House Build – Masonry or Timber Frame?

Masonry or Timber Frame House Build?

In the U.K. traditional brick and block work construction remains the most commonly used today. Masonry construction accounts for around 70% of new builds.

This traditional method is generally known as cavity wall construction. The build starting with block work and a skin of brickwork on the exterior, with wall ties connecting the two, and the cavity being filled with insulation material.

The foundation work for masonry building is generally more substantial than that for timber frame, as load bearing walls have to be taken into account, but both techniques require either blockwork our concrete foundations.

Masonry building proceeds at the speed of its brick-layers, and can be held up by inclement weather, particularly the cold. Should the temperature fall below 2% concrete and bricks cannot be laid, nor in heavy rainfall.

Timber frame by contrast, can be delivered to site and erected in a matter days, which appears to make for far quicker construction, but the lead in time of design and factory build can be some months.

The “wet” construction method can take some time to dry the mortar and plaster on the internal walls before the trades, such as electricians and plumbers can start.

Timber frame by contrast, can be quickly weather sealed, and if a brick outer skin is required it can be built whilst the trades are working internally.

This “dry” construction, has to allow time for the moisture content in the timber to stabilise, the walls are the usually clad with dry plasterboard.

An advantage of masonry build at these stages is its adaptability to be slightly altered whilst work is in progress, allowing for a “tweak” here and there which the computer designed timber frame cannot.

The masonry build employs load bearing internal walls to spread the weight of the upper floor and roof. The timber frame acts as a superstructure supporting the entire building without internal supporting walls, but this calls for exacting construction.

A big difference in the two types of build, is the thermal performance. To warm a brick and block built house, the masonry inner leaf of the house has to be warmed before the air temperature in the room can rise.

A timber frame house will not absorb the warmth into the walls and consequently the air will heat up more quickly. It will also lose heat more rapidly than the masonry walls.

Both designs obviously have their pro’s and con’s.