Love Me Timber

Building a timber frame home is a lot like dating: You want the total package. We’re talking looks, brains, a sense of humor and a willingness to put up with that annoying little habit of yours. (C’mon, you know which one.) But once you find your soul mate, chances are you’ll live together forever.
Same goes for selecting a timber frame home package. There are plenty out there—and they vary widely from one company to another. That’s not to say one company’s packages are better than another’s. You just have to play the field a bit to determine which one is right for you.

For starters, consider how you want to build your home. Do you already have an architect in mind, or will you need a timber frame company that offers design services? Do you want to shop around for your own windows and doors, or do you want them delivered with your post and beam home? Are you sold on one type of structural insulated panel to enclose your home, or are you open to suggestions? Once you make these basic choices, you’re one big step closer to finding The One.

Building Blocks
As with any structure, building a timber frame home begins with a strong foundation, which is then topped with a first-floor structure called the deck. Once these two pieces are anchored together, they become the home’s skeleton. Next, builders raise the frame, enclose it with a roof (which keeps everything safe and dry) and add windows and doors. At this point, they’ll also add any additional design elements, such as a porch, deck or garage.

Inside, you’ll have many other choices to make. You may decide to have multiple partition walls or just a few. You may opt for hundreds of feet of electrical wiring and plumbing or just short runs. And, of course, you’ll need to decide on fixtures, cabinetry, appliances, countertops, closet doors and flooring.

But note: these supplies can take many routes to get to your construction project. Some timber frame packages are all-inclusive; others are not. When comparison-shopping, it’s essential to evaluate which package will work best with your design, timeline and budget.

Deciding Factors
Timber frame companies specialize in (no surprise) cutting and raising timber frames. But that’s where the similarities end. As you speak with different companies, here are some questions you can ask to narrow down the field.

  • Do you offer design services?
  • Do you provide your own crane?
  • Do you finish the timbers?
  • Do you sell enclosure systems?
  • What else do you provide?
  • Can we customize our package?
  • Do you use recycled materials?
  • Do you offer turn-key service?

Estimated Time of Arrival
In addition to knowing the details of what’s included in your timber frame package, you’ll also need a clear understanding of how it will arrive to your site. Some companies deliver materials in one shipment—so you may need an onsite storage plan. Often, the shipments are split, with the timbers arriving first and the SIPs arriving after the timber frame crew is finished.

Your general contractor, who orchestrates the comings and goings of the subcontractors, also must understand the package-shipment schedule. This professional should plan to have the foundation and deck ready by the frame- raising date and should know when the frame will be enclosed.

A Marriage of Sorts
Picking your perfect timber frame package is a very personal thing. And, at first, you may be hesitant to commit—especially when faced with a variety of price tags, package contents and levels of service. Keep your sanity by making sure that each company provides its estimate based on the same floorplan and specifications. Comparing packages using different floorplans will likely prove frustrating and unproductive.

When decision time rolls around, make sure you understand what’s included in each package. And trust your gut about the people behind the packages. Just like in dating, you’ll eventually find someone with that perfect blend of character and chemistry. Then it’s time to build a house together.

To read the full story on finding the perfect package, see the Annual Buyer’s Guide issue of Timber Frame Homes Magazine.