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

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 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

Top Seven Design Trends in Timber Frame Homes

Timber frame homes offer so much flexibility that you’d think it would be hard to select which design features are the most requested.  But that’s not the case.  We  see several design options requested in almost every home.  Many of these requests are what draw homeowners to timber frames in the first place.
  1. Smaller Homes – We have had more requests for smaller, manageable space in recent years.  The smaller home costs less to build, less to heat and cool, less to maintain long term.  Some people are drawn to a more “human” scale that a smaller timber frame home offers.  Whether this trend is driven by economy or by a wish to have less home to maintain,  I believe it’s a trend that is here to stay.
  2. Flexible Living – Timber frames are a natural for this option.  Life is full of surprises. Flexibility allows you to adjust your space accordingly.  A timber frame typically has no bearing walls, so adding a door, moving or removing a wall is an easy option.
  3. Energy Efficiency –  Energy costs continue to soar, so most homeowners are looking for some insurance, in the form of an energy efficient home, to help them keep the costs in check.  A timber frame home, wrapped in energy efficient structural insulated panels, will help to keep those costs in line…long term.
  4. Accessible Design – Wider doorways, room to navigate with a wheelchair, limited hallways, and living space on one floor are options that are always discussed early in the design process.  Often homeowners opt for having a bedroom suite on the second floor for now, but plan to move downstairs when and if navigating stairs is a problem.  Elevators, either installed as the home is built or in space planned in the original design for installation later are becoming a standard design discussion item.
  5. Open Kitchens and Dining Space – A look back at large country kitchens where families gathered at day’s end give insight into today’s kitchen and dining area design.   Kitchens are no longer tucked in the back of the house, accessible only by a closed doorway.  Dining rooms are seldom designed as separate formal spaces.
  6. Outdoor Living Spaces – Whether this means a great porch that expands the indoor living spaces through the seasons, a screen porch for dining sans-bugs, or a pavilion with an outdoor fireplace or kitchen, timber frames make living outdoors an easy option.
  7. Earth Friendly and Natural – Timber is a naturally renewable resource that is minimally processed and requires almost no maintenance.   Natural wood floorings and wool rugs are a natural for timber frames.  Wall to wall carpet is still an option in certain areas, but there are very few requests for it in great rooms and more public living areas.  Natural stone for flooring and showers and low and no VOC paints and finishes top the lists of specifications that will help everyone breathe easier and live more comfortably.
So plan your home to help you live well and when you build, Build Boldly!
Bonnie Pickartz

Timber Frame Porches – A Nice Addition

Sometimes you just need to give your home a facelift to make it look and feel new again. A timber frame porch will create a fresh look for any home. The timber frame can be designed to compliment the existing design and will definitely bring new definition to your home.

Timber Frame Porch

Timber frame porches can be designed as new entrances, as sitting porches, screen porches, or even outdoor living spaces (attached or separate from your home). Wherever the timber frame addition resides, it will add grace and character to your existing home.

You can take a 70’s ranch style home to new heights with a nice porch, create additional living space with a spacious back porch, or add a sunroom that will serve you year round. The timber frame should be designed to accent the attributes of your home that deserve to be highlighted…and to hide those dated…not so pretty…spaces.

Porches should be built with a wood that is naturally resistant to rot and insect damage. This will ensure that the porch will last a long time and won’t need a lot of maintenance.

A timber  frame porch makes a nice addition to a home, a church, or a business.  They can replace a dated or damaged structure and breathe new life into the building and can lift the heart of all who approach.

Your timber frame plans will help you define the porch or addition.  The existing roof-line and wall heights will be considered, as will the roof pitch and the use of the porch.  All of these things will determine the size and style of the porch.  At the end of the day, the porch should look like it was part of the original structure.

The photos shown here are examples of porches added (or in case of the church porch replaced on an historic timber framed church) to existing homes.  They brought new life to older homes and added style that couldn’t be achieved with conventionally framed porches.

Church PorchSo step back and look at your house with a critical eye and picture it with a new porch addition.  Sometimes something as small as a porch can bring your home to life.  And a timber frame porch will add value to your home or business.

The folks at Goshen Timber Frames will be pleased to help you as you create a new look for your own home.

And whatever you build, Build Boldly…Bonnie Pickartz.

Building Timber Frames – A Homeowner’s Experience

Goshen Timber Frames has the most amazing clients.  They love timber frames and enjoy sharing their homes.  Sometimes they go further and share their building projects…from soup to nuts.

John and Janice have blogged their hybrid timber frame project  here in Western North Carolina at http://www.buildingourtimberframe.com/sutton .  They are “hands on homeowners”, working evenings, days off, and weekends to build their home.  They subcontracted some of the work, but did much themselves.

Their timber frame is on a small footprint, but it’s a charming home.   You can look at their timber frame plan .  It’s compact and loaded with character, from the poplar bark siding as you come up to the door to the stained concrete basement floor.  What a wonderful timber frame home!

So check out their blog and let us know if you’d like to visit their new home.  Just give me a call at 828-524-8662  Bonnie Pickartz.

And however you build, follow John and Janice and Build Boldly!

Timber Frame Plans – Designing Your Timber Frame

Planning a new timber frame home?  You may have looked at magazines, been to home shows, perused the Internet and even visited timber frame companies.  Timber frame plans are unique.  They offer the opportunity to build a home in any style and the flexibility to define your space to fit your particular lifestyle.

Putting together a file, either electronic or paper, is a good start.  As you go through the photos and plans, a pattern will emerge.  You’ll find that you are drawn to a particular style and certain details in the floor plan. This process will allow you to focus on what appeals to you and works for you.

Don’t discount the styles of other homes in the vicinity.  Having a beautiful home that doesn’t fit with the site or local vernacular has it’s drawbacks.  Of course, timber frames can be designed in any style.

You’ll find thousands and thousands of home plans are available.   As you review them, you’ll find that there are a limited number of styles and all plans are modifications of these styles.   Most American homes are styles that have borrowed from earlier architecture and built on what works.  Details have been added and revised and architectural styles have evolved.

Your home should feel right to you.  When you drive up, you should feel comfortable and happy.  You should design your home to this end.

So you have ideas and know how you want your new home to look.  Now focus on the function of your new home plan.  The key here is to remember that “form follows function”.  Your lifestyle and how your home will work will determine the final style and size.

Whether you work with an architect or timber frame designer or choose a pre-designed timber frame plan, you can end up with a home to celebrate.   A stock plan can usually be revised economically. The advantage they offer is that much thought has been put into these plans before you viewed them.  The designer and other homeowners have worked together to develop the floor plans, homeowners with similar lifestyles and even challenges.  With these plans, you aren’t reinventing the wheel, you’re just making that wheel work better for you.

We’ll get into the details of designing floor plans and refining the style of your home in future posts.  In the meantime, just remember to Build Boldly.

Just give me a call at 828-524-8662 if you’d like to discuss your design.  Bonnie Pickartz

Green Building Notes – The Materials in Your Timber Frame Home

Choosing the materials you will use in building and finishing your timber frame home will be a critical next step. Using high quality, environmentally responsible materials is key to building a green home.  Sustainability, energy efficiency, and the impact of the products you use on the health of the homes occupants are the key elements in building your new home.

High performance products that are produced by companies committed to the environment have been and continue to be developed.  Building with regional materials is a responsible way to build with lower embodied energy.  Products that have increased durability and reduced maintenance will continue to pay off long term. Energy efficiency is important in all decisions from appliances to windows.  Be sure to use Energy Star rated components whenever possible.

As a client of Goshen Timber Frames, you will choose to build a home that is either a timber framed home wrapped in R-24 wall and R-40 polyurethane structural insulated panels, a hybrid home consisting of some timber framed areas and other areas built with the same structural insulated panels with timber roof support, or a panelized home built with structural insulated panels with timber roof support. Any of these options have given you a head start on building your home in a green, responsible fashion.

Explore the options for finishing your new home carefully.  Take your time in making these decisions.   Even when you are looking for a cost effective option, you will have many choices.

*  Durability is key to the materials and products you use.  Durable products are less likely to end up in the landfill in a few years.  The manufacturing process is very energy intensive.  The more durable, longer lasting a product is and the less maintenance it requires, the more energy it saves.

*  Gather samples so you can compare the color and quality of your choices.

* While it is comforting to buy from companies with a responsible track record and with names that we’ve heard for years, don’t rule out a newer company who is offering a product that is comparable and is getting good reviews.

*  Buying a product that is available regionally can help keep your project timeline on target.  Waiting for a special order product that has to be shipped from another country or region can cause delays.  Transportation is costly and polluting.  Locally or regionally produced materials save money and are more environmentally responsible.

*  Keep in mind the long term maintenance and longevity of the products you choose.  No matter how much you like a product, research how much time and money will be required to keep it looking good.  Will the product need to be replaced in a few years?  Will the maintenance be a drain on time and resources.

*  Recycled and salvaged building materials can add charm to your home and reduce landfill use.  Sacrificing energy and water efficiency by reusing windows and plumbing fixtures isn’t a good idea, but interior doors, moldings, cabinets, hardware, and lumber are all good choices.

*  High efficiency heating and cooling equipment, properly sized for your home and insulation values, save money and produce less pollution.  Mechanical ventilation is necessary in today’s tight homes.  Energy or heat recovery ventilators will ensure healthy indoor air.

*  Water efficient plumbing fixtures (water conserving showerheads, toilets, and faucets) save water and reduce the demand on septic systems and sewage systems.  Reducing water usage saves on the water system and reduces energy costs to heat the water.

*  Listen carefully to your own voice as you make decisions.  The input of the professionals is critical, but you and your family will live in your home.  Accept their suggestions and advice, but use only what works for you and your family.

The above items are the big picture.   The harder decisions will be smaller, more detailed, but every bit as critical to building a sustainable, energy efficient home.  Your home as a whole is the end result of many, many smaller pieces.   We will start defining energy efficient and sustainable building products early in the design/build process and will be available to help you evaluate your choices.

Building a sustainable, energy efficient timber frame home doesn’t have to be difficult and isn’t rocket science.  Just spend the time and energy necessary to make good choices and you’ll end up with a home built for generations.

And when you build…don’t forget to build boldly.

Timber Frames with SIPS and Energy Efficiency

The very first step in building a sustainable, energy efficient home is to make sure that you have a well insulated shell.  Timber frames and hybrid timber frame homes when enclosed with structural insulated panels are a great beginning.

R-values don’t tell the whole story.  If a wall has a high R-value and isn’t sealed properly, the efficiency is lost.  With most insulated panels thermal breaks are minimized and there should be no leakage.  Windows aren’t as efficient as walls, but proper sealing will minimize the loss of hot and cold air seasonally.

As you plan your new timber frame,  look at the different enclosure options.  At Goshen we enclose all of our homes (and build the hybrid portion of our hybrid timber frames) with polyurethane core structural insulated panels.  They go up quickly, wrapping the home in an energy efficient shell, and offer maximum R-values per inch of thickness.

With an R-40 roof and R-24 walls, we are seeing minimal cooling and heating bills in all of our homes.  Our personal energy bill for the month of July is posted on our Building A Timber Frame Blog .  We didn’t take extraordinary steps to minimize the utility bill,  kept the house at a comfortable temperature, and have been pleased with what we’ve had to spend to heat and cool.

For a look at a hybrid timber frame home raised and enclosed in insulated panels, check out this video by Rick and Debbie in Dahlonega, Georgia. They will soon be moving into

their new home and expect excellent performance from their panels (and exceptional beauty from their timber frame home). I’m sure they won’t be disappointed on either account.

So, do your research and build an energy efficient home and enjoy the benefits for many, many years.

Green Building Notes – Designing Your Timber Frame

The design of your timber frame home will determine how well you live in it and how much you enjoy it.  Size does matter and with careful planning, a smaller home can provide more appropriate and more liveable space than a much larger home.  There is much to be said of the “human scale”.  We all live more comfortably in space that fits our scale.

The style of your new home will be your next critical decision.   The style should fit with the local vernacular.   It should look and feel like it belongs in the area.  If you are building in an area of eclectic  homes, many styles built over many years, you have lots of options.  If you are building in an area where the homes are more similar than dissimilar, think about a home that will blend in.  Mistakes, such as building a log home in an area of very traditional homes,  will decrease the value of your home.   Keep colors and finishes in mind as you work on the design of your home.  While we each want our homes to be unique and charming, we don’t want to own the home that everyone means when they say “oh, yes, that house”. Timeless architecture will serve you much better than a trendy style.   By building a home with fewer corners and using simple geometry you maximize your budget and minimize building materials.

The size of your home should be determined by the needs of your family.  If your family visits twice a year and there are sixteen people in your home for three days, do you need to build to accomodate sixteen people for the other three hundred and forty six days of the year?  A timber frame, hybrid, or panelized home will feel larger than a conventionally framed or modular home.  There are fewer structural wall requirements, fewer halls, higher ceilings with more volume.  Open spaces accomodate groups of people more easily than smaller, enclosed rooms.  Think seriously about the long term issues of energy usage and maintenance and about the shorter term costs to build and the extra materials required to construct your home.  Smaller requires fewer resources to build and fewer resources to maintain.  Careful planning as you design your home will pay off long term.

Energy efficiency will be designed into your home.  Design a well insulated home with high performance windows.  Design for sustainable energy with passive solar, daylighting, and natural ventilation.