Timber accents on the exterior of your home can offer visual clues to the graceful symphony of wood inside. Old world timber style homes are easy to spot in Europe. That’s because the craftsmen of yesteryear placed the timber frames on the outside of the structures, announcing to passersby that this home was built to stand the test of time.
But by today’s standards, that’s not an energy efficient way to build. Nor does it protect the timbers from the damaging effects of weather. This is why modern timber frames are within the air-conditioned space of the home.
But that doesn’t mean you have to be secretive about the sturdy beams inside. With some thought and planning, you can visually communicate your home’s aesthetic appeal to the world. Here are some strategies designers recommend to bring architectural vitality to the outside of your home.
The front entry area is the most logical space to announce you have invested in a timber frame home, says Architect Katherine Hillbrand with SALA Architects in Stillwater, Minnesota.
The elegant wood joinery at the entrance can remind friends and visitors of the timeless craftsmanship of what’s inside, she says. Deciding on the exterior appeal is like commissioning a handcrafted piece of furniture. One has lots of options, depending on your needs and budget. Some entries feature trusses, such as a king post with curved struts, a queen post or a hammerbeam. The latter is used to span wider spaces. Any of these trussed mounted over a porch or front door can give visitors the feeling of entering a magical forest of sturdy trunks and graceful limbs.
These trusses can be either decorative or structural, meaning they can be merely for show or they can carry the weight of a roof system above. Either way, you’ll pay nearly the same amount for the craftsmanship and materials. “That’s why I prefer they earn their keep. Plus, to protect the timbers from weather, I recommend generous overhangs. Your trusses can support that overhang,” Katherine says.
Porches are another favorite for incorporating frame elements, says Anne Sternquist, co-owner with husband Bob of Heartwood Timberframes in Adrian, Michigan. On a recent design named Clarkston Place, Heartwood created a wraparound timbered porch in front, a wraparound deck in back and a hammerbeam truss over the entryway. The combination is particularly pleasing to the eye, she says.
Frames of windows can be flanked in timbers. Katherine with SALA Architects takes it a step further by recommending delicate vertical or horizontal branches to be installed on the exterior of a large bank of windows. “You actually attach it to the window frame. But it adds a wonderful organic expression to the outside of the home,” she says.
Gable trusses and decorative brackets between the eaves and the walls add style to the exterior and draw visitor’s eyes upward. If you don’t want to invest in a garage, a porte-cochere could be your solution. This roofed structure that provides shelter while entering or leaving the front door can also display graceful trusses and braces.
If you’re looking to add these kinds of accents to your exterior, you’ll need to budget for this in the design stage. An entryway truss and wrap around porch can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000, depending on the home size, individual features and wood species. A porte-cochere could cost as much as $15,000.
“If you’ve only got about $5,000 in your budget to devote to exterior accents, then I would advise you spend that elsewhere because you’re not going to get what you truly want,” advises Anne with Heartwood Timberframe. “But if you’ve got anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 to devote to this, then you can really make the exterior come alive.”
If money’s tight during construction, all is not lost. There are decorative elements you can add to your home site after you build.
One of the staple shots of every western is the entry gate--the two vertical poles and horizontal cross beam that marks the entrance to the ranch. Timber frame homeowners are adding an entry gate to their drive with enchanting results, naming their property or even attaching a logo or replica of their brand if they are ranching. These entry gates can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $8,000, depending on the intricacies of the design. You can augment this with a matching timber frame style mailbox post.
Another favorite of buyers today is adding out buildings with timber frame accents. This can run the gamut from a barn, garage, pool house, boathouse, hot tub or barbecue shelter, to sunrooms, patio shade structures or a portico linking a garage with the backdoor. All can be constructed with timber accents or full timber frames to underscore your home’s design.
If you have school age children and the driveway is too long for quick dashes to the bus, you may opt to erect a small shelter to shield them from the elements. This too can be adorned with timber frame joinery. As can playhouse in the backyard, which can become the center for hundreds of hours of fun for you kids. But you may need fun spaces as well. A hobby or craft hut or a garden shed with timber frame filigree could be the answer to your storage needs. Just think, room to spread out all your materials and a private work space all your own—all built with quiet understated elegance.
For smaller structure needs, such as a craft hut or hot tub shelter, try visiting The Log Home Show (see page ?? for dates and places) for solutions. Many timber frame home producers build handcrafted structures to exhibit the company’s capabilities. But many don’t want the expense of shipping the frames back to their shops. “We sell our frames, usually a 10x10 frame, at the end of the shows. We sell if for around $7,500,” says Anne with Heartwood Timberframe. “Then after the show, we’ll dissemble them and deliver them to the buyer.”
One doesn’t need to invest thousands of dollars to bring timber highlights to their home site either. Lamp posts, trellis and other landscaping accents can add a rustic appeal to your surroundings. Something as simple as timber accented furniture for your porch can add charm and suggest what’s inside. “We provide our clients with a timber bench for our clients,” says Al Pfotenhauer a designer Riverbend Timber Framing in Blissfield, Michigan. “It’s fairly simple design. But we have their name and date carved into it and it’s usually very well received.”
Preserve & Display
Once you invest in these graceful displays of craftsmanship, you’ll want to protect it from Mother Nature’s wrath. Apply log sealants and stain annually (especially for any south-facing wood) and check for insect infestation. For landscaping applications, such as lampposts or a trellis, you may want to employ treated lumber that resists decay.
To make sure your investment is visible in the long dark winter months, install landscape lighting to illuminate it. “You don’t want something as bright as Las Vegas,” warns Katherine with SALA Architects. “I prefer a more subtle approach. But it helpful to have it down low and shining up at whatever aspect of the design that you’re particularly proud of.”