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09 Nov 2021

Be Frame Ready

Padraig Hurley, Self-Build Manager at Taylor Lane Timber Frame, explores the top 10 elements that self-builders should consider when opting for a timber frame structure.

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1. Timber frame drawings

It may sound obvious but make sure your architect is aware that you wish to construct your house using a timber frame. This will have a significant impact on the specification of products and the drawings. As a timber frame company, we require detailed architectural drawings of your build – the more detailed, the better, e.g. 1:50 dimensioned plans, elevations and sections, as appropriate. We also need a site map. These are used to provide an accurate quotation and then later aid the design of your timber frame.

2. Quote comparison

As any seasoned self-builder will advise, getting more than one quote is essential. And like any quote (or estimate), the devil is in the detail. Be clear about what your timber frame kit includes and be aware of additional costs, e.g. internal and external joinery, stairs etc. This is particularly important when comparing quotes from more than one timber frame supplier, as companies will rarely specify the same products and services.

3. Site limitations

One of the many reasons we request a site map at the start of the process is to identify and offset any potential site issues before work begins on site, for example: overhead cables, limited access, time restrictions for deliveries and any requirements for road closures. Some restrictions can take time to resolve and may impact your build schedule if they’re not addressed in the early stages.

4. Crane ready

Due to the size, span and weight of the timber frame elements, heavy-duty equipment is required for transportation and handling, including rigid and articulated lorries and, in most cases, a mobile crane. The site will need to accommodate these machines or provide appropriate access. You will be responsible for providing a suitable surface for the crane to stand on. This should be discussed with your timber frame supplier during the site survey prior to the installation of the frame.

5. Ground-breaking groundworks

Good communication is crucial for achieving a smooth, efficient build. One key example of this is sharing the timber frame drawings, especially the soleplate details, with your groundworker as early as possible. The slab must be complete with a block course ready for the soleplate – it must be accurate and level. It is your responsibility to ensure that the block layout is correct. Another important factor is the inclusion and positioning of concrete base plates and pads. If your build includes steelwork, these will be shown on the plans but can be missed.

6. Scaffolding

Ahead of your timber frame, you will need to arrange for scaffolding to be erected. It’s important that this is done to the requirements of the timber frame supplier. For Taylor Lane customers, our appointed timber frame project manager will issue instructions for you to share with the scaffold contractor. We understand that this is typical of the industry, but it is worth checking with your timber frame provider. Remember, the scaffold will be required long after the timber frame is complete and the erectors have left the site.

7. Facilities

Throughout the build, your sub-contractors will require access to basic site facilities, including a WC and cloakroom. It is your responsibility to ensure that these are provided for the duration of the build. Material storage areas and waste disposal are also important.

8. Follow-on trades

To truly benefit from timber frame construction, you must organise your follow-on trades so that when the kit is erected, it can be made weathertight without delay, and the first fix can begin. It is important to roof the building to ensure it is under compression before starting the external facade. This is due to ‘differential movement’, which occurs when two separate elements of the structure settle at different rates. The weight of the roof will compress the timber frame, and it is, therefore, necessary to allow this process to happen and to then brick up after it has settled to prevent conflict between the timber frame and the external finish.

9. Lead times

Bear in mind the lead time for your timber frame kit may be longer or shorter than anticipated, so check in advance. A reputable timber frame supplier should appoint a dedicated point of contact and visit the site during the erection process. This level of support can be invaluable when project managing and planning your build schedule as they can advise on deliveries.

10. Advice and guidance

We would recommend appointing a construction design and management (CDM) coordinator to advise on health and safety issues and assist in managing the project. It is also worth remembering that the timber frame supplier is a sub-contractor to your build, and it is not their responsibility to organise any other trades on site, other than their own erecting team.

Above all else…

While we have addressed many factors commonly associated with selecting and building with timber frame, nothing beats early engagement and good communication.

Engage with your suppliers, particularly your timber frame contractor, as early as possible. This can help prevent costly mistakes further down the line and will support a punctual build schedule. Communication between the project manager (this may be you) and key suppliers is also crucial. From a timber frame perspective, we would recommend regular dialogue with your architect, timber frame supplier, groundworker, scaffolder and roofing contractor. Good communication can alleviate issues and help reduce stress levels!

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