Eric Flo had to make a quick decision. It was February 1998, and he was shivering in the pouring rain, slogging through the mud of an empty, debris-strewn
lot, heading toward Lake Cushman.
When he finally reached the lake, Eric stood at the water’s edge, contemplating the expansive view of the majestic mountains strung along the Olympic Peninsula west of Seattle, Washington.
The lot was for sale, and Eric had to decide then and there if he wanted the property. He and his wife, Jen, who live in the suburbs of Seattle, had been yearning for a vacation home in the area ever since they camped in the Olympic National Forest nearly a year before.
But was this the right lot? It was narrow at the curbonly about 15 feet wideand criss-crossed with tiny streams that sprung up in the heavy rain. The community had been using the long-empty lot as a dumping ground. And yet, the pie-shaped parcel boasted 180 feet of scenic lake frontageand an incomparable view of the Olympic Mountains.
“I stood there for two hours and hemmed and hawed and tried to imagine what it would look like when the lake was full and the sky was blue,” Eric says. Jen couldn’t get the morning off to look at the lot, so Eric was on his own. “Finally,” he recalls, “I said, ‘Let’s go for it.’ “
Fortunately, when she saw the property herself, Jen approved of Eric’s choice. “He walked me through the lot,” Jen says, “and when we got to the view, the first thing I said was, ‘Yep, you did it right!’ “
Deciding on a style of home that would stand up to the awesome surroundings proved as daunting a task as choosing the lot. “With our view of the mountains and lake, we needed a house that had some weight to it to bring in the grandeur of the great Northwest,” Jen says. After staying in a timber frame lodge on a ski trip to Mount Hood, the couple was sold on post and beam construction. “We wanted a lodge feel,” Eric says.
Shortly after buying the property, the Flos went to the Seattle Home Show in search of ideas. When they saw a photograph of a striking timber frame mountain home, the Flos knew they had found the perfect plan. “We saw those oversized windows and great big posts going up to the high purlin beams, and we said, ‘Wow! That’s the one!’ ” Eric recalls.
The Flos experienced an immediate rapport with the designer, Bob Stockmann, and his brother, Rick, who run SBC Construction in Bellevue, Washington. “We felt like we had been friends,” Jen says of the wise-cracking duo, who did double-duty as general contractors and distributors for the Flos’ timber frame manufacturer, Timberpeg Pacific. “And we liked the fact that Bob had done the original drawings and had already built this home once before.”
It was fortunate that the four formed a strong bond early on, as the home would eventually become more challenging than any of them could imagine.
One of the first issues they encountered was a culvert pipe that had to be moved from the middle of the property to the lot line. Then the Flos discovered that, because of surface water running through their lot, they couldn’t install a standard septic system. Eric and Jen researched their options and found a bio-filter system that pumps effluent through three sand- and gravel-filled tanks before releasing it to the surface, where it evaporates on a sandy field. “By the time it hits the surface, it’s almost potable water,” Rick says.
But there were more complications. Soil studies revealed that the only spot dry enough to build a house was 60 feet from the curb, where the lot was quite narrow. This change meant that the two-car, side-entry garage in Bob’s original blueprints would have to be replaced with an oversized single-car garage on the front of the home. Even this spot was still so damp it required oversized 28-inch-wide footings, a series of French drains and a layer of pea gravel beneath the slab to keep the foundation stable and dry.
Eric and Jen made several other significant changes to Bob’s blueprints to accommodate their lot and lifestyle. The home was built as a mirror image of the original, giving the Flos more privacy in their great room by moving it away from the lot’s edge. This change also allowed them to drop the great room down a foot from the kitchen, following the slope of the lot and providing more drama to the great room, with its soaring 18-foot cathedral ceiling.
The Flos also moved tiled areas like the laundry room and powder room so that they were accessible from the kitchen. “There is a sliding glass door in the kitchen, which is the main entrance from the lake,” Jen says. “So now, you can walk in that sliding glass door, dripping wet and covered in sand or mud, and get to all the necessities without having to set foot on the carpet. That was a big thing, knowing that we would have lots of company and kids running in and out all day,” says Jen, who discovered while they were building their home that she was pregnant with twins Michael and Sean.
The Douglas fir frame arrived in October 1998 and went up in a week. Eric, who camped out onsite with Bob and Rick, savored the opportunity to be a part of the framing process. “I was just a gruntholding up posts and sticking things togetherbut I look back on that with fond memories every day,” Eric says.
The Stockmanns always try to get their clients involved with framing. “That’s part of the excitement
of building the home,” Rick says. But the brothers were particularly pleased to include Ericwho towered over the eight-man crew at 6 feet, 8 inches tall. “He was a walking ladder,” Bob says.
“The frame went up beautifully.” But Bob adds, “Then the bottom dropped out of the sky.”
It rained for 121 consecutive days, while the Stockmanns gamely carried on beneath a shelter of giant tarps that quickly became tattered by gusting winds. To enclose the timber frame, they first installed sheets of pre-oiled, pine tongue-and-groove paneling. Then they wrapped the house with a 6-mil plastic vapor barrier and 4 inches of rigid foam, which was strapped down with wood battens.
Next they affixed pre-stained clear vertical grain cedar siding to the battens and tackled the standing seam metal roof, which was only half finished when the snows came. “You can’t apply the roof adhesives unless the roof is dry, so what should have taken three days turned into three weeks,” Rick says.
At last, the skies cleared, and cultured stone accents were applied to the exterior chimney and the base of the house, anchoring the home to a low-maintenance landscape designed by Greg Brower, of the Berger Partnership in Seattle. Weathered logs and long grasses give the sandy septic field a beach feeling that fits in well with the lakeside surroundings, and large stones were used to create a natural-looking bulkhead along the shore.
By Memorial Day 1999, almost nine months after breaking ground, the Flos’ 2,650-square-foot vacation home was complete. “Eventually, we would like to retire there,” Jen says. But for now, “It’s a great little getawaya place to grow up and make memories for our boys.”
For a list of companies who contributed to the home, see the Summer 2002 issue of Timber Frame Homes.
Story by Amy Laughinghouse
Timberpeg Photos by Roger Wade