Timberline Construction brings communication and respect to the art of custom home building.
Jacquie Sebulsky and her husband hired Timberline Construction to build their Craftsman-style home in 2005. “Kristian Willman understands that people will create memories in those homes, and he and his team are very aware and respectful of that. They truly care about the people in the homes they build,” said Sebulsky. “He is very detailed and thorough, which I really appreciated.”
Timberline Construction, which has built more than 200 homes in a variety of styles and construction methods throughout Central Oregon since its inception in 2000, is based on Willman’s credos of communication, respect and experience. This trifecta influences every relationship that Timberline has—be it with clients, architects or subcontractors.
Even before meeting the team in person, interested homeowners, new clients and others who are interested in construction can experience Timberline’s ease and willingness to communicate just by visiting their website. In addition to the expected categories of About Us, Green Building and Portfolio, it has a large section entitled Client Resources that details the company’s approach to bidding and cost tracking, and it boasts a blog that shares information on design, home maintenance and other areas of interest to homeowners—any homeowners, not just clients.
“Our expertise is on managing trades and providing quality,” Willman explained. “Everyone on our team has worked in the trades. I started as a framer and together with my crew, we have more than forty years of experience. We know how to work and communicate with subcontractors. We can respect them and get our point across. We have a project manager on site every day so the subs can always get the information they need and have questions answered.”
Timberline project manager Kevin Lorda explained further. “How long a project manager spends on a site each day will depend on the amount of oversight that’s needed and where we are in the project,“ he said, “but it’s important that we maintain clear lines of communication—it’s a smoother building process, and it makes expectations clearer for both the subcontractors and the homeowners.”
“The biggest thing is to coordinate and manage time,” said Willman. “It’s a huge effort. You need to put together and build the project team around the finances, the time, and what the homeowners want and expect. We are primarily problem solvers and schedulers. We’re organized, and we need to keep the momentum going.”
“Working with Timberline is very collaborative,” said Bend-based architect Brandon Olin, who has been working with Timberline since he opened Olin Architecture in 2010. “It’s a triangular relationship with the homeowner, builder and architect. Timberline is very open about what they are doing. They offer suggestions and become a welcome part of the design team, and a homeowner can go to either of us to get information.” Olin continues, “Timberline defaults to a certain high level so the houses perform very well. It’s how they want to build a home, and how we want to do it, too. We are a good fit. Right now we are working on four or five homes together.”
While Timberline has most recently focused on projects that are modern in styling, the firm has also built Tuscan, Mountain Lodge, Northwest Contemporary (a hybrid of lodge and modern), and Craftsman homes. Nor have they shied away from different types of construction. In addition to traditional framing methods, the Timberline team is practiced in straw bale, insulated concrete forms (ICF), stress insulation panels (SIPs), post-and-beam and advanced framing techniques, the latter of which are designed to optimize material usage while also promoting energy efficiency. In fact, the firm is probably best known for building the Desert Rain home. Situated in western Bend, the LEED Platinum home was the first home to be certified by the Living Building Challenge.
Focusing on custom homes and remodels, the company never really builds the same thing twice. Yet despite the differences between the different projects, there are some commonalities: One is finances, and the other is energy efficiency.
“When I put together a bid,” explained Willman, who is very exacting and systematic about the cost estimating and budget processes, “I don’t just get one estimate from a trade, I get two to three bids per trade from several subcontractors so I can compare them and make sure that all are covering what I requested. I need to know what each one is including or not including in their figures. From that I can assess what work will be done and at what cost. I look to hire the most thoughtful bidder. When I have the estimates in from subcontractors I can put together my cost break down.
“Money is very emotional so I am very transparent with clients. We build the house twice on paper before we actually start construction. I breakdown the costs and itemize everything, and I also share everything. We don’t want any surprises. We want the client to be comfortable going into the process so we focus on communication, honesty and transparency.”
By Willman’s own admission this means Timberline probably won’t provide the least expensive cost estimate, but it may be the most accurate. The latter, according to Olin, is one of the great advantages of working with Timberline. “Based on their bid, we get the budget information early, and we know where it’s going to come in,” he explained. “Timberline is very good at staying on budget or even coming in a little bit lower than what was expected.”
In an area where people have flocked for its natural beauty and outdoor pursuits, energy efficiency in construction has been added to an increasing number of homeowner wish lists. “Getting a green home comes with a cost, but we still want to be responsible,” said Willman. “This is my playground, it’s our environment to protect. We always do our best within the budget and the homeowners’ wishes to build a tight envelope and use high efficiency heating, air conditioning and air exchange systems. We follow the Earth Advantage protocol even if an energy audit is not going to be performed.”
Sebulsky notes that the company’s commitment to quality goes beyond the actual construction. “They have the cleanest work sites I’ve ever seen,” she said. “Kristian takes great pride in the work. He even puts the company’s name with a small ‘T’ plaque discretely on each home they build.” Sebulsky, who is now a realtor with Cascade Sotheby’s, often recommends Timberline to clients.
The client is the most important part of what we do,” said Willman. “We need to build trust and we need to be compatible because we could have a three-to-five year relationship. I want them to feel comfortable to call me at any time even after the house is done and they have moved in. In the end I’m going to help someone as much as I can because Timberline built the house.”
Commitment to the excellence of their work has resulted in homeowners coming back to Timberline when it is time to build another or a second home and in the friendships that have been formed between Willman and his clients.