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What Are Timber Frame Houses?

28th March, 2022

Timber frame houses are a non-standard method of house construction that quite literally, have timber frames. As with all methods of non-standard construction, timber frame houses often come with a whole host of questions surrounding their construction, durability, and mortgageability. We’ve written this guide to give you the full picture on timber frame houses. 

We’ll talk about what timber frame houses are and how they’re built, as well as how you can identify if a house is timber frame. Then we’ll talk about the pros and cons of timber frame houses vs traditional housing, and their durability and mortgageability. Finally we’ll give you an overview of the different types of timber frame houses and the best way to sell a timber frame house. 

Looking for something specific like whether or not you can get a mortgage on a timber frame house? Use our menu below to navigate through the article quickly. Got a bit more time on your hands? Great, read on for the whole guide! 

 

What are Timber Frame Houses? 

Timber frame housing is a modern method of house building that relies on a timber frame as the means of structural support. In the UK, timber framed construction consists of factory-made components. Meaning that the structure is, to a large extent, prefabricated and assembled on site. 

What are timber frame houses?

 

How are Timber Frame Houses built? 

Timber frame constructions make use of timber studs inside the external structural walls to bear the load of the rest of the building, and transmit this load to the foundations of the building. 

Timber frame houses make use of a number of different elements and materials to construct the walls, floors and roofing of the building. These include: 

  • Breathable membrane. The breather membrane on a timber frame house is affixed to the outer side of the insulation. The purpose of the breather membrane is twofold. First, it repels water (usually rain) from entering the building and causing damage to the structure. Secondly, it allows water vapour to escape from the building and prevents the buildup of condensation. 
  • Wall insulation. Unlike with traditionally built houses, wall insulation should not be filled into the open wall cavity. This can create rot and corrosion as timber (and indeed all wood) requires air circulation. Instead, external wall and internal wall insulation are both popular methods of insulating timber frame houses. 
  • Wood lining. This can be either Oriented Strand Board or Plywood lining. It is fitted directly to the wooden frame to strengthen the structure and provide rigidity. 
  • External Cladding. This includes the wall cavity and can be composed of a number of different materials. Some of the most common are brick, render, timber boarding, or composite materials. The purpose of external cladding in timber frame buildings is to provide both insulation and protection from weather conditions. 

 

How to tell if a house is Timber Frame

There are a few different ways to identify if a house is timber frame construction. You can do this both by checking online records and by looking at physical features of the property itself. Some of the most common ways that you can tell if a house is timber frame are below. 

  • Check online records. The local authority Building Control department is a great place to check whether or not a building is timber framed. 
  • Window depth. If a house is timber frame construction then windows are typically fixed to the wooden frame itself, rather than to the outer brickwork as they are with traditional construction. This means that the windows may often be set slightly deeper into the building that they would be with brickwork construction
  • Internal wall cladding. Most new-build houses which are constructed using traditional methods have what is known as ‘dry lined’ walls. This is different from most timber framed houses where the plasterboard is screw-fixed to the external walls. The way you can tell if the plasterboard is screw-fixed is that, upon being tapped, it should yield a consistent sound no matter where it is tapped. This is because the timber frame is behind it. 

 

What are the pros and cons of Timber Frame Houses?

We’ve mentioned some of the substantial differences in construction methods and materials used between timber frame houses and traditional construction. These come with a range of pros and cons. We’ve run through some of the most common pros and cons of timber frame construction below. 

Pros and cons of timber frame houses

Pros

  • Construction speed. Because timber frame houses are typically prefabricated they can be erected much more quickly than comparable traditional construction buildings. This means that the interior work can begin much more quickly, and the overall build time is reduced. Timber frame buildings can also be erected during low temperatures whilst traditional construction typically has to pause. Meaning these buildings can be built year round. 
  • Environmentally friendly material. Wood is a far more environmentally friendly construction material than stone or concrete. Because trees ‘lock in’ carbon dioxide, they can be seen as a means of combating climate change and even reversing global warming. This obviously only holds true if trees are replanted when they are cut down. Because it’s easy to ‘regrow’ the supply of timber it can also be viewed as a renewable resource. 
  • Energy efficiency. Timber frame constructions typically achieve significantly better thermal performance than their traditional counterparts. This is because spaces enclosed by timber frames heat up more quickly than masonry buildings, however they also cool down more quickly. 

Cons

  • Rot and infestation. This depends upon how well the external timber elements of the property are treated and maintained. If the timber is well maintained then the risk of rot and infestation is very low. The timber must maintain a low moisture content of around 12% to prevent rot setting in. This generally isn’t a problem with well-heated buildings and ventilated buildings however. 
  • Fire risk. There’s a general perception that timber frame buildings are more at risk of fire than masonry buildings. Of course, wood is more likely to burn than stone or concrete. However this again comes down to the treatment and maintenance of the wood itself. Generally the risk is very low with well constructed buildings. 
  • Sound insulation. Timber frame won’t resist sound transmission as well as traditionally constructed buildings because it has a lower density. It is possible to offset this with extra insulation, or deadening materials to reduce sound transmission, but as a general rule timber frame buildings will transmit more sound. 
  • Obtaining a mortgage. We discuss this in more detail later in the article, but it can be difficult to obtain a mortgage on certain types of timber frame buildings, particularly if you have a low credit score. 

 

How long do Timber Frame Houses Last? 

There is no set answer here. The lifespan of a timber frame house will depend on the quality of its construction and the elements to which it is exposed. There are many European timber frame structures that date back as early as the 12th century. But some sites out there suggest that timber frame houses can last as little as 30 years. 

 

Can I get a mortgage on a Timber Frame House? 

Many people have concerns about whether it will be possible to get a mortgage on a timber frame house. It is certainly possible to get a mortgage on a timber frame property, but there are a number of different factors that will affect your mortgage eligibility. We’ve listed some of the most common factors below. 

  • Other materials used in the property. The cladding and exterior materials of a property often have a large bearing on the propensity of lenders to offer mortgages on timber frame houses. Lenders typically prefer exteriors that are mainly brick or stone, whereas less robust materials such as metal sheeting or plastic can make obtaining a mortgage much more difficult. 
  • The mortgage lender. Some lenders are more prepared than others to offer mortgages on houses that are non-traditional construction, including timber frame construction. Do your research and make use of comparison sites and mortgage brokers to find the best rate possible. 
  • Your credit score. This is a factor with any mortgage, but particularly so on a mortgage that lenders may deem more ‘risky’. You could look for a specialist mortgage provider that offers mortgages to borrowers with bad credit scores, but be prepared to pay higher interest rates. 
  • The age and type of property. There is a huge range of types of timber frame construction, and a high degree of variance in the quality of construction. Your lender will likely want to conduct a detailed survey to establish the quality of the building, and may require you to take out specialist insurance to obtain a mortgage. 

 

Can I sell a Timber Frame House? 

Some people dread selling their house if it is of ‘non-standard’ construction, for example BISF housing. There’s the fear that it may be undervalued or take a long time to sell. Whilst it’s true that non-standard construction homes tend to appeal to a smaller pool of buyers and therefore are slightly more difficult to sell fast. There are other routes to get your house sold quickly. 

At SmoothSale we can overcome these hurdles by working directly with you, the seller, to achieve your desired outcome. As a cash house buyer, we are able to buy houses using our own funds, and complete within a flexible time frame that suits your needs. It also means that we’re not picky on which houses we buy. We buy any house in any condition, and we offer a fee free service. We’ll even cover your legal fees. If you’re interested in selling your timber frame house in a timescale that suits your needs then why not get a cash offer today or give us a call on 0800 368 8952

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