Timber Frames – Scaling Down to Smaller Homes

Once again, after a week of great meetings with people who are exploring their timber frame home design opportunities, I come back to a basic truth. Timber frames provide more living space per square foot than other building methods. Timber frame homes, with open spaces and volume, just feel larger than their actual footprint. I talked about this same concept in an earlier article and I’d like to carry that idea a little further (http://www.timberframemag.com/blog/2010/04/27/building-a-smaller-timber-frame-home/).

I believe that maybe our new, smaller space deserves to be treated as new space and not burdened with all of our treasures.  If you are planning a retirement home (or a retreat), it might be time to rethink your priorities and the “stuff” that has followed you through life (I don’t mean your spouse).  Do you need to take everything that you’ve loved (and dusted, polished, moved, etc) with you as you move forward or is it time to pass it on to the younger generation or to someone who can love (and dust, polish, move) it? Wouldn’t your son or daughter enjoy the bedroom set that you inherited from Grandma today even more than waiting to inherit it from you? Couldn’t you choose a few pieces that bring the past into your home and share the rest? If the kids aren’t interested, there is someone out there who would love it. Donate or sell what you don’t love and need.

Timber frames have their own beauty. The heavy timbers and their craftsmanship carry their own history. So as you design your timber frame home, think about what would enhance your life and what you’d just move because you’ve always moved it into your new home. Step into your retirement home with memories and a new uncluttered space. Plan your space to allow you to live long and well, thinking more about pieces that will give you extra storage so you can plan a smaller home.

Think about how you really live and don’t add extra space, plumbing fixtures, cabinetry, etc, just because you’ve always had them. It is important to think about resell in designing any home, but don’t sacrifice your comfort (or pocketbook) today for something someone else may want in a new home. If you are leaving corporate world and won’t wear suits every day will you really need as much closet space? If you love showers and hate baths, do you need a bathtub that takes space and requires cleaning in your master bathroom? Or could it be relegated to a guest bathroom? In this process remember that a timber frame has no bearing walls. If someone wants to remodel after you’ve left the home, they have far fewer problems than remodeling a stick-framed home. So plan your home for your life, not someone else’s.

Smaller homes do live as well as larger homes. They just live differently. Spend time thinking about how you will live in your timber frame and bring those thoughts to the table as you plan your new home. Enjoy it because it provides shelter for the body and soul and not because you made it large enough to accommodate everything from your past.

And however you build, whatever you build, just Build Boldly.

Timber Frame Porches Add Outdoor Living Space

Timber frame porches add much to your home.  Whether they offer grand and exciting views of majestic mountains and relaxing water or are reminiscent of Grandma’s front porch and overlook a front lawn, they expand your living space. Your home feels larger when opened up to the outdoors.  That cup of coffee tastes better when sipped from a rocker on the porch.

Porches shelter us from wind, rain, and sun.  They are inviting and welcoming to all who approach. Timber frame porches frame the scenery in massive timbers and remind us of the trees that are living forward as posts and beams.

Sitting on the porch with family and friends brings everyone closer.  Conversation is easier and time spent is well spent. Pets are welcome and enjoy being part of the family as they move in closer. Dogs know that they are only a stick’s throw away from a game.

If you are planning your timber frame home, don’t short change your porches and if you aren’t planning on building a new home, a timber frame porch can add wonderful living space, value, and charm to your existing home.

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.

Raising Timber Frames

Raising timber frames is the icing on the cake for a timber frame crew.  It’s where all their hard work and craftsmanship becomes apparent and the WOW factor kicks in. Timber frames aren’t exactly an example of instant gratification, but they certainly are a source of delayed gratification.  On May 5 underneath Carolina blue skies, the Goshen team watched as Glenn, proud owner of a new timber frame home, topped out his new frame.  

Raising day is always an event.  In this case, it was Cinco de Mayo and, of course, the lunch fare was Mexican food. Casa de Soledad  was a nice backdrop to the meal, with the sun shining through the timbers and a sense of the job well done adding to the atmosphere.   It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Sherry and Glenn were there from Cincinnati with their sons, planning for days in the not to distant future when they’ll sit and enjoy the view from the greatroom of this wonderful new timber frame home.

In the meantime, there is work to be done.  The decking and panels will be finished and the Goshen crew will be back doing what they love, working with chisels and mallets on the next new Goshen Timber Frame.

Timber Frame Workshop

Just as timber frames are to be shared, the craft of timber framing is to be shared.  The craft has been passed down for centuries.  The Bible speaks of joining timbers and in Europe and the Far East, timber frames built many hundreds of years ago are still in use.

At Goshen Timber Frames, apprenticeships and workshops have been incorporated into the program for years.  Many timber framers started their journey here and timber frame companies across the country are run by past Goshen apprentices.

Last week six people gathered here in Franklin to learn basic timber framing. Many of the Goshen staff, Toby, David, Don, Adam, Joel, and Mark, along with a talented and dedicated Goshen homeowner, Mike Skahan, made this happen. 

The students worked as a team.  They were taught about the tools (and caring for them), joinery, design, and raising timber frames.

The week went by quickly and at the end of the workshop they received not only certificates, but a personalized plaque designed and crafted by Mike Skahan.

When asked how they would use their new found skills, the students answered with enthusiasm.  Whether they are going to build a shop or outbuilding, use their skills to add some “trimberframing” to their services, or just talk about how they spent their vacation, they all left with a sense of accomplishment.

The small “workshop frame” that they cut and raised provided each of these men and women the chance to learn a craft and to use tools similar to those used for centuries (with a few additions…like the chain mortiser).  They shared this week with others interested in the craft and with craftsmen dedicated to timber framing.  This will be a week worth remembering for most of them.

Jim, Liesel, Luis, Mark, Steven, and Matt are shown here with Joel Scott and Mike Skahan in front of the frame they cut and raised.   As they departed for five different states, you can be sure that their minds were filled with thoughts of heavy timber, chisels, and mallets.

Goshen’s next workshop is scheduled for October 10, 2010.   There are a limited number of spaces available.   More information is available here.

Timber Frames – A World Apart

Our recent visit to the International Builders’ Show reinforced our knowledge that a timber frame is a world apart from a conventionally framed home.

As we visited the vendors and viewed the new products, one of the things that kept coming to mind was that many were addressing problems that don’t arise in timber frame construction.   Insulation, infiltration, remodeling issues (bearing walls), design issues (bearing walls), and much other information was alien to us.  Polyurethane posts and trim were interesting, as were fake beams that weighed about as much as a cardboard box and finished to look like distressed timber.  You’ve got to love ingenuity.

Since we use structural insulated panels to wrap our homes, we didn’t have to discuss the differences in how to insulate between studs in stud walls.  We didn’t have to discuss the different truss configurations.  Our timbers take care of everything.

Timber Frames seem to solve many of the problems that builders are struggling with today.   We see more timber frames today than in recent history and I expect we will see even more as the importance of a sustainable structure is acknowledged.

Timber Frame Raising Video

Instead of clients, we have a word for the people we build for…we call them friends.   Building a timber frame is a journey and who better to make that journey with than someone you like.

The Nielsen’s are no exception.  They are truly beautiful people and, oh, so talented. Here is a video of the first bent of their timber frame home.  They are so kind to share this with us.

Timber frames, and the people who build, live in, own, treasure them, are amazing!

Don’t just build… BUILD BOLDLY.

Timber Frame Industry’s Voice – TFBC

The Timber Frame Business Council is the voice for the timber frame industry… timber framers, suppliers, and associates.    The industry will be strengthened by developing an awareness of timber frames, encouraging members to build well designed and engineered buildings and homes, and to assist members in building their business skills.

Having been a business member for many years and involved more closely as a board member for the past three years, I can say that not only is our membership a good investment, but that the organization is important to the industry.

The economic downturn hit the industry hard.  Many companies are struggling and some haven’t been able to keep the doors open.   Still, timber framers are faring better than the construction industry as a whole.  Most companies are led by individuals dedicated to their craft.

Some of us are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  We’ve worked through the tougher times and are stronger companies at the end of the day.   Business is picking up as consumers realize that the world didn’t end in the fall of 2008. Instead, they are making choices more carefully and stepping into the build process with a little more caution.

In the meantime, the TFBC moves forward with initiatives and much effort to energize both the members and the market.

Goshen Timber Frames is proud to be a sustaining member of the TFBC.

Timber Frame – A Lesson In English

If you’ve taken to searching the Internet as you pursue your dream of a timber frame home you may be surprised how many “timber frames” there are in the UK.  This is a little confusing if you live in the US.

A timber frame is usually defined as heavy timber construction on this side of the Atlantic.   Timber framing is often used interchangeably with post and beam construction.

However, across the pond, timber framing is the correct term for what we, over here, call “conventional construction” or, if the timber framer is in a snide mood, “stick framing”.   The difference is night and day, but in UK the term is used to distinguish the wood construction method from brick/rock/masonry construction.  The UK Timber Frame Association speaks for this construction method, much as the Timber Frame Business Council is a voice for the timber frame industry in the US.Goshen Timber Frames

While the North American timber frame will have few posts or beams smaller than 6″ X 8″ and most larger, the English structure is more likely smaller, dimensional limber.  You’ll find references on UK sites (those not promoting wood construction) as timber frame being “light weight construction”.  In the US you’ll find timber framers speaking of stick framed homes in the same manner and timber framing is considered “heavy timber construction”.

So don’t let your research lead you off course. Timber frame homes, in North America, are distinctly different than timber frame homes in the UK, even if the roots of timber framing are all the same.   Timber is a renewable resource and roots itself in “green” building.

So, move forward, live your life with abandon, and of course, build boldly.

That said, I’ll close for now.

The Quiet Side of Timber Framing

Heavy timber construction can be noisy.  Learning the craft of timber framing not only includes traditional tools such as mallets and chisels, but power saws and drills.  However, for a deaf student, the beauty of the craft is silent.

Workshops are held at Goshen Timber Frames twice a year.  Students from around the world come to Franklin, North Carolina to learn this very ancient craft.  Communication has sometimes been a challenge when the student or apprentice spoke Japanese or Turkish and very little English.  Ken Heath, a deaf student, didn’t let anything stop him from learning to timber frame.

With Cindy Bohner, a local interpreter provided by Goshen, the workshop is helping Ken to learn the craft.  Cindy tells us that “both Ken and Goshen were determined to make this a positive experience. Ken plans on building timber frame cabins on his own campground.  He’ll leave with the skills necessary to do just that and with new friends he’s met along the way.”  Ken is the owner of Mason-Dixon Park, a private campground located in Seven Springs, North Carolina on Highway 55.

The sound of saws and drills isn’t necessary for someone to become a timber framer.  The desire to build something with the same techniques used for centuries, a building that will stand as a testament to the craftsman’s dedication, is enough.

The noisy shop is quiet for Ken, but working with the Goshen joiners and Cindy, he doesn’t miss the noise and hustle and bustle.  Joel Scott, Ken’s instructor, is pleased with Ken’s progress, “Ken picked up on layout and cutting techniques quickly.  This isn’t his first time to build with wood, and it shows.”  He will leave with new skills and will continue to use them for years to come.

Goshen Workshop