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Andy Parker

Carpenter Oak & Woodland’s blogs on timber frames, building, design, architecture and timber craftsmanship.

Thermal perfomance of oak framed homes

September 11, 2012 †· Posted by Andy Parker

U values, cold bridging, air leakage†- all part of the plethora of bewildering terminology that self builders feel they need to get their head around so that they can be confident that the thermal performance of their house is going to be up to the job. Developing this knowledge is really only important if you are going to get different contractors to do different parts of the building structure and take responsibility for its performance yourself.

The ground works, the brick and block work, the external joinery, the roof construction and the insulation all form part of the basic 'building envelope'. So you could expect to employ at least five different contractors to get the envelope completed, none of whom will be taking responsibility for its overall thermal performance. Buildings are complex and have become more and more so with the development of building technologies and ever more rigorous building regulations.

Most local authorities will require you to carry out an air pressure test on completion of the house. If the house is leaking more air than it should then finding out where it is leaking can be very difficult. On occasion it has led to builders having to remove interior finishes to find the root cause of the problem.

Thermal image of oak framed house

So bring on thermal imaging. The technology has been around for years and the concept simple. Once the envelope of the building is complete a building sciences company take thermal images of the interior. Any weak points in the envelope can be identified and remedial action taken long before the house is completed and interior finishes start to go in. Paying to get the job done right in the first place is inevitably cheaper than paying to have it put right after the event.

We've made thermal imaging an integral part of both our Certified Building Envelope and our Complete Design and Build services. I don't understand why it isn't used more extensively in the construction industry but it probably keeps our service unique so I'm not complaining!

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Revised Part L

March 08, 2011 †· Posted by Andy Parker

As the building regulations get more and more demanding I took a look at the implications of the recent changes for people designing and building using post and beam structural oak framing. The most recent changes came into effect in England and Wales in October 2010 and come into force in Scotland shortly.

As always interpretation of the regulations is everything so this is my interpretation and I'm sure other people will hold different views. But with regard to oak framing, in essence I think the regulations re-enforce the view we have held as a company for a very long time i.e. unless it is absolutely necessary do not break the building envelope with the oak frame. If you want to find out more about thermal bridging, air permeability and insulation with regard to timber framing download our synopsis†(1.12mb pdf).

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Past project revisited

March 22, 2010 †· Posted by Andy Parker

I see that Home Building & Renovating magazine has revisited an oak frame house we were involved in about ten years ago. It demonstrates how the beauty of an oak frame holds its appeal for the owners who are obviously still very pleased with their home. It also demonstrates how a self managed project can significantly undercut the budget of one done through a large main contractor. The McAvoy's managed to build for £900 per square metre, which even then would have been a very competitive rate. Mind you self management should never be undertaken lightly. In this case the owner's son is an architect with significant experience in building in oak frame so he has all the credentials to ensure a successful outcome.

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Whisky brings warmth to timber framed homes

February 28, 2010 †· Posted by Andy Parker

As a bit of a whisky fan I was intrigued to see that Whisky Galore, a New Zealand based web site has picked up on the timber conservation work to Shackleton's huts in the Antarctic. Various people from Carpenter Oak & Woodland have been involved in this project over the years. Every year during the short window of the Antarctic summer an international team of conservators takes on another phase of the work. This is a far cry from building oak framed homes in the relative warmth of the UK. During last year's expedition time was spent clearing ice and snow from underneath the huts and to the delight of the team they came across crates of whisky that had been stored there. They say that only three crates were recovered!

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Timber Supply for Oak Frame Houses

October 29, 2009 †· Posted by Andy Parker

Most of us these days have a greater awareness of our impact on the environment and at the very least are conscious of the need to reduce it even if we don?t always feel able to. For this reason we are often asked where the timber for our oak framed houses comes from and if the source is sustainable. The other question that comes along with this is if we use English oak in our frames and what are the largest sizes we can get.

At one of our CPD seminars recently (these are seminars we run for industry professionals who have to demonstrate that they keep their knowledge up to date so that they can retain their membership of their professional bodies) these very same questions were raised.

I was speaking at the seminar at the time and one of the delegates; a timber miller in the UK, kindly suggested he show us some photographs of a parcel of forest he had recently been to see in France.

Oak tree in French forestAt 32 metres to the first fork this oak demonstrates the excellent construction grade timber available to the oak framing industry

I?ve often explained at these seminars that there is a world of difference between managed oak trees in France and the oak trees we see in Great Britain. We stopped managing oak forest several hundred years ago but in France the practice continued. Oak sourced from the UK is from mixed forestation, limited in size and often of dubious construction quality (however it often has some wonderful characteristics for furniture making, turned bowls and so on). However the same species of oak (quercus robur) in France grows tall, straight and with good construction characteristics.

French oak forestThis is a typical example of a managed oak forest in France and a great source of material for our oak framed houses

Hence a lot of the timber for the oak framing industry does, out of necessity, come from France. If you are concerned about the sustainability and impact on the environment bear in mind that the net stock of forest in Europe is increasing year on year and although it would be ideal to source the oak more locally even coming from France, the†use of†timber in construction is still significantly better than the energy consumed in using concrete or steel.

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