Timber Frame Construction Methods

The use of timber frames in building construction has never been more popular, particularly for self build projects. In fact, recent studies indicate that timber frames are now almost as popular as masonry or steel frame construction. The main reasons for this are speed and ease of construction compared to other building methods. In this blog we will discuss timber frame construction methods and the advantages of timber frames over other materials. When using timber, oak framed buildings are especially durable and strong compared to other hardwoods. In addition, oak timber has natural water resistant properties and a high natural resistance to fungal and bacterial infestation.

Timber frames are usually used for simple structural designs, whether a house or a smaller structure such as a wooden gazebo, porch or summer house. For smaller external structures, an oak frame can be combined with oak cladding for a pleasing natural look. Oak framed structures are usually formed from prefabricated wall sections, oak beams and floor panels and oak trusses for the roof. In the UK, three storeys is the maximum height for a timber framed building.

Construction Methods

Planning

As the structure consists of prefabricated sections, a design must be given to the manufacturer. Many companies have a range of predesigned structures and also offer bespoke services. This does away with the need for an architect as their own staff can aid with the initial design. They can also ensure planning regulations and fire regulations are met before frame construction begins. If a stick build is planned they can provide the basic timber and advice on construction.

Stick Build

This method involves constructing the building from the basic timber without prefabrication. However, this requires the use of highly skilled staff to ensure the structure is erected correctly. It also leads to a longer build time and a greater risk of mistakes during construction. While avoiding prefabrication reduces the initial cost of building materials, this is beyond the skill level of many self builders. The need for specialised staff can also drive up build costs.

Frame Construction

The frames themselves consist of hardwood studs and braces nailed with simple butt joints to top and base plates. The outer wall surface usually consists of cladding with sheet material, usually plywood, nailed or screwed to the studwork. These two elements are responsible for transferring horizontal and vertical loads to the foundations. The boards forming the outer wall are also covered with a breathable, water resistant membrane. This protects the outer layer during building and provides another line of defence if the external cladding is penetrated by moisture. For an open frame construction these are the only frame elements. In a closed frame an inner layer of boards is also attached and a layer of insulation is inserted between the boards. Doors and windows may also be fitted and even electrics and plumbing installed within the wall sections.

Erecting Frames

The most common method of construction is known as a platform frame. The floor is built first and then the frames erected on top, using the floor as a building platform. Using this method, each storey is built as a separate operation. Another method is balloon frame, where two storey wall sections are erected on the floor and the first storey floor fitted afterwards. This method is not used for three storey buildings. The size of the frames will dictate whether they can be manually erected or if a crane will be necessary to lift them into place.

External Cladding

Once the frame of the building is complete and roof trusses attached the final layer of external cladding can be attached. This can be made from a variety of materials depending on the desired finish. This could be a layer of brickwork or masonry attached to the external surface of the frame by wall ties across an inner cavity. Wooden cladding or shingles attached to treated wooden batons can also be used for a more natural look. The wooden layer covering the rafters will also need to be clad with roof tiles, felt or a similar roofing material. This not only improves the overall appearance but also adds another layer of weatherproofing. This stage completes the basic construction.

Advantages of Timber Frame Construction

Speed

The use of prefabricated sections means a timber framed structure can be erected quickly as there is no need to build the walls from the ground up. The wait for plaster or mortar to dry before continuing with building is also avoided. It is also far quicker and easier to treat timber than installing a damp proof course, although this may be necessary for the cladding.

Resistance to The Elements

Unlike building brick walls, timber frames can be erected in wet conditions or at temperatures below two degrees Celsius.

Fast Weatherproofing

As a timber framed building can be built in a matter of days, the interior will quickly be weatherproof. This allows interior decorating, plastering, wiring and similar to jobs to be completed quickly.

Insulation

Timber absorbs heat far slower than masonry or brickwork, and a double layer of wood with insulation inside dramatically reduces heat loss.

Cost

Although hardwood timber can be marginally more expensive than other materials, the cost of a timber framed building is payed upfront. This allows the builder to assess their budget more accurately. It also avoids hidden costs from the regular fluctuations in the price of other building materials. Using oak can be cheaper than other hardwoods as the fresh sawn oak used in the frames costs less than treated hardwoods.

Hardwoods Group operates the largest 6 axis computer aided CNC machine for solid timber in the UK today. Capable of machining up to 13 metre pieces of timber to tolerances of just 1mm, we produce oak framed buildings to exacting specifications. Along with our range of oak framed buildings, we also specialise in bespoke structures for customers with a unique project in mind. Contact us to discuss your plans and we will help to make them a reality.

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