Although I had designed the house with typical floor joists and gypsum board ceilings, it seemed appropriate to have real wood beamed ceilings. I could build the house conventionally and then add decorative beams and wood ceiling, but real exposed beam ceilings are the right way to do it. Conventional floor joists, though, conceal all kinds of wires, plumbing and ductwork and are much easier to deal with. The best compromise is to build some of the floors conventionally framed and others beamed. We would like at least the Foyer, Living Room and Dining Room, and possibly the Master Bedroom, to have beamed ceilings. There is plumbing above the Kitchen, dictating a gypsum board/plaster ceiling. After some analysis of things, I decided to do all of the rooms named above and the hallway with wood beams and deck. This is what the second floor framing plan looks like. The second floor beams and deck form the first floor ceiling. I calculated the decking lengths and amounts so that all of the joints can occur over the beams.
The challenge was then to find the right material for beams and deck. The local lumber yards can get douglas fir beam and southern yellow pine or lodgepole pine decking. These come from far away, don’t have quite the look I would like, and it just seems that there is plenty of wood in New England. After some internet searching, I found a list of Massachusetts sawmills and dry kilns that the State publishes. Then my search began. I was looking for kiln dried lumber since wood can shrink greatly as it dries. My calls started to lumber mills with dry kilns, but beams are seldom kiln dried and kiln drying can be an expensive process. Then I tried the mills nearest the Cape, who typically had rough sawn eastern white pine beams and could not make tongue and groove decking. I was looking for planed beams for a more finished look. I finally settled on hemlock beams and hemlock T&G decking from Great Brook Lumber in Southwick, MA. They had some nice material that had been cut down and left to air dry.
And this is what the pile of lumber looks like. Once ordered, they trim it to nearly the final sizes, sticker it, meaning they put sticks between the boards for further air drying, and then put in under roof. Then, just before it’s needed, they plane it to final size and ship it to the job site.