The pitfalls of building a home out of timber


For many years, stone, bricks and blocks were the staple materials of house building. They still are. However, timber-framed buildings are soaring in popularity, as a recent MTW report revealed – and for good reason.
Timber-framed buildings are quick and relatively inexpensive to build. They are also extremely versatile and can be clad in almost any material.
But the main reason timber-framed homes are proving so popular is they are far greener than the alternatives. Compared to a traditional brick building, a timber frame build will produce less CO2 emissions. And if the timber is ethically sourced and the trees replanted, a building’s eco-credentials are going to be even more impressive.

Timber-framed homes in context

However, despite all the advantages, timber-framed houses haven’t always had the best reputation. People tend to see them as poorer quality than homes constructed with other materials, as being a bit lightweight or not solid enough.
Considering that timber frames were one of the earliest building methods used, it seems strange that this building technique could be seen as a problem.
Part of that bad reputation could be the result of poor examples of post-war timber-framed housing. Admittedly, some of these houses have experienced issues surrounding rotting and acoustics, but not to the extent we’ve been led to believe.
One theory is that building industry itself has played a part in fuelling some of the suspicion surrounding timber-framed homes. After all, it’s in their best interests to stick with the tried-and-tested building materials and not steer too far from them.
But while timber was seen as an outsider for many years, that’s no longer the case today. The scare stories have been put to one side and it is now recognised that timber-framed houses can play a significant role in providing sustainable housing.

What are the disadvantages of building a house from timber?

Timber-based homes are as popular with developers as they are with self-builders, but there are a number of potential pitfalls when building a timber home.
If you’re thinking about building a timber-framed or timber house, you’ll want to consider the disadvantages as well as the benefits.
Here are some of the key pitfalls of building a home out of timber.

1 There is a risk they will rot

The timber used in the construction of modern homes is pressure treated with preservatives to reduce the risk of it rotting. As long as the frame has been constructed correctly and the timber isn’t resting in water, then the risk of rotting is low. Another way of looking at it is that if you have that much water present, you’re going to have issues whatever your home is built from. The upshot is that rotting is probably less of a risk than it sounds.

2 Sound travels more easily

Sound travels more easily through the walls of a timber-framed house compared to a block-built home. That’s because blocks have a higher density. However, sound transmission can be reduced with the additional of insulation or sound-deadening materials to the timber frame during construction.

3 They don’t feel solid enough

A common complaint about timber-framed homes is that they feel ‘lightweight’ and not as solid as traditional cavity constructed homes. This is probably only really an issue when it comes to hanging pictures or putting up shelves as you need to locate a timber stud. However, modern picture fittings make it easier to fix items onto plasterboard.

4 Issues with shower units

Timber offers huge benefits as a building material. But it also tends to shift over time. You are unlikely to notice this movement day-to-day, but in the bathroom it may be different. Shower enclosures are not designed to shift, and if they do there’s the risk they will crack. If a shower is no longer watertight it will be more prone to leaking – and you don’t want water to find its way into a building’s timber frame.
Luckily, there is a simple solution: installing a shower unit rather than an enclosure. These do not require tiles or grouting and so will not crack or leak.

5 The timber fraction issue

The amount of timber stud compared to insulation in a building is known as the timber fraction. This is calculated to work out the thermal performance of a building in relation to reducing energy consumption. However, there is a tendency for timber frames to be calculated with an optimistically low timber fraction, using a simple section of the wall to work out the U values, then applying this calculation to all the building’s walls.
The issue is that a frame will often have big lumps of timber at junctions, corners and doors, but these are not necessarily being factored in at design. Poorly considered timber fractions are part of the so-called performance gap.

6 Not popular with mortgage lenders

This is more myth than fact. There are plenty of mortgage lenders who will happily lend on modern timber or timber-framed houses. To make life even easier, an insurance specialist such as Insurance Choice can help you find the right non-standard home insurance cover to meet your needs.

How to build a successful timber home

The more work you put in at the design phase of building your timber house, the more you gain in the future.
As this Home Building and Renovation blog points out, the three main considerations you need to make when designing your timber home are:
·Insulation: High levels of insulation will ensure you end up with a home that doesn’t take long to warm up, but also doesn’t overheat over the course of a warm day.

·Orientation: Always factor in the position of the sun in relation to the building. Giving this careful consideration at the design stage will mean you make the most of the sun’s rays.

·Solar shading: Controlling the amount of heat and light from the sun that’s admitted to a building can significantly lower energy consumption and increase the comfort in a building.

Insuring your timber home with non-standard home insurance

If you’re planning to build a home out of timber – or already own a timber-framed property – you’ll need non-standard home insurance. Specialists in tailored home insurance, the team at Insurance Choice can help you find the cover you require.
Standard home insurance won’t be enough to cover this specialised risk. Older timber-framed buildings can be more susceptible to fire and flood, which could lead to financial problems down the line if your policy doesn’t provide the protection you need.
Get in touch for a quote and find out more about getting the right non-standard home insurance for your timber home today.