Earlier this summer, I visited a completed timber frame home that has a wonderful story. It is a beautiful, modest sized home for a couple and their two young children, here in the Adirondacks. We are neighbors here in this East Branch of the Ausable River Valley: they live 10 miles upstream. For every aspect of the long and intricate process of building a home, their house is a complete success story.
Erik and Molly approached me about building a straight forward timber frame for them back in the fall of 2005. I had been friends with them and with Molly’s father for many years, and I was honored to be asked. They had a tight budget by modern standards, but were prepared to do a lot of the work themselves. At that time, Erik was a teacher in a local private sports academy. He has as highly inquisitive and analytical mind , had some basic but solid woodworking skills, and was eager to jump into the building process. As such, I had no doubt that he and Molly would pull off their dream.
With Erik and Molly leading, we worked out the design and details of a straight forward 24’ x 34’, story and a half timber frame, with one ridge line and no dormers. To save money and because the site was quite wet, they opted for a frost wall and slab foundation instead of a full basement or crawl space foundation. Their mechanical needs were straight forward and did not require much space, so the on-demand/tankless hot water heater, pressure tank, and electrical panel were placed in a utility closet. They chose to heat with an efficient wood stove, and installed a propane fueled, vented through the wall, Monitor heater as a back up system. They chose to utilize high quality windows, and combining these with the intrinsic energy efficiency of the Structural Insulated Panel enclosure system, they ended up with a home that knocks the socks off of the already stringent New York State Energy Code. It takes very little fire wood to heat!
We cut the frame and Erik helped raise it. Next he worked with a skilled local crew (that we have often utilized) to install the SIPS, windows, and roof the house, so that they quickly had an enclosed and weather tight shell. Then he and Molly took over, with a planned time frame of over a year and a half at their disposal, so that they could do much of the actual labor and pocket the savings. A good example of the kind of “dollar stretching” choices they made was opting for a cedar shingle exterior—the kind of siding that could be installed leisurely over time by one person working methodically.
The uniqueness of the house, however, really is the result of Erik and Molly’s vision. To further save money, we utilized local rough sawn Eastern White Pine timbers from a favorite sawyer of ours, then Erik later chose to sand the timbers, thus reducing their “roughness” but keeping the texture and character of timber in a “rougher” state. Erik worked with many friends who are fine local crafts people and ended up with such unique touches as a copper sheet covered counters in the kitchen, a wood stove hearth and surround made of local slab stones, a timber frame inspired stair case, large wood slab counters and dining room table, recycled interior doors, and simple but elegant painted kitchen cabinets. They picked great colors for their home’s interior! Erik even tackled two timber frame porches for the home, which he executed with precision.
It was refreshing and inspiring for me to see the final and one-of-a-kind project. They truly crafted a “custom home”, in the real sense of the word—not just picking parts off the internet. And, on a tight budget as well. Congratulations!