When is the right time to first engage a mass timber fabricator about a new project?

At the beginning! The guidance of an experienced mass timber fabricator informs decisions that affect project cost, design, amount of material used, construction pace, and team coordination, so it is crucial for architects and engineers to engage one as soon as possible.

The earlier a mass timber fabricator understands your project — including the site’s size, orientation, and zoning; the size and occupancy intentions for the building; its layout, aesthetics, and acoustics; and sustainability goals and carbon impact — the more effective their recommendations will be. One of the most important areas they can weigh in on is occupant safety. Their expertise in adhering to IBC fire-resistance ratings is vital when determining the sprinklers and suppression devices, stairways and exits, and other safeguards needed in a building.

And, as with any type of project, working as a team early on reduces back-and-forth later. Starting with a clear outline of expectations makes a project run more efficiently without the delays of multiple calls to
and from the people involved.

How do you prepare an accurate quote for a timber framing project?

Communication with clients is key. There are a few basics MATF needs to get started: a floor plan (including a transverse section and a longitudinal section, if possible), elevations, and either a verbal or written explanation of where timbers are expected to occur in the project.

Then we’ll discuss specifications for the timber — which wood species to use, the surface conditions of the timber, and whether to leave its natural color or apply a stain. MATF will also ask if any ancillary products are desired, such as roof SIP insulation or tongue-and-groove deck boards.

Bigger picture, MATF likes to understand a client’s expectations for three things. This can help guide decisions as we quote.

Bulk: Are you going for minimal visual impact? Or big and bold?

Beauty: Do you prefer simple lines or ornate design with a lot of detail?

Budget: What are the limitations on what you can spend?

Why is Douglas fir MATF’s go-to wood species for timber framing?

First, its high strength-to-weight ratio makes it a very efficient structural wood. It’s also machine friendly and easy to work with. This lets us cut detailed designs using mortise-and-tenon-style joinery, and it receives screws and nails well.

Douglas fir has aesthetic advantages too. It takes glue, stain, and paint well, so a wide variety of looks can be achieved in the finishing process. And unlike some woods, it does not give off an unpleasant odor.

In practical terms, Douglas fir is readily available. We buy vast quantities from a mill in the Northwest and keep the inventory in our shop. Large sizes are available too (up to 48” x 48” in cross-section and 52’ long), perfect for the large spans often found in timber frames.

It also helps us support sustainable forestry. Newly planted Douglas fir trees grow quickly, so forests replenish in a shorter amount of time.

What types of structures can be built with a timber frame?

Timber frames are suitable for almost any style of building, both residential and commercial. Open, airy timber frame construction suits large spaces such as luxury homes, equestrian arenas, event venues, even high rises. At the same time, the warmth of wood is perfect for more intimate, comfortable spaces, such as spas, restaurants, and cottages.

Consider timber frame construction for projects as diverse as wineries and breweries, wedding venues, community centers, schools and universities, golf courses, retail spaces, party barns, and outdoor pavilions and kitchens.

What elements make up a timber frame structure?

The main elements of timber frame construction include timbers, crossbeams, joints, and trusses.

Timbers are the wooden beams that create a building’s frame. Vertical timbers are called posts. A timber frame structure is fully constructed of vertical posts and horizontal beams.

Crossbeams connect the post beams together and give a structure stability. The location where two beams come together is called a joint.

Joints are connected with mortise and tenons and secured with wooden pegs. There are many types of joints, ranging from simple to complex. Common types include lap joints, mortise and tenon joints, and dovetailed and pegged joints.

Trusses are a rigid triangle of timbers. They provide support for the roof but also allow for column-free floor space, typically on the top floor of a structure.

Read more about timber frame elements on our blog.

What types of wood are used in the construction of timber frame homes, commercial timber frame buildings, and mass timber buildings?

At Mid-Atlantic Timber Frames, we insist on the best-grade lumber available. Our timber frame buildings are constructed mainly from Douglas fir, eastern white pine, red cedar, and oak. However, we can also work with your custom wood preference.

For mass timber buildings, we use cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glued laminated timber (glulam) solid wood panels, which provide exceptional strength, stability, and durability.

What is a timber frame “hybrid design”?

When part of a building is timber framed but other parts are constructed with more conventional methods, that is considered a hybrid design. Many of our projects are hybrid timber frame designs.

What is the difference between log, timber frame, and post-and-beam construction?

Log buildings are built with logs, which are either round or squared off, stacked horizontally, creating the walls.

Post and beam construction has upright posts supporting horizontal beams. Timber post-and-beam construction are post and beam structures made of timber, held together with metal brackets.

Timber frame construction is a specialized version of post and beam that uses mortise-and-tenon joinery held in place with wooden pegs. Check out our blog post on this topic to learn more.

What is the difference between heavy timber construction and mass timber construction?

Heavy timber construction is a building method that uses large, rustic, heavy timbers that are joined together with traditional mortise-and-tenon joinery. While heavy timber construction is a form of timber framing, it specifically refers to larger building structures, not timber frame homes.

Mass timber construction is a framing style that uses large solid wood panels, typically engineered into multiple layers, for wall, floor, and roof construction. This style uses a product called cross-laminated timber (CLT), which consists of layers of lumber that are oriented perpendicular to one another and then glued together to form structural panels. Another product used is glued laminated timber (glulam), composed of individual wood laminations bonded together by moisture-resistant adhesives. These panels provide exceptional strength, dimensional stability, and rigidity. Mass timber is ideal for tall wood buildings, schools, multifamily and hospitality spaces, public and institutional settings, and office and mixed-use buildings.

What are the practical advantages of timber frame construction?

A timber frame home or commercial timber frame building requires little maintenance and will still be beautiful, structurally sound, and energy efficient 100 years from now.

Are timber frame buildings “green”?

Timber frame structures are among the most environmentally friendly building types out there. Our timber frames are built with sustainable practices, with timbers that come from well-managed forests, and we also recycle much of the timber waste produced by the manufacturing process. In designing buildings, we use passive techniques to take advantage of the natural climate to maintain thermal comfort, so buildings can be efficiently heated and cooled.

What are structural insulated panels (SIPs)?

Structural insulated panels (SIPs) are a high-performance building panel system made up of an insulating foam core sandwiched between two structural facings, typically strand board (OSB). They create the outer shell of a timber frame home, providing structural integrity and energy efficiency.

How much does it cost to build a timber frame home?

The cost of a timber frame generally runs between $50,000 and $150,000, depending on the size and complexity of the design. In general, the final turnkey cost for a custom home that includes timber frames runs between $200 and $225 per square foot. Complexity of design and high-end finishes will result in a greater cost per square foot.

For a better idea of your timber frame home cost, be sure to fill out our contact form with your budget. Not sure if you’re able to finance a timber frame home? Read our blog post all about financing your new timber frame house.

Is a timber frame home within my budget?

Before starting the process of designing a timber frame home, it’s best to know your budget—or at least a ballpark. Prices vary due to the custom-build nature of timber frame homes, and they do cost more to build than stick-built houses. Four elements that can affect the price are the accessibility of your land, design complexity, whether your design is full timber or a hybrid, and the species of timbers used. Read more about keeping a timber frame home within your budget on our blog.

If you aren’t sure where to begin in determining your budget based on timber frame cost per square foot, please contact our team today.

When will I know the cost to build my timber frame home?

We can provide a bid based on your complete timber frame home plans, or we can develop plans for you and provide a preliminary estimate to show the timber frame house cost. Costs will vary from project to project.

Do you supply timber frame home plans?

Mid-Atlantic Timberframes has partnered with MossCreek to offer ready-to-purchase timber frame home plans, which can be easily modified. Not interested in prefabricated timber frame home plans? We can customize a home plan that’s right for you.

What is the usual timeframe for building timber frame homes?

Building a custom home will always take time, but a Mid-Atlantic Timberframes home is usually quicker to construct than a traditional stick-built home. Timber is delivered to our workshop within a month of ordering, and an average timber frame house requires about two months of processing.

Why is it important to engage a mass timber fabricator early in the schematic design phase?

Before the proverbial pen hits the paper on a project involving mass timber, architects and engineers are wise to engage the services of a mass timber fabricator. It’s at this very beginning stage when decisions are made that will affect cost, design, amount of material used, construction pace, and team coordination.

One of the most important reasons to tap mass timber fabricators early on is for their expertise in planning for occupant safety; IBC fire resistance ratings must be adhered to, which will decide the need for sprinklers and suppression devices, stairways and exits, and other safeguards in the building.

There are other project-specific factors that must be considered, such as the site itself and its zoning, size, and orientation; the size and occupancy intentions for the building; layout, aesthetics, and acoustics; and sustainability goals and carbon impact.

And, as with any type of project, working as a team early on reduces the back-and-forth of RFIs later. Having a clear outline of expectations simply makes the project run more efficiently through its duration without the delays of multiple calls to and from the players involved.

What are your building material supply chain predictions for 2022?

It’s no secret that the world is having supply chain issues. COVID-19 is still having a profound effect on the ability of transportation resources to fulfill orders in a timely manner. You see it in shipping ports and on railways all over North America and other parts of the world.

After factoring in weather issues in Canada and northern America lumber country, supply figures remain short, and it’s taking longer for materials to get where they’re going. Many common building materials are still relatively hard to get due to supply chain backlogs. That issue might easily persist throughout 2022.

2021 showed astronomical price increases in lumber, timber, and almost all building components, driven by extreme demand by homebuyers and DIYers and the resulting product shortages. Those prices, though still up from previous levels, look to be coming down so far this year.

What is the benefit of off-site timber frame construction?

Mid-Atlantic Timberframes has been manufacturing timber frame components in our state-of-the-art facility and delivering them to job sites across the US for more than 10 years.

In comparison to traditional on-site building methods, off-site timber frame construction offers a wide range of benefits, including increased efficiency, project predictability, reduced waste and environmental impact, better-quality components, and improved safety. Click here to learn more about the benefits of off-site timber frame construction that we’ve experienced.

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