Unstoppable Views, Freezing Temps, and Heavy Timber. Welcome to Michigan!

top of frame MI raising mike wResidents of Indiana, Doug and Tammy have called Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan their second home for 18 years. The site they’ve enjoyed over those years includes lake frontage and views worth talking about. (Mike W captured the panoramic above from the peak of the frame on crisp day.) The couple frequented several timber home shows where they met New Energy Works Drake Ambrosino, and we’ve helped them bring it to reality this Winter.

roof trusses drake 2We were told the weather is usually great in Grand Traverse, but that lake-effect snow is no joke near the water. While Darren, Mike, Anthony, and Noah were raising the frame, some tough weather hit the site. For nearly two weeks the temperatures ranged from just above zero into the teens with daily snow. The flakes didn’t diminish the team’s energy as they joined the custom stained Douglas fir main frame, front porch, and rear balconies.

snow flying grand t michigan framedarren directs crane bad weather drake jobMI snow Drake truck DrakeT&G of the same species and finish was installed over the main frame, followed by SIP roof panels. Mike W told us, with a quick chuckle from behind his hearty beard, that high winds were ‘a challenge’ for the SIP panel installation in particular.

custom stained t and g for mIPorter Builders from Kewadin, MI will be completing the home throughout 2017. Points of interest within just an hour of this project include Charlexoix, Petoskey, Traverse City, Torch Lake, and many ski areas.

MI raising mike w

Find the Beetle: Canandaigua Lake, NY

It can be tough to keep up with the beetle but recently we caught one of these time-tested mallets on-site during our raising in Canandaigua, NY.


Taking a break on the deck.

Taking a break on the deck.

It takes some muscle to use this tool as Dave demonstrates.

It takes some muscle to use this tool as Dave demonstrates.

A pretty lake view as enjoyed by the beetle, our co-workers, and timber frame fans during the raising.

A pretty lake view was enjoyed by the beetle, our co-workers, and timber frame fans during the raising. This project used Douglas fir with a custom textured/stained finish.

Smith Mountain Lake Timber Frame Home Raising

We’ve been working with Robert R Bauer Building Contractors on a family home on Smith Mountain Lake, VA. Our design team worked closely with the homeowners to create a plan that would provide a balance of private and common spaces, make the most of lake views, and fit local vernacular. Robert R Bauer Building has been keeping us up-to-date on the multi-day raising with some great images – check them out below:

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Timber Cabin on Odell Lake

By Darren Watson, Timber Frame Champion

Timber bents are pre-assembled on-site, stacked on the deck and ready to be raised for the Odell Lake cabin.

Timber bents are pre-assembled on-site, stacked on the deck and ready to be raised for the Odell Lake cabin.

We started this job in the end of the summer of 2015 when Dan Hill and Ryan Rojas from Arbor South Design-Build approached us about building a timber frame for their client’s lake cabin on Odell Lake, Oregon. Our crew had a great time working on the project. We had 3 of our long-time team members (myself, Todd, Jimmy) plus we added our new project engineer, Quinn, to the mix so that he could see all the intricacies of how one of these projects go together on the ground. (He’s now migrated to the office to start his frame joining education.)

Mike, Todd, and Quinn secured joinery while I manned the boom.

Jimmy, Todd, and Quinn secured joinery while I manned the boom.


Odell Lake is a stunning mountain lake with beautiful vistas and HUGE fish. The cabin is in an area of Historical Significance, which means that though the owners are building a new cabin they don’t actually own the land beneath. The cabins in this area are all on a long-term lease with the US Forest Service. Because of its historical designation, the site had to have an archaeological survey done to ensure that there weren’t any important artifacts the new structure was going to disturb. It was a gamble for the owners to take as this area had been a prime fishing spot for not only the last hundred years, but for millennia before. A few arrowheads and pottery shards were found but nothing significant enough to stop the project.

SIP panels waiting to be placed for the roof.

SIP panels waiting to be placed on the roof.

While it is on the lake, the cabin is located at nearly 5000 feet of elevation right below Willamette Pass Ski Area on a seasonal Forest Service road that is only opened once enough of the snow has melted to allow it to be plowed – this made scheduling a raising date challenging. Understanding that this project had an indeterminately limited building window, we worked with Arbor South to design a timber frame and enclosure system that would allow us to prefabricate as much as possible ahead of the road opening. Once the road was cleared this Spring, we could arrive on site and install the frame, walls, and SIP roof panels in quick succession.

We had tentatively scheduled the raising to begin in April, 2016 but Mother Nature had different plans and dumped and additional 18” of snow on the site the last week of March. As soon as the road opened Sean Berman (of our engineering group) and I headed out to take as-builts and to better understand the constraints of this tight site. We discovered there would be only one location where the crane could be placed and that we would have to stagger the delivery of materials so that we wouldn’t block ourselves in with our own product.

We arrived on site on June 6th with the majority of the walls and timbers, received the crane, and immediately began setting walls and pre-assembling the bents. Typically, we only have a crane in for the raising day, however on this project there was so little space to work that we decided it would be best to rent the crane for the entire timber and enclosure portion of project. By the end of that week we had the first floor walls and the main frame all in place.

The exterior porch in place.

The exterior porch in place.

To remind us of the importance of expediting this build, we were unexpectedly treated to five days of Winter during our second week on site. Though it slowed us down a bit, it was a good break from the roving masses of mosquitoes that were present throughout the rest of the build.

The following weeks involved setting the remainder of the upper walls and timbers and adding in some additional hidden framing needed to support the nearly 300 pounds per square foot snow load. This made for some exceptionally heavy duty connections involving custom steel weldments to connect the rafters to the lower chords of the trusses along with 1” threaded rod to be able to carry the 37,000 pound tension force that was being developed in the lower chord.

During our final week on site we set the roof SIP panels which included Western Red Cedar rafter tails and outlookers, and 2×6 Douglas fir T&G soffits. This combination along with custom staining turned out a nice roof.

We had the pleasure of staying at the other end of Odell Lake and discovering the best roasted chicken in the whole area at Manley’s bar, in the nearby town of Crescent Lake, which quickly became our go-to evening meal. It was delicious!

Raising and enclosure complete! Time for one last meal of roasted chicken on the lake.

Raising and enclosure complete! Time for one last meal of roasted chicken on the lake.

Find the Beetle: Residential Car Barn, Great Falls, VA

This week, our beetle was in Great Falls, VA assisting in raising a residential timber frame car barn. The 100′ x 60′ glulam king post structure will have a SIP roof enclosure with some beams that stretch over 64′. The material is Douglas fir glulams, conventionally kiln dried to create 60′ open span trusses. So far, there have been six purlin assemblies and the first four bents are erected.

Our West Coast timber frame champion Mike informed us that the starter bent truss weighed over 11,000 pounds and it was lifted without any struggle. It was “a thing of beauty”.

The architects of this project are Anderson Cooper Group Architects and Ehlert Bryan. The builder is BOWA Builders, Inc.