Timber Frame Vs Traditional Blockwork Building

Many people ask us about Timber frame and Block (traditional) build, so we wanted to outline a few things that we feel strongly about and help dispel many myths there are around both building forms. We are equally as skilled and comfortable building with Timber Frame as we are constructing traditionally using Brick and block. We first built with Timber Frame on one of our own developments in 2011. The decision for us to do this was to push the boundaries of the "norm" and challenge expectations, which is a business culture here at Apex.

The ultimate deciding factor for us was speed, all indications showed there was no cost saving, but speed on our site building multiple units would allow us to be more condensed and organised across all the trades involved in the build. Because each frame is built off site to the exact dimensions and specifications designated by the architect, the accuracy on site of all fitments, windows, doors etc are all incredibly precise. This means there is the ability to forward order and plan for the fitments accurately with the confidence that they will all fit and the date they will be fitted. Upon arrival on site the whole timber frame structure and roof is erected in less than 4 days (Size depending, we have had a bungalow up in two days).

Timber Frame Bungalow

This bungalow is 1,100 sqft. The frame was erected in less than 2 days

Timber Frame 5 bedroom house

This is a 2,600 sqft 5 bedroom home, built in Timber Frame and it took 4 days to erect

Upon reflection one of the key points of timber frame from our perspective as a developer is that many trades work alongside each other where in a traditional build they would not have. This creates a new level of comradery and shared values because people are accountable for their work and work everironment, without having to "leave it for the next team" to make right. The whole process on site of construction was far more cohesive and made the management of the project more fluid than ever before.

There are projects where timber isn't appropriate mainly due to more complicated builds where timber frame would require the introduction of supporting beams and steels. These wouldn't be required in a traditional build so in those situations a traditional build is more appropriate to the design of the property.

Below are a few myths and frequently raised questions on the subject of "Whats the difference?" and which is the best. 

Is it cheaper to build with Timber Frame?

What to make of this? Well, there appears to be no real pattern. Claims that the prefabrication of the timber frame adds to the relative cost and “you would expect to pay between £2,000 and £5,000 for the service”. These costs are offset somewhat by a quicker time on a site that’s less prone to things going wrong.

What are the energy efficiency differences?

In theory, no system is inherently more energy efficient, it’s all down to the design. In practice, a surprising amount of energy performance is also down to build quality and here factory-built homes tend to win out. It’s also easier to fit insulation into timber frame walls, and to leave the cavity between the two skins empty as well. However, masonry homes claim an edge on heat retention, as heat from the sun can be stored in the structure overnight — this is known as thermal mass.

Green or Grey - What are the green credentials like?

Energy efficiency is about specification of insulation, good design, on-site building practices, airtightness and a whole range of other things — much more so that simply arguing the toss between the relative merits of timber or concrete. The differences between wall performance are now so small that the argument has rather moved on and it’s down to individual bespoke specifications much more than choosing one system over the other.

What lenders and banks think of Timber frame

There was once considerable prejudice against timber frame homes but the fact is that it has been used widely and success fully in North America and Scandinavia, not to mention Scotland, for decades, and it also has a slightly better warranty claims record than masonry. Consequently, timber frame is now accepted by all major lenders, insurers and most homebuyers.

Is a timber frame home noisier?

No, in simple terms. Masonary building techniques have a clear advantage here. But in detached housing, the chief area of concern is noise between floors and most masonry homes actually have timber intermediate floors, so in this respect there is little difference.

Fire, Rot and infestation - Myth

This is one of the most controversial of all the claims and counterclaims made by the two sides. Modern Building Regulations are so strict that rot, fire risk and decay are no longer serious issues to be considered. Warranty providers certainly don’t consider them problems.