When it comes to choosing the right structural system and materials for your new-build home, it is important not to get hung up on whether one system is better than another.
Instead, focus on which system best suits your needs and what you require from your build. Looking at the benefits of different build systems is the best way to identify what stacks up best for you.
Timber frames have multiple benefits and here we outline the primary reasons why they are increasingly the building method of choice for self-builders.
If you need to get to the wind and watertight stage quickly, choose a timber frame. The typical self-build home takes about 8-12 months – from first footing to moving in, but excluding the time it takes to identify land and obtain the necessary planning and building regulations approvals.
The first three to five months of the building stage are on the weatherproof stage, so if you have a pressing moving-in deadline, or if you are building during the colder, winter months when bad weather could pose a risk to your build schedule, a timber frame delivers faster results.
While groundwork contractors are onsite laying the foundations, your timber frame kit will be manufactured in the factory. This requires careful planning, but if you have a well-orchestrated project schedule, your frame kit can be delivered to site ‘just in time’ after groundworks are completed.
Timber frames are the best choice if speed is a defining factor of the build process. From delivery on site, the average four-bedroom family home takes between two and three weeks to reach the wind and water-tight stage.
This short and defined build time gives you control over your build schedule and minimises the risk of slippages that can delay your project and add unnecessary costs. Speed of erection also reduces the amount of noise, dust, and waste – ideal if you are in a residential area or have a tricky relationship with your neighbours because it minimises disruption.
Off-site manufacture of timber frames means high quality is assured: pre-fabrication within a factory environment allows for controlled, precision engineering, minimising the risk of defects and snagging. If your chosen supplier operates to a quality assurance system, there is additional peace of mind about the frame being subject to rigorous independent audits.
As energy costs skyrocket, achieving a thermally efficient home is more important than ever. A timber frame can enable very high levels of thermal insulation because the dwelling’s core insulation layer is housed within the structure. On top of this, multiple layers of insulation can be added to the structural fabric of the house to increase its thermal performance.
Most timber frame companies offer a range of U values (the measure of how effective a material is as an insulator – the lower the U value the more thermally efficient it is), depending on whether you want to meet building regulations or want to achieve a highly thermally efficient home.
Good timber frame companies can create a panel detail to meet your own or your architect’s U value requirements if you have a special detail in mind.
There are almost limitless possibilities when it comes to designing a timber frame home. Wood is a highly versatile building material: it’s light with a high strength-to-weight ratio and can be engineered, lending itself to innovative design possibilities and beautiful architecture.
Using a timber frame injects additional ease to the self-build process. Timber frame package providers, such as Fleming Homes, offer a range of additional services including design, planning and building regulations expertise, comprehensive material supply options so you benefit from its buying power, and erection to the wind and watertight stage, all of which help to make the process easier.
Timber has superior environmental credentials. It is a natural, renewable and sustainable resource with low embodied carbon. Compared to the manufacture of steel and concrete, with their enormous environmental cost, the lowest CO2 of any building material is a timber frame.
The Forestry Commission reports that dwellings built in timber frame can lead to a saving of up to 86% of green-house gas emissions compared to masonry construction.
It is worth noting that the building industry contributes 32% of all waste nationally (BRE 2006), but off-site manufacture of timber frame within a factory environment can reduce the amount of waste generated on site by up to 40%. Most timber frame waste generated can also be recovered or recycled.
A timber frame can also positively impact health and safety on your site. Working from height is the most frequent cause of fatal accidents in the workplace and just over a quarter of these deaths occur in the construction industry.
A prefabricated timber frame reduces work at height by up to 80%, which in turn reduces the risk of injury on your site. Reduced manual handling of materials on site, and other reductions, such as less potential for slips and trips, also mean a 25% improvement in site safety.
When looking at overall value, it’s important to look at the process in the round: what good is speed of erection if you end up with endless snagging and defects? Using a timber frame combines myriad benefits, resulting in exceptional value for the self-builder.