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Why Oak frame buildings are back in fashion

18 Nov 2019

Why oak frame buildings are back in fashion

Wood houses are always made from the best local woods, those that are strong enough to weather storms and abundant enough to frame and often cover a house. This is why oak is one of the most common materials in English heritage buildings. Yet oak is making a comeback in modern architecture. Let’s look at the reasons why oak frame buildings are back in fashion.

It Is Environmentally Friendly

Don’t pay a fortune to import exotic hardwoods from the ends of the Earth and possibly contribute to destruction of the rainforest. Rely on locally sourced oak wood. It is locally produced, so the transportation costs are minimal. The forests are sustainably managed, so you can use as much of it as you want to build your dream home or new garage. British oak trees are raised in forests that serve as refuges for wildlife. Wood can be recycled at the end of its life, too. It can be ground into wood chips used in landscaping, composted or burned as fuel. Then it becomes biofuel instead of waste in the landfill.

Why Oak frame buildings are back in fashion - Scottish Timber House Structure
photo courtesy of Carpenter Oak & Woodland Co. Ltd

It Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive

Oak wood is more expensive than some other materials, including imported woods and brick. However, oak frame buildings do not have to be more expensive. For example, you can use steel supports or brick walls in parts of the building, lowering the cost. Reserve the oak for publicly seen areas like porches, living areas and entryways.

Mix oak frames for dramatic open areas with softer pine wood. You can save money with oak framing in other ways, too. Don’t paint it. Instead, show off the natural beauty. You generally don’t need to treat oak wood, either. It is naturally fire resistant, and it resists the elements well.

The wood can shrink if you’re using fresh oak, and that means you can’t have the wood installed by anyone other than skilled craftspeople. However, once in place, it can easily last for decades. You could also lower the cost of the project by choosing oak weatherboarding over a modern building frame.

What Is Old Is New Again

Oak wood has always been used in England. It was especially popular in Tudor times. As the pace of change has accelerated, we’ve seen people return to their roots in other ways. People still have cell phones and computers, but they’re hiding them in oak cabinets when not in use.

Children may have smart toys, but they’re encouraged to play with wood blocks. Food may be microwaved or cooked in convection ovens, but there is a definite trend toward traditional recipes, “slow” food, artisanal hand-made products and authenticity. These same trends are showing up in architecture, too. You don’t have to live in a historic home to have a wood framed house.

There are people intentionally designing and building oak frame homes to live in. Note that these homes will have more electrical outlets, wifi routers and closet space than heritage homes. But the exterior of the home is generally and intentionally made to resemble the classic heritage houses next door, whether or not the local building code requires it. They might mix it up with concrete floors that resemble wood floors but won’t need to be waxed or extruded wood decks that can’t rot.

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