Creek Timber Frames
Project Planning Guide
for Building Your
Timber Frame Home
If you are anything like me you have
dreamed about building your own timber frame
home for years. Dreaming about it is the easy
part. Planning it IS work. Fortunately the more
research and planning you do ahead of time the
easier it will be for you in the long run. The
only regret I have about my now completed timber
frame home is that we didn't build it sooner.
have gathered some pertinent questions it will
be necessary to ask & answer before you can
realistically start your planning process.
Do I know where I want to build my timber
- What is your land BUDGET _______________?
- What qualities does the property have
that may affect your choice of a timber
frame plan? How does the land lie?
- Are there features you wish to
emphasize such as a stream ,lake site,
waterfalls, distant views, a place for a
sunny garden, unusual plants, specimen
trees, boulder or rock formations, etc.?
- Is the land FLAT?
- Is the land SLOPING?
- Is the land STEEP? These questions
will help you consider where to place
the entrance of your timber frame home.
You do not have to always have the
entrance on the ground floor
- What if any views do you have that
you want to make use of?
question is not always as easy to answer as
you might think. When planning our timber
frame home we had only assessed the property
in the spring and summer; when fall came we
had a view of the mountains I could not pass
up. So if possible you should consider your
property seasonally. The leaves are not
always on the trees. This should also be
taken into consideration when assessing how
much natural light a room will receive.
- How much does Mother Nature love you?
- Will your home be subject to heavy
- How much rain will you get? Will you
have to have an erosion plan? Will extra
money have to be spent dealing with the
- Snow-belt, Sun-belt, will temperature
extremes be involved? Are the R-values
of the SIP's going to change from the
- Let deciduous trees shade your home
in summer, decreasing heat gain in
summer. They will allow sunlight in to
warm the house in winter.
- A two foot overhang will help protect
the sides of your timber frame home and
decrease heat gain in summer, and it
will let sunlight in from a lower winter
sun in the cold months.
- No man is an island at least not
where most building departments and
utilities companies are concerned. Some
things to keep in mind are:
- How will you get electricity to your
building site? Is there electric service
nearby that you will able use? Are you
miles away from the nearest power pole?
Are you going to have to pay to run
power to your site? Are you going to go
solar or have your own generator?
- · Will the property pass a perc
test? A perc test indicates the soils
ability to absorb liquid over a
specified period of time. How long it
takes the soil to absorb liquids will be
a deciding factor in how large and what
type septic system you will be required
to have. If it does not pass a perc test
you may not be permitted to build on the
- Is there a hook up to local sewer
- Is there a source of potable water?
Is there a hook up to the local water
system available? In rural areas,
obtaining potable water usually means
drilling a well. You may want to find
out how deep and how much well costs
usually run in your area.
- How will your building site be
accessed? Does it already have a
driveway with plenty of parking for
construction? With a timber frame you
will need at least room for a crane and
an area from which to stage the timber
frame materials? Is the area ABOVE where
the crane will be working free of
overhanging branches, power lines, etc.?
I have yet to meet a crane operator that
trims trees for free.
- How far away from a fire department
is the property? This question is posed
for you to consider the after
construction insurance costs more than
any thing else.
- Does any one in the household have
need to be near to a hospital, dialysis
Do you know what style timber frame home
you want? Post and beam, mortise and tenon,
post and plate, are to be considered. Not all
cost the same thing to construct, nor does it
cost the same thing to erect a unique post and
plate house as it does a bent type home.
timber frame office complex is post and plate
timber frame construction of eastern white pine.
Our model home's great room is a fine example of
compound joinery and is cut of eastern white
pine. The remainder of our timber frame model
home is mortise and tenon bent type construction
and is cut of hemlock from Maine. Our timber
frame structures are joined by oak or locust
pegs unless a structural engineer specifically
calls for metal to be employed in the joining of
Do you know what species of wood you want?
The majority of our timber frames are cut
of eastern white pine. Eastern White Pine is
readily available in our area, and we believe it
is more stable than other woods (i.e. it splits,
warps, and twists less than other varieties).
We have cut timber frames of Douglas
fir, cypress, white oak, southern yellow pine,
and hemlock. We generally use green timbers
which have higher water content and are more
easily sculpted. We can, however, have the
timbers dried prior to cutting. This does add
considerable expense and does not prevent the
natural cracking or checking of the wood as it
dries. It should be noted that the natural
cracking or checking of the wood as it dries
does not affect the structural integrity of the
timber frame structure.
Pine is readily available locally it varies in
color from white to cream when it is freshly
cut, turning to a golden honey color in a few
years. It checks less and is more stable than
most other woods.
Hemlock which we
obtain from Maine and Massachusetts is also
white to light cream in color when it is freshly
cut turns to a light coffee with cream color
after a few years. Hemlock is said to have
insect repellant qualities. Hemlock checks and
turns more than Eastern white pine as it dries.
It is our standard to use cherry or
walnut splines to strengthen the some of the
joints in our timber frames. We have at the
customers request used splines of oak and
southern yellow pine.
What are your timber frame design needs?You
have to decide what your families needs are,
present and future. You want a floor plan that
your family will be able to enjoy and support
your activities throughout the years and still
Designing by Wrote.
Writing things down is an excellent
organizational tool. If you are a couple we
suggest you start with two separate lists and
then merge them into one. Whether you design the
house your self or turn it over to an architect
or designer you will need to fill out the lists.
Really, they work.
The first list
should be that or what is required by code,
covenant or development in order to get your
building approved. I am going to title this list
GOT TO HAVE IT LIST. I will give you some
examples of what should be on the 'Got to Have
it List'. Each persons 'Got to have it list'
will be unique to them and their own timber
"Got To Have It List"The
minimum or maximum sq footage your development
allows should go here.
Code issues such
as septic systems, set backs, maximum height of
the building, earth disturbance guidelines, how
far back your timber frame has to be from the
creek or stream, etc, should be on the list.
Here to view and print this form in
you are ready for the 'Way We Were List'. In the
past I have suggested to our clients for years
is to get out a new piece of paper and write
down on one side of the paper things you have
loved or enjoyed about all the places you have
lived in or visited throughout the years. I have
recently broadened the list to include things
you dislike about your past homes-so you don't
repeat your mistakes.
It will then be
easier to see what you really want in your new
home and make wise choices. Do you really need a
formal living room if you never used the one in
your present home? We did this in our new timber
frame home and people are always surprised that
we don't have a TV in the great room. We do
however have an area in the room where people
can gather round and make music.
Here to view and print this form in
have titled the 'If we could list' aka 'REACH
FOR THE SKY'.
This is where the list on
wish you write down your wants, not your needs.
If they are written down you may be able to
incorporate them into your final design. But if
no one knows about them, how are they are going
to get the attention they deserve?
Joe and I married we had a LOT of books.
Surprisingly a lot were duplicates and they were
given to 'the Friends of the Library' here in
Franklin. The Friends of the Library then sold
them to buy different new things for the Macon
County Library. One way the architect suggested
handling our books was using them to line a few
of the walls of out timber frame. That idea was
finally incorporated into lining sections of the
walls of our loft; the adjacent area serves as a
functional seating area for reading, and over
flow party area.
Here to view and print this form in
need to find out how your present house is
working for you now. In other words are the
rooms too big, too little, not used, etc. You
will need to write down the rooms in your house
along with their measurements, and then write
comments about them - out from them. Sounds
simple and it is. What is more important is that
Here to view and print this form in
Now we put all the completed lists
REACH for the SKY
- Library Space for all of our books
- Kitchen large enough for two people
to work in at one time.
- Two sinks in the kitchen.
- Lots of CLEAR counter space in
- Pantry for all of our serving pieces
and stock household goods.
- Main part of the house on the ground
- Multiple ways to access the ground
- One of the ground floor entry ways
should be a set of double doors to move
stuff in and out easily.
- Separate sink areas in the master
bath for his and her own areas.
- Place to make music and have friends
- One of entry doors should spill out
to creek side patios area; have easy
access to kitchen area.
- Easy access to mud room/laundry,
kitchen from outside of the house.
- Large but not HUGE master suite.
- Lot should be flat.
- Lot should have stream or running
- Lot should be with in 20 minutes of
- Stainless steel kitchen appliances.
- Good view.
is below is a rule of thumb room by room
guideline suggestion for homes. They are not set
in stone. Your local building department
probably has their own set of guidelines that
they go by. These are a place to start. Your own
county building department will be your best
source of information.
* Place them near the
dining room; you should not have to go through
another room to get to the dining room from the
* Place near a service door to the
outside of the house - for less hassle of
bringing in groceries.
* Use a durable,
weather resistant floor that goes all the way to
the outside door.
* Position the big "3"
the sink, range and refrigerator so they fall
with in a 12' - 22' work triangle. The rule of
thumb is there should be at least 4' but no more
that 9' between each arm of this triangle.
and refrigerator doors should not be placed
where they would open into any entry into your
* Dishwashers should always be
placed near the sink.
Typical appliance sizes are:
- Standard, single door refrigerators - 32"
- 34" wide, allow 36" of space.
- Double door refrigerators take up more
space. Check the actual size recommendations
in the manual.
- Dishwashers - 24" wide.
- Range/Oven 30" wide. * Newer
professional grade range/ovens can be 48".
Check with your product manufacturer.
- Standard double sinks - 32" wide.
Typical sizes of cabinets and countertops:
Base cabinets (including tops) are 36"
tall and 25" deep.
Upper cabinets - 12"
deep, placed 15 to 18" above the base
There should be at least 24"
of counter top on one side of the sink and 18"
on the other. This not absolute, but I would not
recommend using any less.
There should be
at least 15" of countertop on the latch
side of the refrigerator. Once again this is not
an absolute but a strong recommendation.
should be at least 15" on one side of the
cook top and at least 9" on the other. Once
again this is a strong recommendation. Kitchens
are expensive to refit.
The Shape of Kitchens"U" is
the most efficient.
well for an eat-in kitchen.
corridor works well in smaller house and
General kitchen spacing:
You need at least 36" of space between
cabinets/appliances and other
cabinets/appliances or islands; 42"-48"
Separation is strongly recommended though. This
becomes a crucial measurement when trying to
incorporate an island. They take a lot of room
and shouldn't be squeezed in.
Dining RoomsI have heard of two ways
to size a dining room properly:
||Allow 42" from the edge of the
table to the wall so there is ample room. An
example: a 3' x 5' table needs 10' x 12'
||Allow 30 square feet per person. An
example: 6 people x 30' = 180 square feet or
a room 12' x 15'.
||Near the kitchen, often open to the
||Usually in the rear of the house,
allows more privacy, usually not visualized
from the front door.
||A small sized family room is around 12'
x 16', average size is around 14'x 18.
||Usually located in the front of the
house, often opposite the dining room.
||Typically has at least one long wall
for placing sofa and for hanging formal
||Minimum size is 12' x 16'; average size
is 12' -14'wide by 16' - 18' long.
Foyers or Entry Areas6' x 6' minimum,
6' x 8' or larger is better.
It is nice to
create the illusion of a separate space by
employing a "wing wall" or a different
type or style of flooring.
BedroomsPlan for a least one long wall
against which to place the head of the bed.
Interior walls have long been used to place the
head of the bed (for warmth), SIP's panels have
negated that somewhat. Closets have been
traditionally placed towards other rooms (to
help with noise reduction) or on an outside wall
(to help with insulation). However, timber
frames are usually enclosed with SIP's making
this less necessary; since they provide a tight
insulation envelope for your home.
||Closets are typically 25" deep.
Your drywall person is able to split a 4'
wide section and handle with a minimum
amount of fuss.
||Bedroom closets usually range from 4'
to 8' wide.
||Walk in closets provide more free space
than do wall closets. Walk in closets are
usually "U" or "L' shaped.
||The newer type closet 'systems' provide
much better functional use of closet space.
HallwaysHallways are always at least
3' wide; 4' is nicer.
Book shelves can
easily be placed on one or both sides of
hallways. This allows for not only functional
use of the hallway but also give collectors much
needed display space. Keep in mind the hall will
have to be made wider if this is to be employed.
BathsSmallest three fixture bath is 5'
Smallest two fixture bath is either
3' x 7' or 5' x 6'.
Minimum suggested door
size is 32", though as small as 24"
can be seen. While we don't plan to get old, nor
break a leg it happens and wheel chairs only
come so small.does your bottom?
sized tubs are 60" x 32" wide; 6' tall
with shower surround.
are 36" x 36" or 48" x 36",
6' tall; minimum sized shower is 32" x 32"
(but you had better be really small to consider
Standard toilet sizes are
typically 28" deep by 20" wide and
need 24" in clearance in front of and 12"
on each side.
are usually 31" tall by 18"-22"
deep (this includes countertop). A double bowl
vanity should be a minimum of 5' wide, single
bowl vanities should be at least 18" wide,
though 2' is a more realistic minimum. Sinks
need at 30" clearance in front of them.
plumbing is most cost efficient when placed back
to back and stacked floor-to-floor to other
bathrooms in the house.
SUNThe sun rises in the EAST and sets
in the WEST.
EAST is warm and bright. West
is hot and dark.
rooms that appreciate the morning sun, as
kitchens and your bedroom (if you are an early
riser, or don't normally work the night shift)
should face East. Rooms like the kitchen that we
don't traditionally want to get too hot should
face the East.
The North side of the
house is always going to be colder than the
other sides. This is also true of the mountains;
the North sides of mountains retain their snow
longer than the Southern exposed mountain sides.
SpansTry not to span more than 32'.
Timbers longer than 32' are difficult to find,
and any thing that is unusual or difficult to
find is more expensive as a rule. See new design
Roof lines and RoofsGenerally speaking
the steeper the roofs pitch (the degree of slope
to your roof) the better the house looks. Roof
pitches that look good are 6/12, 9/12 or 12/12.
12/12 roofs are very hard to work on but have
the advantage of giving you more square footage
under them, if you want it. If you prefer a less
steeply pitched roof we can always make the
knee wall deeper to give you more room in your
second story or loft area.
house has multiple roof lines try to keep them
at the same pitch.
your roofing materials keep in mind what looks
best (shakes or metal) also costs more. Labor
costs to have a metal roof or shakes is also
Not all shingles or metal
roofing materials are certified for direct
application to SIPs. Most building departments
require that you have written documentation from
the manufacture as to what standards they have
met, etc. Cost should not be used as an
indicator that the shingles or metal roofing
meet these higher standards. Shingles not
certified for direct application to SIPs have
been known bubble or wave up.
StairsI personally like stairs that
are four feet wide rather than three; if a
person needs help, it's easier to walk beside
them than behind them.
building department will your best bet on stairs
regarding what is permitted and what is not.
Structural EngineeringCheck with your
county's building department, they will be able
to tell you if the plans for your timber frame
will need to be stamped by a structural engineer
or not. We have found that areas that utilize
the 2003 Universal Building Code require your
plans to be stamped. It is always best to check
with the building dept.
BOOKSThere are many books out there on
how to plan your house. One I always suggest is
The Not So Big House by Sarah Suzanka, it should
be available at most local libraries as it has
been out for many years. Many more suggested
readings are to be found on this web site under
the associations & links sections, under
Cabin Creek Timber Frames
6624 Georgia Rd. |
Toll Free: (877) 369-5899
Phone: (828) 369-5899
Fax: (828) 369-8512
images, renderings, photos, plans, text: © Copyright
1996-2010 Joseph O. Bell, III for Cabin Creek Timber Frames,
All Rights Reserved Worldwide, All Designs by Joseph O.
Bell, III for Cabin Creek Timber Frames.