How are Timber Frames used in Building and Construction?
In the drive to reduce carbon emissions in the UK, the growth in the demand for timber-framed housing is playing an important role. This form of construction is not new.
Timber-framing was popular in Elizabethan times and more recently it has seen an increase in popularity in North America and Scandinavia.
In these northern countries, the window for construction work can be as little as three months in the brief summer period. Therefore as much pre-site work as possible is carried out in the winter, mainly in the construction of housing kits.
This type of construction has spread across the roof of Europe including those countries that enjoy a twelve month construction period!
In a traditional brick and block house the weight of the roof is carried by the external walls, but in a timber-framed house, the roof is supported by vertical timber members. The space between these members is usually filled in with panels of facing bricks which are non load-bearing.
How Timber Frames Work and what are their Advantages
Externally, a timber-framed house looks much the same as a traditional one with brick on the outside of the external walls and plasterboard on the inside. The timber is treated to prevent insect infestation and to reduce the fire risk and must conform to current Building Regulations in all respects.
Any concerns felt by mortgage providers a few years ago have now disappeared and the same has happened to insurance companies. Both these financial bodies now treat timber-framed houses the same as traditional ones.
Another benefit in timber-framed building is the high level of sound proofing achieved from the use of timber framing and plasterboard.
The two main advantages that timber houses have over their rivals are that they can be built quicker and cheaper.
Although some irresponsible claims have been made by the timber lobby (watertight in three days!) there is substantial evidence that comparing production rates between the two, produces favourable results for timber.
A good bench mark for comparison is the completion dates for the watertight stage. That is, foundations, external walls, windows, external doors and roof coverings. In similar houses, this stage would be expected to be reached in 6 to 8 weeks for timber and 10 to 12 weeks for masonry.
This advantage is also evident in the cost of the construction.
For a three bedroom detached (160m2) house, the total cost per square metre would be about £900 for timber and £1,000 for masonry. This figure for timber would reduce to £700 if a contractor took the house to the watertight stage and a self-builder completed the work him/herself (except for the electrics).
It is estimated that over 70% of timber-framed house kits are sold to self-builders and there are special mortgages available to cater for their needs.
These mortgages pay before each agreed stage so that the self-builder is ahead of the game and does not have to deal with upset sub-contractors waiting for the release of monies from the mortgage provider.