Rouen, France

House Type – “LE LOGIS DES CARADAS” (The House of Caradas) illustrates one of the historic French timber construction techniques. This method is found predominantly in bourgeoisie town houses. It is characterised by various types of infill between the timber sections, the use of jetty structures and is built over several floors. Two types of infill may be found here: wattle and daub (sticks and mud) and fired bricks. There are also hidden timbers, over-rendered with earth, plaster, lime etc. In fact, in France, many older buildings are, unexpectedly, made of wood, even in Paris. The foundations of these houses are usually built in stone and play an important part, both to support the weight of the structure as well as protecting the timber from rising moisture. The ways that the connections between plinth and timber frame are made, is of great importance for the longevity of a timber building.

History and Location – This house was actually destroyed in 1940 during World War 2. It belonged to a wealthy ship owner and was situated in Rouen, Higher Normandy. Dating back to the XVth century it had a four storey jettied structure. A XXth century historian of Rouen said that it was « the pearl of the timbered houses of our city » (commandant Quenedey, historian from Rouen of 20th century). It was built for Caradas de Quesne, the bailiff of Rouen. The notable feature of this house is its jettied structure. It overlooked the street with its five storeys and two jettied attic levels. The outstanding facade had a highly decorated carpentry structure with profusion of carved ornaments and gothic windows. You could also see the well executed bas-relief carvings, which decorated the corner posts. In the fifteenth century this house was the famous residence of a wealthy family of Spanish merchants based in Rouen. It was located at the corner of “la Savonnerie” street and “La Tuile” street. The north building was constructed during the 2nd half of 15th century; The southern building (gable end facing “La Tuile” street) was built during the first quarter of 16th century. In 1926, its elevated status began to decline as the building became a “sailor’s box” (a cabaret where sailors could relax when they came back from the sea), and the street where it was located became known for its exuberant parties. The buildings were badly damaged by bombing in 1940 and demolished a few years later. Address: 29-31 street “La Savonnerie” Type: General Inventory of Cultural Heritage. /Eustache de la Quérière tome 2, 1841/

The Climax of Timbered Buildings – It is difficult to date the appearance of the timber framing in France, but by the fourteenth century they became widespread and were found in Alsace, Aquitaine, the Ardennes, Bresse, Brittany, Normandy, the Landes, Sologne, in the Basque Country and in the Île de France. This timber frame building technique is based on the principles of minimising the use of materials, achieving a lightweight form of construction and ease of implementation. The cantilevered overhanging jetty protects the building facade below from rainwater, and also increases the interior living space. In Normandy, timber framing, especially using oak, was the preferred method of house building. Oak forests dominanted the landscape in Normandy until the twelfth century, but the woodland area declined with the expansion of agriculture, the growth of the navy and the increasing the number of iron forges. This quickly led to a decrease in forest area, which led to a concern about their over-use and future management. The timber-framed building naturally found its place in the search for a material economy associated with the resource limit wood of great length and large diameter. This technique of short wood/colombes allowed the use of smaller section and length timbers. This system enabled the development of corbels. The house of the fifteenth century was characterized by a facade with peices of wood arranged in boxes which redistributes the weight, bracing provided by the cross of St. Andrew on either side of the window, with the discharge ends of the intermediate floors and vertical poles together. The floor was built corbelled, loading the ends of the girders, it corrected the sagging effect. It also corrected by increasing the section of the beams and adding brackets. The jetty possible both to protect the facade runoff of rainwater and increase the living space. The colombes dividing walls of each floor had a supporting role but also an aesthetic role.

The Plus – This building shows a remarkable quadruple jetty structure, a cornice and overflowing farm. The planks on each floor are laid as a cantilever on each other, so that the third floor takes a substantially larger area than that occupied by the ground floor. The cornice at the base of the gable end elevation shows a series of battlements. Note the lightness of the windows, carefully decorated with the cross of St. Andrew. They prevented the spread of frame posts, and the load of the timber frame is carried over to the corner posts on each floor level. This house, is one of the few examples with a jetty structure over several floors. This method was not used after the early 16th century following a decision by the Council of the city of Rouen in 1520, which forbade the construction of buildings overhanging the public roads. /Municipal Archives/

Advantage Of Jetty Structure – This technique allows the building to be raised to a greater height and also provides more upstairs living area without increased property taxes which were based just on the ground.floor area!

The Gradual Disappearance Of The Art Of Timber Framing – The tradition of timber framing died out in the nineteenth century. Even earlier, during the the sixteenth century laws were passed in both France and England to restrict the wooden constructions for fear of fire. The crowded design of the streets and buildings of London, led to a great risk of fire. Hoses built of wood, often roofed with thatch, they had six or seven floors which included cantilevers to maximise living space in relation to the small footprint. The increasing size of the upper floors, these projections “encroached”, over the street. This increased the risk of spread of fire as these upper jetties almost touched the houses opposite in the narrowest streets. /Wikipedia/


Cantilevered Struts – are most frequently used in important residences until the end of 16th Century. The distribution of the timber components achieves a solidity, more effective that other systems. The horizontal elements are often decorated, using moudings or are carved, mainly the spacer. These are not morticed and are well proteced from weathering by the beam above. /D’après M.Y. Lescroart/

“Joists standing on beams” is a more primitive approach. The timber beams are set out to cantilever with a short overhang over the lower frame . On to these protruding ends are attached the frame of the upper floor. This simple form of jetty (corbel) is the oldest.