Discovering the beauty of a timber frame home

March 2016

In the 30+ years of helping to design and build people’s dream homes in the Thunder Bay area, Seargeant Picard Homebuilders has nurtured a more careful investigation of what creates the unique concept of home for each family…a design that reflects the values and personal taste of the homeowners. Often this focuses on custom fine finishing, rich textures and quality materials that give character and personality to a home.

In the north, we strongly identify with our natural surroundings; the trees, water and rock of the Canadian Shield. We share a love of the land. It is, therefore, not surprising that there is a rising interest in incorporating the art of timberframe building into our concept of home. The soaring beams and arches of solid wood give even, the most modern homes, a grounded sense of communion with the natural surroundings just beyond the windows.

Timberframe building is a time tested building method that incorporates exposed, large, structural wood beams fastened together by traditional hand carved mortise or tenon, of dovetail joinery. Examples of timberframe architecture that date back to the 12th century can still be seen standing across Europe and Japan. The attraction to modern building is the ability to create soaring vaulted spaces that are, at the same time, warm and grounded. The beams support the frame of the building allowing largely unimpeded views.

Timberframe can be used to create multiple personalities; clean Scandinavian simplicity, rustic mountain lodge or an echo of an old English country home. Of late, this building method has been used in a hybrid form. Even the most modern urban home can highlight one or more rooms with soaring ceiling beams, a dramatic arched entrance or a small cozy, beamed sun room. The contrasting effect is breathtaking.

In Thunder Bay, Seargeant Picard builds the majority of its homes with traditional 2x6 drywalled construction, but for the past 20 years they have also met the rising demand for timberframe. A more recent alliance with Discovery Dream Homes has made timberframe more affordable by streamlining the hand crafted manufacturing with modern technology. The partnership allows Seargeant Picard to access a team of outstanding designers, engineers and a large scale modern shop of skilled artisans. The Canadian white pine beams used in the manufacturing are harvested in renewable tree farms and are carefully chosen, hewn and milled on site. Discovery Dream Homes has the Forest Stewardship Counsel Certification that ensures that beams come from environmentally managed forests.

Once the beams and joinery are carefully manufactured they are transported to the building site for the grand “erection”. The beams are lifted into position and Seargeant Picard’s team of skilled carpenters climb the skeleton to hand position everything into place. Once the timberframe is fully erected an ancient tradition of the “topping out ceremony” takes place. The lead carpenter or the homeowner climbs to the highest peak to nail a live pine bough into place. This ceremony, still used throughout the world, bestows good luck and happiness to the inhabitants of the new home.

Discovery Dream Homes has pre-drawn designs that can meet every need from a tiny summer cabin to a grand heritage home. Visiting their on-line site will give you an idea of the breadth and scope of their designs. Several of the homes showcased in their photo gallery were designed and built by Seargeant Picard here in Thunder Bay. Although there are a number of pre-drawn blue prints to choose from most homeowners choose to create a custom design with the help of Seargeant Picard’s owner Neil Sproule. “Most of our customers have a very specific idea of the unique design features they want in their home. It is a process that requires careful listening and good communication between the builder and the homeowner. We work with them to consider the distinct features of their lot and how to maximize the views and the exposure to sun. Then we look at the needs of their family to determine traffic flow and priorities of how they use their home to lay out private and social spaces. Finally, attention is given to detail and fine finishes that give the home the charm and character that reflect the values of the homeowner.” The latest methods to ensure energy efficiency are employed in the design. Discovery Dream Homes has a design team that collaborates with Seargeant Picard when the Timberframe details are added to the blueprint. Their computerized drafting technology allows a three dimensional walk through on your computer. These walkthroughs are invaluable, as they give the homeowner the ability to see the house in a 3d setting and make changes or alter dimensions right before your eyes.

In recent years, Seargeant Picard, in partnership with Discovery Dream Homes has collaborated with customers to design some remarkable permanent and summer homes in the Thunder Bay area. Some notable examples are the home of Eric and Tanya Staal and the home of Marc and Lindsay Staal; one being a traditional rustic timberframe and the other a more modern cape cod style home. Both are beautiful examples of design, and the ability to take advantage of the natural beauty of the area.

If you value the inclusion of the materials and views of the great outdoors in your concept of home, you may want to consider including some aspect of Timberframe in your cottage, addition or new home.

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