Carpenter Oak - The Professional Timber Framing Company
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Seagull House Devon, The Iconic Wooden House

Run-down 1950’s house transformed into dramatic oak framed barn.

Designed by architect Roderick James for himself and his family, this house is an excellent example of what can be achieved by extending, remodelling and ‘hiding’ the existing run-down 1950’s concrete house. It includes an oak frame barn with arch-braced collar trusses, a painted Douglas Fir studio, and a bolted Douglas fir conservatory overlooking Old Mill Creek. Verandahs, balconies and timber cladding complete the exterior. Down on the creek is an oak framed workshop and boathouse roofed with oak shingles.

What can you say about Seagull House that hasn’t been said already in countless magazine and press articles over the years, and on TV programmes such as Grand Designs?

The word iconic can be overused, but in the context of thinking about 25 plus years of Carpenter Oak Ltd making timber frame houses, this particular build by Roderick James himself (an original founder of the company) marked the beginning of something quite special.

Meet The Team

Lead Carpenter:
Architect:
Frame Design:

"Seagull house was the turning point for me in the reinvention of timber framing. It was pioneering, unique and inspiring for so many. Without it and what it achieved we wouldn't be here as we are today"

Adam Milton, Managing Director:

carpenter-oak-quality-timber-frame

As well as being Roderick’s family home, it was also the show room/barn/design space that clients could meet with Roderick, to inspire and start the process of their own personal build adventure.

Seagull House was literally the template for what must be now at least several hundred successful oak frame house projects, and the beginning of a resurgence in traditional timber frame buildings (brought bang up to date using contemporary design) led by Roderick, his architectural practice and the skilled carpenters of Carpenter Oak Ltd.

Exterior

Oak Saplings: 308

We arrange for 10 oak saplings to be planted for every tree used to build your frame.

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For me personally, coming across Seagull House in a ‘self build’ magazine in 1994 was a WOW! moment. Then in 1996 meeting Roderick set in motion a career change to eventually work for Carpenter Oak Ltd in March 1999. So, many years on even though we have other show houses for you to view (Roderick sold Seagull in 2011) I have fond memories of Seagull House. And furthermore I still have that 1994 magazine!

Stuart Voaden, Commercial Director, Carpenter Oak Ltd
Stuart Voaden Director at Carpenter Oak Ltd Devon
Find out more about Stuart Voaden and our other staff.
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Your questions answered...

  • Why choose timber frame homes over a conventional house?

     
    Barn Interior with Exposed Common Rafters and roof lighting in Green Oak Timber Framed Barn Conversion in Devon by Carpenter Oak Ltd Devon

    Image courtesy of Natalie Fenwick

    Bespoke, hand crafted and uniquely designed, an exposed timber frame offers the character, beauty and aesthetic that many people crave in their home and which is missing from so many modern buildings. Timber frame homes are designed to be entirely self-supporting, removing the need for interior walls. This allows for magnificent cathedral-style roof spaces which are uninterrupted by ceilings, with open plan living for a light and spacious feel. Wood’s eco-friendliness is three fold: Our frames are traditionally hand-crafted, which reduces the carbon impact of construction; wood is a highly sustainable building material as it soaks up CO2 while growing, and the wood we use is from fast-growing PEFC certified forests which increase in size by 1.5% every year. Far from cutting down forests, buy a Carpenter Oak frame and you’ll be contributing to them. Additionally, for every tree used in your project, we’ll donate a further 10 oak saplings for planting in the UK, something we have been doing for over a quarter of a century. We take pride in the skill and craftsmanship which goes into each and every frame, but this doesn’t mean we’re stuck in the dark-ages! Indeed far from it: we thrive on pushing the boundaries of timber frame design, with many of our contemporary cutting edge projects winning awards. Your timber frame can be finished in any material, to blend in to any environment and suit your local planning requirements, the finishes available meet and exceed modern building regulations. The frame is built in our workshops meaning no disruption on site until it is ready to be raised, which usually takes our team 5 days in total on site, leaving you the skeleton which can be closed in and watertight within days. Timber frames are adaptable and flexible - they can be easily ‘bolted’ onto with an extension at a later date, the only limit is your imagination.
  • Can I get away without using an architect?

    If you are worried about the cost of an architect, consider that the cost of not employing one, or discharging yours too early in an attempt to save money may result in costs many times what you save in fees. The architects role is to think through and co-ordinate the overall detailing and 'mesh together' the work of individual contractors. No individual contractor will do this and the responsibility will fall to you if there is no architect. There is a reason why architects are expensive and that is because they are highly trained and provide an essential service.
  • When should I approach you?

    The Carpenter Oak Show Barn in DevonWe are happy to discuss your ideas with you at an early stage and can offer you advice along the way. It is helpful for you to build a scrapbook (you could use Pinterest) of your ideas and wishes – this makes your brief to us and your architect much clearer. Once you have a plot in mind we would encourage you to come and see us in the show barn at our yard to discuss your ideas in more depth and help you establish a concept design and rough costs.

    You can meet with one of our frame designers and an architect if required (Roderick James Architects offer a free initial consultation). We can offer you an estimate for your budget costings at that stage based on a timber frame sketch scheme. You will then be in a position to draw up a planning application, knowing that you will be able to achieve what you want with the frame. We can offer you an accurate estimate based on a timber frame sketch scheme once you have architects drawings. Once your planning application has been approved we can get going on a detailed frame design for you.

  • When can I talk to you about my ideas?

    We encourage you to talk to us at an early stage. We welcome hearing about your ideas and plans and can offer you advice along the way. Obviously we hope to be able to build you an oak frame when your new build or extension comes to fruition and if you include us in discussions about design and site particulars at an early stage it will enable your architect to understand the requirements of the timber frame and incorporate them into the overall design early on. This is likely to save you money, time and hassle in the long run.
  • Can I come and see your show house?

    Oak Sling Brace Frame and Glazed Gable End of The Show Barn

    Image courtesy of Kim Sayer

    Yes! Just pick up the phone and talk to us. We are happy for you to visit and look around. Generally, our advice would be to wait until you have a plot and an idea of what you are wanting to build but we are very willing to talk through plans for a plot at any time.

    At that stage you can meet with one of our frame designers, and a free consultation with one of the architects if you would like. You will get far more from your visit if you do this – it is a chance to really talk through the design, layout, style, costs, materials, options with everyone in one place. We look forward to meeting you!

    We have two show houses for you to visit - read more about the different options.

  • Can you put up your frames anywhere?

    We have raised frames in Russia, Cyprus, remote Scottish islands, City Centres, flat sites, in flood plains, by rivers  and sloping sites. We have transported the timber by boat, sited cranes on river beds and carried entire house frames onto site by hand. We have lifted frames over houses, squeezed down Cornwall lanes and build frames on site rather than in the workshop. We always welcome a challenge and would be happy to hear from you whatever your brief.
  • Do Carpenter Oak Ltd supply architects or architectural services?

    Yes. We can recommend specialists timber framing architects across the UK and abroad. See which architects we've worked with in the past or contact us to find out more information.
  • How affordable is a Carpenter Oak timber frame?

    We are proud of our product, service and materials, and provide great value for money.

    kitchen-interior-oak-framed-extension-inglisIt would be understandable to assume that being a sizeable company we are therefore more expensive but this would be a mistake - we put a great deal of effort into ensuring we are competitive without compromise! We build and raise in excess of 50 frames a year. We are experts in timber framing and can offer you the assurance of a fully insured highly skilled team, with the economies offered by our size.

    Crucially by choosing Carpenter Oak Ltd, you are choosing a whole team – a client manager to facilitate the initial stages of your enquiry and and ensure your requirements are fully understood, the Frame Designer who works intensively with you and your architect to interpret your brief and develop a detailed design which fits into your overall building, the Project Management team who oversee the making and raising of your frame and a team of skilled Timber Framers who undertake the workshop carpentry and raising. Each step is crucial and we have a vey committed, skilled and experienced team. Meet the team here. 

     As in most walks of life,  if it looks too good to be true then it probably is.
    You get what you pay for and if price is the only factor which drives you then you will always find someone who is willing to cut corners and do things cheaper. We are confident in our competitiveness and can say with some experience that there will be a reason for a substantially lower price even if it is not obvious to you. This can mean that things have been left out of the price (a common tactic) or it can mean that the service you would receive in terms of project management and design support and guidance is not as complete which can simply increase your costs elsewhere. It can mean a lesser grade of materials, less time spent on the craftsmanship or cheaper less skilled labour.
    We are different and instead pursue excellence – we look to be the best at what we do whilst maintaining affordability, accurate and realistic pricing – we seek the trust and loyalty of our clients as this is the basis of positive working relationships which last beyond the raising of the frame.
    We highly value our reputation and this can only be built on getting things right with you, our client.
    We could save thousands of £'s by compromising on the quality of our materials but we never would. See our materials page.

  • How much does a Carpenter Oak frame cost?

    Budget considerations are of course one of the primary factors for anyone undertaking an oak frame self build project whether it's a new build oak frame or a timber frame extension. 'How much will it cost?' is therefore a question which will be asked over and over and will almost certainly form a central thread of your project.

    The cost of building a New Build Oak Frame House or Timber Framed Extension

    Overall build costs for a complete new build oak house typically vary from £1,500 to £2,000+ per square metre (referring to the useable area of the lower and upper floors added together) i.e. for a two storey property times the area by 2. We would suggest that you budget from £1,200- £1,800 per sqm (or £120-£180 per sqft).

    For extensions we would suggest budgeting from £2,000 per square metre - don't forget to add VAT (for UK customers). It is worth noting that guide price is for a complete build based on a contractor doing the work with the timber frame is usually a 20-30% proportion.

    If you intend to self build then expect to budget toward the lower end of the scale (although of course it may take longer!). There are several caveats with this guide price including the following key considerations:-

    • Oak Framed Boathouse, Lake Windermere

      Oak Framed Boathouse

      Access:- Difficult access effects the whole build not just the timber frame aspect, but don't panic if your site is tricky as there is usually a solution for the most extreme cases. We love a challenge at Carpenter Oak Ltd.
    • Size - smaller doesn't necessarily mean cheaper!
    • Ground conditions
    • Specification ie Kitchens alone can vary from £1,000 to £100,000.
    • Design and shape. A house designed with a timber frame in mind from the outset will be more efficient to build. Consider this at the planning stage.
    • Complexity of the building and its shape. A 'H' shaped will be more expensive to build than a rectangle.
    • Good information and knowledge from the architect, builder, timber framer and the rest of the team you employ.

    At every stage your decisions will affect the overall costs, from the complexity of the design to the level of finish. Engaging an architect will almost certainly save you money in the long run. Getting advice from us on the timber frame concept prior to going in for planning will minimise the risk of sending your architect 'back to the drawing board'.

    • A timber frame can be a simple primary structure or a partial one in a certain area of your house. It can incorporate fully raftered vaulted roof spaces, mezzanine floors, balconies and fully joisted areas, all of which will affect the price of the frame. Areas such as the roof structure can be done in revealed oak frame or can be entirely hidden and done by your builder in softwood. This will affect your overall cost to some extent but will vary the value of our work significantly.
    • The timber frame is just one element of your overall build cost and can typically range from 15% - 30% of the overall figure.
    • All of our frames are unique and so there are no standard price or designs. We do show a variety of designs in our pack however with corresponding frame prices and overall build prices which will help you to get a good sense of the cost. The cost of a frame often ranges from £300 - £500 per square metre.
    • As soon as you have architects drawings, we can offer you an estimate for the manufacture and raising of the frame. We generally offer clients a fixed price.
  • Are Carpenter Oak’s frames made by hand?

    tools-and-tea2 We only use handheld tools and power tools (such as chain morticers, circular saws and drill) to cut and shape the timber. We are adaptable – we design and build bespoke frames (not repeat designs), often incorporate large beautiful curves within them and utilise a huge variety of structural framing techniques. Skilled carpenters adept in all the techniques and who can use their judgement in the selection of every timber and the cutting of every joint are therefore critical. The same carpentry team carries their understanding of the frame right through to seeing it raised on site. We do not use large automated 'Hundegger' CNC machines to cut whole frames. We don’t believe in this way of doing things for a number of reasons: Hundeggers reduce your options – they only handle planed timber and give the finished frames a homogenised look (check the curved braces), they can't cope with large curved timbers such as slings and curved ties and, since the programming of the machines is so time consuming in relation to the cutting time, they are ideally suited to repeat designs.
  • Where does your oak come from?

    All of our Oak is from sustainably managed woodlands located around a single sawmill in Normandy, France (PEFC certifified). When this mill is unable to fulfil our order we divert to an alternative mill in Germany. The mills have access to a plentiful supply of exceptionally well managed and very high quality timber.

    Why not use UK sourced oak, I hear you ask?  Sadly, the lack of investment and good timber management for hardwoods in this country over many years means our domestic supplies are generally of a lower quality, inconsistent supply and can be more expensive. Although the situation will gradually change, it means that currently continental Oak is the best option for our framing. Carpenter Oak Ltd are investing in the future of UK woodlands.

    For every tree used in a project we will donate 10 Oak saplings to an organised planting scheme in the UK

    Douglas Fir and Larch all comes from sustainably managed UK forests.

    Read more about our Materials

  • What other materials do you use in timber frame extensions or new builds?

    Although green oak accounts for 90% of of past new build houses we also regularly build in Douglas Fir, Larch and more recently Glulam (Oak & Chestnut). These 3 form the primary fresh sawn building timbers in the UK due to their structural and durability characteristics and because there is a reliable &  consistent, high quality supply of them. We also use Glulam (glue-laminated) beams. Glulams are available in a variety of different timbers as they use dry smaller section source material. Please note however they can be several times more expensive than fresh sawn timber.   Read more about the materials we use, where they come from and their characteristics click here:- Explore other materials?
  • Do you offer a ‘Turnkey’ (complete build) solution ?

    Cabin with Lake View constructed from Douglas Fir Timber with Western Red Shingles by Carpenter Oak Ltd Devon

    Image courtesy of Michael Harris

    Yes we do. In fact we can offer a number of routes for you and your project depending on how involved you want to get. We pride ourselves on being adaptable as every client, every project, is different. We aim to understand your particular situation and respond to deliver what you need. For many people that means us working as a contractor alongside your architect and builder to design and build a timber oak frame.

    For others we can put together a team to offer a package of frame, SIPS, oak frame glazing and joinery which essentially leaves you a watertight structure on site to be finished off by you or your builder.

    On smaller projects like cabins and outbuildings, or on local projects, we are happy to explore taking on the management of a whole build and can arrange for Planning permission and Building Regulations approval. This means you just have one company to deal with making the whole experience much more enjoyable.

    Click here to visit our 'What We Do' page.