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How to Choose A Company for Your Timber Frame Home

Posted on Feb 8, 2012
Cook County timber frame exterior entry

Once you’ve made the decision that building a timber frame home is what you want, your next thoughts become about finding the right company that works for you. You know you want a home that is beautiful, well-built and is constructed at a competitive cost, but how do you decide which company is the best fit and what factors should affect how you choose?

Obvious Factors

Finding a timber frame company that has experience and a history of quality will ensure that your home is built correctly. It doesn’t hurt to look into the business’ background; how long they’ve been doing what they do and what styles they offer. Many timber framers offer a traditional look and feel while other manufacturers concentrate on a more robust mountain style of timber framing. Make sure you find a company whose style matches your own.

Architectural Services vs. Stock Plans

One of the most common ways of researching companies is to look through their stock plans. There may or may not be a vast difference in plans from one company to the next, but if you are looking for a basic design, you should have a number of companies to choose from. However, if you desire a one-of-a-kind, custom home, designed to your budget, you’ll want a company that offers personalized architectural services.

Comparing Building Systems

Many timber framing companies use some form of mortise and tenon joinery for their building system, but how do you want the timbers to be cut? Deciding whether you prefer hand-cut timbers or machines programmed to cut the frame precisely to plan is a question you should ask yourself. Does the company use only timber framing in construction or do they use additional materials like SIPs or spray-in foam? If you choose a company that utilizes SIPs; do they purchase the materials from a third party or do they manufacture them in-house. The most effective way to have a seamless building process is to choose a company with a complete building system.

Extended Services Offered

Finally, you should ask yourself to what extent your timber frame company will be a part of your entire build project; will they simply design your home and manufacture the timbers or will they truly be with you until you turn the key? Not all companies offer their clients the same level of services.  Discover what kind of experience you want to have with your timber frame company and then find one that matches your needs.

Building Details to Consider When Choosing a Timber Frame Company

Selecting a timber framing company to create your dream home is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. Over the past 40 years, Riverbend has helped thousands of people design and build their custom timber frame homes. Read on to learn about some things you should know before selecting a timber framing company.

Wood Quality, Species, and Craftsmanship Count

While the quality of building materials in one’s home always matters, it is especially important in a timber frame home. Unlike most North American homes, the structural shell of Riverbend’s timber frame homes is not stick built and does not use common building materials, such as 2x6s. Instead, Riverbend uses timber frame techniques that date back centuries, including mortise and tenon connections. This makes the quality of the wood used of utmost importance.

There are several factors that go into ensuring quality wood is used in your timber frame. First, find out where the wood originates. This doesn’t mean you need to know the forest itself. It does mean, however, that you should ask about who sources the wood. Is it a regular employee of the company or a contractor? Is it someone with exacting knowledge of what makes for a perfect timber or is it someone charged with finding the best deal?

Today’s Timber Frame Fabrication Demands a Blended Skillset of Math and Artistry

Another facet of wood quality is its structural strength, which ties into the wood species used. This isn’t to say only one or two species of wood are acceptable in a timber frame. Oak, Douglas fir, pine, cypress, and other woods are all acceptable. It goes back to the quality of the initial wood. Is it free of heart center Douglas fir, for example?

Finally, ask about the manufacturing of the timbers themselves. The level of craftsmanship required when fabricating a timber frame is no easy feat.

timber frame system in the riverbend shop

It takes years of experience to perfect the skills needed to create beautiful timbers

It takes years of experience to perfect the skills needed to create beautiful timbers. In addition, today’s timber fabrication demands a blended skillset of math and artistry. A harmony between modern machinery and man is ideal when selecting a timber framing company.

Expertise is Wasted Without Communication and Resources

Suss out who the team members on your project will be. Again, are these people who work for the company or are they independent representatives, contractors, or a separate business altogether? You might be wondering why this matters to your home, and it’s a fair question to ask. It matters because you want each member of your project team to communicate not only with you, but with each other. The level of communication needed between your team goes a long way to ensuring you receive what you expect on time and at the agreed upon price.


Having a team of experts under one roof has numerous advantages

Technical proficiency of the team members also matters. You want team members who are not only well-versed in their respective areas of expertise, but who are also reliable. Look for organizations that are financially solid, and with immediate access to the resources your project will demand. Having your team of experts under one roof has numerous advantages and no downside. If your timbers are being fabricated by a team of craftsman sharing a roof with your architect and your project manager, congratulations. Your life will not only be easier, the levels of respective expertise and accountability are typically greater.

A Design Outside Your Budget Is A Waste of Everyone’s Time

You probably expect to meet with your designer or design team and later receive a design that represents your dream home. Getting a design you like or even love is rarely difficult. Getting one you love that also fits your budget, however, can be tricky. Find out as much as possible about who will be designing your timber frame home. Of course, you ideally want degreed architects on your project. But you also need to consider the individual’s experience with timber frame homes. You may engage an extremely talented and well-respected architect or designer but if that person is not versed in designing a timber frame, it can make a difference in the final home.

Cook County rear night

Riverbend contemplates your total home budget, helping ensure your dream home becomes a reality

Though it may seem obvious, it’s important to understand that designing timber frame structures requires experience with timber framing. And, it doesn’t matter if they are bridges, barns, or homes. After all, how well might it work out if your designer doesn’t know what a bent is? It’s okay if you don’t know (yet!) but you do expect your floor plan to represent what can actually be built using timbers. Joinery knowledge matters. Truss expertise does too. And, the ability to produce a plan you love, that can be built within your designated budget, should be your expectation no matter who you choose to make your dream home a reality.

Learn more about designing to a budget.

Green Means Exactly Nothing If It’s Not Energy Efficient

It feels good knowing your “green” builder recycles or donates wood scraps and repurposes old wood. After your home’s completion, however, is it green? Is it energy efficient? Is it minimizing its impact on the land? Not very likely.


Let our team know if you are interested in building a home certified LEED®

Since energy costs show no sign of decreasing, it is important to be proactive about energy efficiency. Design your new timber frame home with energy use top-of-mind. To do this, you’ll need a designer and a builder with verifiable experience in energy efficient design and building processes. So, what should you look for in advance? Start with the basics of asking about your home’s structural shell.

Many highly energy efficient homes employ ICFs, short for Insulated Concrete Forms, and part of the aforementioned structural shell. ICFs integrate the enormous strength of a concrete core surrounded by the proven insulating capabilities of foam. Concrete, on its own, conducts heat and cold. Using ICFs negates that ability, and ensures the concrete doesn’t alter the interior temperature of the home.

Your build team should know the what, why, and how behind ICFs.

Typically used in a home’s foundation, ICFs can also be incorporated as walls. Your build team should know the what, why, and how behind ICFs as their use is not new. If your architect or designer doesn’t know what ICFs are, this too has to be addressed. And, do so before your home is designed or a single piece of your land is excavated.

energy efficient building products, sipsInvesting in quality construction products like ICFs and SIPs starts your home on the path to energy efficiency

SIPs is the acronym for Structural Insulated Panels, and these too will drive significant energy savings and related costs. Unlike walls created with 2x 6 studs and fiberglass insulation, SIPs are comprised of structurally laminating a continuous core of expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation between two performance-rated oriented strand boards (OSB). Thus, if SIPs make up the walls and roof of your home, it’s not difficult to imagine the difference in energy usage no matter what the season.

Riverbend offers technical assistance as needed.

When it comes to your home’s structural shell, experience matters. Beyond the obvious order of work performed at your build site, footings before ICFs, ICFs before SIPs, for example, find out about their knowledge in structural shell building systems. When selecting a timber frame company, it’s important your team knows the ins and outs of a structural shell. This is because, in addition to energy conservation, using ICFs and SIPs increases construction speed.

To help teams who are not familiar with ICFs and SIPs, Riverbend offers technical assistance as needed. In the end, your structural shell has a higher overall thermal resistance and significantly lower air leakage rates. Both are measures used when determining your home’s actual energy efficiency. So, your energy efficient green home really is green.

Read tips for designing a green timber frame home.

Contact Riverbend On Your Timber Frame Search

There’s a lot to consider when starting your timber frame journey. When understand all the decisions and choices you need to make. Our team at Riverbend has experience all across North America and knows the details of different terrains, environments, building regulations, design requirements, and the whole scope of what goes into building your dream home. We can help you get started with your decisions and provide expert opinions tailored to your individual situation. Contact our Riverbend experts today and rest assured that you’re getting the premium quality you want for your dream home.

As you continue your search for a timber home company it is important to first understand that not all companies operate the same way and second to ensure that your needs match with what they can offer. Learn more about the Riverbend Timber Framing Home Solution approach: Total Home Solution℠.

Need More Information?

Whether you’re looking for more information or would simply like to learn more about us and our services, don’t hesitate to contact us. Please follow the link below to access our online form or call us at 888.486.2363 in the US or 888.999.4744 in Canada. We look forward to hearing from you.

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