Timber Frame Homes vs Brick Homes – in this blog we aim to detail what are the main differences between choosing to build a brick home and a timber frame home in the United Kingdom.
If you’re a self-builder you are probably bewildered by the options for construction. You’re probably also exploring ways to reduce the cost of your new build project. It’s also likely that you are also interested in ways to increase the speed in which your new home can be constructed.
Here at CLPM we exist to help self builders work out how to approach their individual project. We offer help estimating and setting budgets for self builders. We review architectural designs, giving advice on how to cut build costs and boost the energy efficiency of homes. We also provide bespoke project management support, and have years of experience delivering new builds using timber and brick as well as other modern methods of construction such as ICF.
CLPM’s Quantity Surveying team help clients estimate the costs of their building projects and we have often worked with self builders to help establish which build route is best for them – based on their own individual situation. While cost is probably the main factor for most self-builders, there are other elements that are also important to consider.
Both ways of building have pros and cons, and as a self-builder you need to decide what is right for your own residential build. To help you out, here are a few of our observations.
Timber homes vs brick homes – familiarity & expertise
One of the main reasons architects recommend, and owners desire timber builds is that the timber frame is made in a factory and delivered on to the site by a lorry! From the self-builder’s point of view this removes a lot of the time and labour costs because it simplifies the process of building.
However this is not always a view shared with builders. Masonry – bricks and mortar – is the traditional way of building in the United Kingdom. Many old-school builders have invested a lot of time and money in this build method and are reluctant to try alternative methods of construction. Modern methods of construction such as timber frame require very different skills and equipment. This change in working practices results in an element of fear in some construction companies, and a lot of misinformation about timber builds.
Timber frame homes vs brick homes – Speed of the building
Bricks and mortar builds are slower by their nature. If you’re in a hurry, then a timber frame build is preferable as they can usually be put up on site over a week or less, depending on size and complexity. The only drawback at the moment, is that actually getting your timber frame home built in the factory can take a bit of time, as they are becoming more and more popular. However, as long as you are planning far enough in advance this should not be an issue. You just need to build this factory lead time into your project programme.
Another benefit of a timber frame building is that once it is up, the interior finishes can be started immediately, unlike in a brick building where drying out and finishing are important. Some experts quote the total time difference between the two methods being as much as 3 months – a significant period of time if you’re living in a mobile home onsite or renting a house nearby.
Here at CLPM we regularly work with clients who choose to self build in conjunction with timber frame suppliers such as Potton, and they are often some of the quickest builds we get involved with.
timber frame homes vs brick homes – Cost
Everyone assumes that a brick and mortar house is more expensive to build, but that’s not necessarily true. In fact the two methods are generally considered to be very similar in terms of total material and labour costs.
Time is probably the element which has the largest influence on the difference in costs between the two methods. Time plays a large role in building costs, and delays can be caused by the number of different jobs that need to be done to get a building erected. If the timber frame home factories are busy you’ll have to wait, but as long as you have planned and scheduled accordingly, this should not add additional cost to the job. However if you get a brick or block layer who is busy and therefore expensive or delayed onsite then a brick and block project could easily grind to a halt and you this could add to the overall cost of erection that way.
The trick will all these things is to plan everything in detail in good time. The more organised your build in the pre-construction phase, the less chance there is that your project will suffer from delays when onsite. This is true whatever build route you decide on. Specifications should be fully documented and need to be as comprehensive as possible. The lead-times of all the elements should be determined and time contingencies built into the schedule to ensure the build team do not have to wait for key elements such as windows or staircases to arrive. A detailed programme should be produced highlighting key milestones to enable the project to be monitored and managed as it proceeds. An experienced independent project management company such as CLPM can help you with all of this.
timber frame homes vs brick homes – availability of materials & labour
Timber frame homes have become increasingly popular in recent years among those who wish to build a new home from scratch, however with the exception of Scotland, timber homes are generally not common-place in the UK.
While many in the trade are starting to gain experience of this construction route, many builders are still reluctant to move away from what they know best – brick and blocks. The main popularity of brick and mortar among builders is that it’s a familiar build route with all the trades, and there’s less pressure on their organisational and project management skills as the products that are used are all readily available at any local builders merchant.
However there are builders out there who are adept at building with timber frames. It’s just really important to ensure you find and appoint a build team with the right experience to keep your project on track. This would include both experienced contractors and project managers. Potton for example provide training for self-builders to manage their own projects, but they also have a network of independent project managers who work with them and their clients. CLPM are part of that network and over the years we’ve worked on a number of Potton projects across the South of England.
timber frame homes vs brick homes – build accuracy
Timber frames are made in a factory and as such they tend to be a much more engineered product. The walls are plumb and 100% accurate to the plans – unlike the equivalent site-built brick or block built home. This can certainly help in the second fix stage when you’re measuring up for, and fitting items like stairs and kitchen units. However, this also means that timber framed houses require incredibly accurate foundations. You need a very good ground-working team and an experienced project manager to ensure this happens!
timber frame homes vs brick homes – insurance
Many clients ask whether their insurance will go sky high on a timber frame house.
Traditionally there has been considerable negativity toward timber framed houses but in reality timber houses have a slightly better warranty claims record than masonry homes! Timber frame is now accepted by all major lenders, insurers and home buyers.
timber frame homes vs brick homes – energy Efficiency
Factory build homes in timber generally win versus brick homes on this score!
It is possible to build an energy efficient home with bricks and blocks and high levels of insulation, but most self builders looking for a sustainable home choose to build with modern methods of construction. They are generally more energy efficient because of the build quality delivered, as it’s easier to put insulation into the timber frame walls and allow for cavity between the two skins. Also as the building is more accurately constructed it’s easier to make the building airtight. The only place timber frame homes lose to masonry houses is in heat retention in terms of thermal mass i.e. heat from the sun is stored in a stone building for longer!
If you get energy efficiency advice from an independent expert such as CLPM you can design and build a timber frame house which is extremely low in carbon emissions. Likewise CLPM can help you determine what heating system you should be installing in your new property so it’s not only comfortable and future-proof but also very cheap to heat!
timber frame homes vs brick homes – Mortgage Requirements
Contrary to popular belief, the mortgage requirements for both routes of construction are the same. What you need to bear in mind though is that you may have to place your order for your timber frame home months before delivery, which means paying out a large deposit upfront. If you are relying on borrowing money from a bank make sure you check the payment terms before you order. A good construction cnsultancy with an experienced quantity surveying team such as CLPM should be able to give your expert procurement advice to help you plan financially and suggest how each construction method would look in terms of cash-flow.
timber frame homes vs brick homes – Fire risks and lifespan
It is widely believed that a timber home will be subject to rot and more exposed to fire, but modern building regulations and the strict fireproofing of timber and dry lining means that fire is not an issue.
Rot and infestation is not a problem for timber frame homes, provided wood that gets wet is allowed to dry out properly and timber is treated with the proper stains and paints. Modern timber frames are pre-treated against many of the potential problems that block-work lobbyists claim. Rot-producing fungi will only attack wood that has a very high moisture content. What we do say is that you need to keep up the wood preservation, but that’s really no different to painting the exterior of a block built house.
This fear of rot has lead to some believing that timber homes have a shorter lifespan than block and brick homes. This is patently not the case as some of the UK’s oldest houses, such as houses from the Tudor era, are constructed from timber frames!
other methods of construction
If you’ve found this information useful you might also be interested in our other blog – 12 reasons to self build using ICF.
Get in touch
If you’re trying to decide between timber frame homes vs brick homes then why not get in touch?
Here at CLPM we have helped our clients construct self build homes using almost every build method and we can help you determine the best option for your self build project too.
To find out how we can help you simply call 01923 896550, email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete a contact form.