Timber frame refers to a method of building in which the primary structural component is wood rather than concrete, steel or another material. It is a well-established construction method, and many Tudor timber frame buildings are still in existence. Timber frame has many supporters, especially because of its quick erection. However, some voices point out risks and problems with the method.
Wood burns. Timber frames can burn, just like any other wood. One body, The London Assembly Planning and Housing Committee, went as far as issuing a “wake-up call” to the government, the building industry and the fire service about the fire risks associated with timber frame construction. That timber frame buildings are especially prone to burning is refuted by a contributor to Homebuilding and Renovating magazine. Modern building regulations are very strict when it comes to reducing fire risk.
According to English Heritage, timber frame walls usually have little thermal mass which can lead to fluctuating temperatures within the building. Other materials, such as steel, are better than wood at capturing and retaining heat. However, The Scottish Government advises timber frame builders on how to achieve thermal continuity throughout a building. They believe timber frame buildings can be well insulated if constructed with care.
Timber can rot and decay. Dry rot and wet rot are two of the most common problems. Further, there are many pests that attack wood, including death watch beetle and powder post beetle. Timber frame buildings contain a lot of potentially susceptible wood. However, this need not be a major problem if buildings are maintained properly. Discovering and treating problems in their early stages is usually effective. Regular inspection of key areas is advisable.
According to Ireland's Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, another potential problem associated with timber frame construction is increased design and engineering time. In other words, the time it takes to plan and make a timber frame kit, especially for a unique building, is a significant cost to the whole construction. The Department also points out that timber can be compromised by the weather before being completely enclosed.
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- London Assembly Planning and Housing Committee: Fire safety in London
- Timber Frame or Blockwork?
- English Heritage: Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings
- The Scottish Government: Timber Frame Isometric cut-away view Detail 3.00
- Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government: Appendix 1: Advantages and Disadvantages of Timber Frame Construction