Frequently Asked Questions...And Answers

There are lots of questions you may have. Building a home, addition, or even a small shed presents one with many choices. So here are some answers to frequently asked questions. If you have any general question, please contact us, and we'll get you the answer. You can also schedule a consultation.

How do I get started?

It's a good idea to start by viewing our portfolio or, if you want to dig deeper into our work, spend some time viewing our photo gallery.

The next step toward a beautiful timber frame is to schedule a free Checklist meeting. This meeting can take place at Shelter Institute or over the phone, and lasts around 45 minutes. You should leave the checklist meeting with a good understanding of our design and build process, including all of the services we offer. We will also offer some pricing guidelines in this meeting.

After the Checklist meeting, we offer a Design Consultation. This meeting needs to be scheduled in advance, and will be with our designer. The purpose of this meeting is to begin the design of your building and we will draw it using CAD software and your design ideas. The drawings produced at this meeting are framing plans and they will be used to provide an accurate estimate for your project. Meaningful design is an evolutionary process-this is the first step. We require a $750 deposit on your project for the Design Consultation, and deduct this fee from the final cost of the project.

We also offer floor plan design and consultation on an hourly basis and engineering on an hourly basis; fees range from $85-$100 per hour.

How long does it take?

We believe in the 1/10/100 rule regarding time allocation in construction: something that takes 1 minute to change in the design phase takes 10 minutes to alter in the manufacturing phase and takes 100 minutes to change in the construction phase. We prefer to spend our 'change' minutes in the design phase! We find that, on average, it takes 3-4 months to arrive at a thoughtful, customized design that needs no more changes. Then we can order timbers and start to fabricate your frame. Building size and complexity affect lead times, but on average, a 2,500 square foot timber frame takes us 4-5 weeks to cut and 5-7 days to raise and enclose with SIPs.

What is the cost per square foot?

While we feel that per square foot estimating is one of the most inaccurate ways to arrive at a price, we are often asked this question......our super insulated buildings with a McElroy metal roof and Marvin windows typically cost between $75-$95 per square foot. Uninsulated structures cost less, and complex or very small buildings can cost more per square foot. The estimate that we produce for you after the Design Consultation is accurate to the dollar, and does not change unless the design changes! Currently we are working on a lead time of about 18 months to get a new project started.

Why should I choose Shelter Design Build?

We have been building low maintenance, durable, adaptable structures since 1974 that inspire their inhabitants. Through the years we have continued to hone our process to provide a predictable, enjoyable and satisfying route to your dream house. We provide continuity of stewardship for your project; members of the design and engineering team that first meet with you will be present on site during your raising to ensure the 100% success of your build. Our philosophy at Shelter Design Build is that a home should free you rather than being an encumbrance; our design and build process works toward that goal by making design decisions appropriate to the inhabitants, then manufacturing and constructing with the highest standards of craftsmanship.

Lastly, but very importantly, is that we want your building experience, which has a direct impact on your enjoyment of the final product, to be fun! Our decades of experience allow us to eliminate surprises and allow you to simply enjoy the process.

Do you completely finish the building?

No, what we provide is an enclosed, insulated shell that is ready for windows and doors; siding and roofing to be installed; and have the interior completed. We provide a foundation plan and detail that allows a local foundation contractor to install the foundation, then we arrive to frame the first floor platform and raise your frame. We do not use subcontractors for any of our work-Shelter Design Build staff completes all of our contracted work.

What are SIPs?

SIP stands for Structural Insulated Panel and, in their most typical form, they consist of an inside and outside layer of oriented strand board (OSB) glued to a foam core. The foam core is either expanded polystyrene (EPS), extruded polystyrene (XPS) or polyisocyanurate foam. Though the other two foams have a higher r-value (resistance to heat loss) per inch, we exclusively use expanded polystyrene foam, because it provides the best cost to r-value ratio and maintains a stable r-value throughout its life. Our panel manufacturer is Branch River Foam Plastics, producing the nationally recognized brand R-Control.

The panels are manufactured with foam core thicknesses that match nominal framing lumber, and offer insulating values ranging from R-16 to R-45. SIPs make it possible to attain net zero or near net zero energy usage, cutting down dramatically on heating and cooling bills compared to typical construction.

Will I need to rent a crane?

No, we bring our crane to your site.

Do you only build timber frames?

No, we love creating and celebrating structure. Timber frames are a great way to do this since the structure-the timbers-are fully exposed. But we also build houses out of structural insulated panels, with no timber frame, and hybrid buildings which combine timber framing as part of the structure and SIPs as part of the structure. We also incorporate structural steel into some of our designs. We enjoy solving structural challenges in creative and exciting ways that enhance the experience of living in your building.

What type of wood do you use?

Wood species is an important decision when considering a structure where all of the framing is exposed. Ultimately the decision is up to you, but may be influenced by a desire to use indigenous species such as eastern white pine, eastern hemlock or white cedar; by structural requirements (Douglas fir is stronger than steel pound for pound); by aesthetics (using cherry wind braces creates a beautiful contrast); by the type of structure (western red cedar or Port Orford cedar provide excellent natural rot resistance making them a good choice for gazebos); by the inhabitants (horses love to crib (chew) on pine timbers, but can't stand the taste of hemlock); and of course by budget.

There are many different species suitable for use in a timber frame and we discuss the relative merits with you early in the design process to help you choose the best wood for your project.

Do you put a finish on the timbers?

Yes, we use Land Ark Wood Finish which is an all natural mix of linseed oil, tung oil, pine pitch and beeswax that is kept solvent using d-Limonene which is the citrus oil produced by cold pressing orange peel. The oil penetrates deeply into the wood to minimize checking of green wood and help keep the timbers clean during construction. We recommend the application of a second coat of the oil after construction is complete. This coat helps clean accumulated construction dust from the timbers and brings out the true beauty of the wood.

Where do you cut the timber frame?

We have an 8,000 square foot building at our campus in Woolwich where we handcraft our timber frames. Clients are invited to come watch their frame being made-it is an exciting, precise, and old-fashioned form of work, using tools that were first developed hundreds of years ago when fine woodworking was an expected practice.

Do you offer kits?

Yes, we have three different kits and associated pricing on our website. These frames are engineered for Maine snow loads and coastal wind loads and provide a less expensive option to our custom designed frames.

Can we hire you for design work only?

Yes, we offer both structural design and floor plan and fenestration design. The structural design typically involves the elevation drawings, first and second floor structural plan, foundation plan and cut sheets. The cut sheets are dimensioned drawings of each unique timber in the design, complete with all joinery details and any pertinent notes about the piece. The cut sheets allow for quick, efficient cutting of the timbers.

The floor plan and fenestration design typically includes elevation drawings of the building with windows, doors, siding and roofing material illustrated. The drawings may also be enhanced to a 3-d model which allows you to 'walk through' your virtual house to better understand the spaces, how the furniture will fit and fully appreciate your design before building.

  • Pete Neidhardt
    After taking their Design & Build course, I had the confidence to build this timber frame house, from a version of their stock plans. And you will too.
    Pete Neidhardt
  • Chasen Gillies
    We drove thirteen hours through a blizzard to take the timber framing course and it was worth it. You can tell this family has been teaching people since the 70's. 70's?! These guys are great. I hope to be back to learn but just saying "HI" would be a win. They've probably mapped out every minute of the week for the students but it still feels relaxed. Best of all, I can say with confidence, I can build a house. A timber structure. And I will
    Chasen Gillies
  • Matt Anglin
    Excellent course on house building. Teaches about every aspect of house including good design principles.
    Matt Anglin
  • Laurie Palagyi
    Shelter is a phenomenal resource of skill, intelligence, and good people. I took the two week design/build course and it was wonderful. I left with the confidence to assess my own home and any future home that I may build or purchase. Shelter is the real deal.
    Laurie Palagyi
  • David H T Kane
    Instructors make sure their lectures are clear and understandable to the students. Great follow through.
    David H T Kane
  • Deborah Caldwell
    Nothing can beat the hands-on experience that my daughter and I enjoyed for three weeks at the shelter institute. I have kept in touch ever since. I am disappointed that I cannot leave a comment on Pats chainsaw videos. The system does not seem to acknowledge our presence.
    Deborah Caldwell
  • Enzo Talladira
    As a second generation carpenter/joiner Shelter Institute's online course is a must for all who are interested in Timber Framing and the enjoyment of life.

    I have found the team to be responsive, caring and helpful. A pleasure to deal with.
    Enzo Talladira
  • Kristina Rae Bolduc
    So far our online courses are phenomenal!!! We love Pat, Gaius, and Blueberry! Gabe is pretty awesome too!!
    Kristina Rae Bolduc

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