Timber Frame Kit Questions

Why buy a kit home?

Every potential client we talk with has their own reasons for wanting a timber frame home kit, but the most common are cost savings, the satisfaction of doing it yourself, flexible scheduling, and little or no waste.

Cost Savings

You can save thousands of dollars in labor by building your own home. Some of our customers want the quality and value of a finely crafted timber frame home, but can’t afford to pay the high cost that many companies charge for such a project. By donating your own labor and “sweat equity,” you will have a beautiful home of the highest quality, but for a fraction of the price that others are charging.

The satisfaction of doing it yourself

We’ve all heard the old saying, “if you want something done right, you’d better do it yourself.” Well, with a timber frame kit home from Brooks Post & Beam, you can do it yourself! There’s nothing in this world quite like the feelings of achievement and pride that come from living in a home that you built yourself. We can help you realize that dream with an easy to assemble, precision-engineered home kit.

Flexible scheduling

With a pre-cut timber frame and panel kit, you can build your own home at your own pace. Only have weekends available? No problem – the frame and panels go together much faster than conventional stick framing, and your home will be enclosed and weather tight in a matter of days rather than weeks. After that you can complete the project at your own pace.

  • Very little waste: We deliver a completely pre-cut timber frame and panel system to your job site. There are no panel scraps, window cutouts, or other bulk waste to worry about. There will be a small amount of scrap from the first- and second-floor framing, but other than packaging materials there is very little waste generated from a home kit. Compare that to conventional stick framing, which routinely fills up large dumpsters with waste and scraps. Want to leave a small footprint? Consider a timber frame kit.

What’s included in a timber frame home kit?

  • Working drawings: A complete set of building plans is provided, including floor plans, a foundation plan, elevations, sections and all necessary details, including a first-floor framing plan. We will provide engineer-stamped plans when required by your local authority.

  • Owner’s building manual: Whether you plan to contract out the work, be your own general contractor, or do it all yourself, this manual will explain and specify details and various tasks, from locating your house on the lot to the last finishing detail of trim. We also provide a separate instruction manual specifically for erecting the timber frame and panels.

  • Timber frame kit: The frame is made from Eastern White Pine timbers, planed or rough, with edges either chamfered or rounded over. Kit includes 6x6 posts, 6x10 and 6x12 beams and ties, 6x8 joists, and 6x8 or 6x10 rafters. Your choice of curved or straight corner braces (4x6 knee braces, mortised into beams). Frame is fully pre-cut and numbered for easy assembly. Peg holes are pre-drilled, and the drawbore method insures a snug fit without having to use straps and come-alongs.

  • Panel kit: 4-1/2” wall panels (curtainwall or structural panels, whole wall R-23); 8-1/4” roof panels (curtainwall or structural panels, whole wall R-30); installation materials – high expanding foam sealant, reusable foam gun, panel mastic, SIP screws, plywood splines, KD lumber for wall and roof edge blocking. All panels are pre-cut and routed. Includes complete panel layout drawings.

  • Loft decking and roof boards: If you choose plank flooring for the second floor, we supply 2x6 tongue and groove decking for you to cut and install on site. If you choose to use V-match pine on the ceilings, we can supply that as well.

  • Tool kit: We supply a tool kit with all of the specialty items you will need to assemble our frames. The tool kit also contains all the pegs and timber screws needed to assemble the frame.

Do you supply the interior walls, roof shingles, siding and windows?

We only supply the timber frame, panels and loft decking/roof boards. You are responsible for supplying everything else; all other lumber and millwork. We can help you choose the other materials you will need to finish the project; we can help you with a materials list for framing, roofing and siding; and if you are local to us, we can often help you to get contractor pricing on these items if purchased through one of our local lumber dealers.

How much does it cost to build? How much should we estimate for materials?

We have done material estimates on our kit models, and we can share that information with you when you contact us about specific models. In general, we have found that framing lumber, roof shingles, windows and doors, and siding will generally run about the same as the kit cost, plus or minus 10 percent. In other words, for a kit that costs $40,000, you can expect to spend another $40,000 or so on framing lumber, roofing, siding, windows and exterior doors. This is a very general rule, and does not include any labor. But it can help you gauge the cost of completing the weather-tight shell. We have material lists available for the kit models that you can take to your local building materials dealer and get a detailed itemized estimate for your project.

How does it work? What’s the process?

First, choose one of our pre-designed home plans, or modify an existing plan for a reasonable additional fee. We will give you a complete estimate for the timber frame kit and panel package, including delivery to your job site. We will discuss with you the payment schedule and terms. The next step is to get you set up with the plans for your project. The cost of the plans is deducted from your package price, so there will be no hidden charges later. We will provide you with a complete set of building plans, including floor plans, a foundation plan, elevations, sections and all necessary details, including a first-floor framing plan. We will provide engineer-stamped plans when required by your local authority. You can get your building permits and move ahead with site work and foundation.

Meanwhile, we will cut the frame and get the panels fabricated. When you are ready, we will have the package delivered to your building site. We will contact the trucking company and set up the delivery. The shipping fee is paid by the customer upon delivery, and the customer is responsible for all unloading and storage on site.

The package comes with complete timber frame and panel assembly plans, along with step-by-step instructions and expert advice from our support team. Everything is pre-cut and numbered for easy and accurate assembly. Once the panels are complete, you can install the roofing, windows and doors. Before you know it, you will have a completely enclosed (and completely insulated!) weather-tight shell. Frame the interior walls, and call in the trades!

If you get into a bind, or need help completing the shell, we can connect you to a qualified timber frame builder through our extensive network of contacts in the industry.

How hard is it to build? Will I need special training?

No, absolutely not. The timber frame and panels are all pre-cut and numbered for easy installation. The frame and panel handbook has step-by-step instructions and pictures, along with links to videos showing the process. Any competent carpenter will have no trouble at all with our frame package. In fact, we can say that without exception every carpenter or contractor who has put together one of our frames has enjoyed it, and wants to do it again!

We have also worked with a number of DIY homeowners who have building experience, or who hire a carpenter to act as a guide and advisor for the construction project. If you have questions about whether a kit project is right for you, just give us a call and we’ll help you decide.

Are there special requirements for the foundation? What about a walk-out basement?

There are no special foundation requirements, other than some anchoring and fastening details. It is important that the provided foundation plans are followed exactly without deviation, because the frame posts do require certain specific anchors and tie-downs. But this is all spelled out for you and your contractor on the plans, so you should have no problems if you follow the plans.

And a walk-out basement is a very common feature of our homes. The walk-out walls are usually 8” or 10” wide, in order to support the timber frame and wall panels. But don’t worry, our plans and Owner’s Manual will have all of the construction details you need to prepare your foundation and build your basement walls in preparation for the frame.

Can I build a post and beam home on a slab? What about ICF’s?

Yes, you can build on a slab, or over a crawl space, full basement or even off the ground on posts and piers. You can use poured concrete, concrete block or ICF (insulated concrete forms). Just let us know in advance which method you will use and we’ll provide the correct details and dimensions on the plans.

Will I need a crane, or other special equipment?

For the most part, no.* (We’ll get to the exception in a bit.)

It is entirely possible to erect the frame with two or three people and some simple but ingenious devices we’ve used to lift the beams into place. In fact, it’s possible to erect much of the frame by hand, if you have enough manpower and you can get your hands on the appropriate ladders, planks and scaffolding to safely work at necessary wall heights. But we also have some good ideas to make the job go easier.

One method is to use a device called a Genie Lift, which is a mechanical lifting device on wheels that can be rolled around on the floor and can lift heavy beams up to 15 feet or more above the floor. This equipment is available at most rental stores that cater to contractors, and it is commonly used by HVAC technicians to lift heavy heating units for hanging from ceilings in stores and warehouses.

Another method is a special hoisting apparatus called a “Gin Pole,” which was invented by our founder, Phil Brooks. These are metal swing arms that mount to the top of the posts, and have cable attached to electric winches to raise the beams into place.

We can arrange to rent these to you if you want.

The one exception where you might need a crane is for the roof panels. You will need crane or some other lifting machine, such as a forklift with a telescoping boom (commonly called a Lull), to set the roof panels without damage. Happily, roof panels go up quickly, and can almost always be set in a day.

You will need a forklift to unload the frame and panel packages when they are delivered to your site. The trucking company will not unload the material. The best machine for this is an all-terrain forklift with a telescoping boom (a Lull). They can be rented at weekly or monthly rates, and are very useful for moving lumber and materials around the site.

It is also possible to use the forks on a bucket loader or backhoe, but unless the ground is very level at the unloading spot, this can be tricky.

Can I make modifications to the plans?

Yes. Minor plan modifications, such as changing windows, doors, and interior walls, can be done by us for a small design fee. We can also add or modify decks, porches, and walk-out basements. We can even design garages and connectors in some cases. We charge a set hourly rate for all of these extra design services, in addition to the kit price. We’re happy to discuss any modifications you have in mind – just give us a call.

Can I supply my own plans or ideas?

We are happy to discuss your plan ideas with you, and we can decide if your ideas are suitable for the kit format. We are primarily a custom home designer and builder, so we have no problem turning your ideas into reality. However, custom designs will cost more per square foot than our very affordable kit models.

What are the ceiling heights, wall heights, and roof pitch of the plans? How thick are the wall and roof panels?

The wall/ceiling heights are 8'-2" from first floor to second floor as a default. The kneewalls are typically between 3’-6” and 5', which gives an overall exterior wall height of around 12' to 13'. The roof slope as shown on the plan is 10/12, which results in a ridge height of around 14' to 16’ above the second floor. So the overall height including the thickness of the roof panels is usually between 23 and 25 feet.

While 4 feet doesn't sound like much for knee wall height, remember that the roof is very steep and slopes up, which means that you have 6 feet of headroom within 3 feet of the wall, and a vaulted ceiling. It doesn't feel at all cramped.

The typical wall panels are 4-1/2” R-23. Our standard wall panel is a "curtainwall" panel, which is drywall on the interior face and structural sheathing on the exterior. If you are installing T&G paneling on the walls or ceiling (or can't make up your mind), we will provide structural panels – with sheathing on both faces. On the walls, you would install a spacer strip on the frame to create a space for the T&G material.

The typical roof panels are 8-1/4” R-30, inner drywall and outer OSB skin with 7-1/4” expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation core. As with the walls, if you are going with T&G boards on the ceiling, we would provide structural roof panels. The T&G is installed directly onto the rafters before installing the roof panels. We cover all of these scenarios in our Owner's Manual, which is provided to you at the beginning of our agreement.

Can I upgrade the wall or roof panels to get a higher R-value?

Yes, panel thicknesses can be increased if desired, at an additional cost, of course. See our website (brookspostandbeam.com) for a complete explanation of SIP R-values and how they differ from “conventional” construction.

How do you install the plumbing and electrical wiring in these SIP walls?

It's very simple – the exterior walls are solid foam insulation. There is no place for plumbing. All pipes go in interior walls, or a double wall can be framed at an outside wall if needed, for example, this is often done in the kitchen areas. A wire chase has been intentionally designed around the outside perimeter of the building at the base, and the necessary wires can be installed in the panels. We cover all of this in our Owner’s Manual, and show you all the details you need to handle the wiring in these areas.

Are the heating and ventilation requirements different for a post and beam home with SIPs?

Yes, there significant differences. SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) are very efficient insulators. There is very little air leakage and a much reduced rate of thermal conduction. This means that the home will retain more heat or cooling over time than a conventionally built home. As a result, a SIP home usually requires less heating and cooling than a similar sized stick-built home, which translates into up-front savings on equipment and long term savings on energy.

Because they are so tight, SIP homes do require mechanical ventilation. An ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator) system should be installed by a qualified installer. This system will exhaust stale air and indoor pollutants and bring in fresh, clean air automatically, without significant loss of conditioned air.

What kind of siding can I install on SIPs?

Any kind of siding and exterior trim can be used with SIPs. Vinyl, fiber cement, SmartSide engineered siding, board and batten, and wood shingles have all been used with great success. Even stucco and synthetic stone products can be installed, with proper substrate preparation. The main requirement for any siding on SIPs is to have a drainage plane layer to prevent moisture from becoming trapped behind the siding. Let us know what material you plan to use and we’ll make sure you have the information you need for a successful install.

How do I nail interior trim like baseboards and moldings to a wall that’s just drywall and foam? What about hanging cabinets and bookshelves?

We explain the techniques for interior trim in the Owner’s Manual. The best method for fastening baseboards is to use trim head screws. Window and door openings have 2x4s inserted as nailers, so the trim in those areas is nailed to that blocking.

Usually we will supply structural panels (OSB on both faces) for the kitchen walls where the cabinets will be installed. Alternatively, many customer opt to build an interior frame wall in those areas for ease of installing the additional pipes and wires required in kitchens. Heavy bookshelves and other heavy hanging objects should be hung on interior stud walls.