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Timber Frame Project Guide

So, you want to build a timber frame or other wooden structure? Fantastic, we are here to help!  Our intent is to clear up your questions, instill confidence, and produce a successful outcome. Our timber frame project guide provides chronological steps to allow for a rewarding timber frame project construction experience. We provide you a clear Table of Contents on the steps of a timber frame project below.

This article will consist of three different installments.  The following is the first and addresses pre-approval of your construction project.

Research Timber Frame construction!

First, we recommend looking through pictures and plans of timber frames so that you can understand the style of the construction.  If you already are familiar with timber frame’s strength, beauty and other characteristics that’s wonderful.  For those of you that are looking into the construction style.  Let talk about what we recommend for you:

Look at pictures of built timber frames.

It sounds obvious enough, and it is. A picture is worth a thousand words! Looking through pictures of timber frames helps a great deal. Here is one our founder designed and built in the Lowcountry of South Carolina!


What function will the timber frame serve?

This is incredibly important.  Are you looking for a timber frame barn, or pool house, or maybe a pavilion? You want to make sure that the timber frame not only fits well, looks great, but also creates real value! Read more about timber frame pavilions.

Get an idea of costs of the timber frame.

Dreaming about timber frames is great.  Let’s make sure that your dream fits within your budget.  Here at Joint and Peg we offer Concept and Material Plans that are at a reduced price. We believe they are valuable plans to determine costs and feasibility of a project without breaking the bank. If you want to have a look through our library for inspiration that works as well!  We would be honored to have one of our designs as the basis for your project!

Once you have answered these questions you will be in a much better position to make a sound decision to move forward with your timber frame project.  Here at Joint and Peg we do understand that the are other factors that can weigh in on your project.  We will discuss those in the following topic.

Navigating Approval of the Project

Your project could require permission from different bodies or departments.  We will discuss three of them below.

Permit Requirements

Contact your Building Dept.

First and foremost, it is not reasonable to waste resources on planning for a project that you are not permitted to execute. Depending on what function your building will serve can determine what type of approval, if any, you will need. It’s accurate that many areas of the country will require you to obtain a permit for your project. Exclusions can be smaller accessory structures such as gazebos or sheds. This is all dependent on your local municipal code as each county and/or city has different regulations on the matter.

Err on the side of Caution.

Regardless, unless you are certain you don’t need permission, our experience proves it is best to contact your local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) to tell them of your intent. This does not require plans at this point. It does require a respectful disclosure of your intent of what you would like to do. Your local building Dept. will appreciate your forthrightness and give you valuable feedback and direction on what they will require of you for permitting your timber frame project.

Contact your Designer.

The feedback that the Permit Department provided to you should be forwarded along to your designer.  When you begin your planning with these steps an efficient and correct design process is more likely.  Joint and Peg welcomes you to send that information along to us as one of the first steps if you have enlisted our services for your project.

HOA Approval of a timber frame.

Gaining HOA approval for your backyard project including pergolas, carports, pool houses, pavilions, garages, and other garden structures can be a more daunting task than the permit dept with your local AHJ.  The reasoning for this is because gaining approval from your HOA is a more subjective process than gaining a permit dictated by ordinances. What’s difficult is that the HOA will want to see some drawings of what you are proposing to have built so they can rule on whether it will be allowed. This requires an expense in having drawings completed before you know if it will be accepted.  Not a palatable situation for most and why we have created our library of concepts.

Architects can be a significant expense.

Architects can bill in the $200 range per hour and designers in the $85 to $100 range per hour. Here at Joint and Peg we have a library of timber frame plans, drawings, and lists to help with the HOA approval process.  Our Concept Plans are less than $50 and provide not only a drawing that you can submit to your HOA, but we also provide preliminary material lists so that you can budget the project as well.

Joint and Peg can also provide custom concept drawings if you don’t see anything in our library like what you are envisioning. 

Architectural Review Boards

Gaining approval of your heavy timber frame project with Architectural Review Boards is analogous to the HOA process but can require more resources.  Typically, ARB’s exist in municipal historic areas.  Paying attention to the context of the area will be good practice when designing for approval for new structures in historic areas.  Using common materials, architectural styles, and paying attention to proper height, scale and mass will reap benefits in the process of gaining approval through the ARB’s.

Although our Basic Concept Drawings and other Design Plans can work for ARB approval process, we would recommend enlisting our Custom Concept Service when working with Architectural Review Board approval.

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