A timber frame house is not cheaper than a traditional, brick one, if it is appropriately built     


Those of you who have been reading my articles for some time know that I want to build myself a timber frame house, and they also know that, when I really want something, I make a lot of inquiries and I do not go for the first thing. So much more in this case, when we talk about building a house, I consider I hate to make more inquiries, as a home is not a thing you do every day and it is extremely important to make it right from the beginning, so that you don’t have problems later. From the very beginning, I must tell you I started from the idea of a timber frame house, as I heard it was a cheap good house. Well, I was partly right, a timber house is better (I will tell you soon why), but it is not cheaper, as many people think. A state-of-the-art timber frame house should have around the same price as a traditional, brick house.

A timber frame house must be very well built in order to last for a hundred years, you cannot build it with any “expert” who “know better how to make a wooden home”. First of all, when we talk about timber frame, we should first consider the timber used for the structure. Many constructors use timber they dry in their own backyard, they let it there for a while and then spray something on it, to kill the insects. A good timber for construction is not made like this. As I had a campaign with Ecokit in the past, I went to see them and their houses this week-end.

I got a lot of precious information after this trip, information I could not get anywhere else. I had made some net research, but most of the information I got on the spot. First of all, I went to see their factory, because it there that everything begins. They dry and treat the timber, they assemble the wall panels under pressure, all these in the factory.

Let me tell you the steps to be made so that the timber reaches the best quality to be assembled in panels.

  • The timber comes from the supplier (EcoKit works with Romanian wood suppliers) and it is left to dry for a few weeks.
  • Then, they put it in special digitally controlled driers, where the timber remains before it reaches the required 14-16% humidity.
  • The timber is then planed on all sides, and at this stage one can see all its hidden defects. By planing, timber loses 26% of its volume and reaches the 15×4.5 cm measurements.
  • Timber is cut to the dimensions indicated in the plans and then numbered to be then easily assemble the panels.
  • Then, timber is entirely sunk in the tank and treated against insects and fungi. They then assemble the panels, under pressure, on special assembly table. They use certified, galvanized, CE marked fixing elements for the joints. Their connectors are 3 times more expensive than the classical nails, cleats or whatever they use elsewhere. They explained me that they won’t give up these connectors, even if they could choose three times cheaper elements, because this a very important aspect and they rather choose quality over price.

Mostly, they build for French customers, more the 90% of the houses they build go to France and this is why they have to comply with French standards. In France, the things are very clear, unlike here where you can build a wood house any way you like it, since there are no regulations in the field. Practically, here you can cut a tree in your backyard and make a house out of it, whereas in France is different. Thus, by working for the French market, they must meet the requirements over there and thus increasing their quality standards.

Let’s go back to the trip I made to Bacau.

I had the possibility to see 4 houses. Two of them had been finished for about two years, and two houses were in the building process. One was at the structure stage and the second at the finishing stage.

I have to tell you that I had seen a few houses in my life before these ones. Not many, only 5 or 6. What I liked the most about these houses is the fact that they do not creak, like the ones I had seen before. They do not creak and you cannot hear down there on the ground floor when someone is walking on the first floor, even if the person who walks wears high heels. I made this test in every house I went to, with more than one floor. In none of these houses one could hear the floor creaking or someone on the ground floor hear someone walking on the first floor. There were many questions about this topic in the article where wrote that I was going to see the houses, I hope I can answer now. In theory, a fine built timber frame house cannot creak. The timber should be dry, have a maximum 14-16% humidity, and the beams at 40sm centres.

There were a few questions from you I would like to answer now:

What is the maintenance procedure, is there anything special about it?

There is no special home maintenance procedure. Once the house finished, you cannot have access to the timber structure, this will be forever embedded in the wall.

What about life-span? How much does it resist?

EcoKit houses have a 90-100 year life-span.

Can you have a basement, or are they built directly on the ground?

You can have a basement. The foundation for this kind of construction is similar to a traditional one, concrete and reinforcing iron. I asked about the price of the foundation for a house like this and they told me that is somewhere around 50 euros/m². In areas with no earthquake risk, they do not require foundation, but in Romania this is not recommended, especially if you have more than ground floor.

You may pour a screed over the higher floor/attic?

Yes, according to the architectural plan.

If the final price is the one in the catalogue, how about transportation, how about consumption estimate (what did they take into account for the estimate calculations), how about assembly, maintenance costs and do I have to come with as a client (only the ground with all facilities ready, or..?)

The consumption estimate is made by a software. There is a special software for this, making all calculations according to given insulation. Look, for example, the IN DESIGN house above, the one I saw, had the heating costs around 430 RON/month, for a 240 m² surface.

I don’t know about transportation, I haven’t seen your question before I talked to them, but I will ask them. You must come with the ground, they build your home according to your ground and needs.

There are so many things I found out that I do not know how to put them in order, I hope you can make something of all the information you may find here…

I asked them about what the Romanian customers are looking for, and they told me most of them buy semi-finished structures. Practically, they have to do the finishing by themselves and they come put cheaper in the end, since they hire some skilled workers with no certifications.

If you have more questions, leave a comment and I will try to help, there are certainly more things I found out but I probably forgot all about it…

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