6 Tips for Tightening Your Timber Frame Budget

The budget of a construction project always rules the day; so, cutting back on a few things and doing some research before hand will always save you money.  Below are six ways I thought of to help you cut the costs of your timber frame budget.

How to gain control over your timber frame budgetUse local species of timbers:

If you live on the east coast you will find white pine and oak the least expensive species; and, on the west coast Douglas fir would be the best choice.  Shipping timbers across the country is certainly an added expense that you do not need to add to the bottom line.  

Something else to think about is the material handling and cutting of the joinery.  Oak is certainly harder and heavier to work with than white pine and that takes more time and money.

Enclosure system savings:

Enclose the roof over the timbered areas with SIPs and use a 2x conventional wall system for the wall enclosure system.  Other roofed areas of your home that do not have timbers can also use a more conventional framing approach using 2x trusses and framing.  This allows you to take advantage of the ease of using the SIPs and the speed and insulation values they give you on the timbered roof areas, while taking advantage of the cost savings of 2x material for the walls and other roof areas

Keep your frame simple:

The more complex your frame design is, the more it is going to cost.   The more joints and board footage of wood in the frame, the more complex things get.   I know a few timber frame companies that count the joints in a frame and that’s how they estimate what their cost is going to be.  Thus, the more joints, the more time they will have to spend on it.   Keeping the frame simple can be challenging if you have a lot of hips and valleys but it is something to keep in the back of your head, as these joints can be the most complex ones to cut.

Listen to the pros and get them involved early on:

If someone who is a professional suggests you do something to help save you a bunch of money, please listen to them even if it means you have to lose some of the details you really want. Ask them how to save money, as they will often know ways to cut back on the cost of their services or how you can tweak your plan to make things easier.

Plan on doing some of the work yourself:

Bottom line is that the biggest expense you will have on your project is labor; so anything that you can do yourself will save you money in the end.   Let’s take my timber frame staircase as an example.  If I were to have a timber frame company cut and install my staircase it would have been over $12,000.  With the actual material costs of $4,200 (I had most of the wood on site drying for this occasion that had been milled up 8 years before, that cost is not included in the price) I ended saving about $7,800.

The one catch is that your time is worth nothing if you take this approach.  If you are dealing with a bank or a deadline imposed to you by your significant other, your time starts to be an important factor.  In this case hiring folks will be the only way to go to save you money, because the faster you go the less money it will cost you.  Finding the balance is the hard part.

Find the best pricing for your building materials and contractors.

Both suppliers and contractors prices will vary so getting 3 estimates for everything is the best strategy.   If you only get two you will not have the third one to verify if someone is high or low.   Make sure you make a good Request for Proposal document to send to everyone.  That way you will get true apples to apples bidding.

In the end, just don’t go with the lower price, instead figure out which one is the best fit for you and your project…the person you can work with. In the end, that will give you the most savings.

You can only save so much money with the timber framing aspect of your construction project.  But, throughout the rest of your project there is a huge potential to save money and remember you can take aspects from all six of these tips and apply them there.

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2 Responses to 6 Tips for Tightening Your Timber Frame Budget

  1. Jimmy Vogt July 31, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    Sage advice Brice — well done!

    One also needs to take into account the building lot and variable costs associated with getting a Timber Frame out of the ground.

    We travel to many sites where the logistics of just getting there, perking for adequate septic performance, clearing the site, and getting the foundation ready for a new Timber Frame home all combine to incur substantial dollars up front. ‘Site feasibility’ is very, very important.

    Thanks,

    Jimmy.

    • Brice Cochran July 31, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

      Jimmy,
      I could not agree more with you. Site conditions certain need to be taken a look at, I too have seen lots of money go into clearing and foundation costs on projects that has not been needed.
      Great point!
      Brice

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