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Add Space with a Timber Frame Loft

A timber frame home is crafted with trusses that are both functional, beautiful, and meant to be seen. This open, vaulted space holds potential to create an additional living space in your home. So, if you are building a timber frame home, why not consider including a loft?

Lofts allow you to enjoy the beauty of timber framing up close


Loft takes advantage of space created by vaulted ceilings

Where Should the Loft Go?

The shape of your roof determines the amount of space available for a loft. The area above the great room, which is often below the apex of the roof, is likely the most practical position for adding a loft to your layout.

The photo to the left shows a loft located above the entryway that looks over the great room below. To the right and left of the loft is a child’s bedroom. If you choose to connect your loft to bedrooms upstairs, the space could easily become an entertainment area. However, you should consider how that affects the spaces below. Establishing a game room for the kids directly above the place you plan to entertain adults could get noisy.


Loft nook perfect for a library with built-in shelving


What Can You Use Lofts for?

Lofts can fill a variety of purposes. Riverbend Timber Framing homeowners have used their lofts for media rooms, craft rooms, offices, and even extra sleeping quarters. The best part of a loft is that you can add square footage without deterring from the beautifully exposed timber framing. In fact, a loft can get you closer to the timber frame.

Your ideal layout might include a more secluded space to relax, like the library loft in the Dexter, Michigan Residence. Open to the great room below, this library can serve as a quiet, private space away from company. By including a television or computer, your loft can also function as a personal entertainment space.

Second-Story Walkways

Loft and bridge surrounding by timber framing

What if you do not necessarily need or want the extra space in a loft, but still plan to have rooms on your second story? In this case, an open walkway that connects the staircase to one or both sides of the second floor could be the best option. Imagine a simple catwalk or a widened pathway to display your treasured antiques or collectibles.

If you are considering a layout with a simple walkway instead of an expansive loft, the Tuscany floor plan is a great example of how a bridge can connect one part of the second floor to another. In addition, if you align your bridge directly under the timber trusses you can create an exciting architectural point of interest within your home.

For more ideas for your timber frame loft, visit Riverbend’s timber frame loft photo gallery.

Solar Panels and Timber Frame Homes

Imagine how much energy and cost you could save if you generated power for your timber home from the sun. Most people would agree that the ability to generate their own solar power sounds great, but how practical is it?

Residential solar panels, or photovoltaic (PV) panels, have been around for a long time. When first introduced, they were expensive and limited in the amount of power they could generate. But, the last decade has produced an amazing array of technology, and the science behind solar energy has also taken big leaps. The cost to install solar panels has decreased because of these leaps in technology.

How much power is it possible to produce with solar panels?

The type of panels you select and the size of your system determines how much power you can generate for your home.

How much energy would you like your panels to produce? Many homeowners aim to offset the use of their HVAC system with solar while others want to produce all the energy they use.

To determine the size solar panel system you need, consider how much energy you currently use. Then, consider any changes that may increase or decrease your energy use. Are you planning on building your retirement dream home in Arizona? You might want to generate more power than someone in Tennessee or Michigan.

How does geographic location impact productivity of solar panels?

Across the country, there is a slight difference in the amount of energy PV panels can produce. Locations closer to the equator and locations that have more direct sunlight have the ability to create more energy than locations farther north.

However, even on cloudy days, the sun still shines and transmits the radiation needed to create energy for your home. Solar panels can even generate energy during the rain. No matter your location, your panels will create power when you are consuming it the most … on warm summer afternoons.

What does it cost to install solar panels? Are they worth the investment? estimates the national average to add a solar power system to your home to be about $22,000.

If you install solar panels while building a new home, you can incorporate it into your mortgage. Theoretically, the additional monthly cost will be made up by a reduction in your energy bill. While the savings varies by the cost of power in your location, as electricity gets more expensive over time, investing now caps your electrical costs for the next 25 to 30 years.

So, is it worth the cost? estimates the savings of an average-sized solar panel system can reduce your monthly energy bill by 50%. Over a 20-year period, the savings can add up to $30,000. National and local tax credits can also help offset the initial cost.

What home design considerations do I need to make for solar panels?

timber frame home energy efficient foundation and walls

If you want to install solar panels on your new home, now or in the future, tell your architect early in the design phase. They will take into consideration your home’s site orientation to ensure part of your roof faces the best direction to capture the maximum amount of solar radiation. Your roof will also need to be away from any trees that might shade it. The weight of the solar panels on your roof may also change the amount of structural support it needs. If you plan to add panels at a later date, you can save money by building the support and electrical connections needed while building your new home.

Of course, generating energy is only one side of the coin. The other step is to build a very efficient home. The more efficient your home, the less energy it you will need to produce. Timber frame homes built with insulated concrete form foundations and structural insulating wall and roof panels are extremely more efficient than stick-built homes.

Attend our upcoming webinar for more information on building an energy efficient home. Register for the live webinar session of Building an Energy Efficient Home from the Ground Up on March 29, 2018 at 5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern. A recording of this webinar will be available on-demand thereafter.

Designing the Timber Frame Home of Your Dreams

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could walk through your future home to make sure it is exactly what you envisioned?

At Riverbend, we want to give you the best preview of what your home will look like. When your design is presented you will receive a detailed artistic rendering and a virtual reality walk-through. These unique tools give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in your future home.

Initial Design Meeting

To start designing your home with Riverbend, you will sign a Design Development Agreement (DDA). This agreement is for our in-house firm to create your timber home design for a small fee. It is not until you are happy with your design that you sign a contract for the construction of your home.

After you sign a DDA, you will have an Initial Design Meeting with a Riverbend timber home designer. At this meeting, you will discuss how you want your layout to function, what kind of timber frame you envision, and how you want your home to look. Your designer may sketch a few ideas, and once they feel like they understand your vision, they will end the meeting and begin working on your design.

Design Drawings Presentation

In a few weeks, your designer will complete design drawings and schedule a meeting with you to present them. Your design drawings will include the following:

  • Floor Plan – a detailed layout of your home’s interior and exterior space, placed on your site;
  • Isometric drawings – line drawings of your home’s timber frame and Structural Insulated Panel structure;
  • Artistic Rendering – a full-color, computer-generated image of your home’s exterior, placed on a photo of your site, if available;
  • Virtual Design Tour – Your designer will prepare a 3-D model of your home’s design so you can ‘walk-through’ it via a computer and set of virtual reality (VR) goggles. If your design meeting occurs at one of Riverbend’s U.S. offices, you can virtually tour your home in person. If the meeting is done remotely via the web, your designer will present a pre-recorded virtual tour of your home.


Click On Photo to See VR Tour Video

Design Refinement

Riverbend’s virtual tours are among the first in the timber frame industry. This unique design tool gives clients an almost lifelike experience of walking through their dream home. As you walk through your VR home design, your ideas and sketches come to life before your eyes. You will be able to get a feel for your home’s layout and see the timber trusses and rafters that will surround you in your future home. If something you see is not quite right, then your designer can refine your home’s design.

By giving you many different ways to evaluate your design and a chance to make adjustments, you can be sure that your timber frame home’s design matches your vision. Then, you can move forward into the pre-construction phase of your project with confidence.

For more information about the design process, contact a Riverbend Client Representative.

Commercial Timber Frame Buildings

Timber framing is not just a great idea for residential homes, it is a creative way to build commercial structures as well. Many commercial buildings use timber framing to create iconic and memorable spaces. From churches to offices, timber framing’s traditional beauty can help define and enhance a large building. As such, it has remained a popular style of construction throughout the years because of its impact on a building’s atmosphere, versatility, and energy efficiency.

Sports Force Park, Sandusky, Ohio

Why Timber Frame?

Timber framing’s popularity first spread in the 15th Century when it was used to build church houses. In medieval days, most church buildings played multiple roles in the community as both churches, and either homes or trading halls. As a result, they needed to be quite large. The strength of wood framing made it an ideal material to create large spans and wide open spaces. This practical building solution was also an art form that still has many admirers today.

Today, churches, community centers, and other forms of businesses choose timber framing to add interest to their buildings. Timber framing adds both beauty and strength to buildings making them unforgettable.

Unlimited Design Options

Modern? Traditional? One-of-a-kind? Timber framing can fit any style building you want to construct. The commercial building design possibilities with timber frame are endless.

Your design will have an impact on the “feel” the timber framing creates in your commercial building. Trusses and timber frame bents offer the most opportunity to customize your commercial structure. Timber trusses can be simple or complicated. Can you imagine a curved chord spanning your building or a dramatic scissor truss configuration welcoming customers into your business?

Other Benefits of Timber Frame

In addition to beauty, timber frame provides an unobstructed layout. This is perfect for gathering places and retail spaces. Timber frames are also known for their vaulted ceilings and ability to spread natural light.

Timber framing’s symbiotic relationship with structural insulating panels (SIPs) also create additional benefits for commercial buildings and business owners. SIPs create the walls and roof of commercial buildings by wrapping around the timber framing. Since SIPs have a tighter seal than typical wood frame construction, they help prevent air and heat leakage from the structure. The result is a beautiful building that is also energy efficient and costs less to heat and cool. The benefits of SIPs can help a building with qualifying for Energy Star, LEED, and Enterguide certifications.

Lastly, the timber frame structure and SIPs need less labor to install than traditional stick framing, speeding along the construction of your commercial building while reducing labor costs to build.

Types of Commercial Timber Frame Structures

Timber framing can be used in many forms of commercial construction. We have included some building ideas and linked to projects in which Riverbend has been involved.

Ready to Build a Timber Frame Commercial Building?

If you would like more information about building a commercial building with timber framing, or have a design you would like a quote on, please contact a Riverbend Client Representative today.

Site Orientation

Site orientation is one of the first, and most important, things you will decide when designing your dream timber frame home. So, what exactly is site orientation? Site orientation includes how the home (and its living spaces) sit on the property in relation to access, privacy, views, and the path of the sun.

Your will select the orientation of your home before defining and refining the layout. While this seems counter-intuitive, establishing a general idea of location and views is essential prior to designing your home. Your designer will try to get the most information possible about your site to select the best orientation. Helpful information includes:

  • satellite pictures,
  • topographic maps,
  • photos of your property,
  • and your interpretation of the site and how you want it to work.

Your designer will also ask you questions about the four main factors – access, privacy, views, and the path of the sun – that affect site orientation.


How you will drive up to your house will determine where your garage or parking spaces are located. If there is an existing driveway on your property, the choice may already be made for you. You will need to decide if you are willing to build a new driveway if you want to park somewhere else.

timber frame home site orientationPrivacy

If you are in a neighborhood, you want to avoid positioning more private areas, like a bedroom, towards the public area of a neighbor’s home, and vice versa. In the country where there are wide open spaces, you might create privacy by placing your home far from the road and facing your great room away from it.


Many future timber frame homeowners have a property that overlooks a lake or river. They want to maximize the views from as many rooms as possible. Determining a primary and a secondary view while picking the site orientation gives you guidance in conjunction with your other desires. If you want to split up your sleeping quarters, you might consider aligning the secondary bedrooms with your secondary view.

Path of the Sun

Sunlight primarily comes from the south, moving east to west throughout the day. How does this factor into the placement of your home? Natural light.

If your view faces north, you will still get natural light though it will be less than a south facing view. Designers can compensate for limited natural light coming from one direction by using an open floor plan or clerestory windows. In addition, if you plan to put solar panels on your home, a large portion of your rooftop will need to face south.

What if two of your desires conflict?

An example of site orientation conflict is when the best view from the house is exactly where your driveway needs to be. While it can be difficult to envision a solution on your own, a degreed architect can develop a creative solution. They may suggest wrapping the driveway around the home so the garage is on the opposite side thus preserving the view.

Another conflict future homeowners face is finding a plan they love that does not work with their desired site orientation. When thinking about site orientation and standard floor plans, remember that every Riverbend design can be customized to take advantage of your site. Our designers can even start your design from scratch to incorporate everything you want.