Green Tax Credits for Your Timber Frame Project

Credits are available for a number of energy efficient projects in your timber frame home.  Whether you are planning a new home or considering upgrades to make your home even more energy efficient, there are federal and state tax credits available.

Some credits expire in 2010 and others will be available for several years, so you can plan your projects accordingly. State credits vary greatly and some incentives are made available by counties. Energy providers offer incentives for energy efficient homes. A timber frame home, enclosed in energy efficient insulated panels, is a great start, but making wise choices for everything from plumbing to heating and cooling can help you to recoup some of the money you spend to save money.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (http://dsireusa.org/) offers a look at what is available in each state, including amounts and dates.  The Energy Star website provides guidelines for federal tax credits.

While most contractors are well versed in these incentives, homeowners should do their own research and work with their contractor to ensure maximum benefits from the programs.   In North Carolina, a homeowner can receive up to 65% in combined federal and state tax credits for a geothermal system.

As you plan your timber frame, consider how you can take advantage of the credits, rebates, and incentives available. You are planning for long term efficiency and recouping costs quickly, so plan wisely.

Home Buyer Tax Credits and Your Timber Frame Home

If you are thinking about buying a new timber frame home, this may be the time.  With the extended tax credits and low interest rates, the cost to own has dropped dramatically.

It’s no secret that construction and real estate have taken a hit the past year. We were all expecting it, probably at some point, but it did come as a surprise.  The extended federal tax credits offer an incentive to buy for first time home buyers and for certain repeat buyers.

As we understand the credit, the purchase date is the “move in date”, so unless you are under construction, your new timber frame probably won’t qualify for the credit. However, if you are selling an existing home and building a new home, this tax credit may motivate a buyer.

The credit is outlined on the IRS website .

Whether this tax credit applies to you personally or to a buyer for your existing home, it is worth a look.  Talk to your accountant and your real estate agent about it.

And, whatever you choose to do, remember to Build Boldly!

That said, I’ll sign off for now.

Structural Insulated Panels – Your Timber Frame Enclosure Choices

Timber frame homes are most often enclosed with structural insulated panels.  The panels offer exceptional performance, quick dry-in, and minimize onsite waste.

While expanded polystyrene panels offer all of the above and are widely used throughout the industry, polyurethane is the choice of some companies, including Goshen Timber Frames.

There are discussions about the “greenness” of both products everywhere.  Since both are petroleum based products, the purist will argue that neither should be used in construction.  However, the long term energy savings offset this argument.

A recent Environmental Building News article (you can read about it here) brings into focus some of the differences and argues that polyurethane is the better choice for above ground applications.  A search for discussions about the panels will find manufacturers and salesmen of both products making a case for their product.  However, independent research has led Goshen to use only polyurethane, as the best, safest, most efficient enclosure system.  We are not invested in either product and have made our decisions based on our years of success with polyurethane and our own research.

There are many, many more companies manufacturing expanded polystyrene panels than polyurethane panels.   The process of manufacturing polyurethane panels requires a greater investment and fewer companies are willing to make that investment.  This should not be seen as a vote for EPS as the better product, just the most economical to manufacture.

Discuss your enclosure options with your timber frame company.   While I firmly believe that panels are the best way to enclose, I also believe that polyurethane panels are the best of the best.

That said, I”ll sign off for now.

Five Hidden Costs in Your Timber Frame Home Budget

The size and style of the home you want will be at the top of your list as you plan your new timber frame.  Homes are built to satisfy our need for shelter, but we require more. We want a home that brings us comfort, peacefulness, and the satisfaction that we’ve been part of the process to make it all happen.

As you start your budget process, the basic costs are easy to calculate.  You know you’ll need timber, lumber, concrete, drywall, windows and doors, etc.   These are the basics.  Then you’ll get into plumbing and lighting fixtures, flooring, tile, countertops…the list goes on and on.  This list is much more subjective and can easily create “budget deficits”.  Then there are what we call the “silent” costs.  Money will be spent on these items, but you won’t see a direct benefit.

We’ve outlined some of the subjective and silent costs that you should address early on in your budget process.

1)  Initial and ongoing onsite maintenance.   These include disposing of debris from construction and daily cleanup of the jobsite to keep it safe.  Landfill costs are expensive and can be minimized by creating a plan to recycle and salvage as much of the material as possible.  If you do this early and discuss it with your subcontractors, you will minimize your out of pocket costs.   Your jobsite should be kept clean of debris to eliminate the risk of costly injuries.

2) Disposing of trees and other vegetation removed during the site preparation.  The easiest way to handle this is to disturb as little ground as is reasonable.  However, the reality is that most sites require some tree/vegetation removal.  Instead of paying to have the stumps hauled off to the landfill (it is illegal in most places to bury or burn a stump), bring in a grinder/chipper and have the vegetation chipped into mulch that you can use in and around your new home.  Also, the friend who does woodwork may want a chunk of that maple or walnut tree.

3) Countertops.  If you want granite countertops, be aware that there are vast differences in the price of granite.  Look at samples and get quotes on different types before you put that number in your budget.

4)  Appliances.  Be realistic about how you use your kitchen and what you expect from the applicances.  If you are gourmet cook who entertains often, you probably won’t be happy with budget appliances.   Budget for your appliances based on your own use and not just an “allowance”.

5)  Cabinets and vanities.  This is a major expense in most homes.  From custom-made furniture to out-of-the-box cabinets,  you’ll need to make decisions based on what you are willing to spend and the look you want.  Don’t just calculate your costs based on a linear foot cost.  Get a cost based on the quality, finish, and hardware that works for you.

These costs aren’t specific to timber frames, they are costs that will be included in any new home.  Spend time working on your budget and include a cost contingency of at least ten percent so you won’t have any unpleasant surprises as you move forward with your project.

That said, I’ll sign off for now.