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!

 

 

The Law of Timber Frame Home Design

Designing your new timber frame home is a journey of sorts. You’ll bring all the luggage you’ve gathered along the way. Homes you’ve seen on television shows, homes you’ve seen in magazines, homes you’ve driven past, homes you’ve lived in and visited…they’re all packed neatly away, waiting to be sorted and reviewed upon arrival at the design desk.

Interestingly enough, drawing timber frame house plans is not much different today than it was centuries ago. You decide how you live and you design your home to work around your lifestyle.

In 1852, American sculptor Horatio Greenough used the term “form follows function” as he was explaining the organic principles of architecture. Almost 50 years later, in 1896, architect Louis Sullivan wrote and article, “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered” and expanded on the concept. He actually wrote “form ever follows function” a more emphatic phrase. He was adamant that this was the “rule that shall permit no exception”.  He wrote:

It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression,
That form ever follows function.
This is the law.

Today we need remember that rule and to keep function at the forefront as we design our timber frame homes. The way you live, the things that make you comfortable, the necessary space to live with ease…these are the first things to consider as you lay out your new timber frame home.

So take time to think about how you live as you begin designing your new timber frame home. And remember Mr. Sullivan’s words “form ever follows function”.  Let your life direct the design of your home and always 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

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.

 

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

 

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.

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

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