Are you considering building a timber frame home but wonder if there might be a simpler approach than designing a custom plan? At Carolina Timberworks, we get a lot of questions about timber frame home kits. While we don’t build timber frame home kits, we want to share our expertise so if you choose to build one, you understand what the process looks like. We created a short guide that explores what you can expect from a kit and how it can streamline the building process.
What Is a Timber Frame Home Kit?
A timber frame home kit is a pre-designed, pre-cut timber frame package delivered to your building site for assembly. Whether you want a simple timber frame gazebo, a timber frame barn, or a full package of materials for your new home, you can find a standardized option that includes some or most of what you or your builder needs to complete the job.
What Comes in a Timber Frame Home Kit?
The contents of a timber frame home kit can widely vary based on the design you choose and the timber frame company you contract. Many include these common components:
This is the common denominator. Timber frame home kits always include timber, but you can often choose the type. Perhaps you’d like Western Red Cedar, Eastern White Pine, or Douglas Fir?
Most kits include joinery, posts, beams, rafters, joists, ties, and hardware—essentially everything you need to assemble the timber frame on top of your existing foundation. Everything comes pre-cut to spec, based on the plan you choose.
Walls and Ceilings
Home kits often include 2×6 tongue and groove loft and ceiling boards and interior 1×6 wall paneling. Some companies offer insulation and siding.
Select kits also come with conventional framing elements like 2x wall and floor systems. In addition, your kit may include SIP (structural insulated panel) screws, foam sealant, and other installation materials.
Tools, Manuals, and Blueprints
Some kits even come with timber frame tools, including chisels and sharpening stones. Most include blueprints and manuals to guide your builder or allow for DIY assembly if you’re up for a challenge.
If you opt for a complete timber frame home kit, you can expect a few extras. For example, these kits may include interior and exterior doors, windows and trim, stairs, decks, and flooring.
How Much Do Timber Frame Home Kits Cost?
Just as the components of a timber frame home kit vary widely, so do the prices. Keep in mind that the cost to build varies widely depending on the location of your property. As a general rule, timber frame homes cost 10% to 20% more than conventional 2×4 and 2×6 construction.
Although you can expect turnkey kits to cost more than basic plans, here are a few average costs to factor into your budget:
- Basic timber frame home kits average about $60 to $75 per square foot. In most cases, a basic kit only includes the timber frame and 2×6 tongue & groove roof boards.
- A lock up kit averages about $100 to $150 per square foot. With a lock up package, you get the timber frame as well as the windows and exterior doors necessary to secure the home.
- A turnkey timber frame home kit averages about $200 to $250 per square foot. This top-of-the-line package may cost significantly more, but it includes foundation excavation, flooring, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC.
Other factors can affect the total cost. For example, the location of the building site and the type of timber you choose may increase the cost of your home kit.
Why Build With Timber Frame Home Kits?
Building with a kit can be a smart choice for several reasons:
Quick Turnaround Time
Kits include standardized components and arrive with pre-cut timber. They’re designed to be relatively easy to assemble, which means you can build them quickly, at least in theory. Ideally, you get greater control over the construction process and schedule.
Versatile Plan Options
Home kits typically have standard designs, but that doesn’t mean they all look exactly the same. No matter which plans you choose, you can select the wood type that best fits your budget or your aesthetic. Inside, there’s often no need for load-bearing walls, making for an open floor plan. Design and fill the space however you choose—it’s yours.
When you work with a timber frame company, you’re not limited to a pre-made kit. Instead, you can use a kit as a starting point for your simple timber frame house plan, customizing it by changing the size, adding extra interior space, decorative elements, or even stories.
How to Buy a Timber Frame Home Kit
At Carolina Timberworks, one question we frequently ask ourselves is, “What would we do if it were our home”? On the kit question, we’re torn. About 99% of all the timber frames we’ve ever built were custom-designed for the client and the client’s site.
Over many years working with talented architects and design professionals, we’ve seen how the design process results in buildings that delight their owners and fit the land. And because they’re loved, they’ll be maintained and last generations (which is one of our definitions of sustainable timber framing).
Whether you’re looking for a standardized house plan with a quick turnaround time or a timber frame home plan you can customize to meet your needs, a pre-designed timber frame home kit might—or might not—be a good fit.
Overall, you probably won’t save money buying a kit. The cost of the kit isn’t nearly as important as what your total cost of the completed building on your property turns out to be. As you go through the list of included materials, you may think to yourself, “almost everything’s included, I can build this for less than I thought!” Experience teaches otherwise.
All in all, you probably won’t save time either. Most people end up modifying the standard kit design at least a little—which means they must go through the design, drafting, and engineering process.
If you do find the perfect kit design from the right company, before you write a check, ask to speak with their last five customers. Take the time to phone each one and ask this question: “Knowing what you know now, would you make the same decision again?”
Carolina Timberworks’ Timber Frame House Kit Concept
During COVID-19, we came up with a few ready-to-build, high-end timber frame kits as a way to keep our people working. The idea was that our timber framers could take materials home in their trucks and cut the kits in their driveways in the event our building was shut down. While we no longer offer kits and are focused on custom timber framing projects, it’s fun to imagine all the different kits that could be created like our home concept above.