WHY BUILD A TIMBER FRAME / SIP HOME?

Our home building, buying preferences… for and beyond ourselves.

“Building durable and energy efficient homes is necessary… the fact that they are a great investment and BEAUTIFUL is a bonus generations of occupants will celebrate and enjoy. What’s not to like?”

TMBER FRAME HOMES ARE DURABLE

The life cycle of Timber Framed structures is measured not in decades but millennia. Yet, of all the current choices for home building, Timber Framed, SIP enclosed structures amount to less than 1% of new homes delivered in the US each year. They are lumped into the category of alternative housing, along with hay bales, earth sheltered and a plethora of unique and creative uses of sustainable material and techniques to provide shelter. In reality Timber Framed structures occupy a history extending over 4,000 years. Other than cave dwellings they are the most used and reliable forms of shelter in the measured history of construction.

During recent trips to China, Japan, Italy, Greece and Sicily this past Fall where we visited this 6th Century Byzantine Era Cathedral; travelers can routinely visit timber framed relics over 1000 years old. Many are in active use to this day. If there is other evidence of durability in building beyond that equation, I’m not sure where we would find it. Although the styles vary significantly, the basic science of wood to wood joinery is virtually unchanged.

“Timber has historically proven to be a much safer material in earthquakes…” World Architecture News article. This article about seismic tests for a six story Timber Framed building conducted at the Hyogo Earthquake Engineering Research Center for a 7.5 Richter scale earthquake are dramatic. Over the decades this kind of information has surfaced in many areas of extensive destruction caused by such natural disasters. It’s not just a little bit ironic that, wood, the most natural or all resources for building, is also the most resistant to its destructive forces. Timber Frame homes remain intact and durable over the lifetime of many generations of ownership and frequently survive the most volatile extremes nature can deliver. Our own children and children we may never know will grow up and raise families in the homes we build. I believe there is something to be said for our immediate need to avoid significant maintenance and structural restoration in the near term, while providing a home which becomes a legacy for others in the long view beyond our own mortality. What better way to sustain the value of the natural resource while contributing to a future beyond our own existence.

TIMBER FRAME HOMES ARE ENERGY EFFICIENT

If there is a best answer to the FAQ of how much more Timber Frame / SIP homes cost, it is… they don’t. Truly! The math is simple. Homes which are more durable structurally do not require significant rebuilding and repair in the short term. The speed of construction of the exterior shell and virtually zero dumpster waste are upfront value added impossible to ignore. Expedited completion of a weather tight shell is a major advantage in allowing, mechanicals, interior finishing and other procedures to begin earlier than later.The extraordinary energy efficiency, zero waste and speedy installation of SIP panel’s, significantly reduces energy requirements resulting in downsized, less expensive and higher efficiency heating and cooling systems resulting in lower operating
costs…forever.

Continuous and unpredictable increases in energy costs, heightened environmental consciousness, raising prices of raw materials, and increased labor costs, are an ever changing part of this equation. Building a home now which provides a 35-50% reduction of energy consumption is an investment for the future of generations of owners.

It’s essential for all housing to be as energy sensitive as possible…however, although there is a growing government awareness, current codes and standards continue to lag far behind the curve of necessity in this area. Code defined R Values are consistently lower than they should be and are largely misunderstood. Although insulation itself displays its associated R-rating; whole wall values are rarely revealed.

Conventional stick framed walls with 16 or 24″ on center wood studs are a combination of voids and solids. 3 1/2″ Kraft backed fiberglass insulation, still the most commonly used strategy for resisting heat loss (or gain) presents an R11 value. However the insulated void is interrupted every 14 ½” with a 2×4 stud which has an R-Value of 4.375. Stacking up the thermal bridging affect of 2×4 studs in a 40′ sidewall, even without calculating doubled framing at windows doors and headers accumulates approximately 4 feet of wall with a 43% reduction in insulation efficiency. The resulting whole wall value is compromised by10-20% in conventionally built homes, already insufficient in their ability to conserve the input of expensive energy used for heating and cooling.

The R-Value of SIP enclosed homes is uniform across the entire enclosure or envelope of the home from sidewalls to roof. And…the R ratings are higher to begin with. A 4 ½” Urethane wall SIP has a value of R26. Twice that of foil backed fiberglass. A 6 ½” roof panel has a value of R30. Unlike stick framing there is limited thermal bridging.

TIMBER FRAME HOMES ARE AFFORDABLE

I have been working in building for over 50 years. My recently retired wife worked in special education for 44 years. We are both dedicated to our chosen professions in the way worker bees understand. Measured against return on investment, it’s possible we both could have increased our retirement prosperity by choosing other pursuits. Now..as we watch return on our relatively modest savings dip under 1%; we understand more than ever the importance of making good decisions so we can enjoy a few non-essentials to be part of our plan going forward.

If there is a modestly increased investment on the front end (10-15%) of building a Timber Frame/SIP home. It is truly an investment opportunity out of the arena of today’s financial world. The returns provided by their energy efficiency alone provide all the motivation we need. And those returns are experienced immediately and permanently. But that’s not the whole story. Also immediate and permanent is enhancedmarket value. During home Timber Frame home tours, virtually no one moves through the embracing, artisanal space unengaged and not overwhelmed with the experience. It’s immediately understood that this is not development building and yet the investment reality is in line with the vast majority of buyers. As much as we love our homes we understand that they are built for the ages. At some point a for sale sign will inhabit the lawn. At that point comparable market values for size and location will be solidly in the favor of the current owner. The fact is that Timber Frame / SIP homes enjoy elevated market value on day our owners move in and at resale. As much as we love our homes…when we do…the reality is they are primarily investments; a virtual parking lot for the most money the majority of us have and utilize for our future security and income.

Long before we sell…our homes will have paid back additional investments…if any…and at resale the real bonus is realized…elevated market value! They will and do command higher resale proportional to location and size. There is no doubt that buying any home is a long view moment. At the end of that road, our plan is to recover our original investment plus equity growth. Our homes effortlessly and consistently provide both objectives,. The affordability of Timber Frame homes is well documented. However, the best way to understand the reality is to allow yourself the opportunity to walk through the space and speak to our owners. The combination of competitive building costs, 35-50% lower operating and maintenance expenses during ownership and elevated market value on resale presents the best possible formula for success for your largest investment.

TIMBER FRAME HOMES ARE BEAUTIFUL

If there is any validity to the term self evident it must be especially so with Timber Frame homes. Sailing open space composed in efficient floor plans of 1500 to 4000 SF provide enough variability to satisfy the preferences and needs of any family. If warm, welcoming and embracing ambiance is an important aspect of your homes personality…one visit to a finished home will provide the evidence. Commonly misunderstood is that the exterior architecture of a Timber Frame home cannot be as varied as the taste and objectives of its owners. Whether traditional, modern or contemporary, the exterior lines and character of your home can be achieved with equal ease.

If owning a unique and personalized home which reflects who you are in a special way, while accommodating the practical parameters of locale, building site and budget, then our Timber Framed homes are worthy of consideration. The mystique and anonymity of this oldest of all building styles should be included during your early research. Timber Framing generically known as post and beam is not just for barns anymore. Since the residential renaissance of Timber Framing in the mid-1970’s, many thousands of homeowners will readily attest to that.

It is long past time for home building to take a giant step forward. Building durable and energy efficient homes is essential to our basic needs as well as global preservation and sanity. After 10 years of war in the Middle East, it is clear that our dependence on petroleum, foreign or domestic has unacceptable consequences. It’s difficult to clearly describe what we have gained…but simple to understand what we have lost.

It’s ironic that this giant step forward includes a significant step backwards to what has been proven in the past. Building durable and energy efficient homes is necessary…the fact that they are a great investment and BEAUTIFUL is a bonus generations of occupants will celebrate and enjoy. What’s not to like?

Reach out today to schedule a visit to your building site and begin your design process. We’ll travel wherever you are. There is never a charge for an SEV (Site Evaluation Visit).

Jack Costantino, IR, DFC
DAVIS FRAME COMPANY
(908) 876.5262 Office
(201) 230.6429 Cell
timbersrus@comcast.net

4 Comments

  • Brice Cochran says:

    Great article!
    I loved how you look at the long-term benefits of a timber frame both in the durability and life span of a structure and then combined it with the aesthetics and energy efficiency that you can achieve with this type of construction.
    Living in a timber frame home myself I can certainly speak to the energy efficiency that one can achieve in utilizing SIPs and can also attest to the feeling that I and guests feel when entering the home. I would recommend one to anyone on the fence about whether or not to build a timber frame home.
    Looking forward to the next article.

  • Great points. That is true. A timber frame home provides its owners with a whole list of benefits. In no particular order, here are a few: Beauty, strength, design flexibility, energy efficiency, quicker build times, and increased resale values.

  • Quality Logs says:

    Good info. Thanks! These houses are extremely durable and very strong. Another good thing is that though the wood can be coated with varnish for overall protection it can also be plastered over. But plastering the exterior of the structure will take away most of its beauty.

  • That’s right QL. Timber frame houses have always been popular because of their strength and reliability. They also allow you to design your dream home with ease. You can now build these houses in various designs and styles at very affordable rates.

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