Timber frame houses going up on the South Shore
By Rachel Bailey
The difference between a timber frame house and any other may not be obvious from the outside once it’s completed, but the interior never fails to stir the imagination.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted,” is the exclamation heard most often when someone gets a glimpse of the exposed timber framework and complementary finishes inside one of the houses built by Cocks & Delaney Construction and Design.
The look is reminiscent of an era when things were built to last. The exposed beams and posts are not just design props. The thick timbers serve as the backbone of these homes and offer unparalleled stability and durability.
“Building a house is a big responsibility,” says Iain Cocks, who oversees the construction of the timber frame homes his company is becoming known for. “You want to make sure everything you do is going to last as long as possible. It’s like building these monuments that will be here long after we’re gone.”
A recently completed timber frame house passed the test of Hurricane Juan with flying colours. The owner, who had previously weathered hurricanes living in Bermuda, was amazed by his new home’s stability.
A master carpenter with over 30 years’ experience, Iain Cocks started his career in the Mahone Bay area but was lured away by opportunities in Ontario. He gained valuable experience building homes and doing renovations in some of the most prestigious areas of Toronto. He also spent a year doing restoration work in the French Quarter of New Orleans, but his love for Nova Scotia brought him home.
A conversation with Iain quickly reveals his passion for craftsmanship. He speaks with admiration about the European-trained masters under whom he has honed his craft. He also has high praise for the team of tradespeople with whom he now works.
“They are so meticulous…. The level of craftsmanship around this area is incredible.”
He explains that building and finishing a timber frame home is more complicated than standard construction, but Iain says, “I don’t want to build an ordinary house.”
He and his partner, Yvonne Delaney, work with their clients from the initial planning stages right through to the finished interior: “We usually start with a client’s floor plan,” explains Iain.
He works closely with Forrest Rand of Arlington Frame Company based near Canning, NS, to come up with a timber frame design suitable for the client.
There are some limitations with a timber frame structure, but Iain explains that there are also lots of options. They can even do only part of a house as a timber frame to give the client the features they are looking for.
The client makes all the decisions, but with so many decisions to make it is easy to become overwhelmed. That’s why Iain and Yvonne believe it is important to handle the job from start to finish. With their experience and expertise they can suggest, advise and even show other examples to help their clients make decisions that will make them happy.
Because the construction of a timber frame is different from standard house construction, Iain works with a specialized crew. “With all the legs precut I can’t have the foundation out by half an inch. It just won’t work.” He uses the same contractor because “they’re always perfect.”
The wiring of a timber frame also requires special know-how so Iain calls on those electricians who are experienced, but has had no trouble finding the skilled tradespeople he needs.
Iain is also impressed with the amount and quality of the lumber available locally. Yvonne points out that “Arlington Frame Company gets all the timbers they use from Elmer Lohnes Lumber,” which is here in Lunenburg County. Being able to use local resources is “part of the beauty of what we do,” says Iain.
In addition to overseeing the design and construction of the house, Iain and Yvonne do all the interior finishes. “We build cabinets, lay floors, even do the painting ourselves,” says Iain. “Yvonne does all the interior co-ordination. She knows how things should look.”
Yvonne explains, “I have a very objective eye. If something is not going to look good, I’ll tell you. I’ll give people suggestions that they normally go with.”
“It’s important to have the client’s vision of the house firmly fixed in your mind. It’s their home, not ours,” says Iain.
They work very closely with the client throughout the process and, if the client is currently living elsewhere, a digital camera and the internet are used to full advantage to keep the client well informed and a part of the whole process. A visit to the Cocks & Delaney web site at www.southshoretimberframes.com will give more information on timber frame construction to anyone considering building a home.
As an experienced cabinet and furniture maker, Iain compares a finished house to a “big piece of furniture.” It must be functional, but also beautiful and built for the client’s comfort and enjoyment.
Homes built by Cocks & Delaney Construction and Design are heirlooms that clients can be proud of and future generations will be happy to receive.Article reproduced with permission from: Bridgewater Bulletin and Progress Enterprise, Wednesday March 3, 2004; Business Portfolio, Section C, page 1.