Cumberland business reflects on 10 years of unique timber construction

Island Timber Frame celebrated its 10th anniversary, reflecting on projects it has completed in North America, Japan and Europe.

Island Timber Frame owners Paul Schaffhauser and Stefan Pletscher.

Island Timber Frame owners Paul Schaffhauser and Stefan Pletscher.

Tucked away in Cumberland is a bustling team of European-trained tradesmen who have had a remarkable impact on some of the Comox Valley’s most attractive buildings. Island Timber Frame recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and is taking the opportunity to reflect on some of the projects it has completed in North America, Japan and Europe.

Recent projects, such as the Simms and Waterfront parks Rotary pavilions, the Old House Village Hotel and Spa, the Best Western Westerly Hotel, the Holiday Inn, and the Kids Don’t Float billboard by the Comox Marina boat launch are some of the more visible projects in the Comox Valley — but drive through some of our more prominent neighbourhoods and you will see some spectacular custom homes hand-crafted by this innovative business.

“My favourite project would have to be a corporate retreat we built for on a private Island,” says Paul Schaffhauser, partner in the business. “The client selected the finest quality wood, and the design and joinery in the place is fantastic. We build a bridge from the main building to a smaller structure that spanned over 90 feet. The entire bridge structure was built in our shop and barged to the site.”

Stefan Pletscher, the other partner, fondly remembers a beachfront home they built about eight years ago in the Kitsilano area of Vancouver.

“The client insisted on the best wood we could find — heavy, clear grade, kiln-dried Douglas Fir was used throughout the 4,000 square foot timber home. The design and joinery blended classic and contemporary styles, very tastefully combining wood, steel and concrete for a very impressive look. At night, the roof looked as if it was floating over the building because concrete pillars raised it above the level of the walls and glazing was used around the entire perimeter to let the light through.”

The two partners met just over 12 years ago at a 3D drafting seminar in Fernie B.C., where they became fast friends and realized their common goal of starting a timber framing business.

Before he came to Canada from Switzerland, Paul achieved the highest level of schooling in timber framing and drafting/wood engineering to become a master in his trade. He worked at some of the more prominent timber frame companies in Canada before he decided to start his own business.

Stefan was known locally for the Comox Restaurant he ran in the 80s at the bottom of Anderton Road called the Gaff Rig. The restaurant was one of the Comox Valley’s most popular establishments at the time. He then purchased property in the discovery islands, subdivided, then built and sold timber framed cabins.

From this project, Stefan realized an opportunity.

“It was obvious to me that there was a need for a good, organized, timber shop on Vancouver Island,” he said. “We had to source our own wood, ship the timbers to the property and cut and fit the beams on site. It was a difficult project without the right tools, labour and systems in place.”

Paul, with his skill in building and design and Stefan, with his business savvy and understanding of a target niche market, started their business from humble beginnings in a small rented shop on the Cumberland property that belonged to Victoria Truss at the time.

“We started by calling custom home builders and designers to see if we could help on any projects. When we got a set of plans, we worked together in the office to produce shop drawings, then we went into the shop to cut and fit the timbers. It was a lot of hard work, but a very simple process with only two of us working” Paul recalls.

Since then Island Timber Frame purchased the entire two-acre property from Victoria Truss, added a timber frame addition onto an existing warehouse to include a showroom/office and a millwork shop, and grown to a staff exceeding 25. They have completed more than 300 projects with some of Canada’s top builders and architects.

To celebrate their 10th anniversary, Island Timber Frame has introduced a new logo and launched a new website at www.islandtimberframe.com.

Stop by the showroom at 3010 Royston Rd. in Cumberland.

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