30 Nov Building a Timber Frame Extension
At Acre Design, we love timber frame as a construction method for building an extension. Timber frame construction is great because it can often save you money and it is nice and quick to build. On top of this, it is a sustainable building material. When people are choosing to extend their homes, timber frame is becoming more and more popular in Newcastle and the North East, due to these benefits. It is also becoming a really popular method for constructing new build homes. Masonry is still a favoured choice for many, however we will discuss the pros and cons when compared with timber frame.
What is timber frame construction?
Timber frame is the term for a construction system utilising panelised structural walls and floors. These are constructing using small sections of timber studs, clad with boarding. The timber frame carries the vertical and horizontal loads to the foundations of your home. If you require your structural shell to be erected quickly or if you are expecting poor weather conditions (common in Newcastle), timber frame is a great solution.
Timber frame can be prefabricated and brought on site to be erected or using the ‘stick build’ method, your carpenter will construct the frame onsite. Platform frame is the most commonly used method in the UK. Using this method, each storey is framed with floor-to-ceiling height panels and the floor deck of one floor becomes the erection platform of the next.
Unfortunately, you may find it tricky to find a manufacturer who will prefabricate a timber frame for your extension, they tend to prefer to construct whole homes. Extensions tend to require quite a bit more technical input than new builds. However, where very accurate measurements of the existing home are provided, this is sometimes possible. Prefabricated timber frames can also be very costly to transport, which puts a lot of buyers and manufacturers off.
So, the vast majority of extensions in England are built using stick build timber frame construction. The carpenter would then be able to make your panels to suit your project, onsite. Timber frame construction usually requires less deliveries of materials when compared with other methods, this means happier neighbours too!
Tress ‘lock in’ carbon dioxide and expel oxygen so are a means of combating global warming. Therefore, if we increase the use of timber in the construction business, we increase the need for tree planting. On the back of this, more carbon dioxide emissions will be ‘absorbed by these trees. Furthermore, timber is a renewable building material – in principle if one tree is felled, another is planted in its place. Hopefully, an increase in the use of this construction method will result in growth of forests to supply the demand.
The use of bricks and concrete rely on the extraction of finite raw materials. Steel is also less environmentally friendly as it takes far more CO2 to process than timber.
The cost of a timber frame extension is generally lower than where other methods are used. This is mostly because it takes a lot less time to construct, meaning a lot less charge for labour. For builders, it is cheaper to price as the timescale is more predictable as it can be constructed in pretty much any weather conditions – builders don’t have to worry about missing days of work because of the weather. Factory costs and availability are more predictable and fluctuate a lot less with timber. This means you can price your construction a lot more accurately than with other construction methods.
Timber frame strength and suitability
As long as they are designed properly by a good architect, timber frame structures are strong and robust. At Acre Design, our designs ensure that we optimise the amount of material for the required strength. This means that the design is both the most cost efficient and reduces waste materials as much as possible.
When compared to a brick and block construction, a prefabricated timber frame can come together far faster. Speeding up this part of the process means that your plasterer, electrician and plumber can get started far sooner than they would with brick and block. If you are cladding in dry plasterboard, once the building is watertight, the frame must be left to allow it’s moisture content to stabilise. However, this method is still far quicker than using mortar.
Timber frames can also be constructed in low temperatures, which brick and block work can’t. Though the architectural design of your timber frame may take more time than the design of a traditional build, meaning a possibly slower start on site if you are in a hurry. Your timber frame structure can be made wind and watertight in a matter of days, as opposed to a number of weeks when other methods are used.
Quality of timber frames
Higher quality can often be achieve with timber frame than that of other construction methods. As it is fabricated off site, the process is done in a controlled, dry and optimum environment. When compared with methods constructed onsite, this generally provides a better quality level as things such as weather, site muck etc. can impact on on-site construction methods. Sometimes, the fabricators will also erect the timber frame on-site, this is really good continuity as they will fully understand your design.
You may not get the same level of sound insulation with timber frame structures as you would with concrete or masonry. Timber frame is not as dense. However, you can improve this by constructing two separate wall leaves with a gap between them. This gap can then be filled with sound absorbing material. You could also use a slightly denser material than plasterboard or use more than one layer of plasterboard.
Fire safety with timber frame
Often, there is a perception that timber frame structures are at more risk of fire. All forms of construction need to comply with the fire performance requirements laid down by national building regulations. Timber frame dwellings have no difficulty in meeting the required levels, given correct design, standards of manufacture and workmanship. However, additional fire protection can be added by boarding it. You can also install fire-stops within the cavity to protect your home further.
As long as they are designed and erected safely, meeting the relevant regulations, your timber frame construction would be perfectly fire safe and comparable to other construction methods.
The low thermal mass of timber frames allows them to heat up quicker than masonry constructed builds and to cool down a lot quicker too. However, efficient insulation can combat this substantially.
You can increase the insulation by using: deeper solid wood studs or deeper engineered studs, additional layers of insulation (internally and externally). You could also: ensure maximum air tightness is achieved, increase roof insulation, use double and or triple glazed windows, adding floor insulation or using very high quality wall insulation.
We hope that you find this information helpful, at Acre Design Newcastle we are passionate about all things sustainable and innovative. We would love to discuss your project with you in detail.