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Timber Frame Homes: A-Frame House Designs

Updated on March 21, 2020
viryabo profile image

Working as a professional interior designer for many decades, I've been involved in design-and-build residential building projects.

An A-frame house is a stunning but simple architectural structure that features a steeply angled roof the shape of the letter ‘A’ that peaks at the top with sides that falls close to or at foundation level. Though it is not a new home design and has been around far back in history, when they were called roof huts, they gained popularity in the 1950s.

An A-frame house on a hill with a cantilever balcony and a car park below it. Set in an idyllic scenery, this timber home design is great for a secluded area.
An A-frame house on a hill with a cantilever balcony and a car park below it. Set in an idyllic scenery, this timber home design is great for a secluded area. | Source

Before A-frame homes gained popularity in the fifties, the first semblance of A-frame houses was in old-Europe, the Pacific islands, and in the Far East regions where they were built because they held up better to earthquakes and other adverse conditions. They were very simple structures and served strictly for practical purposes. They were not built as fancier structures until the 1930s. It was during the post–World War II period in the forties that the A-frame house developed its attractive characteristics.

These timber frame homes eventually became second homes for the elite and the adventurous, serving as get-away cabins, mountain resorts, beach houses, and vacation homes to spend their holidays in. Because they were relatively cheap to build and were quite adaptable, more and more architects soon began to create A-frame house plans with sleek and stylish modern designs.

After the rise of the typical A-frame home designs, the modified A-frame styles evolved and by the end of the 20th century, they became available as prefabricated kits.

A modern A-frame house with a cantilever wrap-round balcony supported by pillar stilts.. Notice how the house appears like a waterside holiday or a get-away resort..
A modern A-frame house with a cantilever wrap-round balcony supported by pillar stilts.. Notice how the house appears like a waterside holiday or a get-away resort..

A Brief History of Timber Frame Homes

The earliest A-frame homes were erected with pairs of curved timber called 'cruck' and started out looking like the frame of an upturned boat. This structural design which is said to originate in Normandy was no coincidence because the sea-faring Vikings who built their hardy wooden boats from a timber framing tradition beached their broad wooden boats at Northmannia.

Being boat builders, they became highly skilled in working with timber and their main profession became shipbuilding.

The Vikings knew how to hew hardwood trees with wedges and beetle to form matching uprights for cruck frames. Once these frames were formed and erected, they appeared like a crudely shaped letter ‘A’.

Thatch and twigs were used to roof the entire structure, making it resemble a giant teapot cosy, with its inner sides filled with coppiced staves woven into a wall rendered with wattle (made from branches and twigs), mud, daub, clay, or animal dung mixed with animal hair. These were used to fill in the gaps between the load bearing timber frames to create an internal wall.

Timber frames were valuable materials in the day, and it has been said that some household occupants, while ‘moving house’, will dismantle their homes and take the timber frames and floorboards with them whenever they migrate to.

Structural Features of A-Frame Timber Homes

A-frame structures are built predominantly with wood with some stone works generally around the fireplace and the extending chimney. Timber and stone were the medieval builder’s main material because trees were abundantly available in their time, and these materials still feature in today’s timber frame homes.

Their building parts are dependent on a wooden frame (a-frame) for support and structural support. The basic structure is a skeleton or inner frame of wood that is enveloped within other building materials like bricks and mortar which serves as added support and outer protection for the building.

The skeletal frame of an A-frame house can be constructed with cedar, oak, or similar wood beams, or with steel members (pre-coated with intumescent paint), and the exterior walls are built with brick, stone, or with the modern materials like sheets of tempered clear or tinted glass. With a combination of some of these materials, the house will blend beautifully into woody settings, the beach, or a suburban neighbourhood.

Once these frames were formed and erected, roofing materials that range from thatch to aluminium sheets were used to cover the entire structure, making it resemble three-dimensional A-shape. Doors and windows are popularly framed in wood but today, modern variations do come with aluminium framed doors and windows.

Because of the A-shape, the structures are limited in interior space and also have limited vertical walls. Nevertheless, you will still find architectural plans of one-and-half or two storey houses that offer open and inviting interiors with amazing soaring ceilings. Flooring materials will depend on personal tastes. Flooring materials include hardwood floors, tile flooring, bamboo wood floors, and stone materials like marble, granite, or quartz.

Depending on regions, some come with exotic masonry fireplaces, while the larger structures can come with comfortable half floor lofts, two to four ensuite bedrooms, attic space for storage, and cantilevered balconies.

Though A-frame timber houses are familiarly associated with certain regions, especially in colder areas of the world, you can now find these designs in suburban areas, building structures that may be desired by some people living in the suburbs.

This A-frame home has its roof extend down to the ground level. It also features cantilever balconies that jut out from the structure's sides. Ideal design for a suburban area with not much plot space.
This A-frame home has its roof extend down to the ground level. It also features cantilever balconies that jut out from the structure's sides. Ideal design for a suburban area with not much plot space.

A-Frame House Plans and Blueprints

You can either buy A-frame house kits to erect your own get-away home, or you can purchase A-frame house plans and blueprints online to build your dream house. Both options will turn out much cheaper than employing the services of an architect to design one for you.

If you decide to buy house plans online, you will find that there are hundreds of variations to choose from, all ready to be constructed for you by a builder, or, if you are a hands-on person, capable of building it (DIY) all by yourself.

There is always an architectural plan that will suit both your needs and your lifestyle but if you find one that you really like but will prefer a few changes or modifications, the plans can be custom-altered to suit your requirements. Asides the designs and blueprints you’ll be supplied with; house plan vendors will also prepare estimates for you and even include building instructions in the package.

And if you are a mid-century minded individual who loves architectural masterpieces, an aspiring A-frame homeowner, or a timber house builder always seeking new ideas and innovations, this book, The Modern A-Frame celebrates seventeen diverse accounts of minimalist cabins reinvented for the 21st century. The photo-driven collection beautifully captures the romance of a classic structure that beckons to travellers and home buyers today, just as it did six decades ago.

A floor plan of a simple three bedroom A-frame house with an upper floor ensute master bedroom with a kitchenette, a loft, and a sizeable entertainment deck.
A floor plan of a simple three bedroom A-frame house with an upper floor ensute master bedroom with a kitchenette, a loft, and a sizeable entertainment deck.

A-Frame house designs are beautifully rustic with wonderful interiors that have a great view of the surrounding environment. Their interior design style, depending on the floor area, can be lavish and sophisticated, a middle-of-the-road style, minimalist, or eclectic. It will all depend on each individual need.

A-frame timber houses can also be built to serve as an additional structure on a large property, in which case they can serve as guest quarters, a mother or father (or both) in-law apartment, a studio cum office space for a member of the household, or a craft room for those in the craft making industry.

You want to build a new house, and you need to view varied designs before making a final decision. What will you do?

See results

© 2011 viryabo


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    • profile image

      timber buildings 

      9 years ago

      Nicely written! I would say that a lot of peoples are not aware that log cabins is one of the best way to meet our requirements for resident and commercial buildings. Wooden houses are really effective and worth living. I remember my stay with grandparents in the log cabins and love them so much. Thanks for writing such a good post.

    • profile image

      David Leeper  

      9 years ago

      What a like the most about historic home is that it remind of the ancient people living ..I'm living in a KB Homes and every now and then i try to modify my home to look it historic

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      When I was younger I thought about building an A frame, now however I am a little old to get into that house building thing at 62. Still the article was interesting and useful.

    • viryabo profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Hi, where i mentioned "A Frame House Plans" above will take you where you can link with the actual architects of the various house plans.

      They will love to set up these plans and can modify or get you other designs is you wish.

      Hope this helps. Thanks so much for visiting.


    • profile image

      forest grove boat storage 

      9 years ago

      These look interesting. Would you know if there's an architect who'd be willing to set up these plans for me? Thanks in advance!

    • viryabo profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Becky, thank you so much for your wonderful comments. Im so glad you find it informative.


    • Becky Puetz profile image

      9 years ago from Oklahoma

      Viryabo, You have outdone yourself on this one. There's a wealth of much needed information here about "Traditional Timber Frame Homes" and "Eco friendly A-Frame House Plans Online' This will help so many people with their quest to live more eco friendly and their desire to get back to basics, which is something we all can benefit from. Thanks for a well written, awesome Hub!

    • viryabo profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Hello G.

      Missed you.

      Its been a while, how are you?

      So happy to see you here. Thanks so much for sharing this hub with your sister. You are always so thoughtful G.


    • GPAGE profile image


      9 years ago from California

      viryabo! I just sent this hub to my sister who just spoke about building one of these!

      This is very useful information. Thank you for writing and sharing this here. I hope you are well.....Best, G

    • viryabo profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Thanks Cwarden, first for being my 1st visitor, and secondly, for finding this hub informative.

      Sounds like you are planning for a wonderful adventure filled life.

      And A frame timber houses seem just the right choice for a beautiful and scenic mountain environment.

      Thanks for the nice comments.


    • cwarden profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      I have been planning to retire to the mountains for many years and just recently started to question why I should wait for retirement since I am able to work from anywhere with a telephone and internet connection. I was actually discussing an A-frame house with my daughter just the other day and began looking for some land. I will be back - THANKS!


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