Considering a Timber Frame Self-Build? 9 Pros and Cons of a Timber Frame Self-Build

While masonry (brick and block) has previously been the most common way of building in the UK, timber frame is now the most widely used structural building method in the world and has grown substantially in popularity. If you’ve found yourself reading this blog, then it’s 99% certain you will already be considering timber frame for your self-build.

At Fotheringham Homes all of our custom and development homes are built using a timber frame construction method. With 35 years of building experience, we pride ourselves in building quality homes and believe that a timber based construction helps us achieve that.

But as with any decision during your self-build project, it’s important that you are fully informed about all options. So, in this blog, we share the pros and cons of a timber frame self-build to aid with that decision making.


Pros and Cons of a Timber Frame Self-Build

Timber Frame Buildings - Pros

#1 Speed of Construction

The main benefit of a timber frame build is due to the fact that the frame is made to measure off-site and only delivered once it’s ready to be assembled.

In comparison to a masonry build which has to take place fully on site, a timber frame is less likely to be hindered by bad weather or freezing temperatures. For those of us who live in Scotland, this can be a substantial benefit allowing you to build year round without an increased risk of delays.

In addition, once delivered to site, timber frames can normally be erected in a matter of days. In ideal conditions they can be wind and Watertight in as little as two to three weeks and completed in 9-12 weeks. This allows you to start on internal finishes quickly which can result in further time savings.

#2 Suitable for Remote Sites

While parts of the timber frame is made off site, they are relatively lightweight and easy to transport. This is perfect for remote sites or plots where the ground condition would not be suitable for heavier forms of construction.

#3 Environmentally Sustainable

When choosing an FSC sourced timber, you are choosing a material which is organic, carbon neutral and renewable.

In addition, the amount of energy taken to produce timber components - their "embodied energy" - is much less than that of plastic, steel or concrete alternatives. For every m3 of wood used instead of other building materials, 0.8 tonnes of CO2 is saved.

Many timber frame providers will also adhere to a code of practice to ensure these standards are met. Our own partners Scotframe (link to website) have a strict company policy to:

Actively promote the use of timber products sourced from well managed sustainable sources and communicate this commitment to our customers and consumers.

Maximise the benefits of timber frame design to reduce raw material waste during manufacture and construction and further enhance the whole-life energy efficiency of residential and commercial developments.

Participate in the continuing education and research into sustainable construction

Encourage clients to consider the "cradle to grave" environmental costs of all building materials.

Bring commercial pressure on our suppliers, where possible, to adopt good environmental supply chain management.

#4 Accuracy and Detailed Design

Due to the engineering required to produce a timber frame, they can be easily adapted into many different shapes and your design ideas. If you desire an open plan style home, then a timber frame will help you achieve this impact, where a brick and block home will limit your design options.

Increased accuracy in the foundation build will also help when it comes to interior fittings. No slightly ‘off’ sizes when fitting kitchen units and stairs.

#5 Increased Certainty of Cost

With construction taking place off site and not subject to the same delay risks as masonry builds, it can provide increased certainty of cost.

It's likely that with a timber frame that you'll pay a fixed cost for both materials supply and the erection of your self-build shell. Two significant costs of your project now fixed to come in on budget.

#6 Save on Running Costs

As timber frame homes are highly insulated as standard they are very energy efficient and therefore cheaper to heat. No more switching the heating on hours before you need to wake up in winter. Insulated timber frame walls will ensure that rooms heat up quickly and are able to retain their heat for longer.

Along with being more energy efficient as standard, you also have the flexibility in your design to take on board energy efficiency advice and create a home that is very low in carbon emissions.

Related Content:

- Ground Source Heat Pump and Underfloor Heating Case Study



Timber Frame Buildings - Cons

#1 Material Costs

A quick google of timber frame costs and you will quickly understand that the frame itself will be more expensive that alternatives (ie. buying bricks!). The difference in cost may be more stark if buying a pre-designed timber kit too.

However, you do need to factor this into the overall self-build project costs. As noted above, timber frames can be quicker to build therefore time onsite will be saved and reduction in overall development time can bring down other costs in the project such as labour. Most developers would now agree that overall there is little difference in cost.

#2 Access to Materials

A downside that is often quoted to timber frames versus masonry is the in-accessibility to materials and experts compared to a trip to the builders merchant if caught short during a build.

However, the use of timber frames has overtaken masonry within Scotland and is much more common within the UK. When choosing your main contractor, it is worthwhile understanding the supplier relationships so that you can have reassurance that they have good accessibility if required.

#3 Cashflow

It’s likely to be a few months before your timber frame is delivered on site, however you should expect to pay for this part of your build early. This may include a deposit before manufacturing starts on your timber frame.

Careful planning and liaison around staged mortgage payments will be required.

#4 Noise

Heavy and dense, masonry builds will always had an advantage when it comes to soundproofing and noise reduction. Though there are ways to combat this with a timber frame including the use of sound absorbent quilts and heavier plasterboards to create double layers.

However, when most bespoke homes are detached, the main concern would be around the sound between floors. When it comes to intermediate floors, there is little difference in noise as most masonry floors also use timber.


In Summary

While there are downsides to be considered, as time has moved on the timber frame construction sector has matured and each of these has been mitigated.

However, it is important to be fully informed so that you can ask the right questions and plan your project appropriately. Exploring all choices will ensure that you choose the right option for you and be aware of any risks.


We'd love to hear your views:

Are you currently considering a timber frame self-build? Do you have any concerns with choosing a timber frame?

Have you built your dream home using masonry or a timber frame? What factors influenced your decision?

Scottish Home Awards Finalist 2018