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Darren Findlow and Anthony Higham project managed the build of their contemporary oak frame house in Cheshire, using large fixed glazed panels to make the most of a stunning view over a woodland and successfully achieving a very modern feel with a traditionally pegged frame.
The build took about 7 months from start to finish and incorporates SIPs panels and an air source heat pump to maximise energy efficiency.
After looking at several timber framing companies, the pair chose Carpenter Oak for their build and were thrilled with the experience of working with the company.
“What made it much easier for us was that we felt at home with Carpenter Oak – there was a huge amount of trust. We felt we related to them and trusted Carpenter Oak almost like we’d known them for ever.
“We’d seen Carpenter Oak’s work years ago – we’d come and seen the show barn in Devon. We assumed it would be totally out of our price range. So we started looking for properties but we knew what we wanted and couldn’t find it.
“There aren’t many oak framed houses around and the ones we did see for sale were not what we were looking for – people had painted the frames or they just weren’t the full package.
“So we enquired about prices and had never realised how affordable it could be – we were pleasantly surprised.”
“We’d never done a project before but Lee advised us on lots of things that we had we really liked about his house.
“We also realised that we were getting more for our money – we got more wood, and better quality wood, than other companies were offering.”
Darren and Anthony had bought a 1.3 acre plot that came with planning permission for a mock Tudor house with small windows, but they wanted to change the design. In particular they wanted the house to feature glass on the gable end, so they could enjoy the view of the protected woodland at the end of the garden.
It was a nail biting race to get the new planning passed before the original consent lapsed and they achieved this with just days to spare.
“The planning part was the most stressful part of the whole build,” said Anthony. The finished gable end, in the master bedroom, is truly spectacular with a wall of glass framed by solid oak and a door opening onto a balcony with the woods beyond.
Anthony and Darren chose to have plans drawn up but not to use an architect to manage the whole project, and this meant they had to make a lot of decisions themselves.
“It was very exciting when the frame went up – and great to see such instant results,” Anthony said.
Three weeks later the frame was wrapped in SIPs panels, but it took a while before the shell was watertight as Darren and Anthony used someone to do the glazing who had never worked with an oak frame before, so it took far longer than expected. “We had half the kitchen in place and the windows were still open.
“It was a huge challenge for us. Carpenter Oak took the worry out of the really important stuff but there were areas were we just didn’t appreciate what was involved.”
It’s been a steep learning curve for Darren and Anthony as project managers, so what have they picked up along the way?
“The SIPs panels were a bit of a challenge and we might not do that in quite the same way again - because of the shape of the building with lots of angles it was quite a job to do the coverboards and in the end bricks might have been a better option.
“We are also struggling a bit with our air source heat pump which is so sophisticated we don’t understand how it works! It’s probably more complicated than what we actually needed, but at the moment we’ve lit the wood burner which is great.”
However one very impressive achievement, especially for first time self builders, was to come in just 3% over their £350,000 budget.
“We’ve got our dream house now, and it does feel really special to be here.”
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.