Photo: Jesse Orrico / Unsplash
Construction is typically the most foreign phase of the timber-home buying process, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Knowing how the process unfolds will allow you to preview the work ahead and know who’s responsible for making sure everything goes according to plan.
Create a workable schedule.
Like any type of custom-home construction, building a timber home isn’t a speedy process, even though the timber frame itself typically goes up fast. Once your design is finalized, allocate two months for the timbers to be cut and delivered to your site. Depending on its size, raising and enclosing the frame takes approximately one week. Finishing the interior can take anywhere from two to nine months or more, depending on the home’s complexity and subcontractor schedules.
Finalize building permits and details.
While your timber producer prepares the wood for delivery, your general contractor (GC) should be using that time to obtain and pay for various clearances (including the all-important building permit), so that construction can begin on schedule, and contacting the local power company to arrange for temporary electrical service at the site. If you’re building in a rural area, he also may need to schedule a crew to install the well and septic system.
Prepare the site.
Several weeks before the arrival of your home’s components, a surveyor will come to your property, mark the boundaries of the house and indicate where the footings and foundation should be. An excavator will clear the site and put in a rough road so that the contractor’s equipment and deliveries can reach the building site.
Install the foundation.
Before the timbers are delivered, the foundation needs to be in place. The footings will be set first, then checked and approved by the local building inspector before the foundation walls or piers are erected. Footings are crucial because they enable the weight of the house to be distributed to the ground over a larger area. They also serve as a level surface on which to set the foundation walls. There are several types of foundations from which to choose: poured concrete, concrete block, pre-cast, concrete slab and pier. The type that’s chosen for your home is governed by a variety of factors, including the site’s characteristics, the type of soil, the local climate, the design and your budget.
Inventory the timbers, and raise the frame.
At this time, the timber package will be delivered to the site, and the framing crew will unload it from the delivery truck either by crane, forklift or hand. The crew will then inventory and organize the timbers by function — posts, beams, braces and the like — to expedite construction, then raise the frame.
Enclose the exterior.
In the weeks following the raising, the materials that will form the exterior walls and roof will be attached to the frame. Structural insulated panels (SIPs) are the most frequently used method to enclose a timber home. (SIPs also can be used as the base for a timber home’s roof.) The roof will then be covered with any type of material you choose, and work on the exterior will continue with the installation of windows and doors, as well as painting the siding and trim. Your home is now weather tight.
Now that the home is fully enclosed and protected against the elements, the GC will focus on the interior. The basic systems of the house will be put into place in this order: plumbing; heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC); and electrical wiring. These systems, installed by subcontractors, are concealed within interior walls, which are constructed with conventional wood-stud or steel framing. Once you obtain the inspector’s seal of approval, the interior walls will be enclosed and finishing details, such as flooring, cabinetry and countertops will be installed.
Apply the finishing touches.
A sure sign that construction is nearly over is when the driveway is poured. The excavator will return to give the site a final grading, which ensures proper drainage of rainwater away from the foundation. The roofing contractor will install gutters and downspouts. And, finally, the landscaper will seed the yard and plant shrubbery. Your home is ready for you to move in and enjoy.