Timber Frame Questions

How much does timber frame cost?

By far our most popular question! Benfield ATT believe that timber frame lends itself to bespoke design very well, and only offer bespoke solutions. With complexity, location and specification all being tailored to your project, we can therefore only offer an Estimate after looking at your plans.

Construction costs can vary by region and are subject to unpredictable market forces. There are no simple answers but we can share our experience with you...

It is true that a complex Timber Frame home will be more expensive than a more simple design of the same size.You really do get what you pay for with these homes but Timberframe's hand craftsmanship often works out to be better value than a 'brick-and-block' build. We strongly believe that 200 years from now your timber frame house will still be standing...while a 'wet' built home may have already seen the bulldozer. And don't worry, Benfield ATT are planning to be around in 200 years to defend that statement!

Typically, if you use the DIY Home Design Guide to come up with some sketches with dimentions, and then use our DIY Estimating Guide to help you understand where you can save money/create value, you will be very close to understanding the complexities of the Benfield ATT Estimating System!

If at any stage of the project, you would like us to run your sketches/drawings through the Benfield ATT Estimating System, please send us your ideas by post and you will recieve your original drawings along with a Free Comprehensive Estimate by return, as soon as we can.

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How are timber frame houses different from a masonry house ?

A: In simple terms, the 'breeze-block' structure in a typical masonary house is replaced with an engineered, millimetre-precise Timber Frame structure. This services better for the overall speed and quality of the build, the homeowner and the environment...

A modern masonry house is normally made of an inner supporting wall of concrete blocks and an outer 'rain shield' wall of brick. A modern timber frame house replaces the inner wall with a timber frame strong enough to carry all the loads of the house. This is usually covered by the plasterboard internally and a brick, stone, or timber 'siding' external finish.


Just as in any other modern building, the external 'skin' acts mainly as a 'rain screen' and to give you the aesthetic appearance you want. But if you use a smart, engineered timber frame to support your building, you can also use this to replace 'wet build' bricks, blocks, stone and render with completely dry - or near dry - external finishes that deliver an identical appearance. This means less delays for bad weather, no drying out and no shrinkage, no efflorescence of salts seeping out of masonry and ruining the appearance of your walls. The lighter structure also means you can choose an alternative foundation system - and that could save you up to 50% on foundation and earthwork costs.

Externally, you won't be able to tell the difference. However, timber frame is naturally energy-efficient (saving the homeowner money), is quicker to build (saving you money) and uses twice as much timber as a masonry house. As every cubic metre of timber used in place of other building materials saves 0.8 tonne of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere, using timber frame to build, say, a house, can save around 4 tonnes of CO2 being emitted into the atmosphere. This amount of Carbon is the equivalent of a 1.0 litre car travelling 14,000 miles. This is one of the most practical ways of helping reduce Global Warming.

'...there was much interest in timber frame construction and - being brick builders - needed to see the difference for ourselves. We set about buying two ajoining peices of land either side of a road. We built one block of flats in timber frame on one side, and an identical block of flats in Brick and Block on the other side of the road.

In the interests of research, we didn't tell the people who were looking around which were which. However, the timber frame block of flats sold out within the first two days, whilst the Brick side took two weeks to sell.

When we asked the customers why they chose their flat over the ones on the other side of the road, they simply replied "I don't know...these just feel warmer"'.

extract from a conversation with a Brick housebuilder

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Will a timber frame house look different ?

The great thing about timber frame homes is it's flexibility of complimentary materials. Our timberframe homes are all individually designed, so you tell us what finish you would like! In the past our homes have been clad in brick, stone, block, render, timber boarding (cladding), or even glass.

Timber Frame Design & Build, Kent

Benfield ATT Post & Beam Extension Kit, South Wales

Above; two similar timber frame extension projects, with two very different finishes

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Are you more at risk from fire in a timber frame house ?

No. In common with all other forms of construction in the UK, timber frame has to meet all Building Regulations. Safety in timber frame is our number one commitment and timber frame has an excellent performance record.

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Will a timber frame home last ?

Yes. A new timber framed home will last as well as, if not better than, any other type of new home. Softwood timber frame houses have been built in the UK since the 19th Century and are still going strong. Your timber frame home will last for generations to come.

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Will I get a mortgage on a timber frame home ?

Yes. But don't just take our word for it. Tony Armstrong, Director of Corporate Relations at Northern Rock said As a lender we do not differentiate between timber frame and any other standard form of modern property construction.

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Will I have to pay more for insurance ?

No. The Association of British Insurers says; "Insurance companies generally draw no distinction between modern timber frame and brick and block construction, provided the external roof covering is also of tiles, natural or mineral slates, or concrete.

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Can I still do DIY jobs around my timber frame home

Yes. Many jobs are easier; because of the good fixing you can get in the vertical studs (structural timbers). But, as always with DIY activities, you need to follow health and safety guidelines and a few simple rules. Visit www.timber-frame.org, or contact us for free advice.

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Are timber frame homes quiet ?

Yes. Modern timber frame systems enjoy better acoustic insulation qualities than masonry and fully conform to, or exceed, the latest Building Regulations. Because we built to your specific requirements we can even increase the internal sound insulation to suit your needs.

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I am in process of buying a Colt timber bungalow. Can it be cladded in stone using the original wood frame with the wooden outer slats removed.

Colt are one of the oldest 'Branded' timber frame homes in the UK. Providing they have been well maintained and the timber structure kept dry, this should be good for many more years to come. Hopefully the following pointers will be of help:-

  • It is possible that the timber slats to which you refer may be performing a structural function. So, before removing any outer wooden slats check to make sure that the timber frame has been cross braced / racked underneath the slats.
  • Also check how the timber frame has been insulated. Building standards & regulation, as well as home occupier requirements have changed considerably since 'Colt' came to market and to move toward modern levels of insulation it may be advisable to add some form of rigid insulation board onto the (racked) timber frame before adding the stonework
  • whatever you do you must ensure that the timber frame can 'breath' outwards to allow any moisture vapour that dissipates from the inside of the house to escape.
  • If you want to 'wrap' the timber structure with stone then you will need to allow a minimum clear cavity between the frame and the stonework of at least 50mm - more if the stonework has an irregular inside surface.
  • To 'wrap' the building in conventional masonry stone cladding you will need a foundation for this stonework. This should be kept at least 150mm below the DPC of the timber frame and provided with 'weep holes to allow any water that goes though the stonework / masonry joints, to run away without building up in the cavity and affecting the timber frame.
  • This external skin will need to be supported by the timber frame and you will need flexible wall ties fixed back to the frame and built into the mortar joints. These need to be flexible to allow for different rates of expansion and contraction between the timber and the masonry.
  • An alternative and possibly simpler method would be to use 'stone slips' (similar to brick slips). These can be fixed on battens to create a clear vertical cavity at least 25mm wide. These battens can also be placed outside a further rigid insulation board, mechanically fixing this to the timber frame.
  • The thickness of insulation required will depend on both any insulation already ion the timber frame and also the level of insulation you want to achieve. This is a subject all of its own and can require quite a lot of calculations.
  • If you use a 'slip' cladding then you should provide for insect mesh at top and bottom of the 25mm cavity.

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How much will my timber frame weigh ?

As a basic guide-line multiply the total m2 floor area of a two storey house by 0.093 kg/m2. This will give you an approximation of the weight in kg / metric tonnes.

Theoretical Weights
Although there is no agreement on what a ‘standard’ house might be, this theoretical weight is derived from the 14 metric tonne calculations made for a 150m2 hypothetically square two storey house with gable ends.

This weight increases to around 15+ MT when a lightweight external cladding is used.

By comparison a ‘wet build’ brick and block structure would weigh around 80 metric tonnes, i.e. 5.3 times more than a properly designed timber frame building.

Part & Part Savings
Even with a full brick external skin, the use of a structural timber frame to replace inner skin and internal wall lightweight block walls can reduce the weight on the foundations by over 40%.

Caveat on Building Sizes
Assuming various sizes of timber and forms of construction, this resultant weight would be different if, say, the building were a single storey bungalow, a 1½ or even 2½ storey house offering a different floor area. Likewise it would also change if larger or smaller timbers and other elements were used in its construction.

Possible Cost Savings by Using Timber Frame
Using timber frame can also enable you to save weight on other aspects of your building, possibly leading to costs savings in foundations and other construction aspects.

More Information
To understand more about the calculation and implications of timber weight read the article The Weight of Timber Frame

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