Timber Frame Homes
The Design and Building Process
Three important words. Plan... Plan... Plan.
During the design process, you will make decisions on windows, flooring, air conditioning and heating, plumbing, cabinets, wall treatments, roofing, and light fixtures. Everything from switch plate covers to exterior wall treatment must be identified and selected. Your designer and contractor will be of much assistance, but the final decisions will be yours. This is where you stay on…or blow your budget. Chose wisely and, if money is an issue (and it is for most of us), budget larger amounts of money on the things that matter most to you.
Think through locations for electrical, data, audio/visual, and security wiring. Since most timber frames are enclosed in insulated panels, determining the location of outlets and switches is important before fabrication of the panels. Some panels will have chases for wiring and others will have conduit and junction boxes in place. You can make changes after the panels are in place, but it will be much easier to have plans in place prior to construction..
Windows are important, not only because they are a “big ticket” item, but because they will be energy efficient…or not. Roofing is another big expense…now or later. You decide. The exterior finish will be almost maintenance free or…labor intensive. Decisions…decisions…decisions.
Time making these decisions is time well spent. It is much, much easier to make a change on paper than after the work has commenced.
How much help do you need?
Determine the scope of your project. Do you want a turn-key operation or will you be more comfortable working with a local contractor to complete the home? Will the timber framer enclose your frame and bring it together so there is a clear delineation in work they perform and the contractor’s area of responsibility? Will you need an independent architect or does the timber frame company offer design/build services?
Now the easy part... waiting.
While the timber frame company cuts your frame, your contractor will prepare the site, build your foundation, install floor trusses, if needed, rough in plumbing and electrical, and lay down the decking or pour you slab. The frame, often trial assembled at the timber frame shop, then taken apart, will arrive by tractor trailer at the site. Unloaded, it will again be assembled and readied for erection.
Where will you build your timber frame and what will it look like?
Your land, be it a suburban lot or acres of countryside, will define your timber frame. The style, orientation, and size will be restricted or revealed by the lay of the land. Take your time and choose wisely. Consider access, development, and the contour of the land. Selecting the right location can save thousands in excavation and site preparation. The right location will add many thousands of dollars to the value of your home.
Look through magazines and home design books. Drive around and look for a style that catches your eye. Take photos. Pick out a floor plan or two that fit your lifestyle. Take your time. This is a major investment and it should be an investment of time and energy before you ever write the first check. You will live with this house for a long time and generations of families will be amazed at your foresight.
What is your budget and will you finance your home?
A timber frame will cost roughly the same as a custom stick-built home. Spend your dollars where they are most important to you.. Remember that the open floor plan of a timber frame will allow you to be comfortable in less square footage. There are typically fewer halls and walls…more livable space. Be realistic. You won’t be able to build a timber frame (or a well-built conventional home) for the cost of a manufactured home. Timber frames are built to last centuries, not decades.
Prequalify for your home loan and discuss your project with the loan officer. He/she will often have some suggestions and advice that will help you define your project. Discuss draw schedules, terms, and the schedules.
Raising day is finally here!
Amidst cheers, oohs, and aahs, the frame will be raised into place with a crane and joints secured with tree nails (hardwood pegs). The crane flies in the final pieces – purlins and floor joists. The timber frame crew checks the frame for square and makes any necessary adjustments with straps and a beetle (a very large wooden mallet).
The decking for your roof is installed and the panel installation begins. The panels, ranging from 4′ X 8′ sheets to 8′ X 24′ sheets, depending on the manufacturer, will be installed. The core, (expanded polystyrene, or polyurethane), sandwiched between two sheets of oriented strand board provides energy efficient insulation.
The loft decking is nailed into place. The roof is ready for roofing materials, the doors and windows are often pre-framed. The contractor usually takes it from this point forward. Roofing, siding, interior curtain walls, doors, windows, wallboard, plumbing, electrical, flooring, lighting, paint, and trim are all completed and your home is ready for you. Sit back…enjoy.
You’ve done it. You’ve built the home of your dreams. From inception to completion…it was an exciting, sometimes frustrating, but in the end worthwhile experience. You will enjoy your space and relive the experience. The what-ifs will be met with the we’re-glad-we-did-it and there will be no regrets.