Timber Frame homes and buildings

In England and Wales builders generally prefer to use brick for the structural walls of buildings, whereas the Scots love their timber frames for their structural walls. Of course timber is traditionally used in the the roofs and floors of buildings, but building the majority of a building from wood in England is still not commonplace.

One of the reasons for this may be because builders cannot add any great value to builds because the timber frame and any Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) are generally put together off-site in factories. This is different to how things work in North America where they tend to construct the frames on-site themselves. Also, another obstacle for timber frames in England are the architects. Extra structural calculations are necessary (and extra drawings) when timber frames and SIPS are used, and this is pretty technical and not all architects are up to the job (or up to taking on the job). These obstacles lead to the mindset that the designers and builders are happy to leave things as they are and stick with traditional brick and mortar for their structural elements of new houses.

Advantages of a Timber Frame House

Timber frame homes have two distinct advantages over brick houses. The first is that they are relatively quick to construct because large structures are prepared off-site in factories and essentially bolted together during the assembly stage. The second advantage is that the frames themselves are hollow, which makes it super easy to insulate to a very high level while still maintaining a definite boundary between the frame itself and the outside walling material. This makes timber framed homes very energy efficient and they are easily warmed and insulated from even then coldest nights.

A whole timber frame industry

As mentioned traditional builders and architects tend to stay away from timber buildings, thus the timber frame manufacturers have taken it upon themselves to build an eco-system around timber frame buildings and actively promote their technology and procedures to the self-builders out there. There are large attractive brochures showing off already built timber houses, meaning you can choose one you like and then modify it a bit to meet you needs. Because designing and then constructing a timber frame building is pretty specialist, the companies tend to do the whole procedure themselves, from design to finished property.

While there are off-the-peg designs to choose from, a lot of people now have a big say in how they want their finished house to look like, and thus the process often starts life as a sketch from the self-builder themselves that is worked on by professional designers and leads up to the construction of a one-off design.


While masonry houses are constrained by the square brick that they are constructed from, wooden houses have a little bit more scope for individuality because wood can be used more elaborately. However, the structure of course needs to be sound and thus it needs to be assessed by an building inspector, and this process is normally taken care of by the timber frame business themselves (you can commission your own inspection if you choose). Cost also needs to be factored in, as soon as you deviate from a simple square design costs go up, which need to be factored in to the design process.

Drawing a timber house design by hand is a complex and time consuming process, but with the advent of sophisticated computer technology the process can be made much easier, and this modern approach to design is another factor that helps distinguish the timber frame house business from its traditional masonry comparison.

Choose your level of build

Since the timber frame businesses handle the whole design and build process they are flexible to provide different levels of service to suit the self-builder. For example they can offer simply frame erection all the way through to a completed build (AKA a turnkey build).


While the whole timber frame infrastructure is versatility and flexibility it does sometimes pay to use a local company to design and construct your wooden house. Some companies only quote for a waterproof shell or a full build within a specific radius of their deport, while others offer nationwide and even overseas distribution and construction.

As well as location preferences different companies sometimes specialise in specific markets and designs. For example some focus on Tudor style builds, with several companies occupying this space across the UK as well as Scandinavia and Germany. If you want to learn more about the different timber frame companies and their styles you should look at self-build magazines or head along to self-build exhibitions. For example a major one happens in Birmingham’s NEC each year.

Paying for your timber frame house

Because the majority of the build is fabricated off-site in the factories of the companies there is a bit of a stand off between the self-builder and the company providing the frames. Ultimately the time frame businesses want the money paid, or at least secured before they start building, because if they spend time and resources constructing a frame only to have the client pull out they are basically left with a one-off design worth £10’000’s that they cannot sell on to someone else. On the other hand the client does not want to shell out this same level of money only to have the company not deliver or go bust.

There are however a few options. Solicitor’s stakeholder accounts allow you to place the majority of the payment so that the company can see it is available, but this money is not released until the frame is on-site. Alternatively a bankers’ draft or a building society cheque can be used, which means it can not bounce. However, issues can arise when banks refuse to release funds until the fabricated product is complete, so the self-builders may not be able to provide evidence that they will not cancel the job and leave the timber frame fabricator high and dry. Mortgage products are however available now that do unlock funds a certain points in a fabrication process rather than waiting until the product is completely assembled and on-site, which generally satisfy the timber frame businesses.


Timber framed houses and houses constructed from Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) are becoming more popular across Europe, particularly in Scotland. Several Scandinavian and Germany businesses have sprung up in this niche and in North American wooden houses are very popular. In England however traditional builders and architects tend to veer away from timber constructions (structural elements anyway), but this has meant there has been an emergence of specialist businesses who design and construct timber properties. The costs is not cheaper, although the build time can be quicker since there is a lot of fabrication done off-site. Also insulating timber homes is considerably easier and thus they are particularly energy efficient.

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