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Timber Frame Housing: An Alternative You Might Consider For Your Home

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Timber frame housing is making a comeback in a big way all over the world.

And when you look at the benefits of having one, it’s not hard to see why.

Houses constructed using wood are aesthetically pleasing to look at and have numerous other functional benefits that traditional block-built houses don’t have.

Let’s take a detailed look at these benefits and get a better idea of how this works.

When people think of timber frame homes they often assume it’s a lightweight form of construction that’s inferior to traditionally built houses.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Current woodworking and construction techniques ensure that a timber frame is just as strong as concrete block. Also, several of the fears that were commonly associated with timber frame housing have now been eliminated, making this an attractive proposition for home builders to consider.

Why Timber Frame Housing?

Timber frame construction these days is comparatively as good as masonry type buildings and even offers a few advantages over them.

Keep in mind that sometimes the requirements of the project might make one or the other an unsuitable alternative to consider.

Also, some builders prefer working with one type of construction as opposed to the other.

Interior timber home
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There are some viable reasons to consider timber frame housing so let’s look at them in more detail.

Quicker Process

A timber frame construction process saves a lot of time when compared to brick and block construction.

The timber frame is built on-site in a matter of days rather than weeks.

In fact, from the specialist construction team arriving on-site to completion of the timber frame, the whole process takes only a week or 10 days at the most.

Faster Resource Management

Another area where you save time is when the utilities have to be laid out.

When it comes to traditional building methods, the electricians and plasterers need to wait until the stage of construction where the interior is protected from the elements.

Compare this to a timber frame house where you can have these utilities up in a shorter time frame, and these can be completed much earlier during the build process.

Quick Drying

Timber frame construction, being a dry construction process, requires very little time to dry out the whole project.

This is a much quicker process as opposed to all-masonry walls which need to be completely dry. And that can take weeks.

Timber frame construction is not affected by weather as much as traditional block building methods, which need to be halted if the temperature drops below 2 degrees C(35 degrees F).

Timber frame construction is also more suited to prefabrication saving even more time on-site.

Insulation and Thermal Advantage

This is one area where going timber exhibits an overwhelming advantage over traditional construction.

There are several reasons why timber offers superior insulating properties over masonry buildings.

Timber wooden studs
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Climatic Compatibility

Wood as a material is a fantastic insulator, and this makes it the preferred choice when it comes to home building, especially where inclement weather is prevalent.

In a masonry house, you need to set the requisite temperature your HVAC system a lot earlier because the masonry inner leaf needs to be heated or cooled before an optimal temperature is reached.

This never happens with timber frame construction as wood does not absorb heat or cold as easily, which translates into a good amount of energy savings for the homeowner.

Retained Moisture

Another reason is that timber houses are sealed between joints, which prevents moist air from entering.

Most timber frame homes have optimal moisture retaining properties and very rarely need a dehumidifier.

This means fewer infections or molding due to excess moisture.

Muted Sounds

Earlier types of timber frame construction techniques did not insulate sound as well as masonry did.
But techniques have improved these days, and the solution would be to use sound absorbent material between 2 walls, with a structural break between them.

While masonry has this inherent quality to deaden sound because of the density, timber construction can achieve pretty much the same today. But it’s a lot lighter.

In addition to the sound absorbing quilt, people also opt to have a heavier board which supplements the sound insulation properties.

Better Usage, Lesser Wastage

This is another significant point especially because of the focus on environmental issues these days.

Firstly, wood used today is renewable, as it is sourced from sustainable forests.

It also requires less embodied energy than an equivalent weight of concrete to produce.

Coupled with that, concrete involves a lot more industrial processes which means increased accumulation of greenhouse gases, in turn leading to a bigger carbon footprint.

Using timber can also have a pronounced positive effect on your BER (Building Energy Ratings) because of lowered energy consumption due to better insulation.

Fire Resistance

Interior wooden kitchen
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We have been burning wood as fuel since as long as we can remember.

So a lot of people come to the natural conclusion that timber frame houses are less safe in the event of a fire.

Well, this is not a well-founded observation as the situation is not as simple as one would think.

While masonry buildings do not catch fire if subjected to high temperatures, they disintegrate and do so without warning.

This is the same with steel beams as well – when the material reaches critical temperature, it fails suddenly and catastrophically.

Contrasting this to a timber frame, the outer layer is covered with thick fire-retardant panels which offer some protection against burning. Most modern timber frames are sheathed with plasterboards as well as sealed off with fire barriers.

To sum up, if the timber frame house has been designed and built by an expert, the risks from a house fire are not very different than a masonry house. Who’d have thought?

Design Flexibility and Aesthetics

Timber framing offers more design freedom compared to traditional block building methods as well as improved aesthetics.
Generally these types of houses have a higher structural efficiency when compared to traditional building materials like steel and concrete.

This makes it easier for architects to be a bit unconventional and explore several design facets. While experimental designs are possible with concrete structures, it gets a lot more expensive versus timber frames.

Timber offers more flexibility with design without compromising structural requirements of today’s stringent coding laws.

Also several people feel that using wood as a building material feels more natural compared to other materials.

You may consider it a more comfortable home to live in because wood maintains better relative humidity compared to other traditional building methods.

How To Maintain a Timber Frame Home

If you’re brand new to this subject don’t worry: there’s plenty more to learn and lots of info online.

But just know there are certain precautions you’ll need to take to maintain the property and to prevent any mishaps.

1. Dry timber only

Any excessive moisture in your timber frame structure could compromise the strength and integrity.

Having moisture content higher than 25% is dangerous, and definitely not preferred.

When you source the timber for your home ensure that it’s dry timber and insist on knowing the moisture content as well.

Timber with more moisture is called unseasoned timber and you must avoid using it for your framing.

2. Avoiding fire

Especially if you live in a tropical climate or a country where the hotter seasons can get really extreme, you’ve gotta be careful.

You can protect your home by ensuring that it is coated with a layer of fire retardant, which will prevent the wood from heating up.

But it’s not just fire that you’re protecting against; these fire retardant coatings also significantly reduce the damage to the wood from extreme heat, safeguarding its integrity.

3. Protection from rot

When there is moisture present it’s very much possible for fungus and mold to form on the wood.

While it doesn’t show immediately, it can manifest over time and becomes problematic to deal with later on.

To avoid all of this you need to ensure that the sewage and drainage system in and around your house is in proper working condition.

Another precaution is to ensure that your house is well ventilated, with enough windows or areas for free-flowing air and sunlight.

4. Termite trouble

Whenever wood is concerned termites are a problem to worry about.

You need to conduct periodic checks to ensure that no termites are eating into your timber frame.

Typically small white patches are an indication of the presence of termites. If you notice this, you can call pest control and get them removed before there’s any real damage done.

Game room wooden design
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Timber Frame Homes Buyer’s FAQ

A lot of people are not clear about the kind of questions they should be asking on this subject. And there are many!

But here are a few frequently asked questions when it comes to this kind of construction.

How do I choose the right timber-framing company?

First you need to do some research and collect details about popular timber frame companies in your area.

Each company brings something different to the table when it comes to material and services.

Check their website and talk to them to get an idea of what they can deliver. If they are worth your money, they will be courteous and willing to share details about their references.

Some companies, depending on the model you select, will have a model of the timber home that you can visit.

This can give you a better perspective of what to expect when you get your own timber house. If you are on the lookout for resources and a trusted brand you could check out timber frame home plans by Hamill Creek for tons of new ideas to get you started.

How different is using a timber frame compared to building conventional homes?

Basically, long beams of timber which are quite strong and are laid in a horizontal and vertical framework.

These wooden beams are solid enough to support the weight of the entire structure which means you don’t need load-bearing walls inside the house.

This leaves a lot of room for setting up the home the way you like including cathedral ceilings.

Do architects or designers specialize in timber frame houses?

One thing a lot of experts in this area will tell you is that a house needs to be spot on when it comes to execution; and they are right.

Timber framing has very little margin for error, and you need to carefully pick out a designer or a company who has had considerable experience with timber.

So yes, there are specialists, and those are the people you want to find for your project.

What variety of wood should I choose?

This depends on several factors.

Cost is an obvious factor, you need to choose a type of wood that isn’t too hard on your wallet.

Apart from that, these are a few other considerations.

Availability – where you are from is a big part of the decision. Some types of wood might not be available where you live and transporting it over might not be a great decision.

Ideally, the variety of wood you choose should be locally available.

Strength – another important factor to consider is the strength of the wood. Different types of wood have different properties and this should factor into your consideration.

For example, oak is known to be strong but can be hard to work with due to its high shrinkage rate.

Douglas Fir is a good choice that offers all round strength and is much easier to work with. An experienced architect might use different types of wood for different parts of the construction.

Sustainability – it does help choosing your timber from a logging company that applies sustainable forest management practices so it maintains the ecological equilibrium.

As a simple guideline, check if the logging you’re considering is FSC Certified.

The Future of Timber Frames

Many cities are moving away from traditional building materials like steel and concrete in favor of timber.

There are several reasons but the most important one is that it offers the same structural strength as concrete while being a lot easier on the environment.

One of the newer trends in the timber construction niche is cross-laminated timber (CLT).

CLT is a new generation of “mass produced timber” made from crosswise layers of lumber glued together and is really strong.

The enhanced mechanical strength is due to the way they are glued together – by crossing the grains. CLT also addresses the question of fire safety when it comes to timber frame construction.

This is much more resistant to fire than traditional timber and has a much more predictable behavior during extremely high temperatures compared to something like steel.

Adopting this can reduce your carbon footprint by as much as 75%.

There are even newer technologies on the horizon like concrete jointed timber frames which is under testing currently.

These bring the best of both worlds together by improving fire safety and soundproofing just as well.

Experts are predicting that timber construction coupled with other materials would be the way to go for a cleaner future.

So if you’ve been considering opting for a timber frame home, we hope this comprehensive overview has made a difference!

Timber frame homes are a great choice and they look and feel aesthetically pleasing.

There are many types of woods and finishes you can choose so there’s a lot of customization in the process.

Timber is a viable alternative now because of the advances we’ve been able to make. This means timber frames are a much safer option than ever before.

And with this kind of home you’re doing your part in helping to use environmentally conscious building material.

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