Two simple tools to kick start your timber frame project

Sample Floor Plan


Finished Project

Where to start?

One of the most daunting tasks about beginning your custom timber frame project, is knowing exactly where to start. Should you start designing your dream and consider the budget afterwards? Or should you start with the budget and work backwards? Do you start with the timber frame or the floor plan? In a floor plan, do you start with personal space and then move on to public space? How about indoor vs outdoor and even transitional space? Do you design the frame and then integrate mechanicals or the other way around? How will the enclosure system affect the frame, mechanicals, and windows?

In many ways it is a lot like preparing a meal. While you are prepping one item another is simmering or frying while yet another might be baking or defrosting in the microwave. All of the ingredients are prepared individually but in consideration with the whole and timed so that they all coalesce into one superb meal. So where do you start? In reality you have do all of these things at once. If this all seems a little daunting consider it this way; we do all of these things at once. Because the timber frame is so intimately tied with the look, feel and function of your dream home it is important that it get integrated in your design process as soon as possible. While in some circumstances we will act as the overall designer, we do recommend that you use an architect; in order to get a building permit it may be required.

Developing the Concept

Okay, so where do you start? Long story short you start with us. We will guide you through the initial phases of design and help transform your ideas and dreams into reality. Obviously we cannot create your design out of thin air, so we need to start with your feedback. For some, expressing your hopes and dreams is a difficult task and if you are anything like us it helps to start formalizing your ideas into some material form. To get you started we recommend the following two techniques;

  • Create a Scrapbook
  • Put in your scrapbook anything you would like to incorporate into your project. See a picture of a kitchen design or color paint you like, or maybe you found an appliance you really like. Clip it, copy it and put it in a folder for future reference.

  • Bubble diagrams
  • Rather than focusing on the exact sizes of rooms concentrate on the relationship they will have with one another. Drawing bubble diagrams is a simple and powerful tool for communicating not only the size and location of rooms but also the relationships rooms and spaces have with one another. Don’t get bogged down with details; focus on the relationships and functions.

Sample Bubble Diagram

How to draw a bubble diagram

  • Draw a circular shape to represent each room/space.
  • Give the shape a size that represents its eventual form. Form small circles for closets and small rooms. Long ovals for hallways and long rooms. Broad ovals for larger rectangular spaces
  • Place each room/shape next to the rooms/spaces it will connect to.
  • Overlap spaces that will flow into one another while keep separate rooms distinct.
  • Allow your bubbles to take on free forms rather than rigid circles and ovals so that they wrap around into each other as needed.

Keep in mind that rooms or spaces do not need to have walls to be defined as spaces. The configuration of the timber frame will allow you to define a space without actually enclosing it. This allows you to dramatically create distinct areas while maintining an open floor plan.

Sample Frame Drawing

Moving on to the Floor Plans

Sample Rendering

At this point some people choose to develop their own floor plans and/or elevation drawings. After coming up with your bubble diagrams the floor plans will be a lot easier, but it is all too easy for people to get bogged down in details at this point. Remember there is a great deal of other items that need to get integrated into your home so don’t take this phase too far or get too attached before consulting with us. With a rough floor plan in hand or in mind it is the ideal time to discuss your project with us. We can quickly take your scrapbook, diagrams, and plans and put them together into 3D renderings and/or animated walk-thrus that will help you to visualize your project. By designing in 3D we are able to resolve potential problems that are not evident when looking at 2D drawings.

By now some, but probably not all, aspects of your project have been clarified and worked out to form the basis of a rough budget. However, it is unlikely that sufficient information/drawings are available to form a contract or acquire a permit. To move forward a set of concept drawings are needed for the basis of a contract. These concept drawings will also be needed by an architect to formalize your drawings for a permit or for your builder to further expand on your budget. The development of these drawings takes a lot of time and consideration on our part so we are unable to offer them as a free service. However we have come up with a way to ease the effect on total project cost as well as recognize the considerable effort these drawings require to be thoughtfully produced. Compensation for these drawing is based on living space (defined as total area that is inhabitable. i.e. a single story 24’ by 24’ space is 576 square feet while the same two story space is 1152 square feet) and range from $1 to $1.50 per square foot of living space. Three quarters of all payments made towards concept drawings are later credited towards your construction contract with us. In this way we hope to foster the collaborative effort that is necessary to create your dream home.

Remember the design phase of project is intended to save you money and is not something that should be overlooked or rushed. Rather it is essential that you give this phase of your project adequate time and begin it as early as possible. The preconstruction phase is best started at least one season, if not more, before you hope to begin building. So if you expect to build in Spring/Summer now is the time to get started.

If you would like to get started on your timber frame design or if you have any further questions on the best way to get started contact us today.

New Heritage Woodworking
315-677-3884

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