What are the First Steps in Building a Timber Frame Home?

First Steps in Building a Home - 3D house drawingYou’re really getting excited with this whole building a home idea. I can imagine that there are ideas zipping through your mind and half-understood theories are luring you online. The first steps in building a home include researching the possibilities. With so much to learn and so many styles and options from which to choose, you need a little structure to put your ideas into a clear and useful form.
You don’t have to have professional R&D skills to whip your dreams into shape. Think of all your ideas as pieces of your dream home puzzle. Put them together one by one and let them slowly grow into the shape of your future home.
Nothing is written in stone, so don’t worry about changing your plans or altering your strategy. That’s the development part of R&D. Opinions change as new information is gathered. Don’t worry about changing your mind at this stage of the game. Have fun while you’re learning all about your future timber frame home.

Research and Organization

First Steps in Building a Home - lets get rollingWhen you started this quest, you were drawn by certain features of timber frame construction. Whether those are energy conservation, durability, ecology or stylistic preferences, they are building blocks to start the organization of your home. Consider what it is that impresses you about timber frame homes, and make a list of the types of things that appeal to you. This will be the backbone of your research.
Not only will you have categories to research but they will hold different ranks of priority during the phases of your investigations. For example, in the beginning stages of your research, SIPs construction and energy efficiency take priority over the finish used to protect your timbers. Later, when all the technical issues have been decided and ironed out, you’ll set a higher priority for the debate between finishes and the way it affects your decorating style.

Create a Notebook of Ideas

First Steps in Building a Home - kitchen stylingI suggest purchasing a large 3” binder with folders and dividers with tabs. This will prove helpful for the paper items you acquire from magazines, papers and brochures from realtors, architects and designers. Label each tab with one of the general areas of inquiry, rooms in the house and additional items of interest as you encounter them.
This is a useful tool to take with you on outings to visit local dealers, suppliers and builders. These folks often have websites to augment their literature, but it’s nice to have a notebook to browse through when a computer is not convenient. Later, you can check their websites for additional information and ideas.

Visual Aids

Gather photos of everything you like about timber frame homes or things you think may fit with your ideal dream house. Use your folder system matching the binder system to categorize your ideas. You can always cull out rejects as your knowledge increases and your concept of timber frame home living changes.
Don’t forget to take photos when you’re out on expeditions to other homes that you visit. A pocket digital camera or Smartphone is a simple and efficient method of capturing all the things that interest you. There are so many facets to this that you can’t remember all the things you see. Upload your pictures onto your computer. You can add them to computer folders, Evernote, or print them out to add to your notebook.

Web Sites

There are commercial web sites as well as educational and industrial sites to provide information on the various aspects of this unique type of housing.
Use your favorite internet search engine and see just how many sites pop up. You may want to make a separate folder in your web browser favorites bar for collecting shortcuts to interesting and informative web sites.
There are also various types of web sites that deal with timber frame construction. Many are in the business of selling their services and products. They have a vested interest in their particular approach. Certainly use these sites for learning, but be aware that they may have a monetary agenda.
Other educational web sites inform and explain the intricacies of timber frame home construction. Sites like timberframehq.com are not in the building or design business. They just provide information and resources to make reaching your home goal easy and enjoyable.

Virtual Idea Boards

First Steps in Building a Home - bathroom options

Another interesting internet based tool is an online inspiration board. These sites allow you to set up an area in which you can find and capture things that you may want to incorporate in your new home. Using an online inspiration board is a great way to keep all your internet finds in one easily accessible location. With this tool, you can show anyone your plans and ideas without dragging around a cluttered notebook. You can share with friends and relatives or potential builders, architects and designers helping you convey your ideas clearly and quickly.

Places like Houzz.com and Pinterest are virtual bulletin boards that you can use to save all your favorite decorating and building ideas. These are fun and easy to create, and they allow you to build unlimited idea boards to plan your dream home. You can even share your ideas with your family, friends, architect, designer and builder.


There are many books dedicated to the design and construction of timber frame homes. If you’re a real bookaholic, you may want to purchase a text or two that leans in the direction you’re heading. These vary from author to author in scope and direction. Check out your local library for what’s available, or have your librarian arrange an inter-library loan if there are few selections in your neighborhood branch, county or regional library.

Too Much vs Too Little Research

First Steps in Building a Home - lakehouse frame

Some timber frame home concepts are just common sense, while others require some specialized research. While you can never have too much knowledge, there may be a point at which you are just over-thinking an idea.
You need to be knowledgeable enough to discuss and understand concepts with your designer, architect and building team. However, you’re not going to engineer this thing yourself. You’re paying the experts well to determine your needs and supply you with a package that fits your budget and provides the features you want.
Get a good grasp of all that goes into this style of construction and understand why certain products and techniques are used. If there are several different options that are suitable for your situation, pay attention to the differences and talk with the experts about which option is best for you.
Details that are cosmetic, and not structural in nature, are a matter of personal preference. These are things over which you may agonize and waver. Don’t let them become so overwhelming that they keep you from making a decision and bog down your progress.

There are so many resources available today, that you can make designing timber frame homes a full time avocation. Keep in mind that this technology has advanced over the years. Don’t rely on a 10-year old publication as a reliable resource. Products continue to advance and the experts’ understanding of building principles evolve. What was considered cutting edge a few years ago may be sorely outdated today. Consult with the latest findings to ensure that you’re building a home that is as energy effective and as durable as our modern technology can provide.
Research and planning should be a fun and enjoyable endeavor for you and your family. If this is an idea that has been bouncing around for some time, it’s an enjoyable hobby. If you’re getting serious about that someday dream home, it’s an activity that you and your family can share and develop together.

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1 thought on “What are the First Steps in Building a Timber Frame Home?”

  1. My mother wanted to get our house renovated in a unique eccentric design to be different and planned to hire a home construction service to do the job. I’m glad I have read through your post about commercial, educational, and industrial websites that provide information on the various facets of this unusual housing. The older she got, the more she wanted to become different from others, and I wanted to support her on her plan for our house.

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