Building with Timber Frame: Dispelling the Myths

The STA experts bust some common myths about structural timber building systems
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by Structural Timber Association
20th June 2024

Timber systems are very popular among self builders due to their sustainability and versatility credentials. But do you know them as well as you think?

Here, we explore some of the misconceptions around building with timber – the number one construction choice for UK self builders!

Q) Does a timber build limit design choice?

Mark Stevenson, Elsworth Projects

Self builders select their wall construction systems for various reasons: risk management, cost, speed of construction, energy efficiency, wall thickness, etc. A timber system is the chassis of your home, incorporating all the building elements to form a coherent engineered structure (panelised walls, floors and roof trusses). It will have a host of accreditations and certificates to prove it’s energy efficient, durable, structurally sound, safe in use, complies with Building Regs and meets Eurocode 5: Code for the Design of Timber Structures.

As a highly engineered system, with single point responsibility and proven performance characteristics, the capabilities of timber are well understood by building designers. Self builders opting for timber therefore benefit from seamless, joined-up thinking – unlocking architectural freedom and bespoke design for a truly unique home.

Q) Are timber homes difficult to mortgage?

Tom McSherry, BuildStore

There are plenty of mortgages available for self builders who wish to use a structural timber frame system. Just be aware of two key things when organising your finance.

Firstly, make sure your mortgage, along with any savings, allows you to pay for your timber system before it is delivered and erected. Some self build mortgages only provide funds after each stage of construction is complete. Advance mortgages can give you money upfront to pay for the frame. This will ensure you can meet your agreed payment terms with the manufacturer.

Secondly, discuss the cladding you want to use with your mortgage provider. There’s definitely finance available if you plan to use non-masonry cladding, such as timber or render board – just note you may have fewer deals to choose from. Speak to an experienced self build mortgage advisor early on in the process to get informed guidance on what’s available.

Building with Timber Frame: Dispelling the Myths

Finished externally in brick, timber, slate and metal, this stylish self build features an insulated timber frame from STA Assure Gold member Fleming Homes

Q) Are timber houses noisier than brick homes?

Simon Orrells, Frame Technologies

Sound insulation in timber homes is built to your design spec, and more than achieves the standards for acoustic performance (Part E of the Building Regulations). The key thing is to use the correct insulation to meet your needs, as the various options each achieve totally different performance. This is why most self builders commission a full insulation package from their timber home supplier, as it guarantees the right product is used in the right place.

Q) Do timber frame homes overheat?

Sarah Mathieson, Fleming Homes

Modern Building Regs ensure all new homes, regardless of construction type, are designed to prevent overheating. A timber home stays cool by optimising orientation and controlling the amount of glazing on south- and west-facing walls. Features like overhangs, brises soleil, solar glass and integrated blinds can further reduce heat gain.

Planning adequate ventilation from the design stage also plays a role in maintaining comfort levels – but it won’t compensate for poor design. The architectural trend for extensive glazing can pose a higher risk of overheating, whatever the chosen construction method. Compliance with Approved Document O (either via the simplified method or the TM59 dynamic method) means timber systems are a great choice of build method, creating comfortable and enjoyable-to-live in homes.

Q) Is it more expensive to build with timber?

Simon Orrells, Frame Technologies

Timber systems are built offsite in factory-controlled conditions. They’re very cost-effective, but your mortgage drawdowns must match up with your supplier’s payment plan. We know from a recent survey by NaCSBA and the NSBRC that most self builders choose a timber build system.

It’s a natural and sustainable building material, and timber systems are a modern, energy-efficient, fabric-first method of construction. So, you can naturally achieve far better thermal performance. This delivers long-term savings by reducing your heating needs – and bills – for the lifetime of your bespoke home.

The Structural Timber Association (STA) is dedicated to raising the bar for sustainability, innovation, quality and technical knowledge across the structural timber sector. Its quality assurance scheme, STA Assure, is the backbone of this work – providing self builders with confidence when selecting partners to take their projects forward. Visit the Structural Timber Association’s website to learn more and search for STA Assure suppliers for your project.

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