A Comparison of Timber Frame v. Stick Built Construction

Reading this in your email? For easier reading – Click here.

This week’s guest blog is from builder and timber framer, Glenn Tarbell. Glenn has collaborated on many projects with Green Mountain Timber Frames over the last two decades.  Recently, he built this beautiful timber frame garage for a client. 

Final Timber Frame Garage.jpg

Why Use Timber Frame Construction?

Recently I had a customer who wanted a new garage. They live in a beautiful wooded area with large oak trees near a wetland. Their house is not large and has a low sloping roofline. The siding is rustic, rough sided pine that is stained. They asked me to build a two bay garage.

Timber Frame v. Stick Built

I inquired if they would be interested in a timber frame garage rather then a traditional stick built garage if the pricing was not considerably higher. They loved the idea of a timber frame and we began the design process. The pricing for a timber frame style building was only slightly higher, so we decided to go with it!

Designing the New Garage 

In the design phase, we talked a lot about the height of the new building. The customer did not want a garage looming over everything. We talked about enclosed and not enclosed bays, power needs, and building materials for the roofing, siding and the timbers. They also needed storage for kayaks and canoes and windows on the south face for garden starts.

We decided that the final building would be a barn-garage. We would create a structure that looked like a barn with an extension for the traditional hay hook or, as we discussed, a canoe hook. The customer had a rope system with a vintage pulley that has already pulled the boats into the upper half story for the winter.

The structure we finally designed has one fully enclosed bay with an overhead door and a shed roof off one side for the second bay. We ultimately choose this look for two reasons: height and looks.

6_plate section for the shed roof

Building the Barn – The Construction Process

When it came time to start building the garage, we chose hemlock wood for the frame. This is a ridged softwood that works well for timber frames. We cut the joinery traditionally using chisel, saw and chain mortiser. Then, we dry fitted all the parts of the frame at my shop. Seeing the mortise and tenons fit together and then seeing the bent sections laid on the sawhorses was wonderful. Dry fitting the frame gives a sense of what the building will become, while also allowing for us to check for accuracy in layout.

2_All the bents are up

Here we are drilling 1-inch holes for the wooden pegs.

The barn posts are six by six, the girts are eight by eight, the rafters are four by four and the braces are three by six. As a big pile of wood it does not look like much, even with the joinery cut. But on raising day, wow, it takes on a look of its own.

4_4x4 rafters in place

Here you can see all the bents assembled and the frame with shed walls erected.

And here’s a look at the new garage once the roof sheathing and trim were on:

7_Roof sheathing and trim

Pricing Timber Frame v. Stick Built Construction

When pricing this kind of project and determining the cost difference between timber frame and stick built construction, I have to look at the two styles of building with the thought, “What steps will be different?” Siding will be applied in the same manner in both building styles, as will trim, roofing and sheathing. The only real difference then, is the framing.

It took nine days to cut out the timber frame and tip it up, including roof sheathing.

3_Drilling holes for pegs

The frame with all the 4×4 rafters in place.

To build a traditional stick built garage with roof sheathing, it may take seven to eight days to get to the same point. Therefore, the difference in this project was two days of labor.

Timber Framing – A Worthwhile Investment

In the end I think timber frame construction makes more sense both financially and aesthetically. Even if it takes a bit longer and requires a slightly larger initial investment, (usually 15-20% more) a new timber frame is strong. Barns built this way have lasted hundreds of years.

Standing in a timber frame feels good. You can see the craftsmanship of the builder and know that the history of barns and houses built this way dates back hundreds of years. So whether you build a new timber garage or use a vintage timber frame barn as the frame for a garage, from my experience timber framing is usually the way to go. It’s cost effective and the building can last for centuries if the roof is maintained.

Interested in your own timber frame barn or home? Let us know!

We’d be glad to hear from you! 

Luke – Green Mountain Timber Frames
luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com
802.774.8972

GMTF Takes Timber Framing to the Water: The Boat House Project

.Reading this in your email? For easier reading – Click here.

In our latest timber frame project, Green Mountain Timber Frames took to the water! We put in no less than 1000 hours of work to build this gem of a boat house:Timber Frame Custom Boat House Green Mountain Timber Frames

We built the new timber frame structure on beautiful Lake Bomoseen – literally on and over the lake. 

Lake Bomoseen_Green Mountain Timber Frames

Lake Bomoseen

The goal was to build a post and beam structure over a boat mooring, allowing a boat to come inside, be lifted out of the water and stored for the winter. 

Inside the Boat House_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke Larson

The view from inside the Boat House

Hemlock and Oak Wood, from the Property

One particularly exciting aspect of this project is that the hemlock and oak were cut from the property using a portable saw mill. Only on a few rare occasions has Green Mountain Timber Frames been able to cut a new timber frame using materials from the land where the structure will be built­. Luckily for us, this was one of them!

Designed in Collaboration with the Owners

When it came to designing the boat house frame, our very own Luke Larson worked closely with the property owners. It was a great pleasure to work together to create a design that fit the goals and desires of the owners and also worked structurally.

One of those goals was to have an attractive shed roof across the gables. We decided to accomplish this with a secondary top plate, which we started calling an “outrigger,” that turns the corner and wraps across the gable ends.

Outrigger detail of boat house_luke larson_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Vermont

aerial view of timber frame boat house_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke Larson

View of “outriggers” from afar

The various dimensions of this frame were each built on saw horses in our yard, so that we could check all the math, angles and joinery as we went.

aerial view of timber frame boat house_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke Larson

Using saw horses to work on wall of the Boat House

We used king post trusses to frame the bents and curved oak braces throughout the frame.

Timber frames_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke LarsonMost of the purlins in the frame were hemlock from the property, but we needed two pick points in the ceiling that would be strong enough to lift a 4,000 pound boat. Heavy oak purlins were installed at two places which are rated for well over 2,000 pound point loads each.

Purlins in custom boat house timber frames of custom boat house_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke Larson

The location of the timber frame presented challenges in getting it erected. Since the lay of the land was such that a crane or lull was not feasible, we put it up the old fashioned way – by hand.

Dan went out in his kayak to take this picture of the flag being raised. 

Flag Raising on boat house_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke Larson

Here is a what the rafter trusses look like with the roof boards and wall sheathing applied. These were also harvested on the property. Soon there will be a walkway around the inside edges of the boathouse.

Interior view of custom boat house_Boat house completed with siding_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke Larson


Corner details of boat house completed with siding_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke Larson

We were especially happy with how the hip corners and eve purlins turned out visually.

Custom Boat House_Boat house completed with siding_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke Larson

Next, the structure will receive beautiful salvaged windows, carefully restored, and a layer of cedar shingles on the walls. There will also be triangular windows in the peak. Take a look!

Boat house completed with siding_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke LarsonInterested in your very own timber frame boat house? Have another timber frame project in mind? Green Mountain Timber Frames specializes in historic timber frames and restoration projects, but we also erect new timber frames.

Contact us with any questions! Email Luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com or call 802.774.8972.