Timber frame or brick and block?

Using a timber frame could be the best way to build a house, says Joe Pattinson, Newbury New Homes

Using a timber frame could be the best way to build a house, says Joe Pattinson, Newbury New Homes - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

What is the best way of building a house? Joe Pattinson, from Newbury New Homes, is a fan of using a timber frame.

Joe Pattinson, Newbury New Homes. Pic: www.newburynewhomes.co.uk

Joe Pattinson, Newbury New Homes. Pic: www.newburynewhomes.co.uk - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

People ask whether traditional build or timber frame is the best. We are all familiar with the distinctive style of Elizabethan and Tudor buildings, which were built with timber frames 450 years ago, so perhaps we should refer to timber frame as being the traditional method of construction.

There have been various different methods of construction since caves stopped featuring in Homes and Gardens and many would be considered pretty awful compared to how we live today. The Romans, of course, introduced concrete in 43 AD and were way ahead of our basic huts, having heating and a sewage system. Once they got fed up with the rain and absence of decent ice cream and pulled out of Britannia things deteriorated.

During the medieval period, homes were usually made out of sticks, straw and mud, but they gradually evolved and medieval cities began to use stone, chalk and flint. The era is responsible however for some of the most magnificent buildings that can still be seen today and you wonder how Norwich Cathedral was constructed without the technology we have come to rely on. No doubt many of the builders worked things out over a pint in The Adam and Eve and the long tradition of builders enjoying a few pints is still going strong.

I discussed the merits of Timber Frame and Brick and Block with Jason and Ben in the office and the merits seem to be 6 of one and half a dozen of the other.

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A timber frame can be erected in a week or two, which enables the other trades to get in more quickly and press on with the fitting out. The lead in time to get the frame designed and made will be around 3 months, but as long as you are well organised timber frame will be quicker, especially as it does not need to 'dry out' in the same way as the brick and block house. However, once you have your timber frame there is not the same flexibility if you want to change things as there is with other methods, so you have better get it right first time.

Timber frame is generally easier to heat and will retain heat better, whilst in terms of sound insulation it is usually a draw. Timber frame could be more vulnerable to condensation but the use of various membranes prevents that from happening and modern treatments mean that rot and bugs are no longer an issue in a new home.

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Whilst you might think that a timber frame would be more vulnerable to fire than brick and block, it isn't. Timber burns quite slowly and maintains much of its structural integrity for long periods. Builders are responsible for buying all their timber from renewable sources and suppliers to the timber frame industry replace all the trees that they cut down. The process of manufacturing timber frames consumes less energy than many aspects of brick and block construction so timber frame is more sustainable.

Many Scandinavian countries have been building the vast majority of their homes in timber frame for a very long time and in Scotland, with an abundance of timber on their doorstep, timber frame accounts for around 70% of new homes.

I think that the greater sustainability of timber frame and a reluctance of young people to go into the construction industry will mean that building houses will need to become less labour intensive. That means timber frames, built in factories, will gradually become the way that most homes are built. Mind you I have often been wrong before.

You can contact Newbury New Homes on 01603 520000 www.newburynewhomes.co.uk

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