As with all external features, how you construct the walls of your property will be influenced by both practical and aesthetic considerations – not to mention your budget. To help you decide what will work best for your project, I’ve put together a quick-fire cost comparison guide.
The figures are based on a house design with a net wall area of 117m2. I’ve priced up two inner leaf systems (masonry and timber frame) combined with a range of material finishes, so we can compare like-with-like.
In all but two of the examples, you’ll see a range of costs, which is intended to account for varying finish quality. For instance, if you’re cladding a timber frame with boards, at the upper end of the scale you’re talking high-spec hardwood, while fibre-cement would be at the more affordable end.
Note that structural insulated panels (SIPs), insulating concrete formwork (ICF) and oak frame are omitted from this analysis, as their costs are highly dependent on the specific design and the supplier chosen (although our experience suggests they will generally come out more expensive).
There are, of course, many variables. For instance, the price of using a stone finish will change significantly depending on the exact product, coursing method (random, regular, rubble etc) and thickness. However, it will usually be more expensive than facing brick, and is likely to be heavily influenced by what’s available (or traditionally used) locally.
Interestingly, the table shows there’s very little difference across these wall types – and a lot of pricing overlap. This explains why no particular system dominates today’s market. On a pure cost basis, there’s not much to choose between render and brick; or timber frame and cavity wall masonry.
One area worth highlighting is that methods with lower materials costs tend to be more time-consuming (thus the labour fees are higher) and vice versa. These issues will affect your spending profile during the project.
For instance, the shell of a timber frame house can be erected much more quickly than a brick and block structure – but, depending on what you face it with, could be more expensive overall. However, a frame build may save you money in terms of financing, as you won’t need to borrow for so long.
Overall, I’d say your walling system decision will most likely be based on the build program you have to play with, your project’s location and the overall aesthetic you are going for.