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Oak frame homes are becoming more popular around the country for a number of reasons, not least because they look amazing. But there are things to understand before you start your journey to an oak frame home. Here are 10 of the most important.
Oak frame buildings have been around a long time but the versions we use today are a wholly modern construction option. Suppliers and designers use the best technology to precision cut the wood along with off-site construction methods. The timber frame can be paired with insulation panels such as SIPs to make them energy efficient and compliant with building regulations. And they have great eco-friendly credentials being made from carbon neutral wood.
Sometimes it seems a shame to hide all that beautiful wood away behind other construction methods – and you don’t have to. There are ways to expose beams both externally and internally, so you can see that beautiful wood all of the time. Examples include 3i panel systems that allow a half-timbered look with the use of half-width timbers to avoid cold bridging problems.
Working with timber is a specialist job and you should always work with companies that have experience with it. Ideally look for companies that offer self-build home kits or bespoke oak frame home creation that allows you to get just what you want. Look at things like previous projects and customer reviews to make sure they have the right kind of experience for the job.
It is also important to understand the level of service offered by the supplier. There’s no right or wrong option, just variations. For example, some companies may complete construction elements of the home off-site to be transported to your location. Others may offer all the components you need for you or your team to erect where suitable. Understand exactly what is being provided so that you can have the other tradesmen needed involved with the project at the right stages.
All oak frames need cleaning once the construction phase has finished because there will be marks from the building process as well as watermarks, known as blue-ing, from wood touching steel. Again, see if your supplier offers this service or can recommend someone who will – you may choose to do it yourself, but it can be a time-consuming task. There are different products used and your supplier will also be able to tell you which are the best for their product.
While it might need cleaning, oak doesn’t need finishing. Over time, it will weather to a beautiful silver-grey shade. You can also keep the rich colour of the oak as it is but there is a bit work involved with this. Wax oils and other products can keep that original colour, but it needs to be repeated every year. You do want to take a little extra care with rooms that have higher humidity such as in the kitchen or bathroom. Water stains can mark the frame, so it is worth oiling it in areas susceptible to getting wet to add a layer of protection.
Don’t panic if you notice some shrinking on your oak frame, this is a perfectly natural part of the process. Green oak is an unseasoned timber which means it has a higher water content than seasoned oak and will have been felled within the last 18 months. Green oak is preferred by most suppliers because it is better for cutting and shaping.
The natural seasoning process doesn’t weaken the wood at all but actually makes it stronger and harder. Oak also shrinks in width, not length so there’s no worries about a tennon slipping out of a mortise. And cracks or splits, known as ‘shakes’ have little effect on the structure. However, understanding all of this is another reason that working with a specialist is important as they will help you understand all of this.
Some people think that oak frame homes are only for those working with a large budget or no real budget at all, but this isn’t the case. They are perfectly suitable for any budget and while they are more expensive than a software frame, they are on par with good quality construction methods. If you are working with a strict budget, you may want to consider using oak in key areas, for the primary structure such as beams and big posts rather than for every joist or limiting it in areas where the frame isn’t needed.
Just because you plan to make a home from oak frame, doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate other materials as well. Steel is a great example that is used to strengthen carpentry joints and is usually hidden beneath materials, so it isn’t on show. Steel bolts and flitch plates can be used for end joins or sandwich timbers together and allow for a slightly industrial look to the property. Steel sections within the timber frame also allow for greater design possibilities than timber along, including much larger spans, barrel roofs with curved timbers and even curved walls.
Oak frames aren’t just for new build homes either – they are great for extensions to your home. There are a number of types of extension you can add without the need for planning permission and mean you can create the extra space in your home that you need, rather than going through the upheaval of moving house. Again, working with a specialist helps you combat issues such as differential movement between the extension and the existing property and ensuring the extension lasts the longest time.