Timber or Masonry Construction?

Comparing Timber to Masonry House Building

Generally speaking, it cannot be said that that structural timber frame type of construction or brick and block type of construction is better than one or the other, it depends on the requirements of the project and various issues of location, accessibility, cost and speed.

Speed is certainly foremost in the case of timber frame construction (as above) as the build from the ground to weatherproofing can be achieved in a matter of days, possibly within a week.

Most trades involved in the build, such as electricians, plumbers, plasterers and such need to be able to be protected from the elements and can therefore start work inside much more quickly than in a block and brick build, allowing for a more predictable construction schedule.

The fast and efficient process associated with timber frame leads to a reduction in local disruption, especially in terms of transportation and pollution.

The timber frames themselves are produced in specialist factories to exact architectural requirements and on site, carpenters have to erect everything in the right order.

With timber construction, after the footings have been dug using suitable excavator machines or a multi purpose backhoe loader common to most construction sites, the heavy lifting is mostly done. Depending on the size of the build a crane, forklift or hoist may be needed to get timber components into position, but due to the lightness of the build, there is generally speaking less heavy construction equipment needed onsite.

If a brickwork outer finish is required once the frame is weatherproofed, it can be built up whilst trades are continuing internally.

Brick and block construction masonry walls require drying time before anything can be worked on internally, this can extend build time by several weeks.

Timber frame build, by comparison is a dry method. Once the moisture within the timbers have stabilised after waterproofing, the walls are normally clad with dry plasterboards.

Other weather related problems can hold up brick and block construction. Bricks cannot be laid in temperatures below 4%C, as the mortar may suffer permanent damage from the frost, and the work may have to be taken down.

An advantage of timber frame in insulation, is that the same level of insulation will be achieved as its masonry equivalent with les bulk, meaning a typical timber wall which will have the insulation within the depth of the structure will be some 50m thinner.

Another factor is heat retention. It will take much longer to warm a masonry built room, as the inner leaf must be heated first before the air temperature in the room stabilises.

Conversely, a room enclosed by insulated timber frame walls, does not absorb heat in the same way, and consequently will warm up much more quickly. It will, of course, lose its heat more quickly than the brick build.