Rob Wheeler is a second-generation builder in Kimberly, British Columbia. Along with his partner, Carl Lauren, he is Co-Owner of Tyee Log & Timber. They specialize in log homes, log post and beam, timber frame and hybrid homes, as well as commercial structures and special projects such as bridges. Rob’s parents started a log home building company in 1977, and he grew up watching and then later helping them build log homes. When Rob’s parents retired in 2003, he and his lifelong friend Carl Lauren partnered in building fully finished log and log post & beam homes. Rob recalls the trepidation of “Quitting a full time job with benefits at 25 years old to start a company!” Their company grew with the addition of timber framing, when as Rob relates “In 2006 someone who saw our log post & beam structures asked us to build a timber frame home and we embraced the challenge. Since then we have built numerous timber frame, timber frame hybrid and commercial heavy timber structures.” They operate on a six-acre facility in Kimberley, British Columbia, Canada on which they store and season their log inventory of Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir, allowing plenty of time for the logs to season in order to minimize shrinkage and movement.
Tyee Log & Timber is a handcrafted log & timber builder that completes Scribe-fit-log, Log Post & Beam, and Timber Frame & Hybrid structures. We asked Rob to explain the differences between them, and the different challenges each type creates. He told us, “They all somewhat require the same or complementary core set of skills and are challenging for different reasons.
Scribe log is basically stacking different natural tapered logs on top of one another to create a square and level structure. Smaller cabins are straight forward, but large houses become very complex.
Log Post & Beam is closely related to timber frame structures, but we use a round log to create the frame and simpler connection detailing. They are different in that usually the log frame is visible inside and outside the wall.
Timber frame is the most refined and detailed form we build. In a smaller frame we could have 200 pcs, where a log post & beam the same size may have 50. Joinery is creative and often the main feature in the structure.
Log & Timber Hybrid structures are probably the most challenging form we build. Deciding how it is best and where to connect log & timber elements to the main structure is often difficult. This often requires some detail coordination to solve. As well, this is often where we are working on larger commercial projects with a higher level of complexity.”
Tyee Log & Timber is also a general contractor and probably sees more fully finished homes than most log & timber builders. This helps them refine joinery and details in both log and timber homes to help assist framers, siders, finishers and other trades. They have been Built-Green member since 2008 and build all their homes to the performance path. This helps them design and build more energy efficient log and timber homes by focusing on the right details.
In building a log or timber frame home, Rob knows that one of the biggest challenges for homeowners is to visualize their frames and select architectural and finish options. His company designs in 3D platform and offers online walkthroughs to help overcome those hurdles.
Because of their location in British Columbia, Tyee Log & Timber has risen to (and relished) the challenges of building in remote locations. Rob describes one of his favorite projects, the Hargreaves Shelter at Mount Robson Provincial Park.
“Most all of our employees and myself nearly always remember and talk about rebuilding Hargreaves Shelter. The Hargreaves Shelter is located at kilometre 21 along the Berg Lake Trail within Mount Robson Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This cabin was built in 1927 and had come into disrepair, but did have cultural and heritage value. It was a log post & beam structure with log infill panels. We acted as the general contractor to de-construct and reconstruct this remote helicopter access structure.
It was probably the most beautiful place we have worked. Set on an alpine lake (Berg Lake) and beside a creek. Then listening and watching calving glaciers daily into the lake. Having Mount Robson as the backdrop helped a bit too!
We worked extensively with the Owner, Architect, Engineer of Record and our specialty timber engineer to reduce the weight (approx 40,000lbs) flown by helicopter to this remote site and to re-use more of the historic structure. Project specifications called for re-use of the existing log infill walls and a new log post & beam superstructure built to current engineering standards. All non-decayed wall logs were surveyed, numbered, disassembled and incorporated back into the structure. During de-construction we identified numerous log posts, purlins, log floor joists and incorporated several of these back into the structure, further reducing materials flown into site and maintaining historic building fabric.
The project was de-constructed and re-constructed from foundation to finish in 7 weeks (37 days on-site) by mobilizing two crews, pre-fabrication and ensuring timely deliveries to avoid closing the remote shelter for the entire season. “
Another project that Rob recalls as a satisfying challenge is the Greywolf Golf Clubhouse in Panorama, BC. It is a timber structure that was complex from a engineering and coordination prospective. As Rob says, “It was designed as light frame trusses and timber accents and we converted to a full timber option. It features bolt laminated and keyed beams, parallel cord trusses and a ton of jack rafters.”
But Rob recalls one special project. As he says, “Personally, building a scribe log home for my parents from foundation to finish on my own when I was just out of high school is probably something that I am still most proud of.”