Designing Your Timber Frame Home – Around a Special Piece

Designing your timber frame home can be a challenge, especially if you have a special piece that needs that perfect space. As long as you plan ahead, a long-loved treasure can be showcased in your new home. With some time and patience, the perfect design can be brought together.goshen timber frames - custom design

Goshen clients Dale and Susan worked closely with designer Bobby Johns to make sure that Dale’s theater organ was well placed.  It “lives” in a niche created by heavy timber posts, anchoring the living area.  Speakers are mounted behind sidewalls, out of the way, but perfect for the sounds from this wonderful piece.

Whether it’s a family antique, the perfect piece you found years ago and have moved from home to home, a great sculpture or painting,  or a new addition to your collection, it should have a special place in your new home.  Timbers can be carefully arranged to highlight the features you love best.  Wall heights can be easily adjusted to make room for that extra tall cabinet.

So, don’t leave it behind.  Make it shine in your new home.  Design it in and love it where it sits.  Build, and always Build Boldly!

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

Five Tips to Make Designing Your Timber Frame Stress Free – Almost

Designing your new home may seem intimidating.  And truthfully, it can be.  There are so many decisions, large and small, that will impact your life.  We’ll look at some of the most important decisions.  Once these decisions are made, you can move on to less stressful decisions.

  1. Your home needs to work with the local vernacular.  It shouldn’t be a cookie cutter replica. It should complement the other homes in the area, but definitely not be identical.  The contrasts should lend to it’s individuality.   Not only will this keep your neighbors happy, it will help maintain the value of your home.  No rambling brick rancher belongs in an area of lodge-style or craftsman-style homes.  The neighborhood should have character and a variety, but don’t go too far afield.
  2. Choose a style that makes you happy.  An aesthetically pleasing home will make you smile each time you arrive home.
  3. Your home should “live” exactly as you live (your rooms should fit your lifestyle).   If you enjoy the outdoors, be sure to incorporate porches and decks.  If you need quiet space, an away room, office, or a small nook that will let you sit quietly is important.  If you are a gourmet cook…or just enjoy cooking…you won’t be happy with a small basic kitchen.  Think about how and where you spend your time when you’re home.  Design for you…not for the Jones or a trend you’ve seen in a magazine.
  4. Work with a designer or architect who will listen.  Even if you are revising a stock plan, at the end of the day, it should reflect your tastes.  Architects and designers have skills far beyond the average homeowner.  They know what works and what doesn’t, but they should help you to develop your plan to work for you.  Don’t get lost in the process.
  5. Make a list of the most important elements you want to include.  Keep it short and specific.  This is a “choosing your battles” type of decision.   If these items are important, be willing to give on other components that make these key elements work for the design and the budget.  You may need to downsize to keep a complex roof line that you find charming.  Or you may need to have a smaller home so you can spend more money on your outdoor living spaces.  Try to keep the list short and be flexible on less important (to you) items.

So build, build boldly and design with your heart and your head.

Thank you for letting us share our tips with you, Bonnie Pickartz.

 

Building Timber Frames – First Steps

When building your timber frame home, it’s important that you consider your site first and foremost. Your land will define your timber frame. From looking for land to evaluating a site, there is no step more critical to your building process.

Several years ago a guide called “The Mountain Home Guide” was published.  We felt that it was important enough to post permanently on the Internet and maintain the site where you can read it or download the PDF version to read off line.  This little booklet offers insight into the steps you should take when considering a piece of property.  While it was written for the mountains, most of the information works no matter where you’re building. 

Timber frames are meant to sit lightly on the land.  Because they are sustainable and energy efficient, they are the perfect choice for a home that will last for generations.  If you chose the land for your site wisely, you will be well served.

The Mountain Home Guide offers common sense advice on many of the key decisions you’ll make as you buy and develop your homesite.  We offer it as important reading you’ll need to do before you purchase your land and as you move forward.

And wherever you build, remember to Build Boldly!

 

Common Types of Construction Contracts

The prospect of building your new timber frame home can feel daunting.   There are so many decisions to make.   Working with the right timber frame company and hiring the right contractor are two of the most important choices you will make.   Your timber frame company will guide you through the design process and will cut your timber frame, raise, and enclose it.  The contractor will be responsible for the permits, subcontractors, and all other building materials.

The most common contracts you’ll find in residential construction are lump sum contracts and cost plus contracts.   There are variations of both and each have advantages and disadvantages for both the owner and the contractor.    As you interview contractors, you should discuss the type of contract that they work with and what options you have.  Most contractors are pleased to have the opportunity to work with timber frames and the timber frame company should be willing to discuss the project with the contractors you are interviewing.

The lump sum contract is sometimes called a stipulated sum and is the most basic of contracts.  The contractor agrees to build the home to the specifications as defined by the plans for a fixed amount.   You will need a fully developed set of builder’s plans prior to moving forward with a lump sum contract.  The builder will bid the project based on the scope of work and the specifications agreed upon.

Advantages

  • The cost is agreed upon at the beginning of the contract.
  • The project should move forward quickly because material selections are made well in advance.

Disadvantages

  • If material selections are not carefully specified, the contractor has the option of using materials and methods that meet the minimum options specified.
  • Because there is a risk to the contractor, the contractor’s fee will include money to cover this risk.
  • Change orders can be costly and difficult.

The cost plus contracts are available in more than one format and offer flexibility. Typically, the contractor will work up an estimate to build the home, including allowances for fixtures, flooring, appliances, lighting and other items.  The two most commonly used cost plus agreements are cost plus a percentage and cost plus a fixed fee.

Cost plus a percentage has been one of the most common contracts for many years. With this contract, the contractor charges for all direct and indirect costs plus a fixed percentage.

Cost plus a fixed fee is becoming a more popular version of the cost plus contract. The contract is based on estimates provided by the contractor and a fee based on those estimates is calculated and agreed upon.   While the material and labor costs may change, the fee is set and isn’t impacted by the owner’s decision to upgrade materials, fixtures, or appliances.  While minor change orders may not impact the fee, significant changes may fall outside of the fixed fee agreement and a separate fee charged by the contractor.

Advantages

  • There is no reason for the contractor to use materials that meet only minimum specifications.
  • The contractor can work with a lower margin than with a lump sum contract.
  • With a fixed fee, the owner has more control over the total cost of the project based on his/her choices.
  • With a fixed fee, the contractor has more incentive to move the project forward to completion more quickly.
  • The owner can take advantage of the builder’s discount on materials.

Disadvantages

  • Cost plus a percentage can lead to overspending and a longer build time by the contractor in order to increase his fee.
  • There is no guarantee of the final cost.

While we’ve only addressed the most common types of construction contracts there are variations that may work to your advantage.  You can negotiate either a bonus or a penalty (or both) to bring the project in on or under time and budget.  No contract is set in stone and the details should be worked out well in advance of signing the agreement.

So move forward carefully, but when you build…build boldly.

If you’d like some sample contracts, just give me a call at 828-524-8662 or email me at

bonnie@goshenframes.com
.

Thanks for joining us here, Bonnie Pickartz

 

Granny Flats – A Timber Frame Opportunity

Multi-generational housing has always been easy for timber frame homes.  With no bearing walls, the space is flexible and with open spaces, it is much easier to be accessible.   As families are motivated to live closer together, whether by economic challenge or lifestyle change, secondary suites or “granny flats” offer an opportunity to turn a single family home into a primary and secondary residence.

Whether the new space is built to bring aging parents closer or to give younger family members their own place to live, there are many options to expand.  A basement suite, garage conversion suite, detached cottage, or an addition to an existing home all offer the chance to grow your space.

If you’ve always wanted to build a timber frame, but love your location and your home, this is the opportunity to build an additional cottage or to add on to your home with a timber frame.  Timber frames provide the flexibility and, when enclosed in structural insulated panels (SIPs), energy efficiency.

With forethought and good planning, even local code officials and home owner associations can be approached to allow for these spaces. Better use of everything from water to sewer connections and…less lawn to soak up resources…offer compelling reasons to add that space to an existing built out lot.

So, think about a granny flat and when you build…build boldly.

Just think about it…Bonnie Pickartz

 

 

Five Steps in Choosing a Timber Frame Company

As you begin the design/build process, you’ll talk to one or more timber frame companies about building your timber frame home.  How those conversations go will often determine which company you work with as you move forward.   If you..or they…aren’t asking the right questions, you could miss an opportunity to work with a great company or you might end up with a company that might not work well with you.

1)  Educate yourself.  Your initial meetings will go much further if you’ve spent some time on the Internet educating yourself about the timber frame building process, styles of timber frames, and the difference between timber frames, log homes, and conventionally framed homes.  This will help you to better understand their answers in the “timber frame” context.

2)  Narrow down the companies you want to consider to two or three.   You might send off an exploratory email or make a call to a few more to help you narrow down your choices.  There are great timber frame companies all across the country.  Each one has their own “package” and business model.  The differences may be subtle or blatant, but if you look at too many, you’ll only be confused, not better served.

3)  Don’t be intimidated or insulted if they ask about your budget somewhere in the early conversations.  They aren’t doing you a favor by making you think you can build more home than you can afford.  Be frank and be willing to listen to them when they tell you that you can build within your budget, but you’ll need to make some tough decisions if you are trying to build more home than the budget will sustain.   However, if their focus seems to be on your budget and time frame and not on you and your project, you might want to think twice.

4)  Build with someone you would like if you met them outside of the timber frame context.  Designing and building a home can be stressful.  If you are working with someone that you can communicate with on a very personal level, then you are ahead of the game.

5)  Make sure that they have a system in place to share plans and work in progress with you and your builder.  Whether it is by emailing PDF files to you as updates are made or having web meetings or phone calls, determine what works for you and go with a company that is can keep things moving forward easily.

All of that said, just move forward confidently and when you build…build boldly…Bonnie Pickartz

The Timber Frame Style

Timber frame homes come in every shape and size.  There is no typical plan, no perfect style, no maximum or minimum size.  Your home should be a reflection of you and the way you live.

What do you think of when you imagine the perfect home?  Is it stylish and edgy, comfortable and charming, grand and majestic, or traditional and time-honored?  Are you building a home for a young family with room to grow?  Is it a retirement home?  Will it be a vacation home?  Do you work from home, entertain, or cocoon?  This is the function end of the home design equation.

Timber Frame Kitchen

Architect Louis Sullivan coined the phrase ” form ever follows function” in 1896.  It has been pared down to the simpler “form follows function”. While it can be interpreted that “style” doesn’t matter at all, it can also be a great starting place and the style of the home can be adapted to the use.

Find a style that appeals to you and design your home in that style.  It might be a farmhouse or a tudor, a cottage or a cape cod.  If you envision a rambling ranch, with all your living space on one floor, maybe brick with shutters, go for it.  Timber frames offer all of the above and more.

Your site will tell you what the footprint should be.  If you’re on flat land, it may be hard (or impossible) to have a daylight basement.  If you’re on the side of a mountain, you may not want to spread that footprint out too far.

So don’t think limitations, think no boundaries and design your new timber frame home to be the most amazing home you’ve ever had.  And live long and well in your new home,  enjoying the choices you made and smiling when you drive up each time.

And when you build, build boldly…Bonnie Pickartz

 

Which Comes First – The Timber Frame or the Home Plan?

Timber frames come in many shapes and forms and fashions. They can be complex or simple, heavy or graceful (or both), and they can be a focal point or a subtle background. Timber frames are structure. They are designed to support and their beauty is an extra perk.

While you have some flexibility in choosing the timber frame design for your new home, form should always follow function and the frame should be designed to work perfectly with your floor plan. Instead of trying to force the frame to work with the floor plan, focus on the details and on how the frame enhances the space.

Your timber frame home plan should begin with a some basics. The style of your new home, be it lodge, craftsman, or traditional (or one of many, many more styles), and the space are the two elements that you should design around. And, another critical element…your budget.

If you want a single story ranch, your options are wide open for hammerbeam bents. However, if you want a story and a half home with open lofts and living space upstairs, your open area will need to be sized to accommodate a hammerbeam without overwhelming the space if a hammerbeam is critical.

Your timber frame designer should be flexible enough to help you achieve the look you want and tough enough to say “that won’t work” when confronted with apples and oranges in the timber frame/floor plan design.

Can you take a timber frame and build a home around it? Of course, but your space will be defined by the timber frame. This isn’t all together bad, but there are limitations.

So, think carefully as you design and build your new home. Remember that a little flexibility can go a long way in designing the home of your dreams.

And always, always Build Boldly… Bonnie Pickartz