Your questions answered
What is the difference between a timber frame house and a masonry house?
In modern masonry houses the external walls of the house are constructed of two leaves i.e. an internal concrete blockwork wall and an external brick/block wall.
A modern timber frame house replaces the internal leaf of concrete blockwork with an engineer designed structural timber frame designed strong enough to carry all the load bearings of the house.
The timber frame is then clad by a traditional facing material such as brick, render, stone etc. And the internal walls are insulated and plasterboarded.
How long will a timber frame house last?
A timber frame house will last as long as, if not longer, than any other form of construction. Softwood timber frame houses have been built in increasing numbers since the 19th century.
Indeed examples of these early designs can be seen all over Southern England, with many of them being more than 150 years old.
Are you more at risk from a fire in a timber frame house?
No, all houses are built in accordance with strict Building Regulations with respect to performance in fire. A BRE (Building Research Establishment) fire safety study concludes that timber frame is as safe as other forms of construction.
Is a timber frame house as structurally strong as other methods of construction?
Yes, the timber frame structural design is done by a specialist structural engineer. He provides a full set of calculations to prove that the timber frame will be more than capable of supporting loadings and all cladding materials.
The structural timbers of each house are precision engineered with stress graded timber in line with the structural engineers calculations to carry the load bearings created by the roof tiles, floors and cladding.
What about noise - will sound travel between the walls?
No, Modern timber frame systems have better acoustic insulation qualities than masonry and fully conform to, or exceed the current Building Regulations.
What about putting up pictures on the walls?
Generally speaking as long as the basic safety precautions for DIY activity are followed, there are no special requirements for timber frame walls. Most objects such as pictures can be hung on the walls using plasterboard fixings.
Heavier objects such as kitchen cupboards should be fixed using conventional wood screws, screwed through the plasterboard, directly onto the timber frame or onto battens.
What about mortgage/insurance on a timber frame house?
The TFIA (Timber Frame Industry Association) has asked some of the UK’s top lenders/insurers for their opinion on lending money/insurance for houses using timber frame method. Some of their quotes are as follows:-
Neil Buckley of Abbey National. “Abbey National regards modern timber frame construction as being conventional and there are no restrictions with regard to our lending policy or procedures”.
Patrick Sawdon of Halifax. “Halifax takes the view that properly constructed timber framed housing with a suitable external cladding is equally as good as housing which is built in brick or block and we make no differentiation in the lending terms offered on either form of construction”.
Steve Birt of Association of British Insurers. “Insurance companies generally draw no distinction between modern timber frame and brick and block construction in their premium rate assessment provided the external roof covering is also of tiles, natural or mineral slates or concrete”.
What about water penetration damaging the timber frame?
Water penetration can arise from internal sources such as leaking pipes and from external sources as driven rain.
There is a cavity between the structural timber frame and the external cladding, any rain that is absorbed by the cladding is unable to penetrate the timber frame and runs down the cavity and escape through specifically designed weepholes. If rain is driven across the cavity, the waterproof membrane covering the timber frame provides complete protection.
Leaking pipes can cause problems with all forms of construction, but as with all building methods, the independent BRE (Building Research Company) has undertaken many detailed studies into the performance of timber frame in the long term. A report published in 1993 looked at the moisture conditions in the walls of occupied houses built between 1965 and 1985 and “found no instances of rot caused by water ingress”.
A second report published in 1996 investigated the record of houses built between 1920 and 1975. This report also confirmed the results of the earlier study.
What about bad workmanship on site?
Bad workmanship can occur on all building sites, whether the properties being built are timber frame or masonry construction.
With timber frame a larger proportion of the building is being produced under closely supervised and controlled factory conditions whenever the panels are being manufactured. These panels are brought to site and are designed to be put together in one way only. Therefore a specialist team erect the timber frame panels on site.