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James and Claudia Gray decided to embark on a self build journey to create a farmhouse, office and home as a base from which to farm their surrounding agricultural land. James’ family home had been a timber framed farmhouse, and so their hearts were set on using this most grounded and majestic of building materials. The site for this project sits among Nissan huts originating from a Second World War USAF airbase in East Anglia, which remain in good condition as they have since been used for farming. Constructed of Douglas Fir and traditionally jointed predominantly using mortice and tenon techniques, the frame was erected with a crane in one week.
"When I first saw the drawings for this project I was quite excited by the design. I liked the long curving roofs and I thought the tower looked really brilliant, standing up in the middle of the taller section of the frame. The thing which was hard to visualise for me was the size. In particular, both sections of the frame were very long, and the overall floor space was clearly going to be vast. I often experience the surprise of clients when they first see the size of their frame, but this time I was truly blown away myself."
Don Rigby, Lead Carpenter
Cameron Scott provides both architectural and frame design services, allowing him to provide an integrated design workflow. This exciting design has won 2 awards BEST TIMBER FRAME HOUSE AND BEST INTERIORS in The Telegraph Homebuilding & Renovating Award Winners 2012 and featured in Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine in 2012, read the article here.
The layout includes two linear elements: a single storey public space and a one and half storey family space, linked via two walkways which in turn form a central courtyard, affording both shelter from the strong winds and a safe haven for children.
The tower is a unique feature which gives the family a 360 degree panoramic view over their East Anglia farmland. The main frame structure was made from Douglas Fir (sourced from the New Forest) which was partially kiln dried to prevent unsightly mould staining of the sapwood.
Oak, Softwood and Larch were also used. Traditional mortise and tenon jointing were combined with the more contemporary use of steel tension rods and fixing nodes, which were fabricated locally (for us!) in Dartmouth by Hercules.
Thermal efficiency was also a priority in the design, so using optimum glazing orientation, roof overhanging and specific flooring, means that even with natural ventilation this home will be close to the desired ‘Passiv Haus’ standard. A ground source heat pump, solar light, and solar thermal panels were installed to heat the house.
The whole top yard at Carpenter Oak was full of bright orange Douglas Fir timber - luckily we had good weather here at the yard, so some of the frame was cut outdoors making the top yard a real hive of activity. There was so much timber that we needed two separate lorries with their trailers to take the whole lot to Essex.
Throughout the construction of the frame in Devon, we liaised with Cameron Scott both as architect and frame designer. Cameron was once a carpenter at this yard, and has a good knowledge of the practical side of construction as well as being skilful with design - see more of his timber frame design work.
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.
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:-
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'.
We 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.
Yes! We are happy for you to visit and look around. You can book in here to see the Show Barn or Show House. Or, pick up the phone and talk to us. 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.
As in most walks of life, if it looks too good to be true then it probably is.
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.
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.
Yes. If you are looking for a complete build or ‘Turnkey’ service, we can offer a solution to include each stage of the process, from the feasibility assessment, design, management and construction, right through to completion. We pride ourselves on being adaptable as every client is different. We can offer a number of routes for you and your project, depending on how involved you want to get. 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, for others, involvement at each stage or a self build project. Get in touch to find out which route would suit your project best and we can deliver a range of options from a finished frame to a finished house, ready for you to move into.