Cost to Build Timber Frame Homes

Determining the final cost to build any home is a confusing and often misunderstood process. The cost to build timber frame homes is a valid question and the answer is anything but simple. Timber frame homes, like any other custom homes, come in all shapes and sizes. The shape, the size, and the materials are major factors in determining the cost of any home. Timber frame homes are no different in that aspect.

The design is the most critical piece o f the cost package. Size, of course, matters, but the shape of the home is even more important. There is an old construction adage that says “corner’s cost”. It was true a century ago and it’s true today. With every corner not only does the foundation get more costly, but the roof layout gets more complex. So corners do drive cost, but they also add charm and character to an otherwise simple home.

Materials are the next big budget item. Roofing can run from $7,000 to $27,000 for the same home. Composition shingles are on the lower end of the equation, with each product upgrade raising that number. Metal roofs can be affordable, but you have to be selective. Standing seam, recycled tire roofs, and slate would round out the top number. Natural materials can be more expensive (and can require more maintenance) than some of the newer manufactured materials (sidings, shingles, stone), so look closely at some of the “clones”.Cost to build timber frame homes - bonnie pickartz

There are items that can be shopped, but not compromised. Energy efficient windows are a critical component. And they too are available at several different price points. Compare them carefully, looking at the quality, style, and materials. Timber frame homes are energy efficient and windows are the weakest link in the insulated shell, so don’t save money and lose it monthly in higher utility bills.

Finally, the cost of your new home will be driven by your personal likes and dislikes. A list of items that you must have is important. That’s where you should spend your money first. If you want granite countertops, don’t settle for anything else to save money, but if you aren’t familiar with the newer composite materials, look at them before you reject them out of hand.

Cabinetry, appliances, lighting, bathroom fixtures, door hardware…everything adds up and everything must be considered. If you get into the “it’s only a few more dollars” cycle as you choose these items, you’ll soon be over budget. Costs do add up.

Numbers can be slippery. A homeowner, armed with allowances and estimates, is still at the mercy of an ever changing material supply chain and some very emotional person choices. Reputable builders do their best to provide accurate estimates based on their clients’ choices. However, as they move forward, a new product or material can sway the owner. Some choices are simple as they don’t require soul searching…color choices and similarly priced materials. However, the decision to use standing seam roofing instead of a corrugated metal roofing can mean a major adjustment in the building budget.

When working with your timber frame company and your builder, be realistic with your budget. If you know that you will never be happy with standard appliances, don’t budget $5,000 for your kitchen appliances. If you want natural siding (cedar shakes, rock, and cedar siding), take this into account. On the other hand, if you are working with a more modest budget, make decisions based on the importance of the material to you personally.

Design costs can add significantly to the cost of a new home. We’ve seen clients who spent 5 – 10% of their budget on their plan. Working with a pre-designed plan and having it revised to work for you will save you money.
Allow plenty of time to work through your budget issues before you break ground. Once you are into the project, it is much more difficult to make these decisions and, at that stage, they are usually costly decisions.

So, the cost of timber frame homes? It’s very similar to the cost of a custom designed stick-framed home. Some items are more expensive, but they are offset by other items that are necessary to make a conventionally framed home more attractive (crown molding, tray ceilings, faux timbers). Timber frames live larger and can often be smaller than a conventional home because there are seldom hallways and are no bearing walls.

We’ve seen timber frame homes built from $150 to $350 per square foot, but don’t be drawn into the “cost per square foot” conundrum. It’s really smoke and mirrors. The cost per square foot of a 2000 square foot single story home can be half again as much as the cost per square foot for a 2000 square foot story and a half or two story home. But the cost to construct could be very similar. The only real “cost per square foot” calculation is done after the project is completed. Up until that time, look for a “cost to construct” and you’ll have a more realistic look at what your home will cost.

If you’d like to discuss what your new home will cost, give me a call at 828-524-8662.  I always enjoy “talking timber frames” and will be glad to help.

Bonnie Pickartz

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