Monday, June 18, 2012

Trim and Finish Work in a Timber Frame House

The building of the foundation, floor systems, timber frame, wall system, roof system with roofing, window and door installation and roughed in utilities are typically what is referred to as “dried-in”. By and large, these are the biggest items of the project and are roughly equivalent to being what I call the “first half of the house”, and can typically be used to gage the costs of the “second half of the house”. 

Sommer House Kitchen
The second half is items such as flooring, wall and ceiling finishes, kitchens, bathrooms, electrical and plumbing fixtures, built-ins, stairs, fireplace, and trim.    
Since much of this work is done in wood, many questions arise as to the species, finish, and design of those items. The issue becomes “how many types of wood can I have in my house before it gets ridiculous?”  The answer may surprise you.

The typical architectural axiom is to use no more than three finish materials in the house. We all have seen spaces in gaudy houses and hotel lobbies that use various stone types, woods, metals, glass and as many different materials as they can pack in. It typically looks bad, and often reflects poorly on the owners. A more reasonable approach is to use fewer materials better. 

When it comes to wood, though, I have found that your frame, ceiling, flooring, cabinets, trim, and doors can be of multiple species without harming the quality of the space. If you like to match woods, match the cabinets, trim and doors. I like light ceilings, and often use aspen for the ceiling tongue and groove.  I like somewhat light floors since they show their grain, and reflect light throughout the space. Also, I generally avoid stains, since natural wood grain is pretty good by itself, and it much easier to repair if unstained.

You can also bravely change the standard (flat) wall, window and door trim found in almost all houses. Trim can be thick and narrow, still appearing large and holding it’s own against the very large timbers. Also, the corner treatment on trim can match that on timbers. Sometimes, moving away from the norm brings the most intriguing results. The Sommer House, below and above, used custom trim shapes, a douglas fir frame, cherry knee braces, aspen ceiling, cherry cabinets and trim, and knotty cherry doors. The floor is maple.

Sommer Great Room
All trim is used to cover areas that would otherwise be unsightly. It has evolved to be it’s own beautiful system and should be seen as a device to bring continuity and interest to spaces. Good, creative finish carpenters love working in timber frame houses, especially if you listen to their ideas. They will do their best work for you if you let them.