4 Questions to Answer in Planning Timber Frame Homes

Planning green timber frame homes is, if anything, easier than planning to build a conventional home.  Timber frames and structural insulated panels take the project well into “green” territory before any other decision is made. Using minimally processed materials (heavy timbers) and an unsurpassed enclosure systems makes green building less stressful.

As you do plan your new timber frame home, you’ll need to consider if you want to build as green as possible, whether to seek green building certification, and where to concentrate your efforts. The possibilities are endless, as are the questions and the answers. If you consider these questions early on, you’ll have a big picture understanding and can make other decisions based on these answers.  Timber frame homes allow you to answer “yes” to these questions.

Energy efficiency,  durability, and renewability are key to evaluating any building system. And buildings are a system and should be planned as such. The answers will help you to determine your path to having a home that will serve you and generations well. Answering these questions for each component will give you the “greenest” home, but answering them for the timber frame package takes you a long way toward an energy efficient, sustainable home.colmar timber frame homes

  1. Does it have a long life? Timber frame homes that were built over a thousand years ago are in place and living well today.
  2. Does it save energy? Timber frames, enclosed in insulated panels are hard to beat. The reduced consumption of energy is good for your pocket and for the earth.
  3. Does it minimize contributions to the waste stream? Timbers are minimally processed. Panels are built offsite, minimizing site waste.
  4. Is it renewable and recyclable? Many timbers are grown as a crop. They are a naturally renewable resource and can easily be recycled. Today many barns built hundreds of years ago are being repurposed as homes, flooring, and other building materials.

Plan carefully, considering your site and how to best place your home, the size of your home (don’t over or under build), the materials you use to finish your home. Each step brings more questions, but these four questions will help you to gauge the sustainability of the materials your using.

And when you build, build for generations and…build boldly!

 

 

Designing and Building Timber Frame Homes – Beginning the Journey

Even with cold temperatures daily, many thoughts are turning to designing and building a new home when weather warms up. Hopefully, if this is the case, you’ve done some homework and are working with someone already. If not, it’s time to get your thoughts in order and start the process.raising timber frame homes by bonnie pickartz

Below are a few tips for jump starting your journey to design and build your home.

  • Couples should sit down together and talk about the type, size, and style that you’d line to build…and your budget…come to an agreement on the budget.
  • Spend some time online and looking at books to get a feel for both the interior and exterior style that you find most appealing. Bookmark these photos or scan them in and save the images in a “new home” folder.
  • Make a list of the items that “must” be included and a list “wants”. Find a commonality for these lists and make this your starting place for design.
  • Define the space and how you’ll use it.
  • Contact two or three companies that communicate their services and homes well. The Internet is a great resource here. Visit websites and see how much information they share and how you relate to it.
  • Discuss their design and build process and find out how they work with their clients through this process.
  • Jump in with both feet. This process isn’t something that you should wade into with fear and trepidation, its a process that should be fun and exciting and something that you’ll look back on with a smile.

Timber Frame Homes – Tips for Choosing a Contractor

Choosing a contractor to help build your new timber frame can be an intimidating undertaking. You wonder if you should be concerned if they’ve never worked with a timber frame before. Will they charge more because they are on a learning curve and are working in, for them, uncharted territory? How well will they work with your timber frame company? The questions just keep coming.

Step back and take a deep breath. Don’t let this be a defining moment in your timber frame journey. Ask a few questions and narrow down your choices. Ask your timber frame advocate (oh, yes, your timber frame company should be your advocate) to answer any questions the builder might have. The timber framer can take the mystery out of the process for the builder.

  • Have you built a timber frame before? Most builders haven’t, but they should be excited about adding this to their list of skills. Look for a certain amount of enthusiasm in their response. The “well, we put some beams in the ceiling and it looks the same” answer is a sure reason to walk away.
  • Will your subcontractors be open to non-traditional options for HVAC ductwork and wiring? Timber frames don’t have attic spaces, so the ductwork can be a challenge. Sometimes they have to think outside the box. Your timber frame designer can help guide them and can make changes to accommodate their requirements if needed.
  • How will they communicate with you and with the timber framer? Are they open to meeting online, emails, exchanging files electronically, as well as phone calls? Since it’s unlikely that your timber framer is local, communication is an important part of the process.

Your timber frame company should be willing to help you interview contractors. Whether done long distance or in a day of meetings, this can be a valuable piece of the puzzle. It brings everyone to the table before there are tough questions and sets the tone of the project as a team effort.

Choosing the right contractor will make your timber frame journey a pleasant and fun experience. Building is, by nature, stressful and having a team that communicates well and brings a sense of excitement to the project is key.

So move forward, build and Build Boldly.

And give us a call at 828-524-8662, visit our site at Goshen Timber Frames or drop us an email if we can help in any way!

By Bonnie Pickartz

 

Energy Efficiency in Timber Frame Homes

Timber frame homes are beautiful, inspiring, charming, and all of the wonderful words that you can consider.  And, when properly designed and constructed, they are also amazingly energy efficient. This doesn’t happen by accident, but with intentional design and construction.

Designing for not only beauty, but also for energy efficiency, should be goals from the start.  You will need to consider size, style, orientation, daylighting, and all the other subtle ways that you can plan forward.  Make it known early in your design meetings that you want your home to be sustainable and to minimize energy usage.

Plan forward for energy efficient fixtures and appliances and to use energy efficient bulbs.  Don’t save money with inefficient appliances and windows.  They will cost you daily.

Structural Insulated Panels are the enclosure of choice for many timber frame companies.  Timber frame homes  and hybrid homes work well with panel systems. A tight home and a well insulated home don’t necessarily go hand in hand, but a well installed panel system covers it all.

We not only promote energy efficiency, but we live it.  Our own 1700 square foot timber frame home, with lots of windows and vaulted ceilings, uses only $2.34 per day ($835 for the year) in electricity.  We heat and cool with a heat pump and don’t have a fireplace or any auxiliary heat source.  We have an electric dryer and a dishwasher.

Last year our energy usage was $3.08 per day ($1,123 for the year).  We had a much colder winter, but we also made some common sense changes.   We don’t run the dishwasher until it’s full.  We hang some clothes out to dry.  Simple choices have saved us almost $300 per year.

So think forward.  Plan your home to save those energy dollars and to be comfortable.  Build a home you’ll love and whatever you do, Build Boldly!

 

 

Timber Frame Homes – Building Simpler, Smaller, Hybrid Homes

Timber Frame Homes should be the first option for everyone (in our humble opinion), but many see them as a more expensive option.  That doesn’t have to be the case. There are several paths to building more affordable timber frame homes.

  • Build Smaller – A smaller home doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice luxury or space.  It means you get rid of the excess area that you don’t use, don’t want to heat and cool, and don’t want to maintain.
  • Build Simpler – Corners cost.  This has been a construction truth for centuries. Looking back for centuries you’ll find simple, elegant structures that have few corners.  Complex roof lines increase the cost every step of the way.  Don’t give up style, work with textures (and timbers) to enhance your space inside and out. Change the ceiling heights to define space.  Don’t think you need lots of hips, valleys, and corners to build an amazing home.
  • Build Hybrid – Hybrid timber frame homes can be the perfect trade-0ff.  Fully timber frame the more public living spaces (great rooms, porches,etc) and use heavy timber rafters and trusses on walls built with structural insulated panels in the bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens.  You save not only in the cost of the timber frame, but the space can be built out without working around posts and braces.  
As you design your new home, be sure to discuss these options with your team.  Making use of one or all of these options can be the difference in living in your dream home or settling for a stick-built home.   Designing and building your new home should be an adventure … a journey.  Making smart choices as you start will help you to build the timber frame home of your dreams … within your budget.
So, move forward, design and build your dream home, make wise choices, and live large!
And as you do this, remember to Build Boldly!  Visit with us to discuss designing and building your own dream home.
As always, I’m at your service.   Bonnie Pickartz
Goshen Timber Frame Hybrid HOme

Green Building – Timber Frame Homes

Green Building (grēn bild ing) noun

1)     The practice of increasing the efficiency of buildings and their use of energy, water, and materials, and reducing building impacts on human health and the environment, through better siting, design, construction, operation, and maintenance.

2)     Timber frames

I guess that says it all.  Timber frames were designed and built green long before building green became buzzwords.  Timbers are a renewable resource.  Enclosing timber frame homes with insulated panels ensure that the energy used to heat and cool them will be minimized.  That is a huge step in building green.

So if you are thinking about building a sustainable, energy efficient home, your best first step is to build an original green home … a timber frame.

 

The Lasting Value of a Timber Frame Home

You must have seen and admired pictures of timber framed homes. Maybe you’ve even visited someone that had one or wished that you could have such a unique home. Maybe you’ve even been lucky enough to have owned one.

The appeal of a timber framed home comes in many forms from the strength of their timbers to the elegance in which they all come together to form a hand crafted structure. Each home is unique to the owners that have had it built and is a testimony to the longevity and beauty of that structure. It has been crafted to last for many lifetimes, which is a feature that all can appreciate. That attribute still rings even in today’s world.

Timber framed homes have been around for hundreds of years. My home in the Bahamas is a timber framed home and is well over 100 years old. No small feat considering that it sits on a cay ( small island) of approximately 40 acres and has been through numerous hurricanes in its lifetime. Just this year we were hit by Hurricane Irene with winds over 140mph and true to her nature, she stood proud through another storm. Our home has all the original Roman numerals from the original builders of years gone by showing their hard work and dedication to their craft.  We have made changes and updates but the structure itself remains the same as when it was first built many years ago.

Homes like this, and in those in less hostile environments, have and will withstand the tests of time. A true testament to their strength and ability to withstand years of various owners and the forces that nature can throw at them. They have proven their lasting value and continue to do so even in our present throw away society. A timber framed home lives on for many generations to come and for many generations of different families.

Guest contributor Todd Vendituoli owns and runs Todd  Vendituoli Construction in W. Burke, Vt

 

Follow Todd on Twitter  @TALV58

Beautiful Timber Frame Videos

Sometimes you just have to step back and marvel at the beauty of a timber frame home.  When Neal and Pam started their timber frame journey, they had a vision….a vision of beautiful, elegant, rustic mountain homes that brought together strength and character of timber frames with the charm of the mountains of Western North Carolina.   To say that they succeeded would be an understatement.

The Pond and the Cottage are beautiful examples of timber frame homes.  They are both available for sale and for rent here in Franklin, North Carolina…just west of Asheville.

So today we’re sharing videos of these beautiful homes.  Walk through them and enjoy the beauty…it is certainly worth sharing.

Thank you for allowing us to share the beauty!

 

Timber Frame Homes – The Package

As you move forward in planning your timber frame home, you’ll likely look at timber frames from more than one company.  That’s the easy part.  Then you’ll begin to compare what you are purchasing from the company.

You’ll find that each company has a slightly (and sometimes drastically) different package.   And then you’ll find that many companies will sell a partial package and some companies will only work with you if they are providing all the items that their timber frame kit includes.

You should question what materials and services are included.  Some of the items that are necessary and may be included in your agreement with the timber frame company…or outsourced, either by you or by the company are:

Customer Service/Sales – You can work with a salesperson who will hand the project off to a designer at another location and the fabrication is handed off to yet another facility.  Or you can work with a company where the sales person is the customer service person and is the person who will be very hands on during the design, development, and completion of your home.   That person will have full responsibility for your new timber frame home, from soup to nuts.

Design – You’ll find some companies have designers on staff.  These designers can usually work with a plan from their portfolio, revising it as needed to make it work better for you, or they can custom design a home.    Other companies will work with a designer (either local or at a distance) or will send you to a designer or architect.  Email us for a look at a full set of builders plans that you can expect with a Goshen home.

Timber Frame – of course.

Decking – for the ceiling and loft, if called for in the design.

Insulated Panels – Panels can be used to wrap a timber frame or to be a structural part of a hybrid home.  What is the insulating material?  Polyurethane, expanded polystyrene, polyisocyanurate…and variations of these are most common.   Are the panels prefabricated?  Are they sheathed on both sides…or on one?  Do they have conduit and junction boxes built in (wherever you and your contractor/electrician specify) or do they just have chases for wiring?

Installation – Will the raising and panel installation be performed by their own crew, will they subcontract it, or will your contractor be responsible for this step?

Some companies have dealers/representatives who are contractors and you will purchase your package from them and they will complete the home.  While this may be an option for some, if you aren’t building where they are located, it may be problematic if they are subbing to a contractor who has never worked with timber frames and he/she is expected to raise and enclose your home. If you are working with a company who has no contractual ties to the contractor, you can be more selective in choosing your contractor and can make sure that they are a good fit for you…not just for the timber frame company.

Other companies will ship their package and you are own your own.  They will send a manual and your contractor will need to raise and enclose your home.

Some companies will send an experienced crew…the crew who has cut and/or pre-assembled your timber frame prior to delivery and who has installed insulated panels on their frames for years.

So..you can see that comparing apples to apples is not an easy thing to do.   On top of all these differences, you have to ask how they will communicate with you..telephone, online, mail, etc.

We definitely don’t want to discourage you, but we do want to encourage you to ask questions and consider your options.  At Goshen Timber Frames, we’ve created our entire process to be client-centric and to be flexible enough to allow for individual decisions.    While our three favorite words are plan, plan, plan, we also live by “the buck stops here”.

You can visit our new  FAQs  page for an overview of what a Goshen Timber Frames’ package includes.  And you can always give us a call at 828-524-8662 or drop me an bonnie@goshenframes.com, too.  We’re here to help.

 

Questions to Ask About Timber Frame Plans

If you are ready to move forward with your new timber frame home, the first step will be developing your timber frame home plan.  You’ll be working with someone from the timber frame company you’ve chosen or with an independent designer or architect.   You’ll ask many of the same questions, but if you are working outside of a timber frame company, you do need to ask if the designer or architect has any heavy timber experience.  This can greatly affect the efficiency (and cost) of your new timber frame home.

Will you be working directly with the designer or will there be others involved? A team effort works well.  Each member of the team (and you are the key member of the team) brings insight and experience.  Do the designer and the rest of the team (the person who sold you the timber frame) work from the same location?  Can they easily exchange ideas and information?

Who will own the copyright to the plan? Typically the copyright will belong to the company who is doing the design and you will have the right to build the home once.  If you expect to own the copyright, this must be negotiated up front.

Can you build the timber frame with another company (if you are working with a design/build firm)?  This varies greatly across the industry. At Goshen Timber Frames, clients can take the design to another company once they have paid for the plan and the proper release is signed.  Some companies will not transfer the right to build.

If you are building from a distance, is the company prepared to provide you with electronic files, online meetings, and shared folders for you, your contractor, and any other suppliers?   This is critical to a smooth design process unless you live close to the designer/builder.

Can you purchase a plan at an online plan service and adapt it to work with timber frame construction?  The short answer is “yes”.  The long answer is that some plans work well and others don’t easily become timber frames.   If you do want to purchase a plan from outside the industry, work closely with your timber frame plan designer to determine whether the plan will work as a timber frame and how the timber frame will be incorporated into the plan.  It usually works better to work with a stock timber frame plan in that case.   Custom design is always an option and should be considered if you don’t find a plan that can be easily revised for you.

Will the plans meet your local building code?  The designer/architect should work closely with an engineer registered in your state to make sure that the plans will meet/exceed all applicable codes.  At Goshen, we work with an engineer who is registered in every state.  All Goshen timber frame designs are overseen by an engineer who is experienced in timber frame and structural insulated panel construction.

Will the design fee be hourly, a flat fee, or is it part of the timber frame package?  This is an important question.  Design fees can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

These are just a few of the questions that you should consider or ask as you move toward designing and building your timber frame home. We’ve developed our design/build process to work well for the homeowner.  At Goshen we believe in the team experience and understand the importance of making sure that the plans work for the individual. Communication is critical and the Goshen team excels in communication.

Just remember this home will be around for centuries and Build Boldly!