Brick & Block or Timber Frame?

Timber Frame or Brick and Block

Which one is right for your self-build?

So, you’ve set your sights on constructing your self-build dream. But one of the first questions you’ll need to consider regarding the construction is brick & block or timber frame – which one is right for your build?

There are a host of factors to consider in answering this question, but perhaps the most important consideration is ensuring you make an accurate comparison between the two, especially when it comes down to cost and the level of expertise at your disposal during and throughout the build. So, to allow you to make a fully informed decision, let’s look at the most important factors in a little more detail…

Cost Comparison

In both cases, your costs will very much depend on your specification and requirements. However, it is always advisable to make sure you fully understand what is included in the price quoted as additional skills may need to be hired to complete the build. As with all major building projects, always make sure you get more than one quote for the build of your new home and crucially, that you compare like-with-like, and can make a direct comparison of the quotes you’ve received. While cost may not be the final determining factor, at least this will allow you to make a fully informed decision.

While brick and block is straightforward to make comparisons, there are two types of timber frame to consider. The first is a kit design offered at a fixed price. Beware of this headline price though – in most cases the price quoted will not include:

  • delivery,
  • onsite erection,
  • foundations
  • Scaffolding,
  • External cladding (bricks, render)
  • Internal fixes
  • internal finishing

Another important factor to consider is that the design is fixed, and no changes will be possible once ordered– it’s a kit after all! Finally, in the majority of new builds, air dried timber is used because it is cheaper, and while the quality is ok you will have to expect a certain amount of slight movement over the first 6 – 12 months especially.

The more expensive alternative to kit designs are higher end bespoke oak timber frame companies that deliver a completely bespoke design, including project management if you so choose. You get what you pay for though – one of the most prestigious oak frame specialists offer this service for £160 to £200 per sq. ft. (advertised on their web site). This can be up to 30% more expensive than a comparable brick and block build. So, do your research and make every effort to ensure you’re cost comparisons are accurate.

Appearance/Aesthetics

One of the most straightforward considerations is simply a question of taste. If you are seeking a specific look, you can still achieve this with a brick and block construction, and add the extra charming character using ornamental beams only. These are non-load bearing and can be added to any room. If your design ideas require a beam structure that is partly load bearing, this can be achieved too with a brick and block construction. In fact, we have recently completed a self-build incorporating both these types – click here to read the case study.

Load bearing attributes

A timber frame acts as a superstructure which supports the entire building with no need for internal load-bearing walls. With a masonry structure, the load of the house is distributed evenly across the external and internal walls.

This difference is really important when it comes to how forgiving either construction method is in terms of measurement discrepancies. With a brick & block construction these can be easily rectified on site. However, a timber frame construction is far less forgiving. For instance, any foundations that have not been very precisely measured and constructed will invariably cause delays and additional cost to the self-builder.

Also, since the load of the house is taken by the external frame only, it is not straightforward to alter or extend the frame of an existing house, and will therefore be very costly. Be it prior to the erection of the frame, or afterwards.

Strength

When it comes to the strength of the materials and the resultant build, there really should not be a great deal of difference. Timber is a strong and durable material and any well-built timber frame home should last for a very long time. However, if you are going to affix anything substantial – such as shelves or cupboards – to a timber stud wall, it is highly recommended to fix these into the frame, and not the plasterboard.

Speed of construction

A prefabricated timber frame can be erected far quicker than a masonry construction. However, this applies only to the time it takes to construct your house on the actual building site. It does not take in to account the off-site factory time needed to prefabricate the frame. This could be anything up to 3 months. With a brick & block build your home will take shape as soon as the builder and materials are on site.

Realising your self-build dreams

We’ve tried to highlight the key factors to consider in making your decision, but the key point is to try and ensure you make as accurate a comparison as possible between these two methods, while also considering the flexibility that you require within your design.

At CB Homes, our dedicated partnership approach is committed to turning our client’s self-build dreams into reality. Our complete turnkey service has been thoughtfully designed to deliver absolute peace of mind. Years of expertise enable us to advise on land purchase, plot suitability, practicalities of build and construction and cost effectiveness of house design.

Find out more by visiting the Self-Build section.

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