Tim­ber’s Curb Ap­peal

Tim­ber ac­cents on your home’s ex­te­rior of­fer vis­ual clues to the sym­phony of wood in­side.

Timber Home Living - - Contents - BY CHARLES BE­VIER

Old World tim­ber homes are easy to spot in Europe. That’s be­cause the crafts­men of yes­ter­year placed the tim­ber frames on the out­side of the struc­tures, an­nounc­ing to passersby that this home was built to stand the test of time.

This ap­proach looked won­der­ful, but it wasn’t ex­actly en­ergy ef­fi­cient. Nor did it pro­tect the tim­bers from the dam­ag­ing ef­fects of weather, which ex­plains why mod­ern tim­ber frames are placed within the air-con­di­tioned space of the home.

But that doesn’t mean you have to be se­cre­tive about the sturdy beams in­side. With some thought and plan­ning, you can vis­ually com­mu­ni­cate your home’s aes­thetic ap­peal to the world. Here are strate­gies de­sign­ers re­com- mend to bring ar­chi­tec­tural vi­tal­ity to the out­side of your home.


The front en­try area is the most log­i­cal space to an­nounce you’ve in­vested in a tim­ber home, says ar­chi­tect Kather­ine Hill­brand with SALA Ar­chi­tects in Still­wa­ter, Min­nesota. “The el­e­gant wood join­ery at the en­trance can re­mind friends and vis­i­tors of the time­less crafts­man­ship of what’s in­side,” she says.

De­cid­ing on the ex­te­rior ap­peal is like com­mis­sion­ing a hand­crafted piece of fur­ni­ture — you have many op­tions, depend­ing on your needs and bud­get. Some en­try­ways fea­ture trusses, such as a king post with curved struts, a queen post or a ham­mer­beam. Any of th­ese trusses mounted above a porch or

front door can give vis­i­tors the feel­ing of en­ter­ing a mag­i­cal for­est of sturdy trunks and grace­ful limbs.

Th­ese trusses can ei­ther be dec­o­ra­tive or struc­tural, mean­ing they can be merely for show or they can carry the weight of a roof sys­tem above. Ei­ther way, you’ll pay nearly the same amount for the crafts­man­ship and ma­te­ri­als. “That’s why I pre­fer they earn their keep,” says Hill­brand. “Plus, to pro­tect the tim­bers from weather, I rec­om­mend gen­er­ous over­hangs. Your trusses can sup­port that over­hang.”

Porches are an­other fa­vorite for in­cor­po­rat­ing frame el­e­ments, says Anne Stern­quist, co-owner with hus­band Bob of Tim­ber­craft Homes in Te­cum­seh, Michi­gan. On the com­pany’s “Clark­ston Place” de­sign, it cre­ated a wrap­around tim­bered porch in front, a wrap­around deck in back and a ham­mer­beam truss above the en­try­way. The com­bi­na­tion is par­tic­u­larly pleas­ing to the eye, she says.

Frames of win­dows can also be flanked in tim­bers. Hill­brand takes it a step fur­ther by in­stalling del­i­cate ver­ti­cal or hor­i­zon­tal branches on the ex­te­rior of a large bank of win­dows. “You ac­tu­ally at­tach it to the win­dow frame, but it adds a won­der­ful or­ganic ex­pres­sion to the out­side of the home,” she says.

Gable trusses and dec­o­ra­tive brack­ets be­tween the eaves and the walls also add style to the ex­te­rior and draw vis­i­tor’s eyes up­ward. And if you don’t want to in­vest in a garage, a porte­cochere could be your so­lu­tion. This roofed struc­ture that pro­vides shel­ter while en­ter­ing or leav­ing the front door also can dis­play grace­ful trusses and braces.

If you’re look­ing to add th­ese kinds of ac­cents to your ex­te­rior, you’ll need to bud­get for this in the de­sign stage. “If you only have $5,000 in your bud­get to de­vote to ex­te­rior ac­cents, I’d spend the money else­where be­cause you’re not go­ing to get what you truly want,” ad­vises Stern­quist. “But if you have more money in your bud­get, then you can re­ally make the ex­te­rior come alive.”


If money’s tight dur­ing con­struc­tion, all is not lost. There are dec­o­ra­tive el­e­ments you can add to your home site af­ter you build.

One of the sta­ple images of old westerns is the en­try gate — the two ver­ti­cal

poles and hor­i­zon­tal cross beam that marks the en­trance to the ranch. Tim­ber home own­ers are adding an en­try gate to their drive with en­chant­ing re­sults, nam­ing their prop­erty or even at­tach­ing a logo or replica of their brand if they’re ranch­ers.

An­other fa­vorite op­tion among re­cent home buy­ers is the out build­ing with tim­ber ac­cents. This can run the gamut from a barn, garage, pool house, boathouse, hot tub or bar­be­cue shel­ter to sun­rooms, pa­tio shade struc­tures or a por­tico that links a garage to the back­door. All can be con­structed with tim­ber ac­cents or full tim­ber frames to un­der­score your home’s de­sign.

If you have school-age chil­dren and the drive­way is too long for quick dashes to the bus, you may opt to erect a small shel­ter to shield them from the el­e­ments. This can be adorned with mor­tise-and-tenon join­ery, as can a play­house in the backyard, which can be­come the cen­ter for hun­dreds of hours of fun for your kids.

If you’d like a space to re­lax or com­mit time to a hobby, think about a gar­den shed with tim­ber-frame fil­i­gree. You’ll have plenty of room to spread out all your ma­te­ri­als and a pri­vate workspace built with un­der­stated el­e­gance.

You don’t need to in­vest thou­sands of dol­lars to bring tim­ber high­lights to your home site, ei­ther. Lamp­posts, trel­lises and other land­scap­ing ac­cents can add a rustic ap­peal to your sur­round­ings. Some­thing as sim­ple as tim­ber ac­cented fur­ni­ture for your porch can add charm and sug­gest what’s in­side.


Once you in­vest in th­ese grace­ful dis­plays of crafts­man­ship, you’ll want to pro­tect it from Mother Na­ture’s wrath. Ap­ply log sealants and stain an­nu­ally (es­pe­cially for any south-fac­ing wood), and check for in­sect in­fes­ta­tion. For land­scap­ing ap­pli­ca­tions, such as lamp­posts or trel­lises, you may want to em­ploy treated lum­ber that re­sists de­cay.

To make sure your in­vest­ment is vis­i­ble af­ter the sun goes down, in­stall land­scape light­ing to il­lu­mi­nate it. “You don’t want some­thing as bright as Las Ve­gas,” warns Hill­brand. “I pre­fer a more sub­tle ap­proach. But it’s help­ful to have the lights shine on what­ever as­pect of the de­sign you’re par­tic­u­larly proud of.”

In other words, you might want to get a lot of lights.

ABOVE: Ex­te­rior tim­ber el­e­ments can be dec­o­ra­tive or struc­tural, mean­ing they can be merely for show or they can carry the weight of the roof sys­tem above.

LEFT: El­e­gant wood join­ery and a va­ri­ety of mixed ma­te­ri­als can give a pre­view of what’s to come in­side your tim­ber home.

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