyard called a hallway passage.

The storeys protrude

The post and beam constructions where the carrying posts reached from the floor to the roof were bit by bit replaced with the floor construction. Here the posts are only as high as one single storey. The ceiling beams jutted out from the outer walls and allowed the upper floors to project. These projections shaped the ‘classic’ period of half-timbered construction during the 15th and 16th century.

Explanations and hints

Picture credits

  • E. Arnhold und D. Rieger
  • Foto E. Arnhold