Want to be more effective, efficient, and profitable in timber home building this year? Here are a few of our top tips for working with timber frame providers, as well as what we’re seeing on the custom timber home building horizon for 2022.
Make Your Job Easier: Ask an Expert
Imagine this scenario: you just got a new lead on a client who wants to build a custom home with a big budget that would boost your bottom line. But there is one key requirement—they want to build a custom timber home , and this is out of your realm of expertise.
“We’ve heard so many stories where custom builders try to talk their client(s) out of building a timber frame home because it is out of their comfort zone. But there is no need to be intimidated,” said Mike Banta, design manager at Mid-Atlantic Timberframes.
Start by consulting a timber supplier early in the design process. “Seek a supplier who is comfortable collaborating with architects/designers and clients, and one that has in - house design professionals,” Banta added. Bringing in a timber framing expert before construction documents are completed ensures the timbers are integrated for optimal flow instead of looking like an afterthought. Additionally, they’ll be able to assess drawing plans and can point out design elements that may not work well or should be adjusted.
After the assessment of the design is complete, timber framing experts can make your job even easier. Most can take existing drawings and convert them into timber frame drawings. This means that your team can more easily execute the design, helping them to build it right the first time and to eliminate mistakes or additional costs. It also ensures the client isn’t surprised when they see the resulting build.
Working with a timber expert early on also helps you meet your deadlines. “Overall, my biggest piece of advice, and the best way to make your job easier, is to engage your timber manufacturer as soon as possible to prevent unforeseen roadblocks and product delays,” said Banta.
In today’s landscape, the days of only a few weeks’ lead time for products is nearly nonexistent. Product manufacturers need more notice than ever before to get raw material and start production so you can meet your client’s deadline. Early communication and scheduling is crucial in the current climate and should be your top priority.
Make It Personal: Leverage Relationships
As many builders already know, the day-to-day job is more than managing timelines and budgets. It's also about building and maintaining strong relationships that are professional yet personal. While it may be something you consider already, it’s worth pausing to reiterate and explore how important relationships with both your product suppliers and clients are.
Maintaining and leveraging relationships is especially crucial when selecting product manufacturers for custom builds. Consider finding a supplier that acts not just as a vendor, but a consultant . This is especially important if you are unfamiliar with timber frame construction. “For instance, if you get asked a highly technical question about timber from the client and you don’t know the answer, a timber frame supplier will be able to help you formulate an educated answer,” stated Banta.
Another piece of advice is to go above and beyond to build a strong relationship with your client—with established trust, you can better help them hone in on a clear vision of the build before approaching a timber frame manufacturer. The more information you have, the better. Even pulling a few images off of Pinterest or Houzz can help the timber manufacturer understand the desired aesthetic, helping you achieve the build. On the other hand, if your client’s vision is still unclear, an experienced timber provider can help you fine - tune the details by discussing what is possible and realistic.
The more personal you get with your product suppliers and clients, the more you can avoid headaches and delays, ensuring a smoother process overall. Not to mention , getting personal with your clients will leave a lasting impression on them, which can lead to referrals and future revenue.
The Custom Builder Crystal Ball: 2022 Predictions and Trendspotting
Looking ahead, our team of timber experts talked with B&D Builders, a luxury custom builder and one of Mid-Atlantic Timberframes’ sister companies, about what’s in store for timber frame construction this year. Two main themes emerged: luxurious living spaces incorporating natural products—and preparing clients to wait for them.
In terms of what clients are looking for in custom timber frame homes, natural materials are in. “More often than not, timber frame homes tend to be secondary residences on lakefronts or mountains. Timber frame homes naturally fit in with these natural environments, and there is a strong market in building new vacation homes with a woodsy feel,” said Daniel Glick, co-founder and co-owner of B&D Builders.
“We predict that the demand for natural products—such as real stone, bamboo, timber, and others—will only continue to increase in custom builds,” added Ben Esh, also a co-founder and co-owner of B&D Builders.
Large, Outdoor Living Spaces
Additionally, large, luxurious outdoor living spaces are here to stay and will become the norm. What is driving this besides the ripple effects of the pandemic? “Two things—it is one of the easiest ways to expand the footprint of a home and people love entertaining,” Glick added.
“Investing in outdoor and backyard spaces is a long - term investment. Your clients want interior spaces to flow seamlessly into outdoor spaces, with as many amenities outside as there are inside,” Esh stated.
Plan Around Shortages
But planning ahead for these new custom builds is key. It isn’t news that the housing market is booming and that new builds are on the rise. And with high new build demand comes the need for a strong supply chain, which has been anything but predictable over the past two years.
“There is no one in the custom building industry who hasn’t faced product shortages, delays, and increased costs due to the supply chain issues in 2021. Our most important prediction for 2022 is that the supply chain is going to be an even bigger problem for custom builders this year,” stated Banta.
With major suppliers allocating materials to the most profitable customers, your clients’ custom homes may fall last on the list. This is where communicating early and often, setting expectations, and planning farther ahead than ever before come in. If they’re building with timber, make sure your clients are prepared to wait six to eight months for construction to begin. Also, communicate with subcontractors early to prevent holding up construction even more.
You Don’t Have to Go It Alone
Whether you're a seasoned custom builder or you’re just starting out, always remember that there’s no shortage of industry experts who are there to help you succeed. Especially if you’re venturing into timber frame construction for the first time, working with a knowledgeable timber partner can help you avoid costly missteps and feel like a timber home pro in no time.