12 Oct 2020

Home for Life

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Padraig Hurley, Self-Build Manager for Taylor Lane Timber Frame, explains how the flexibility of timber frame construction can enable self-builders to create a future-proof home.

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Your self-build journey is about far more than the here and now. This is your opportunity to build a home for life. We understand that everyone uses a home differently; your needs as a family with teenage children differ to those of an older couple living alone.

With timber frame, you can customise your self-build with some simple design tweaks and product selections, creating flexible spaces that can be adapted and transformed as and when you need them. The golden rule with this, of course, is to get your timber frame supplier on-board as early as possible; capitalise on their expertise and experience. The design stage is critical for fully realising the benefits of working with timber frame, not least offsetting some of the expense of those future alterations.

Future-proof family home

When planning their home, Ben Price and partner, Samantha, wanted the layout to be flexible. As a young couple, they were conscious that spare rooms may later become nurseries or workspaces, and at some point, additional space may be required.

Completed in 2019, Mulberry House is currently a four-bedroom house with an open-plan kitchen/diner and integral garage. Working with the timber frame designers at Taylor Lane and project architect, Warren Benbow Architects, the couple future-proofed their layout. Bedroom four/the study has been designed to be an adaptable space.

“We have built in a ‘knock-out’ panel in the wall of bedroom one connecting to bedroom four, next to our en-suite,” says self-builder, Ben Price. “Essentially, this is a doorway; the void has then been filled with a false panel in the timber frame which can be removed at a later date.

“If we were then to put a stud wall through bedroom four, we could create a dressing room and walk-in wardrobe for bedroom one. The remainder of bedroom four would then be given over to the landing, creating a corridor.

“On the back wall of bedroom four, we added another knock-out panel to give access to the integrated garage. We installed attic trusses, so this space could become a room in the roof, meaning that a larger fourth bedroom could be created in the future. “It was important for us that this house would be our forever home. By thinking ahead, and making some simple adaptations, we know it will suit our needs for many years.

Lift off

As you age and become less active, you don’t want to lose access to areas of your home, or worse still, have to move. With an ageing UK population, it is likely that more care will take place in the home, so it is important that your house can be adapted to suit your changing needs. While a home lift, lifting aid or hoist may not be top of your self-build wish list, it is worth considering them during the design stage to help eliminate costly alterations further down the line.

With a home lift, for example, you would need to factor in space where it can be installed at a later date. We would recommend setting aside enough room for a lift which accommodates a carer and wheelchair. Using solid beam trimmers, the timber frame designers can then design in a knock-out panel in the first floor – allowing the lift to travel from the ground to the first floor (or beyond, if required).

Your timber frame provider would also need to consider extra loadings when planning for hoists and lifting equipment. If this were to be installed on the top floor of the property, in a bedroom and bathroom, for instance, the bottom chord of the roof truss (which creates the ceiling) would need to be both wider and deeper in order to accommodate this.

Living with dementia

Living in your home for longer isn’t just about the practicalities of access, it is also about familiarity. This is particularly important for dementia sufferers. While most people with dementia wish to stay in their home for as long as possible, this can’t always be the case. Moving to a new house after a dementia diagnosis can be challenging though so consider introducing future-proof options instead, such as a wetroom on the ground floor and a downstairs room which can transform into a bedroom, with access to and/or a view of green space.

Also, take a closer look at your layout, could it be more flexible? As with Mulberry House, knock-out panels can be built into the wall panels to transform spaces at a later date. Is there clear wayfinding from room to room – would automatic sensor lighting help prevent disorientation at night? Can doorways and corridors accommodate a wheelchair? These are all important considerations.

When designing your ground floor, think about the inside-outside transition. Not only is it important to have a view of the outside, but easy access is also critical for mental and physical health. Mulberry House has lots of glazing facing up the field at the rear, with a patio on the same level as the interior to create a fluid transition, for example.

It’s important that we create forever homes, a home that we can live in for longer. We all benefit from the familiarity of our domestic space, so while future-proofing may not be high on your self-build agenda now, it will pay dividends later in life.

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