Frequently Asked Questions

1. What will this house cost per square ft.?

If you are building a typical bungalow, or split entry, a price per square ft. is easy to get, provided that you use all low end finishes. Extras are added on, and must be calculated.

Most of our timber frame clients, on the other hand, spend anywhere from $180 – $250 per sq ft (and up, if you have expensive tastes), to bring their home to the turn key stage.  That’s including the frame.

With most houses, the cost difference between framing with timbers and regular construction is very small, and nonexistent on homes that have a lot of vaulted spaces, open valleys, dormers. etc.  In non-timberframe houses, structural issues in these areas must be handled with double pitch trusses, parallams, etc.

If the vaulted areas in a non-timberframe house, or any house for that matter, are to be sheetrocked, then a lot of time consuming work needs to be done up on the 2nd floor,  from scaffolding and /or stepladders.  Strapping has to be installed, drywall hung, butt joints beveled, Durobonded, crack filled, sanded, primered, and painted, all working overhead.

However, in a timber frame house, typically our timber roof framing is covered with ¾” v-joint that has already been stained on racks made with 2×4’s and sawhorses at waist level. This is installed, good side down (to be seen from inside), with rigid reflective insulation installed above.  The only crackfilling is in the gable walls and short pony walls (typically 18”).

Here are some of the big things that determine the overall cost – using an example of 2000 sq. ft. (for easy math):


  • View of living area from the storage loft.

    View of living area from the storage loft.

    I used $3.00 / sq. ft. tile on my home (right). If it were 2000 sq ft (it isn’t, but…) … $6000.

  • Many clients spend $5 – $7 /sq. ft. on laminate flooring, so that would be $10,000 – $14,000.
  • Some of our clients spend $12 / sq. ft. and up (way up!)… $24,000 and up.


Many small window manufacturers have good quality windows for less than half the cost of big brand name companies.

Kitchen Sink

It’s the same thing for siding, electrical fixtures, plumbing, kitchen cabinets,  hardware, etc., ad nauseum.

If you would like an accurate estimate of the cost for one of our pre-designed house models, we make this offer.  If you buy a set of our plans, we will reimburse this cost if we are awarded your timberframe contract.   A full set of prints is invaluable for all the sub trades to price their labour and material costs.  Each set has an extra unstapled set, that you can bring to Staples, UPS Store, etc to get as many copies as you need for electricians, plumbers, drywallers, foundation contractors, roofers, etc.  It’s advisable to keep the other “master” set in your own hands or your contractor’s.

2. Do you build turn key homes?

Finished house, shingledNo, we don’t build turn key homes. We did that for 5 years or so, throughout Atlantic Canada, but found it was very difficult to compete with local carpenters, and who would want to, anyway?  We had to billet our workers in motels and pay travel expenses, which kept the cost up. It was also difficult to hire sub trades, and arrange meetings with them.  Being strangers in most of these places, we often would wind up hiring inexpert or unskilled workers.

Eventually, it made more sense for us to specialize. We design the homes, cut and raise the frames, and help line up local contractors to finish the projects.

Nowadays, we encourage our clients to hire general contractors directly. As part of our timberframe construction contract, we meet with the contractor to explain our enclosure system and supply them with our “tricks of the trade” construction details, and we give them all the information they need to provide accurate prices to the clients. We are very pleased with how well this works.

Our clients often have contractors that they already know and would like to work with. If, however, you are new to the area or don’t have many contacts, we can recommend several contractors that we have worked with in the following areas of the Maritimes:

  • Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia
  • South Shore of Nova Scotia
  • Tatamagouche, N.S.
  • Halifax County, N.S.
  • Cape Breton
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Sackville, New Brunswick
  • Saint John, N.B.

Our focus has been to keep improving our frames to be more user friendly to close in.

The first step was to change the framing so as to not need structural panels, SIPS, to be insulated. Our system uses an “out fill” 2×4 stud wall, covered with reflective insulation.  This can be installed by any good contractor, with mainly local materials.

contractors in unfinished houseOur timber framed dormers have nailing surfaces for the sheathing on the cripple rafters, and everywhere else you need to nail sheathing.  We don’t just leave a hole in the roof for the contractors to build a dormer.

We have fine-tuned our timber framing practices to make the frames as “contractor friendly” as possible.

3. What type of wood do you use?

Normally, we use Eastern White Pine. It takes stain better than other woods, and is more stable than Spruce, hardwoods, and the Douglas Fir that we are able to get in Nova Scotia. Pine resists twisting, and will check less.  Our Pine comes from Queens County, Nova Scotia.

4. I have trees on my lot. Can I use them for my timberframe?

In a perfect world, the answer would be yes.  In this world, the high cost of shipping makes this more expensive. Custom sawing has a few other inherent problems.

Often the trees are not cut by professionals, and logs are selected incorrectly or cut a few inches short. All logs look straight when they are lying on the ground.

Everyone thinks the other guy’s trade is easy.  Forestry is a trade with lots of room for the devil to hide in the details.

joy1253In an average stand, one in four trees have a good timber beam inside.  Poor grain and large knots are sometimes exposed with the first slice. Sawmills turn these into 1” boards, 2×4, strapping, etc.  You need at least twice the board footage of your timber order.

With custom sawing, most mills prefer to take logs from your property, saw them into the size and dimension that is most efficient, and pay you by the board foot, in the form of a credit.

This way, they can select your order from a much larger stock, and you will not need to go back to the woods over and over to get the last few timbers.

All this, having been said, sometimes it is practical to use your own trees, especially if the site is near our shop.  Of course, it would be great to have your frame built from your own trees, but you need to decide the value that you place on this.

5. My mother-in-law’s great grandfather was an infamous horse thief who was hanged for his crimes from an oak tree near the courthouse. I have a limb from that tree. Can we use it to make a knee brace for my den?


Still got questions?

E-mail me. Be sure to include the location of your site (community, province or state, and country).

Forrest Rand