Three Elements Timberworks was started in 1999 as a timber frame company, and although our bread and butter is still timber frames and timber trusses, we have found over the years that our real product is providing solutions. For example, when I first started the company, we did almost all of our joinery without any steel, but as we started to get more work, the demand for steel connections grew. Rather than start a steel fabrication company, I found an existing company with the skills and capital equipment in place. In the beginning the steel was simple. It was usually plates with some holes and bolts connecting the timbers. Little by little, the complexity of the steel fabrication grew. Sometimes it would be steel “buckets” fabricated to hold timbers, or custom-made steel hangers that had to be welded on-site. As the demand for different steel solutions has grown, we have needed to expand our list of partners to provide different solutions. One company we work with will cut all of the steel and make the parts we need with sophisticated CNC machines, but they don’t fabricate or weld, so we have another company that can do the fabrication and welding using the parts we provide. We also work with a company that specializes in welding structural steel in the field. This helps if we need to weld a steel connection that we have brought on the job-site as part of our structure.
We did a job in Pitkin County, CO, where the steel for the timber frame had to be hammered and gun blued. This required another specialty fabricator that had both the skills and the tools to forge the steel and provide the finish. When we were done, the general contractor asked if we could build a handrail that matched the steel. We had never provided handrails before, but our fabricator had done plenty of handrails, so working with them again, we were able to build a handrail to match.
Another project in Steamboat Springs, CO, required a welded steel I-beam frame over our timber trusses. Rather than have the welder working 30 + feet in the air welding the steel on-site after our trusses were set, we did it in our yard. We built the trusses, and we had one of our steel fabricators make all of the welded pieces in his shop, including the steel I-beams that were cut to the proper length and angle
Then we installed all the steel using clamps, braces and straps to hold it in place. Once everything was properly assembled, we had the mobile welder come out and weld it in place. It all went together pretty slick. Since the trusses were so top-heavy from the steel moment frame, we requested a special truck with a spine down the middle. We strapped the top-heavy trusses to the spine, and both the delivery and the install were flawless.
Having relationships with specialty contractors allows us to provide solutions for our customers. I used to say that we are a timber frame company, but our true purpose is to make our customers’ lives easier.