Traditional timber frame construction has been around for thousands of years. Timber framing has been used in Europe since medieval times and in the U.S. from the 17th century. Timber frame buildings in India, dating back to 200 B.C., have teak timbers with simple bamboo peg joinery. In recent years, this time-honored craftsmanship has been experiencing a resurgence. Today, affordable timber homes provide an attractive option for beautiful, environmentally-friendly, energy efficient residences.
The reasons for this new interest in timber frame homes are understandable. Timber structures are extremely sturdy and durable, they offer a wide choice of home styles and, when made with ethically harvested wood, timber homes are sustainable and eco-friendly. With their energy efficiency, timber frame structures satisfy new requirements for green buildings. But what is the lifespan of a timber frame house? And do timber frame house resale values make them a good investment?
What is a Timber Frame House?
In traditional timber frame construction, large posts and beams were joined with wooden pegs or other decorative joinery. Early builders often used custom cuts and various combinations of joints, such as dovetails or mortises and tenons, making each structure unique. Structurally speaking, a 6×6 or 8×8 post or beam with wood joinery is much stronger than 2x4s in stick framing that are fastened together by nails or screws. In modern timber frame construction, Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) and vented roof systems are used for superior insulation and lower energy costs. The large timbers and SIPs prevent air flow to the interior, to reduce moisture, insects and allergens for a healthier living environment.
How Long Will a Timber House Last?
With the proper wood preparation, exacting construction techniques and regular maintenance, a timber home can last 100 years or more. There are European timber frame structures that date back to the early 12th century. Many North American timber frame homes built in the late-17th to mid-18th century are still standing strong and in use today, with some of them recognized in the Historic American Buildings Survey. The popularity of affordable timber homes is strengthened by their staying power, classic beauty and historical relevance.
When considering a timber frame home construction project, make sure that you hire a highly skilled timber frame builder, and that the following steps are taken:
- The location of the house and environmental factors must be considered during the design phase.
- Timbers used in a heated home Ideally should have less than 22% moisture content. Both air drying and kiln drying are used to achieve this The lower moisture content will help minimize the movement and shrinkage of timbers after they are installed. Since the timbers are sealed with a stain or wood sealer there is no concern of weather during install
- The timber frame home is usually enclosed from the exterior with either sip walls or stick frame walls. This type of envelope ensures a good seal from the interior to exterior of home.
- UV protection of the exterior of a timber frame home will enhance the longevity of the structure by strengthening the wood and preventing sunlight deterioration.
After construction, these maintenance tips will help to extend the timber frame home lifespan:
- Ensure there is good air circulation and the correct level of humidity. Use ventilators, humidifiers and/or dehumidifiers (during the first 2 years or until timber climatize to environment
- Forced hot air systems can dry out the indoor air, which isn’t good for human health or the health of the wood. Excessive humidity also has a deleterious effect. Aim for 30-50% humidity.
- Conduct annual inspections of the exterior to check for pest and insect infestation as well as for signs of moisture. A timber frame home that was properly sealed around the foundation and siding during construction shouldn’t have any problems.
The Resale Value of Timber Houses
From Elizabethan Tudor style mansions in England to Boston’s Old North Church, timber frame buildings exhibit a luxurious warmth as well as a sense of history. Whether the homeowner’s preference is stately and traditional or bold and contemporary, the beauty of timber frame construction is that it’s highly versatile. Today’s custom timber homes can have extraordinary “curb appeal.”
Timber Frame Homes – Limited Only by Your Imagination
Owners can choose a look that fits their lifestyle and timber houses can have any type of exterior cladding, such as timber weatherboard for a classic New England appearance, metal, fiber-cement, brick slips or stone tiles. Inside, timber frame homes can feature exposed rustic beams made from eco-friendly recycled timber, elegant staircases and railings, and many decorative features like trim, molding and fascia.
Timber Houses and Open Floor Plans
Are timber homes worth less than conventionally framed homes with load bearing walls? Absolutely not! In fact, one of the hottest trends in new home construction is an open floor plan layout, which timber frame houses lend themselves to beautifully.
What’s Most Important to Home Buyers?
Today’s homeowners have high standards in quality and energy efficiency. Hamill Creek Timber Homes is based in British Columbia, a region that boasts some of the highest quality timber in the world as well as the most stringent sustainable harvesting standards. Timber frame houses can be LEED-certified. They’re built with energy efficient features such as super insulated walls and vented roof systems with rigid foam insulation that minimizes heat transfer and provides extremely high R-values.
According to Kiplinger, a home’s amenities also enhance its resale value. Home buyers put a high premium on features like energy efficient windows and appliances, a gracious patio, ceiling fans, exterior lighting, garage storage space, a walk-in pantry and walk-in closets, hardwood floors, dining room, eat-in kitchen and dedicated laundry room. Timber frame houses can be custom designed to include any or all these features and much more.
These are just some reasons why timber frame homes are among the most desired, highest valued and fastest selling properties in the marketplace.
Are Timber Frame Homes More Expensive to Insure?
Admiral, a UK-based insurance company, advises homeowners who plan to build timber frame homes on issues that may arise and how it affects their property insurance. There are also U.S. insurance companies that specialize in providing insurance for timber frame homes. Start by speaking to your current insurance company and other insurance agents in your state.
Key points regarding insurance for timber frame houses:
- Timber frame home insurance is readily available. Many of the nation’s largest companies offer policies for timber homes. This includes Allied, Farmers, Merrill Lynch and USAA. While some companies might not, this is most often due to an increase in natural disasters like floods and hurricanes, and not specifically because of the type of construction.
- Insurance cost will depend on various factors. Since the cost for homeowner’s insurance will depend on location, construction techniques, environmental conditions, fire risk and other factors, ask about insurance before you hire your timber frame builder.
- Ask other timber homeowners. If you’re checking a company’s references, ask owners about their insurance and what company they’re using. They can also tell you the cost, which will figure into your budget.
- Fire rating will affect the cost of insurance premiums. These ratings are given to building sites, regions and states, to indicate the risk of a wildfire. Homes of any type that are next to a forest with limited access to water for firefighters will have a higher rating. Proximity to a fire station and fire hydrant will lower the premium cost.
Does timber home insurance cost more than insurance for stick frame houses? Not necessarily. It depends on where and how the home will be built. Just like any type of home construction, if the site of your structure is in an area that’s prone to hurricanes, tornados, flooding, wildfires or earthquakes, the cost will be higher.
How to reduce the insurance cost for a timber home:
- Use fire resistant, high impact roofing materials to reduce the risk of hail and fire damage.
- Install a robust fire sprinkler system as a precautionary measure.
- Incorporate whole-house surge protection to protect the home from lightning strikes.
- Install plumbing devices in a finished basement to prevent sewer backups.
Taking these steps, you may see discounts in your insurance premium. A highly qualified and experienced timber frame construction company will be able to recommend the smartest building design for your location.
Are Affordable Timber Homes a Good Investment?
Today’s technological advancements and improved building techniques have contributed to making timber framed houses an excellent investment. In addition to a high aesthetic value and the ability to customize with many attractive features, the growing desire for an energy efficient home and the need for sustainable building practices ensures that the popularity of timber framed homes will continue well into the future.