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Which House Is Better?

Today we’re going to compare two types of houses: timber-framed vs traditional. Which one is better to live in, which is more comfortable and affordable? What are the weaknesses of timber-framed structures and what are the things to pay more attention to during the construction? Also, are they at more risk of damp and mould? Is there a greater risk of fire due to the timber frames and the panels? Are they solid and robust? What is the expected minimum life for a house like this?

Usually we hear a lot of questions from our customers. And, it’s very common - before equipping a house you should choose and buy the best. For answering you questions, we find out probably everything. So, let’s start!


In normal circumstances, timber-framed houses are every bit as solid and robust as more traditional block-built houses. This is largely because houses have to be built to meet certain minimum standards from a building regulations perspective. This is perhaps confirmed by the fact that you can get a 10-year guarantee with a timber-framed house which is equal to the block built house.

The main weaknesses of timber-framed houses relates to how the house performs in certain circumstances including leaks/flooding and fire damage scenarios. As the principal structure is timber, they are susceptible to greater damage when exposed to water or fire, and thus it is inevitable that when the timber members are exposed to these conditions, the level of damage will be much greater. The implication of this is that it would typically be more expensive to get insurance cover for a timber-framed house when compared with a traditional block-built house.

You specifically raised the issue of flammability and damp and mould, and while the house will be more susceptible to damage in the circumstances as outlined above, in normal circumstances, the timber-framed house is no more at risk than a traditional house. From a flammability point of view, the timber members are largely concealed behind plasterboard linings and thus they are not flammable per say.

The main weaknesses of timber-framed houses relates to how the house performs in certain circumstances including leaks/flooding and fire damage scenarios. As the principal structure is timber, they are susceptible to greater damage when exposed to water or fire, and thus it is inevitable that when the timber members are exposed to these conditions, the level of damage will be much greater. The implication of this is that it would typically be more expensive to get insurance cover for a timber-framed house when compared with a traditional block-built house.

So, let’s make conclusions.

Advantages of timber-framed house:

  • Strength & Durability. Structural timber such as Glulam and Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) can be precision engineered to rival and surpass the strength of steel and concrete, while at the same time it is far lighter in comparison. The combination of strength and lightweight lends itself to achieve larger span openings and greater design flexibility.
  • Speed of Construction. As the majority of the timber frame manufacturing process is executed off site, within the controlled conditions of our factory workshop, the core structure can be erected within a matter of days. The timber frame can be designed with transport and site location in mind, and therefore tailored to suit specific site conditions and locations prior to manufacture.
  • Carbon Footprint. Apart from being a renewable source of material, another advantage of timber frame construction is that is has a much lower embodied energy rating in comparison to concrete and steel, as timber is classified as carbon neutral. Carbon neutral refers to the amount of energy used to process, manufacture and deliver the timber, and how it is offset by the amount of CO2 the timber frame will absorb during it’s lifetime.

The disadvantages:

  • Risk of Condensation. Condensation is caused by warm moist air produced by space heating and activities such as washing and cooking cools. Moist air has a tendency to move to where the air is drier, usually from the inside to the outside. As moisture passes through the walls the temperature of the air drops, its capacity to hold vapour reduces and eventually water begins to condense. In winter this point may occur either on the surface of the walls, windows or other internal surfaces, or inside the construction, in which case there can be a risk of long-term damage.
  • Fire. Quite obviously, timber can burn, whilst some of the alternative materials such as masonry and steel do not, although they will eventually crumble and disintegrate if subjected to sustained high temperatures. This may lead to the hasty conclusion that timber buildings are not as safe in the event of a fire as a brick and block built house, but the real picture is not so simple. The progress and level of destruction of most house fires and the likelihood of death or injury are mainly determined by factors such as whether there are smoke alarms fitted, the habits and behaviour of the occupants (for example whether they smoke), and the flammability of the contents of the house. However. there is some evidence to suggest that if the frame is not built correctly, it is more difficult to extinguish the fire and more damage to the structure can occur. Also it seems that timber frame houses are more vulnerable to fire damage during construction, before all the fire protection has been built over the frame. As far as the risks to people are concerned the crucial factor in survival is how quickly people can escape. If anyone is trapped, how long the construction of the house will protect them from flames and smoke until they can be rescued becomes important.

Nevertheless, there are some things you should take into account if:

  1. You need the structural shell up quickly e.g. if building in winter
  2. The ground on which you are building is particularly poor.
  3. You expect the heating to be frequently turned on and off daily during a typical week in winter.
  4. You wish to promote the use of environment-friendly materials.
  5. There is no major source of noise, such as a main road, nearby.
  6. You do not expect to have to make major alterations to the property once built.
  7. The design of the plan does not include very large structural spans.
  8. The site is very constricted, with limited access and/or space to store materials.
  9. You intend to do a lot of the construction work yourself.
  10. The site is a timber-friendly area, such as Canada.
  11. You like the timber frame aesthetic, which is genuine in feel and appearance.