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As Featured in Timber Frame Homes
by Amy Laughinghouse

Building a dream home doesn’t have to become a nightmare that breaks the bank. As Beth and Tom Koeppel discovered when they built a Victorian-style timber frame in Massachusetts, careful planning and creative use of materials can reduce costs while securing the ultimate reward – a cozy home designed to meet your family’s own particular needs.

Designing the Home
In October 1997, the Koeppels approached Classic Post & Beam with a four-bedroom house plan torn from a magazine. Classic Post & Beam architects transformed those stick frame plans into post and beam blueprints for the main body of the structure while using less costly stick framing in the garage and family room above it. A load-bearing stick frame wall was also used to divide the bedrooms from the main living area and encase wiring and plumbing.

The frame is comprised mainly of eastern white pine, an economical species indigenous to the Northeast. Eastern spruce purlins connect the gables, and a notched lap joinery system, bolted with steel pins and plugged with wooden dowels, holds the frame together. The exterior walls are enclosed by oriented strand board (OSB) and insulated with three and a half inches of urethane. Structural insulated panels are attached directly to the OSB. For the exterior, the Koeppels chose pre-stained Cape Cod Finished Wood Siding, which comes with a 15-year-warranty, saving them the cost of staining it every few years.

Selecting a Builder

Staying on Financial Track

Thanks to careful attention to detail and a background in banking, Beth Koeppel was able to keep her timber frame home within budget.

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Beth, vice president of a bank, and Tom, a reinsurance claims examiner, began by arranging financing through a bank that was recommended by Classic Post & Beam.

 

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Next, they worked with Grenier to create a highly detailed bid document, which greatly facilitated the flow of cash from the bank to the builder. “Roland could say, ‘I’m ready with items 10, 16 and 22,’ and they would send an inspector out and send him a check within a day,” says Beth.

 

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Throughout the process, Beth kept detailed financial records - including notes from conversations with the loan officer, copies of the Koeppel’s credit report, and information on their 401K and savings accounts - in a three-ring binder. The binder was also filled with house plans, fixture brochures, paint chips, price quotes and receipts.

“By the time I was done carrying this notebook around for a year, I think my left arm had grown an inch or two,” jokes Beth. “I almost felt naked without it once we moved into the house!”

The Koeppels' builder, Roland Grenier of Roland Grenier Builders, had never built a timber frame before, but he studied the plans for months and even traveled to Classic Post & Beam headquarters before breaking ground. “He and his partner (Gerry Morris) are known for being meticulous,” explains Beth, who researched Grenier's references after a friend recommended him. “They’re a rare find.”

Grenier also brainstormed for ways to save the Koeppels money, trading excess loam (rich soil) from their 1.5 acre lot for landscaping materials and ground-up asphalt for their driveway. “It didn’t cost them anything,” Grenier notes with satisfaction.

Decorating the Home
The Koeppels selected every aspect of their home’s interior themselves, from cabinets, countertops and flooring to plumbing and lighting fixtures. They purchased their Cultured Stone fireplace and oak kitchen cabinets from suppliers where Grenier received a discount, and they saved on their flooring by allowing the tongue and groove ceiling on the first floor to double as the floor upstairs. Downstairs, the Koeppels opted for the durability of laminate flooring. “It's virtually indestructible," explains Beth, thinking of her three rambunctious sons.

By September 1998, six months after breaking ground, the Koeppel’s castle in the air had become a reality.

“We were fortunate to have a really good builder,” says Beth. But she believes homeowners can help ensure their own satisfaction by taking a proactive role in the building process. “If someone enjoys managing people and projects, then it’s probably the best way to go because you get exactly what you want.”

Koeppel timber frame home
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©2002 Amy Laughinghouse

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