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.

 

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

 

 

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

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 and Daylighting

Daylighting is a design and build technique that allows window placement so that natural daylight can be used as internal lighting in homes and buildings.  Timber frames make daylighting an easy and natural process.

In a timber frame home, the posts and beams carry the structure, with panels (or another enclosure method) wrapped around this superstructure.   Walls can literally be built with windows, but that probably isn’t a good choice in most homes simply because of the energy efficiency.  However, it is wise to install as many properly placed windows as feasible to minimize the electric light needed during the day.

Natural light provides a more comfortable light and, limiting the number of lights that need to burn is an energy saving measure.

Dalighting should be considered for all new homes, working with your designer and timber framer to place windows to take advantage of the orientation of your timber frame.   There are many options … windows, skylights, clerestory windows, light shelves, and even sunrooms.   Using your site and orientation, the style of home you chose, and your lifestyle, the architect or designer will help you to make choices that will enhance the light in your new home.

Don’t discount the comfort factor of natural light.

And remember to not only build, but build boldly!

Is a Timber Frame Right For You?

Timber frames are stunning, charming, sturdy, energy efficient, sustainable…, but they aren’t for everyone.   Many people are drawn to timber frames after first considering a log home.  Many have had a lifelong love affair with the craft and the construction of timber frames.  Many more are captivated by photos and want the look for their own home.

As much as a timber frame offers (all of the above and much, much more), it doesn’t suit every lifestyle and every taste.  Your timber frame home can be designed to be traditional or contemporary and can be any one of the many styles that fall into those categories (Colonial, Cottage, Chalet, Prairie, Victorian, Tudor, Coastal or any other style that pleases your eye).  Timber frames can be single story, story and a half or mult-stories.  They can sit on concrete slabs,  basements, crawlspaces, or piers.

What your timber frame must do, beyond all, is “feel” right for you and the way you live.  When you drive up and when you walk into your home, you must have that “aha moment”…every time you come home.  If the open floor plans and vaulted ceilings aren’t for you, your architect or timber frame designer can help you to develop a plan that has lower ceilings and a more traditional floor plan.   If you want a very contemporary look, that can be designed into your plan.  Timber frames offer unlimited space and design options, but if the heavy timbers aren’t attractive to you, then think about building a more conventional home.

Don’t build a timber frame so it will look like a photo you admired.  Build a timber frame only if you will love it and enjoy your time in it.  Build a timber frame only if your heart is in it.  Then, whatever style you chose, your new home will be right for you.

That said, I’ll sign off for now.

Kit Homes – Still Working After a Century

Over a century ago, Aladdin Homes began offering a kit home package.  The “homes by mail” concept worked and it is estimated that over 100,000 kit house packages were sold between 1906 and 1940.  Aladdin continued to sell kit houses until 1981.  The homes were offered in a wide variety of styles and sizes and were generally less expensive to build.   The packages typically included all the components, including the kitchen sink, and were assembled by the homeowner or a builder on site.  The homes were shipped by rail and included home plans and detailed construction instructions.   Mortgages were available from the catalog company.

Sears (or those of us old enough to remember “Sears, Roebuck and Company) and Wardway (Montgomery Ward) followed Aladdin’s lead and offered homes through their catalogs.   Montgomery Ward partnered with Van Tine to produce and deliver their kits.

There are many of these homes still occupied today.  They may (or may not) have been renovated once or more and identifying the home as a kit home may require some research.   However, the discovery would surely add to the value of the home and home ownership.

Today, with home improvement stores in most towns, it would be hard to ship every piece of a home and still be competitive.  Local building codes would require modifications (though Aladdin promised that their packages met every building code) and most of us would be overwhelmed when a package with thousands and thousands of parts arrived on our site.

Timber frame kits offer a step into that simpler time.  Goshen has offered kits since 1997 and still provides a shell for each home.  The kits are designed and engineered to meet each local code and plans are revised to work for each client.  The finish work is completed by the homeowner or builder, but on a much simpler level than in the days of a Sears or Aladdin kit.   The Goshen Timber Frames kit home will be energy efficient, sustainable and also a treasure a century or more from now.

That said, I’ll sign off for now.