How to Choose a Timberframer?

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expert master timberframer

Always Compare Like-for-Like!

Of course we want you to choose us as your timberframe supplier but we’d like you to be confident in your decision.
There are so many factors to consider so here’s a helpful guide – 10 things to ask and look for when shopping around for your timberframe project.

1. What skills and experience do the team members have?

bc timber frameTimberframe and carpentry are similar, but not the same.  It takes years of practical experience and real skill to understand heavy timber and how it moves, how it needs to be cut and installed. Structural understanding is essential.  Make sure your timberframer has genuine timberframing skills and experience.

International Timberframes was founded by a Swiss Master timberframer who has over 30 years experience and has offered advice and expertise all over the world. The crew at International Timberframes are experienced timberframers and fully qualified Carpenters.  If any on-site adjustments are required, our crew of craftsmen can hand-cut to new dimensions ensuring a quality fit and finish.  A large part of your budget can be spent on installation.

You may save money upfront using cheaper materials and less skilled tradespeople, but if they take longer on the installation and you’re paying by the hour and have heavy craning equipment rented by hour waiting for use, then it can get costly.
Timberframes prides itself on superior preparation from measurement, to drawings, to hand-cutting, sanding and staining and pre-assembly prior to delivery to job-site.  Many clients tell us of the joy watching our skilled crew work efficiently and professionally to fit the pieces together in minimal time.

2. What quality of wood will be used?

Wood quality will play a huge part in the timberframe price, but also to how the timbers will look and change over time.  Expect to pay more for better quality wood, and by that we mean wood from sustainably managed forests, wood that is free of heart rather than boxed heart and wood that is kiln dried.  Click here to find out the difference in quality between free of heart and boxed heart wood and between kiln dried and non-kiln dried wood.

Wood dries, twists and moves over time. If you choose the cheapest you may get more cracks and twists than you’d like.  If you choose the cheapest you may also find sticky sap appearing on your wood (and unfortunately your floors and furniture!) as it dries inside the home. When comparing price make sure you’re comparing like with like – if an estimate is significantly cheaper you can guarantee in part it’s due to using cheaper lower quality wood.  International Timberframes focus is on offering the highest quality product: locally sourced wood from sustainably managed forests, free of heart and kiln dried.

3. What type of finish will there be on the timbers?

Similar to comparing wood quality like-for-like we encourage you to know the precise finish included in the price that the timbers will have.  Will they be sanded, wire-brushed, rough sawn, chamfered? Will they be stained? What quality of stain will be used? Will the timberframer send colour and finish samples to you so the client knows exactly what they are getting?
Be aware that if there is no finish on the timbers it will cost significantly more to add it after installation.

International TImberframes price will always indicate either a sanded, wirebrushed or rough sawn surface.  We will provide wood finish and colour samples early in the process. We use only the highest quality stains and finishes, VOC free where possible.  We stain the timbers in a controlled environment to make sure that the treatment cures fully before it leaves our shop.

Inferior stains and finishes can result in costly maintenance over the life of the timberframe. We understand what goes into protecting wood and can help extend the life of the finish and suggest the most appropriate maintenance plan.

4. What brand of connectors will be used?

exterior timberframe design

During installation costs can be cut by using cheap and poor quality connectors and screws.  Always ensure the appropriate connectors for the environment are used eg non-corrosive for external or salty conditions.  At International Timberframes we use only high quality connectors, post bases, wood to wood connectors and non-corroding screws from Pitzl and Heco (Proven Building Supplies).  Quality products combined with strong structural engineering knowledge will ensure the structures last for centuries.

5. How involved with/considerate of other trades will the timberframer be?

International Timberframes has in-depth understanding of Building Code Regulations and we pride ourselves on staying up to date with their changes.  This saves costly remedy further down the line. We are considerate of others involved in the build: drywaller, painters, electricians, plumbers etc.  We think of things practically for everyone involved in the project which ensures things are done properly and efficiently.

We are flexible and responsive: we try to work with ever changing job-site timescales.  We understand the real issues and anticipate challenges and propose solutions: at planning stage, design stage, engineering stage and at final timberframe installation stage.

6. During installation what happens if there are problems on-site?

reclaimed timber beams in bcSome timberframers cut all the wood using a CNC machine, every notch, hole and joint programmed by an operator who pushes wood in one side and watches it come out the other.

At International Timberframes our values are rooted in keeping the traditional craft of hand-cutting alive. We believe the human eye knows which side of the wood is best to notch and cut and face outwards and which pieces are best used for which features.  CNC machines do not have these skills and you will see it in your timberframe.

On site should things have changed it means our crew of craftsmen can hand-cut as needed to complete the accurate installation.

7. How can I visualise what the end result will be, inside and out?

We have extensive knowledge in Heavy Timber design and construction and can assist you with design and planning of your timberframe home or cabin.  

certified passive house designer

We know it can sometimes be difficult to visualise the end result, so, we design everything on a CAD model which allows us to show you 3D visuals of what the construction will look like.  Once you’re happy with the 3D design we prepare structural drawings if needed, and can arrange for these to be engineered and stamped by a certified Engineer in your area. We are Certified Passive House designers too and can help with planning in this area. 

8. How accurate will the timberframer’s measurements be?

A timberframer may take some rough measurements and cut beams to those measurements, but floors can be uneven, buildings out of square,  ground foundations are sometimes not level and framing out by only millimeters can have a massive impact over a long span.

International Timberframes is one of the very few timberframers who has a Leica Builder Total Station.  We come to site with the Leica, shoot measurements on a 3D scale and import them to our CAD programme. We hand-cut the timber to these precise measurements prior to delivering to the jobsite. This results in a speedy and accurate installation.  Accuracy from the start of the project will result in a superior end result.

9. Ask for references

A good timberframer will always be pleased to provide you with recent contacts who you can reach out to.  Look at their website or instagram accounts and get a feel for the style of work they do or find a job you particularly like.  Ask to speak to the architect, the engineer, the contractor and if possible the end client.

Questions to ask would cover how they were to work with, how easy they were to communicate with. how they dealt with challenges along with way, how proactive they were at solving problems or presenting alternative scenarios, how timely the job was completed, how the price came in versus estimate?
International Timberframes is always happy to provide such references.

10. Feel confident that the timberframer will dedicate enough time, energy and passion to your project

Large or small, no matter the size of the project, you should be confident the timberframer will dedicate the same degree of care.

International Timberframes is interested to work on any project no matter how big or small.  Sometimes it’s the creativity or unusualness of the project that appeals to us, the opportunity for us to apply our wood expertise or the chance to demonstrate our love of wood.

We love to take you around some of our recent projects and show you the work inside and out.  Not only do you get to see our work but we get to know what you really like, your preferred styles, and design elements big or small that appeal to you.


In summary, do your research, ask questions, and always make sure you are comparing like-for-like and know precisely what is and isn’t included in the price.  Think about how you want your timberframe to look in 10 years time, not just immediately after installation.

If you ask these questions then we’re sure you’ll choose us, but at least you will know the reasons why!