The key difference between timber frame and traditional built homes is the way the external walls are built. Masonry built homes use cement based blocks and mortar, built by bricklayers, Timber framed homes use panels built out of timber covered with a layer of plywood and protected by membranes to make them water-resistant. Timber frame homes can be built on site or in a factory or workshop then assembled on site. Once external cladding is in place, it is difficult to tell whether the house is built of brickwork or timber frame. Timber framed buildings are very popular in the UK today, with almost a hundred companies producing timber frame kits, everything from basic supply only of the superstructure, to a full turnkey housebuilding service.
A basic timber frame package usually includes soleplates, damp-proof courses and clips; structural external/internal wall panels and waterproof membranes, floor joists and floor covers, roof supplied as prefabricated trusses, and all external windows (supplied unglazed in most cases). Other items which may or may not be included depending on the supplier are wall ties, lintels and cavity barriers; insulation and vapour barriers; internal second fix joinery, stairs, doors, skirtings, architraves and plasterboard. If the company supplying the timber frame is also building the house, than the contract will normally include all groundworks and substructural materials, drainage materials and services, external claddings and damp-proof courses, roofing felt and roof tiles, floor screeds, Chimney flues, glazing, heating and plumbing, kitchen units, fitted bedroom furniture, decorating, paving, fencing and landscaping.
Timber Frame building is environmentally friendly and represents good value for money. Wood has become the building material of choice for the 21st century, being natural, carbon-neutral and sustainable (if timber used in construction is from managed woodland and Forest Stewardship Council or similar). Normally only fast-growing trees like oak and Douglas fir are used for frames, so the effect is less damaging to the environment. Another compelling reason to build with wood is aesthetic, people really appreciate hand craftsmanship of building with wood. Timber houses also have a higher perceived value, but there are downsides to timber frame house building. Only a limited number of people can manufacture and build timber frame homes and there are more restrictions on what can be done with timber.
Log Cabins are timber framed homes which use a construction technique like a 3-D jigsaw, slotting blocks of wood in layers together, in the same way as tongue & groove construction, to form the buildings walls. The main difference between traditional timber framed home supply and log cabins, is that with log cabins the customer has to build up the blocks in layers to make the walls, instead of them being delivered as a solid wall. This method of construction is both stable and rigid. Log cabin kits are available in different wall thickness's ranging from 19mm to 70mm, the larger the building the greater the thickness required for stability and strength. Thicker walls also provide greater insulation. UK companies can supply log cabin kits for everything from a small summerhouse to a spacious family home.
As with all expensive purchases, it pays to do the research before making any decisions. A few extra hours of research in the beginning can potentially save thousands of pounds down the line! If possible, get recommendations from family and friends, failing that, choose suppliers local to your area and get at least 3 quotations, checking carefully at the specification offered by each company and ensuring that you are comparing like with like (the easiest way to do this is to use the free quote service on this site to get companies in your area to supply quotes and advice for your project). Double check all small print in any quote, estimate, specification or contract, many sales brochures for example illustrate buildings which include extra items not included in the cost. However, don't make the mistake of choosing the company on price alone, it is often worth paying a little extra for peace of mind from a company offering insurance backed guarantees which are members of the Structural Timber Association (STA).