How 6 progressive builders are navigating today's market challenges

How 6 progressive builders are navigating today's market challenges

No builder is keenly more aware of the continued importance of the outdoor experience than Johnny Miller, owner of Howard, Ohio–based OakBridge Timber Framing. The family-­run Amish business has seen a significant shift in business from stand-alone primary residences to secondary outdoor spaces, guest homes, and wineries.

"We used to have more residences than anything, and perhaps just three years ago it was 95% of our business, but the call for outdoor living spaces and wedding barns and wineries now makes up about half of our business," says Miller.

Working with big timber has also provided some material cost insulation to OakBridge, even if the OSB cost impacts to the structural insulated panels the builder uses has cut into margin. "Wood got a little bit scary for us, but the beams and timbers were never affected to the extent of conventional lumber, and heavy timber price increases stayed in the range of 20% to 40% versus the 300% increases we all saw for conventional lumber," Miller says, adding that SIPs and tongue and groove increased about 50% percent as well.

More important to OakBridge in 2022 are supply chain inconsistencies, which can stretch lead times from six weeks to 12 weeks. Demand, though, provides lead time protection, too. OakBridge will carry a full backlog into 2022 and is already signing proposals for 2023.

"Part of the beauty of timber framing is the flexibility to go way to the modern side and way to the rustic side, and we're excited about the unique part of outdoor living that is pushing projects to 2,000 square feet and beyond," Miller says. "Whatever is happening, it has not marred the inspiration of the people wanting to do something in the backyard, and it doesn't always have to be a big space. We do small spaces, too, and they're just as unique."

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