Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Building Your New Home: Now is Better than Later

[ITHACA, NY] Residential construction is on the rise in 2012, with the industry experiencing the highest growth in residential sales it’s seen in over 30 years.
According to the US Census, building permits for privately-owned homes rose to an adjusted annual rate of 715,000 in April 2012, a 23.7% increase from April 2011, when there were just 578,000 permits issued. And May 2012’s numbers are the highest since 2008.

With the housing market in recovery mode and new residential construction on the rise, a unique opportunity exists to take advantage of what are still comparatively low material and labor costs while enjoying accelerating appreciation. Whether it’s a new home, addition, vacation home, or a commercial property, analysts agree that those who build now will realize the highest return on their initial investment.

Along with this upward trend, material and labor costs are also expected to increase, making today the perfect time to take advantage of this economic opportunity. Not only will you save money short-term in construction costs, but by building now, you’ll make an investment that will yield a much higher return over time.
With markets such as Florida and Las Vegas aside, one of the most stable nest eggs an investor can choose is real estate. Large, tract-style developments have had more bubble-like risks in the past decade but one-off, unique, high quality homes expose investors to much lower risks. Compared with other options, including stocks, IRA’s, and CD’s, investing in real estate has been proven to outperform on many levels. Comparing the numbers, real estate continues to be a better choice in investing your money than the stock market, especially with recent market performance returns in mind.

There are many benefits to investing in real estate, including leveraging your mortgage to amplify your ROI, the consistency of real estate compared to the volatility of the stock market, and bigger breaks on your taxes. According to a recent article from CNN Money, “If you (or your mutual fund) hold a stock for more than a year before selling, then you owe only a capital-gains tax that tops out at just 15%. Second, you can offset any investment losses you realized against your gains on your income tax return. Real estate, by contrast, delivers a battery of tax benefits, especially for your new home, says Ronald Hegt, a senior tax partner at Hays & Co., a New York City C.P.A. firm. You can deduct mortgage interest and property taxes yearly. And when you sell your house, the first $500,000 in profits are tax-free (for individuals, the first $250,000). You are on the hook for long-term capital gains taxes for any extra profit, but the top federal rate is only 15%.”
Interest rates are lower than ever and material costs are remaining relatively steady for now. General contractors are available and hungry for any work they can get, coming off of a two year building slump. “(According to the National Association of Realtors) in April 2012, homes changed hands at a record pace of 7.2 million per year, at a median price of $206,000, up 15.1% from a year earlier. The last time home prices rose so fast in one year was in November 1980, when prices shot up 15.6%,” says Forbes Magazine.

Making the wise choice to invest in real estate this year remains one of the best ways to make sure you get the best possible return on your investment and building a home with a differential – something that sets it apart from other homes on the market – enhances the return. Unique homes are often sold for much more than comparable homes in the same area. Homes with one-of-a-kind features, energy efficiency, and brilliant architecture are providing the best return for home builders. Building your home with energy efficiency at the forefront is a great way to set your investment apart while keeping your heating and cooling costs low over time.
“When it comes to long-term return on a real estate investment and new residential construction, unique differentials, such as energy-efficiency, solid construction and, as always, outstanding location are what make the greatest impact,” said Bryan Warren, Owner and Principal Broker at Warren Real Estate, an independent real estate company located in Ithaca, New York. “Homes that both inspire as well as provide a return on investment and energy savings throughout the year are going to lead the way through the coming recovery.”

Energy savings can be realized by considering passive solar energy, choosing the right windows and doors, and using insulated concrete forms or structural insulated panels (SIPs) for the home. SIPs also have the added benefit of cutting installation time by as much as 58% on the build. With R-Values on SIPs alone ranging from 16-57, SIPs see minimal heating and cooling costs when compared with traditional stick-built homes. The idea that a home’s built-in features can drop their monthly utility bills is a huge draw to potential buyers.
In addition to building “green,” adding an architectural novelty to your home will pack your investment with a high-quality differential, bringing your return even higher. Features such as outdoor kitchens and patios, or unique architectural styles such as post and beam, or timber framing, provide an aesthetic appeal that will lure in potential buyers while providing energy efficiency with the addition of SIPs to enclose the structure. Exposed timbers, quality materials and cathedral ceilings are features that bring your real estate investment the distinction it needs in order to thrive in a growing economy.

“We’ve noticed a promising increase in the number of inquiries about our timber frame homes in the past year. People aren’t just looking for a typical home anymore. They want something different, something that sets their investment apart from other homes. “Modern timber framing provides the perfect marriage of old-world romance and modern technology creating a spectacular home that easily out-appreciates more conventional architecture.” said Pat Seaman, Owner of Woodhouse The Timber Frame Company in Mansfield, Pennsylvania.
For those looking for a strong long-term investment, this is the time to choose new real estate.  And if you’re choosing to build, there has never been a better opportunity to engage in a relationship with your architect, builder or home design/build company.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Joinery - The Essential Part of Timber Framing

Nothing Compares to a Woodhouse

In New Orleans, the 2005 catastrophe known as Hurricane Katrina left a path of destruction in her wake. Hundreds of homes crumbled as the Category 3 hurricane plowed through the region. On the Louisiana/Mississippi border, one of the few remaining homes with enough structure left to rebuild was none other than … a timber frame.

This serves as a perfect example of the strength of timber frame joinery. The structure of a post and beam home provides not only the strength of the home, but also immense beauty. The rugged elegance of timbers connected through skilled joinery is what makes a timber frame home so special. Once the home is finished, the towering timbers remain visible as a testament to the craftsman’s skill. But what is joinery, and how is it used to create a strong foundation for a gorgeous home?

Joinery is defined as any method of taking two distinct timbers and assembling them into a whole. The great thing about timber framing is that it requires no nails; just wooden pegs holding the timbers in place. This allows for a stunning aesthetic in your home. There are several different ways that timbers can be joined together. The following is a basic guide to the types of joints that go into making a timber frame home.

The most common type of joint is known as a “mortise and tenon” joint and most other joints are just variations of this joint.

Some Basics of Joinery:

Girt to Post – The post that stands upright is attached to the girt, which runs perpendicular to the post. They are connected with a mortise and tenon joint.
Kneebrace – whenever an important beam is meeting a post, a kneebrace is added. This creates a triangle which provides more strength to the structure.
Stopped-Splayed Wedged Scarf – This type of joinery is used to connect two smaller beams into one larger one.
Spline – This joinery is used when two different girts are coming together at the same post from different sides. Since one mortise and tenon joint would not be strong enough to support the two girts, this joint is added to provide tensile strength.

Timber frame homes are built to last. Many homes have survived through several generations. So what makes timber frames so strong? Timber frames have the ability to withstand different types of stress, including compression, tension, bending, and deflection. Carefully selected pieces of timber are connected together in harmony to create a strong, durable structure for the home. Whether it's a simple barn home or an elaborate mansion, timber frame homes combine history with modern technology for long-lasting results.

Want to know how timber frames will withstand the elements in your neck of the woods? Contact Woodhouse today to speak with one of our experienced specialists. 800.227.4311.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Timber Framed Homes Provide a Happy Medium

What's your home's personality?

In a conventially built "stick" home, the interior walls are primarily sheetrock attached to 2 X 4 studs. In a log home, the stacked logs create an interior almost entirely of wood. However, a timber framed home falls somewhere in the middle - a balance of wood and wall -- ready to accommodate your favorite colors, artwork or shelving. The design flexibility of a timber frame home allows you to choose both - beautifully crafted timbers framing painted walls with no studs (since timber frame uses structural insulated panels).

A timber framed interior provides a "head start" in defining the personality of the home. The timbers impart a feeling of strength, warmth, and a connection with nature. The painted drywall surfaces contrast the timbers and provide visual relief. Different timber species also impart a different feeling as will different wall treatments. Played together, you can create an exciting and dynamic interior.

Some examples: a white pine frame will standout crisply against a dark olive or cranberry colored wall (contrasting) enabling the frame to become the center of interest. Whereas a muted green or sienna will have a tendency to absorb a Douglas Fir frame (complimentary) paving the way for artwork, furnishings, and the inhabitants to take center stage.

"Whatever look you want, a post and beam home is adaptable. Whether it's a formal look, contemporary, traditional or rustic elegance, a timber frame home is able to achieve the look and ambience that you, your family, and guests will love." said Greg Burnshaw, mid-Atlantic Regional Sales Manager for Woodhouse, "the beauty and fliexiblity of a timber frame home is unlike any other style of home on the market."

For more information and to arrange your personal tour of a timber frame home near you, please contact Woodhouse at 800.227.4311.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hybrid Timber Frame Homes

Capturing the Beauty of Timber Framing

At Woodhouse, we pride ourselves on flexibility. If you love timber framing, but you're not sure you want your entire home built with this style of construction, or want an easy way to keep your construction costs low, a hybrid home is a great option for you.
A "hybrid" home is esentially a home that is constructed in more than one style of construction. In our industry, hybrid homes are partially timber framed, with either structural insulated panel (SIP) construction or traditional stick-building creating the remainder of the home.

Hybrid homes are a great way to capture the beauty of a timber frame home while keeping costs low. We have built several hybrid homes that are constructed partially with structural insulated panels, with timber frames making up another part of the home. For those looking to capture the essence of a timber frame while on a strict budget, adding an elaborate timber frame great room (that our industry is known for) is an easy compromise. Adding a timber frame addition to your current stick-built home would essentially turn your home into a hybrid. For many folks who want to experience the elegance of a timber frame home but aren't financially able to start from scratch, a timber frame addition is a wonderful option. Your Regional Project Manager and our architects will work with you to incorporate your home's current design into a timber frame hybrid that meets your needs and gives your home added value.

Our corporate office, located in Mansfield, PA doubles as a show home, and is actually a hybrid home itself. The kitchen, great room, and loft area of the home were all constructed with traditional timber framing, while bedrooms on the bottom floor were constructed with SIP construction only.

The options are truly endless when working with Woodhouse. If you can dream it, we can help make it come true. Give us a call today at 800-227-4311 to speak with a Woodhouse representative or to arrange your personal tour of any one of our beautiful timber frame homes across the country.

What's The Difference Between Timber Framing & Post and Beam?

If you're new to timber framing, you may be wondering what are the differences between timber framing and post and beam. You're not alone. The two terms are so closely related that they are usually used synonymously, even by industry professionals. "Woodhouse, The Timber Frame Company" actually uses "Woodhouse Post and Beam as their corporate name.

When you get right down to it, there truly is no real difference between timber frame and post and beam construction. In the early years of Woodhouse, competitors in the industry would tell customers that certain companies were either "post and beam" or "timber frame." Depending on which the client was asking for, it was easy to pick out subtle differences in the two terms, so that customers were left thinking that "post and beam" companies could not offer them a "timber frame" home. The truth is that timber frame companies and post and beam companies are one in the same. It really comes down to semantics.

If we were to try explaining the manner in which the terms were broken down, the subtle differences would be as follows:

Timber frame homes are constructed using a centuries-old technique known as joinery. This traces back to early furniture making, and has long been a strong and durable form of wooden construction. The mortise-and-tenon joinery style is used and incredibly, there is no need for metal brackets or bolts. Everything is secured using wooden pegs. The joinery shop at Woodhouse ensures that our timber frames are pre-fit before we ship any package. That means that when your timber frame package arrives, the pieces will fit together perfectly, making assembly time much quicker than a conventional stick-built home.

In a post and beam home, horizontal beams are connected to upright posts. These are then fastened with metal bolts and brackets. Although we typically engineer timber frame homes that require no metal brackets, we will work with your plan. In the past, upon customer preference, we have used brackets .

If you have questions about timber frame/post and beam homes, please do not hesitate to contact us. Call 800-227-4311 today and our experts can answer your timber frame (or post and beam) questions. Or, better yet, plan a visit to Woodhouse and tour our model home and see our joinery.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Commercial Timber Frames

Timber Frame Allows for Open Architecture in Outstanding Commercial Projects

Woodhouse is certainly known for our breathtaking and energy-efficient timber frame homes, however we also take tremendous pride in our commercial timber frame projects. We are proud to have been chosen as the timber frame provider in several exciting commercial projects over the years and welcome the opportunity to work with you on your commercial project. From wineries to golf course clubhouses to restaurants and stables, timber framing is both practical and dramatic.

Woodhouse can act as a design-build partner, or simply provide the materials. A few examples of our commercial timber frame projects appear below and feel free to contact us for any additional photos or floorplans.

The Adaptive Sports Foundation located in Windham, New York provides support and education to adults and children with disabilities: both physical and cognitive. We are proud to have worked with such a great organization.
A locker room at the Whistling Straits golf destination located in Wisconsin - Whistling Straits was home to the PGA championships in 2004 and 2010, and will be again in 2015. We are proud to have provided the timber frame structure to the clubhouse.
The Keystone Welcome Center located on the side of a mountain on Route 15 in Pennsylvania (just a few miles from Woodhouse) is known for it's breathtaking views of Tioga.
The White Fence Farm restaurant in Denver, Colorado is full of exposed timber framing provided by Woodhouse, allowing for a rustic country feel. Timber framing is perfect for Colorado and other Western states as the architectural style fits right in.

Building the largest bridge in Bucks County, PA, the Schofield Covered Bridge, is one of our fondest building memories.

Woodhouse is proud to have provided this timber frame, a beautiful focal point, in a church located in Kilmichael, Mississippi.

Timber framing is an excellent choice for commercial building projects. You can be assured that the basic structure of the building will be strong and sturdy, while showcasing the exposed timber frames in a unique post and beam design.

To to speak with a Woodhouse expert about your commercial building project, give us a call today at 800-227-4311. Or email

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Energy Efficient Elegance

Timber Frame Homes Combine History with Modern Amenities

A small beach home blends in with the wooded area around Cayuga Lake, one of New York’s scenic Finger Lakes. With their primary residence just 200 yards away, the Davis family of Interlaken, NY, use their beach house in the summer for family activities with their children, grandchildren, and chocolate labradors, and in the winter for a peaceful space, heated by a simple stove.

In Stowe, VT, another home sits beside a meadow overlooking Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest mountain. The Pressman’s home is just the home they dreamed they would own: a way of integrating their lives into the area where Wendy Pressman’s family has lived for six generations.

Anyone can explain the idea of their perfect home, from the location and what’s around all the way down to details of the look and size. But it takes a lot more than just an idea to see that vision through to completion. How do people find that perfect location? Who will help them draw up plans for the house? What materials do they choose? The homes we build last for generations if designed properly, so we want to create something we can happily own for some time, whether it be a simple beach house or a comfortable home in the mountains that may be passed on through generations to come.

Everyone’s taste is different. Some prefer a modern style, with a clean design mostly bare of details. Some prefer something more classic—an older design with visible wood framing and carefully fitted joints. Most can agree they want their home to be as energy efficient as possible to reduce heating and cooling costs. And everyone wants a say in how their home looks, whether they see it through from design to the completion of the construction or pick it out from a selection they are given.

For that classic, natural look, one good option is building a timber-framed home. Timber framing, also called post-and-beam construction, involves joining together large, squared timbers with wooden pegs at the joints instead of nails or other fasteners. This method can give a home a natural look, with exposed timbers visible from the outside, inside, or both. An old practice, timber framing has been revived in recent decades, but now with more precision and ease of manufacturing, thanks to newer technology. To surround the timber framing of a house, structural insulated panels (SIPs) are often used, which provide a high degree of insulation, and consequently, a low energy bill. SIPs are composite panels, made from an outer sheathing of structurally engineered oriented strand board (OSB), and an inner layer of rigid insulation.

If the timber-framing design appeals to you, and you want a way to mold it exactly to your vision, one option is Woodhouse®: The Timber Frame Company. Located in rural Pennsylvania, Woodhouse specializes in timber-frame homes, personalized for each customer. Depending on a customer’s need, Woodhouse can work with drafted designs, or start from scratch and offer their own designers’ expertise.

Woodhouse’s History

The history of Woodhouse goes back to the late 1970s. In encouraging the United States to become more energy efficient during the first oil crisis, the government, led by the Carter administration, created incentives to boost the production of energy efficient buildings and homes. Founders Steve Keller and John Saveson saw a chance to open their company, a move “based on environmental responsibility and community service [which] has taken [them] to a leadership position in a beautifully artistic and craft-oriented industry.” Thus, Woodhouse was founded in 1979.

Initially, the company focused their efforts largely on passive solar designs, models that work with the path of the sun to heat and cool the house. To make these designs more efficient, the team then coupled them with insulation, which is when they began looking into SIPs. To support the sturdy SIPs, they began using timber frames, initially turned onto the idea by a customer’s request. Rather than purchase pre-made frames for a high price, they decided to build their own.

Less than a decade after its founding, the company was one of the main consumers of SIPs, but they were never fully satisfied with the quality. After failing to find suitable panels, they decided to open a sister company to bolster their design and construction company. Murus® was born in 1987, and has since become the leading producer of polyurethane SIPs in the world. With the combination of sturdy timber framing and the new production of quality SIPs as insulation, Woodhouse had the perfect combination for elegant, energy-efficient homes.

Today, Woodhouse is one of the largest US manufacturers of timber frames, and ships not only all over the country, but as far as Asia, the South Pacific, and Europe. Since its beginnings in 1979, Woodhouse has built nearly 800 residential and commercial properties.

Efficiency and Sustainability

What makes Woodhouse’s methods more efficient and sustainable than houses that are cheaper to build? After the dawn of mass production during the Industrial Revolution, the construction of one-family homes became easy, and after some development of design ideas, stick framing construction became the norm. Stick framing involves fastening wall studs with nails at regular intervals. This method requires many different materials and uses a large supply of dimensional lumber to ensure the frame can support loads due to wind and snow accumulation, and the wear from regular use.

Although stick framing is speedy and fairly low-cost to build, it loses a lot in energy efficiency when compared to other methods of construction. Because the walls in a stick-framed house are made of a large number of parts, there can be excessive air leaks between sections. Extra layering or building two adjacent walls with space between them can allow for more insulation, but this adds to the labor cost, which is already generally the largest portion of the cost for such a home.

Timber framing, on the other hand, uses SIPs, which connect with a tongue-and-groove system that leaves no space for heat gain or loss through air exchange. Using quality material in the SIPs, timber-framed houses require much less energy than a typical home, somewhere between 30% to 70% less, to keep at a comfortable temperature. Over a lifetime, the amount saved on energy bills for houses like these will far outweigh the difference in price of construction. Besides the individual’s savings, this also contributes to the reduction of oil and gas consumption.

Not only are SIPs energy efficient, but using SIPs for paneling allows builders to dip into the supply of timber less and less, decreasing the amount of deforestation. The trees used for the wooden interior framing and the outer sheath of the SIPs come mainly from sources that practice sustainable foresting methods; thereby leaving a much smaller carbon footprint. And, Murus SIPs are rigid enough that they provide structural support that adds to the integrity of the frame. This is what reduces the need for excess timber and makes homes with SIPs sturdier than most homes. Despite the sturdiness of SIPs, they are still light and easy to put up, so the labor required for construction is minimal.

Home Options

There is no feeling a family can have like that of seeing their home come together just as they imagined it: the rooms all where they belong, the porch looking out into a plunging valley, or across the lightly moving waves on the surface of a lake, the sunlight streaming in the bedroom windows as the sun rises for the first time after the house has been raised. Reaching this point is no small task, and making the right moves throughout the process is important to find that moment of soaking in the knowledge that your home is exactly where you want to be.

When thinking of your design, the options can seem overwhelming. Consultants and architects who have seen different successes and failures may have some great advice, but more importantly, everyone should think about what it is they prefer and reflect on their own experiences. In a previous home, a person may have loved the space in their back yard, but wished there was a larger seating area on the deck. Looking back on past issues, no matter how small, can help set up a good layout for a new home.

Considering lifestyle and habits is also an important aspect of designing a home. Design consultants won’t know how close parents want their rooms to be to the children’s rooms, how much closet space everyone needs, how far people are willing to carry their groceries from the car, or other life aspects that influence layout. Because of their thoughtful design team, Woodhouse is willing and able to cater to each desire.

Though their method of construction holds to a specific vision, the types of homes and office buildings Woodhouse offers are many and varied. Woodhouse offers custom designs to suit different housing needs, landscapes, and design preferences. The design team at Woodhouse is unique in that there are architects and home designers on staff, a rarity for timber frame companies. These architects and designers are ready to take on any task to bring visions to life. During consultation, customers can choose the type of timber and the method of joining the beams, the floor system, the wall and roof SIPs, and the finishes for the home, including exterior siding, trim, roofing materials and colors, and window styles. Depending on the customer’s desires, Woodhouse can also meet with the customer’s own personal architect if they have already begun drafting plans for the home prior to consulting the company.

For a more cost-conscious customer base, Woodhouse also offers pre-designed SmartWoodTM home plans. While still keeping the quality of the typical Woodhouse timber frame, customers can choose from a selection of plans for their SmartWood home, ranging from a ranch house, to a barn home, to a carriage house.

Once the design is decided, timber experts begin crafting the materials on computer numeric controlled (CNC) machines. These allow a high level of precision in the cuts. Each piece is finished by hand and planed to a smooth texture. When all the outside materials have been gathered—wooden pegs, adhesives, doors, windows—the company delivers it all to the building site.

Building Your Home

You have prepared a house exactly the way you want it. Now that moment has arrived when all the pieces come together at the perfect site. While the materials are unloaded, you look out at the view over the lake, or through the trees to the mountain, or out to the meadow; and this is where you will be, living. Or, vacationing in a spot chosen by you.

The first floor is built, with support columns rising up out of it. Once the timber frame is raised, ceremoniously, Woodhouse recognizes the trees it has used by placing a small bough at the peak of the frame. Then it is time to cover the frame using the insulated wall panels, followed by the windows and doors.

Woodhouse is ready to face any challenges unique to the landscape where a home will be built. Around lakes and oceans, homes need to be equipped to handle the complications of living beside water. With Woodhouse, rising water levels and erosion affecting the well-being of your home’s structure won’t be a concern. Through their years of experience, Woodhouse has also learned to take into account any practical aspects of what it is like to live on the water, so that you won’t have to worry about additional chores to keep up the house. In mountains, the terrain needs to be considered. These homes will nestle into any nook and can withstand snow-filled winters without losing their structural integrity.

One extraordinary home, settled into a narrow space in the Catskills, demonstrates the customizing expertise Woodhouse boasts. Though the lot is narrow, this three-story home rises neatly out of the mountainside, complete with paths to ski in and out. The Douglas fir timber framing and the walnut flooring are hand-finished. Both the floors and the pavement outside are heated—radiant heating inside for comfort, while the driveways and sidewalks feature a heating snow-melt system to relieve the homeowners of shoveling.

Regardless of whether you want a more professional, comfortable environment for your business, a retirement house catered to your needs, or a simple and environmentally-friendly home, this type of timber framing and insulated paneling can suit your needs. Pleased Woodhouse homeowners, the Ciscos, said of their large lake home in New York, “It was a treat to witness the piecing together of these SIPs—like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle being put together…It was the chemistry between us and the Woodhouse team that made Woodhouse the right company.”

Beside Cayuga Lake, the Davis family’s beach house stands as a sanctuary. Their dogs run along the shore watching the family swim. Because of their beach house, the whole family is at home here, everything carefully laid out to fit their lifestyle. As they uncleat their sailboat and push away from the dock, they stop for a moment to appreciate the view — of their timber frame home.

For more information on energy-efficient homes and commercial properties, contact Woodhouse: The Timber Frame Company at 800-227-4311 or online at

Benefits of a Timber Frame home

Aesthetics. In the beauty of an exposed, natural wood frame, one feels warmth, strength and security. The quality of the woodworking is apparent everywhere you look, reminding you always of the care and craftsmanship that went into the construction of your home.

Open Floor Plan. Openness is practically inherent in the timber frame design, since there are rarely any interior load-bearing walls. This leaves space for easy alterations as the needs of the occupants change.

Longevity. Timber frames are structurally-sound buildings lasting hundreds of years. Unlike log homes, timber-framed homes require little to no maintenance and have no settling problems.

Energy Efficiency. Timber frames are typically completely enclosed in an envelope of insulated panels. These panels are more energy efficient than conventional framing and insulation methods, preventing air leaks so that heating and cooling costs are lower.