Frequently Asked Questions about Timber Frame Homes

What are the steps in building a timber frame home?

Here is a quick review of the initial steps to build your home. (Please note that many of these items overlap and keep in mind each project is unique)

  • Acquire property that is Board of Health approved. Check septic/water requirements and local building codes
  • Design your home
  • Hire a general contractor, a construction manager, or you can act as your own general contractor
  • Obtain building permit, driveway permit, well and septic design and location, if applicable
  • Build your home

How much does a timber frame cost?

Legacy does not determine price based on square footages. The price of a Legacy timber frame is based on board footage of lumber, species of wood, and the complexity of the frame design.

What is the payment schedule for a Legacy timber frame? Does it differ from the schedule for a conventionally framed home?

You can secure financing through the bank of your choice with a construction loan. Many banks provide a payment schedule specific to timber frame or log homes, which is different from a conventional construction loan. Our payment schedule is as follows:

  • 25% at contract signing
  • 25% when timbers arrive at shop (about 6 weeks after contract signed)
  • 40% when frame is erected at your site (about 6 weeks after timbers arrive at shop)
  • 10% when panel application is complete

What design services do you provide?

We can provide custom designs with full blueprints, stamped by a licensed structural engineer, which is required for you to obtain both your building permit and bank financing. Or, we can work with your architect.

Should you contract us for your design, included in our design phase are the plans for the foundation, floor, elevations, sections, details and frame schematic. The engineer’s fee is billed separately, at cost, which is dependent on the engineering required. A design takes about 4 to 6 months, sometimes longer, depending on how thought-out the design is when you come to us. The more information you bring to us, the quicker the process.

It is important to note that copyright laws state that whoever draws up the blueprints owns the design. This means that Legacy cannot create a timber frame using plans drawn by another timber frame company.

Does Legacy provide estimates? What information is needed to give a general idea of costs and frame design?

If you have an idea of what you want or have rough sketches, send them to the office and we will work up some very rough sketches and a rough quote at no charge. It generally takes about 2-3 weeks to get a quote back; depending on the time of year and workload it could take longer. If you’re not sure what you want, call or set up an appointment to discuss concepts. From this discussion, we will work up rough sketches and a rough quote, again at no charge. Meetings are usually scheduled for weekdays or workday evenings.

A good way to start to get a concept of your home is to first determine your budget. Then you can start clipping pictures of what you like as well as what you don’t like and make lists of features you want. Prioritize them so you know what things are “must haves” and what things would be nice to have but are negotiable. Above all, make sure both partners are active participants in the design process and are fully informed at each step of decision making. Sometimes there are difficult choices. One person may want a fireplace in the living room, while the other may have his heart set on a top of the line gourmet kitchen. If both options can’t be included in the budget, make sure everyone is in agreement at the outset so the process can be a “win/win” situation.

Can a conventionally designed home be made into a timber frame?

Yes, with modifications, a conventionally designed home can be made into a timber frame. What does this mean? This means that if you have been scouring through home plan books and have found one that you really love, yet want a timber frame, we can redesign the house as a timber frame, extracting only the design elements that you like from the plan and adapting it to your own personal lifestyle. It is against copyright laws to reproduce any design, but it is helpful in designing your home to see examples of plans you like.

What types of mechanicals (heating, plumbing, electrical) are typically used in a timber frame home?

Heating: any system can be designed into the plans for your timber frame home—forced hot air, radiant, hot water baseboard, or some combination of these. The choice is dependent on your personal preference and your budget. A heat recovery ventilator system is a MUST in every Legacy timber frame home. This brings in fresh air, warms it up and then introduces it to the house. The system can be set to however many air changes a day are required based on your lifestyle. A knowledgeable heating contractor will have more information.

Plumbing: All plumbing is run through interior walls. This is worked out in design. We like to centralize plumbing with bathrooms stacked over each other when possible.

Electrical: There are many ways to run wiring in a timber frame structure. The installation method will depend on the type of enclosure system or whether the structure is free standing.

  • For a free standing frame like a pavilion or a gazebo, Legacy will rout a chase in the timbers for the wiring, and provide a wood “cover” that, when installed, will be flush with the side of the timbers. This will be done for any locations that are visible.
  • For SIP panel enclosures Legacy has a simple system of running the wiring in the SIP panels for the exterior walls. Legacy works with your electrician on site while the panels are being installed.

Electrical installation for frames enclosed in 2×6 walls is the same as for a conventionally framed home.

To wire the interior of a home, the majority of the wiring is run through the interior partitions. For any ceiling fixtures, Legacy can provide additional non-structural timbers for hanging ceiling fixtures.

What types of wood does Legacy use for timber frames?

The most common woods Legacy uses are Eastern white pine and Eastern hemlock, which are locally harvested and readily available. We also use Douglas fir timbers. These can be either green timbers or forest salvaged “standing dead” timbers. We are also open to the possibility of using timbers harvested by the homeowner from their property.

Does Legacy apply a finish to the timbers?

Typically we do not put any finish on the timbers. When first erected, the wood is very light in color, but will darken slightly over time. If you want a finish, we recommend you apply it when you paint the interior of the house, at the same time your trim is painted. We also recommend you use a breathable finish that will allow the timbers to dry (avoid using hard finishes like polyurethane or shellac until the timbers are dry). Timbers dry at different rates depending on species and humidity, but generally dry an inch a year. Most of the moisture will be gone after 4 years, but the timbers will not be completely dry for a few more years after that.

How are timber frames enclosed?

Timber frames can be enclosed in many ways. The most popular method is to apply SIP panels (Structural Insulated Panels) to the exterior of the frame for both the walls and the roof.SIPs are pre manufactured panels that come in 4’-0” widths by whatever length is required. They consist of an OSB exterior sheathing, rigid foam insulation in the center and either sheetrock or OSB for the interior surface. There are several types of foam used. Legacy prefers an EPS foam (Styrofoam). There are several manufacturers that supply the SIPs, and more information can be found on their web sites. The SIPs are extremely energy efficient.

Another popular enclosure system is building a standard 2×6 wall on the outside of the timber frame and either using spray foam or fiberglass insulation.

Other methods include cord wood and straw bale enclosures.

How long does it take to build a timber frame home?

Building a timber frame home from start to home completion takes the same amount of time as a conventionally built custom house of the same size. For a simple 2500 square foot home this means anywhere from 6-9 months of actual construction from excavation to Certificate of Occupancy.

Do you general contract the home through to its completion?

Legacy originally offered general contracting services and we have many years of experience in all phases of construction. While we no longer provide general contracting services, we are available to answer any questions you may have about your construction process.

Legacy’s primary focus is creating and erecting hand-crafted timber frames and installation of SIP panels. We can also provide installed 1×8 roof decking, first floor framing and other conventionally framed areas of your house, depending on schedule and timing.

Does Legacy erect their timber frames?

Legacy always erects our frames. The frames are hand cut in our shop in New York; we ship the completely cut frame to the site. We can either send our full experienced crew to erect the frame or we can send one of our skilled technical assistants to the site to work with the homeowner’s crew.