Timber framed houses are the second most popular form of new home construction in England and Wales and as the UK Timber Frame Association points out, it is already the number one method in Scotland and is the fastest growing build method in the UK.
The reasons why timber frame is gathering momentum could appeal to you for the construction of your self build home.
There have been misconceptions about timber framed houses in the UK and a resistance to deviate from our beloved masonry construction has, in the past, suppressed a system that thrives in the rest of the world. In fact, according to the Timber Frame Association, 70% of people in the developed world live in timber frame housing.
Timber frame construction refers to a range of systems from traditional post and beam to stick built, open and closed panel systems, hybrid systems and Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs).
The traditional methods, although expensive, are still popular and if you watch Grand Designs then you will no doubt have seen a passionate soul taking on a Green Oak construction inevitably resulting in a stunning home.
In the UK, the majority of timber framed houses are constructed using open and closed panel systems.
Open panel timber frames comprise of a softwood stud frame backed with a layer of timber sheet material. The panels are manufactured in accordance with the house design, delivered to site and fixed together to provide the structural frame of the house.
Closed panels are similar in construction to open panels but factory prefabrication goes one step further with insulation and vapour barriers incorporated and plasterboard fixed to 'close' the panel. Service conduits, socket points, windows and doors can all be factory fitted further reducing the portion of on site construction.
When constructing a timber framed home, excavation and foundation installation take place as with masonry construction and footings are normally brought up above ground to damp course level using masonry materials. Due to the lighter structural frame, it is usually possible to have a lower foundation specification.
Scaffold is erected around the perimeter of the house and, depending on panel sizes and weights, it may be necessary to hire a crane or lifting equipment.
Prefabricated panels manufactured in accordance with the house design are delivered to site and erected forming the inner skin of the house - similar to the blockwork skin in masonry construction. This is the structural load-bearing element of the house and supports floors, the roof and internal loads.
Upper floors are constructed as the framing progresses using solid timber joists or composite I joists and decking.
The roof structure follows on using traditional cut timber construction, roof trusses or a panel system. The application of a roofing membrane and windows and doors can achieve a watertight shell within a matter of days.
Following the first fix of plumbing and electrics, the panels are filled with insulation. Breather paper is fixed to the outside, a vapour check barrier to the inside and the walls can then be plaster boarded. If closed boards have been used, this will all have been factory fitted and panels are simply fixed in place before the internal joints are taped and skimmed.
External finishes can begin as soon as this timber shell is complete. Any facing materials can be used including brick, stone and timber.
Timber frame manufacturers normally supply and fix the frames and frequently offer a range of services including full management of the build including all follow-on trades. Many self-builders opt to save money by taking on the project management and the management of follow on trades themselves.
Let's have a look at some of advantages of building timber framed houses.
Many advantages of timber frame construction are a result of the increase in the portion of off site construction. Controlled factory prefabrication allows:
Other Advantages include:
You can find more information about timber framed houses at the UK Timber Frame Association, which promotes timber frame house construction and represents the majority of timber frame companies in the UK.
It is essential that any timber used in house construction is sourced from properly managed suppliers who are FSC certified. Visit their site to find out what they do.
Timber framed houses offer a lot of advantages and if the timber is sourced from a fast growing, properly managed source then it is a very environmentally friendly material.
Have a look through the rest of our house construction methods section to compare it with the alternatives.