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Plan to Build in 2018? Start Now.

The clock is ticking. If you want to start building your timber frame home in 2018, now is the time to start your custom home design.

Riverbend recommends you start the design process about a year ahead of your desired construction start date. Some locations have a construction season limited by weather. If this applies to you, you will need to start your home’s construction by summer next year. This allows enough time to construct your home to a point where it can be protected from wet weather.

So, why does it take so long to get from design to construction? There are several factors that can affect how long your project is in the design and pre-construction phases. Major delays during these phases can delay your ground breaking.

Custom Design

First, it takes several months to design a custom home. Even small changes to a conceptual floor plan take time. In addition, each home’s layout needs to be customized to fit the unique topography of its location. You can expect to see your home’s design about six weeks after your initial design meeting. Each round of revisions after the initial design can add several more weeks to the process. Add a few more weeks to your timeline if your property belongs to a Home Owners’ Association that reviews designs. Those who start the design process now can expect to have their custom home plans finalized before the end of the year if they do not have major revisions.


In pre-construction, detailed construction drawings are completed for you home. These drawings are extremely important for securing a builder. If you already have a contractor selected for your home, they will use the drawings to estimate how much it will cost to build your home. If you do not have a builder, you can use the construction drawings to solicit bids and select a qualified builder to construct your home.

Once the construction drawings are completed, they are also sent to an engineer for review. An engineer, local to your build site, ensures structural stability and that the home will meet local building codes. While this process takes several weeks, any change to the design during this phase must be drawn into the construction documents and reviewed by the engineer again. This process exponentially extends the time it takes to get stamped drawings.

The permitting process is another part of the pre-construction phase that can push your construction start date back. The amount of time it takes to pull permits for your home depends on your location. In some municipalities, it can take just a few days. However, if you plan to build in an area where construction is booming, it can take a month or two to get the approval you need to break ground.


Shopping for, and securing, financing is a lengthy process. Construction loans can be confusing and meeting qualifications for loans can be tedious. Getting your financing in line as early as possible eliminates roadblocks for beginning construction when you are ready.

Starting Now

If you have land and plan on breaking ground on your custom timber home in 2018, it is time to start your design. Beginning the design process puts your dream of living in a timber frame home front and center. It also allows you to mitigate road blocks that may prevent you from breaking ground on your selected date.

At Riverbend, starting the design process means signing a Design Development Agreement (DDA). This commits you to the design process – nothing more. A Riverbend Client Representative will visit your site for a pre-design meeting. The information collected is used for your initial design meeting. At this meeting, your Client Representative and a Riverbend degreed architect take the lead and work to create the ideal timber home design for you. Once your design is complete, you have accomplished a major step toward starting construction and can address the potential stumbling blocks in pre-construction and financing.

Contact Riverbend today to begin discussing the design of your home with a client representative, and learn more about Riverbend’s Design Development Agreement.

Timber Cabin Construction in Saskatchewan

A ‘Construction-side’ Chat

Riverbend recently had a few moments to catch up with Kerri of Saskatchewan, whose Riverbend timber frame home is currently being raised on a lake outside of St. Walburg. Read below to see what inspired her waterfront-style home and how construction is going so far.

Riverbend Timber Framing (RTF): Why are you building a custom home?

Kerri: When my great grandparents immigrated from Germany to Canada during World War II, they built a cabin on this same lake. Later, my grandparents and parents built their own cabins here too. Some land was purchased so everyone could eventually have a cabin here. I have been coming here since I was a child and my kids and I move out [to the lake] every summer. This cabin will be our second home for now and will be our retirement home later.

RTF: What inspired you to choose timber frame construction for your new home?

Kerri: We currently live in the suburbs, and so, we are surrounded by cookie cutter houses. We just did not want something else cookie cutter. My husband wanted something cabin-y but we didn’t want too much wood. We definitely knew we did not want a log cabin. We did a lot of research and decided we wanted timber frame.

RTF: How did you want your home to look?

Kerri: For the timber framing itself, we wanted big features with simple clean lines. Because we are lakefront, we wanted it to feel like we were outside. We were inspired by the Mayson floor plan, and we incorporated lots of windows onto the main level. My husband grew up in Medicine Hat, Alberta where the clay and brick industry was large and fireplaces are a big deal, so he wanted to incorporate multiple fireplaces. Our main fireplace will be wood burning and in the 1500s-style, with large natural stones.

timber cabin design

RTF: What stage of the construction process are you at now?

Kerri: We are right in the middle of the raising; it has been going on for four days so far. The raising crew is putting the second story joists on. We still have the second story to finish off, the loft, roof, and a bunch of front timbers. Our mason who is building our fireplace is also on site. It is so large and tied intricately into the timbers, SIPs, and ICFs, so the mason and raising crew have been working closely together.


RTF: What is it like seeing your home come to shape before your eyes?

Kerri: It is pretty fun. My husband has been on site for two of the days, and my parents have been here the other two. The kids ask every day if we can go see the cabin. So far, it has been an unbelievably good experience.

Keep up to date with this home’s construction on Riverbend’s Facebook.


Barns Make Great Homes

Should you convert an old barn or build a new barn style home?

Okotoks Barn Home

Soaring ceilings, open, flowing space, and rustic charm; the traits of a barn are also those desired by contemporary house hunters. Once forgotten, centuries-old barns are now prized by homeowners for their simplistic ascetic, craftsmanship, and connection to yesteryear.

Some barn home seekers opt to convert antique barns into their new homes. Others build new homes with barn style architecture. Each pathway to a custom barn home has unique opportunities and obstacles. Today, we will be discussing the factors of customization, ease of building, and energy efficiency.

Converting a Barn into a Home

Calgary Barn ResidenceA historic pole barn or post and beam stable that has been on your family’s property for decades could be the ideal way to build your charming new farmhouse. How hard could it be to restore a barn and turn it into a home? On television, charismatic contractors transform leaning barns into luxury homes in just 60 minutes. However, turning a hallowed barn into a home is more complicated than simply hanging drywall and forming rooms.

Barns face harsh weather and often fall into disrepair. Over the years, this can lead to the deterioration of the structure. A barn that is usable for farm work may need additional structural support to meet home building codes. Even if you have the barn’s structure assessed by an engineering professional, there may be unexpected discoveries during construction.

Necessary structural fixes may limit your ability to customize your new home. While almost any room configuration is possible at first, you may have to address structural issues. For example, if you need to add a timber post in the middle of your stairs or great room, it is imperative that you rearrange the home’s layout for functionality.

Furthermore, barns do not to control the temperature and atmosphere like modern homes. In addition to structural work, installing new windows and insulation is necessary in order for a weather-tight home. Depending on the structure, you may not be able to make it as energy efficient as a new home.

Despite the possibility of major construction challenges and design changes, converting old barns into homes is very appealing to some. The nostalgia of an antique barn or preserving a precious piece of family history is worth the hard work and unknowns.

Building a New Barn Style Home

Overall, building a new barn home gives you more control over the process and outcome of your project. If you start your home design from scratch, you can customize your home any way you want. You can control the size, style, and layout. This is a great advantage if you desire a gambrel barn home in a location where bank barns are prominent. Want an elevator or lookout tower in your home? Custom elements are easier to build from scratch than adapt to an existing structure.

Although a new home may not have the history of a Dutch barn, it can still have character and uniqueness.  The craftsmanship and tradition of timber framing brings an authentic and timeless element to new barn homes.Kenton Barn Home

New barn homes are also more energy efficient than converted barns that have had an energy retrofit. Air leakage and conductive heat loss are two ways to measure energy loss. Today, new homes seal your interior from the elements and minimize energy loss.

Riverbend Timber Framing’s barn homes incorporate a building system that works together to create a highly energy-efficient structure. Riverbend’s homes begin with Advantage® brand ICFs (insulated concrete forms), which form channels for and insulate the concrete foundation. Around the timber frame barn structure, Riverbend uses Insulspan® structural insulated panels (SIPs) to form the walls and roof. The panels have a solid core of EPS (expanded polystyrene) insulation sandwiched between two boards of OSB (oriented strand board). SIPs offer structural stability and insulation in one product reducing air leaks and heat transfer at the same time. This helps you heat and cool your barn home with a minimal energy cost.

Homeowners who want more design control during their project opt to build a new barn style home. While new construction is not without challenges and unexpected issues, they can be mitigated with a new home design.

Other Barn Home Resources

When considering what home building pathway to take, there are many more factors to contemplate before you make your decision. Continue your research, access your budget, and interview barn homeowners to get the additional information you need. If you would like more information about designing or building a timber frame barn home, a Riverbend Client Representative is happy to answer your questions or discuss your project. Contact us today.

Timber Frame Barn Home Floor Plans

Barn Home Photo Galleries

Timber Frame Barns and Stables

How to Read Timber Frame Floor Plans

For most of us here at Riverbend, working for a company with over 30 years of experience means we all spend our fair share of time drawing, reviewing, and/or reading timber frame floor plans. For most of you, chances are, even if you are pursuing the idea of building a traditional timber frame home, it is unlikely you’ve reviewed design concepts that included timber posts and truss work. While you do not need to be an expert in reading floor plans, it helps to know the basics as you go through. Here are some pointers to help you discern what you are looking at.

Timber Frame Floor Plans When you look at a floor plan, typically you will see double lines for walls and openings for doors with an arch symbolizing their path of movement. When you look at a timber frame floor plan specifically (see far left image), it will be easy to notice posts right away by their box symbol. These boxes will be intersected by dotted lines that represent where a timber beam or truss is located. While this will give you a good idea of how much timber is in a plan and where it is located, it is as far as you can go with a floor plan layout. From there, you will look at a timber frame skeleton to see the timber framing itself.

Interior Floor Plans To achieve an accurate understanding of how the timber framing will come together, you can view a drawing of the timber frame skeleton. Above, the image on the right shows the timber frame skeleton that matches up with the floor plan seen on the left. By matching up the squares, it is easy to see how utilizing both of these images can help you begin to visualize how your interior spaces will look.

There are several other things in a floor plan that are helpful to know when you review them. For instance, you will find that exterior spaces are represented by faint, single lines. Assessing the image on the right, you can also see things like how windows are represented by a break in the wall lines, or how a shower is differentiated from a tub with an ‘X’ through it and a door symbol arching inward. The structure of a double-sided fireplace and how it works into the wall system is also visible in the adjacent image.

Hopefully, the explanation we have provided in this week’s blog has helped you to better understand the floor plans you view so that it is easier to get started on the customization of your own plan.

Take a look at our floor plan gallery from more examples.

Why Contemplate Turnkey Costs

When you contemplate the cost of building your timber frame home, you can think in terms of parts and pieces that go together such as; the foundation, the frame, and the roof, or you can think in Turnkey terms—considering the entire project as a whole. Turnkey Example

What is ‘Turnkey’

The term ‘turnkey’ originates from that final stage of a project when a homeowner “turns their key” and steps in to their completed home. Your turnkey cost is an accumulation of what will be spent on your project from your initial design to the final touches. However, these costs do not include any land improvements that need to be made, utilities brought in, roads, or the cost of purchasing the land.

How Thinking Turnkey Can Better Prepare You

Some Timber Frame companies will provide you package prices for your project and give you a percentage of how much your total cost will be. At Riverbend, we use turnkey estimates to help you see if the home design you have designed and chosen to build is feasible to build within your complete turnkey budget. By thinking in terms of turnkey costs, you will have an understanding of how much it will actually cost to build your home upfront, giving you the confidence to move forward into construction.