When it comes to building your home, making sure it stands up is a big priority. But what frame you buy is a question very much in the air.
Do you choose the more traditional brick extension? Or do you go for the more unique oak frame - a choice that is slowly gaining prominence in the UK? And most importantly, is there even a difference between the two?
If you feel stuck between a rock and a wood place, here’s our advice on choosing your extension material...
A few years ago, this would have been a very cut and dry answer, as brick has traditionally been cheaper than oak to build with. That’s because oak is a specialist material, so many professionals put up their prices when dealing with it.
However, this is starting to change, as bricklayers are becoming more scare in the UK, and so the price of maisonry is going up. This means the prices are balancing out, though probably not in a way many homeowners will be happy about. There are also some that argue that the speed factor of oak can help reduce other costs (more on this in a second) so can work out cheaper overall. Although, it’s also worth noting that because of the skill that goes into oak frames in the early stages, they tend to require big deposits up front - so can cause cash flow issues.
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In terms of how quickly the two are to construction, oak is a clear winner.
Oak frames are traditionally crafted off-site, so putting them up on your property is a relatively speedy process. In fact, the National Home-Building Council has estimated that on some projects, using oak frames can save up to three-months on construction time. This means you could spare yourselves months of inconvenience, as living on a construction site can be very stressful, while renting elsewhere during this time can take a real toll on your budget.
Saying all this, there are some new brick techniques on the rise, such as thin-joint masonry. So if you are keen on bricks but do want to keep timings to a minimum, you might find a speedy alternative.
Speaking of professionals, you won’t get far without a skilled contractor on board, and this can be an issue for those after oak frames. That’s because oak has traditionally been used in Scottish homes, but not those in the rest of the UK. As such, there are less contractors who have the specialist skills to construct using this material.
On the flip side, the majority of contractors will be skilled in maisonry. This means you’ll have more professionals to choose from during tendering, and so can select one with the best references and quotes.
Without a proper selection of contractors, you might find yourself resorting to a less than ideal professional. Putting you at risk of bad practises.
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If you’re keen on making sure noise levels stay to a minimum, either because you like peace and quiet, or because you live in a densely populated area, then brick might be for you.
The best defense against sound is to put something very heavy and solid between it and you. Therefore, very dense and heavy brickwork has a natural advantage over the less bulky material of oak.
If you still want to go with oak, but are concerned about noise, you can create better sound proofing by building two separate walls with a structural break between them. This gap can then be fitted with a sound absorbent quilt - problem solved.
When it comes to being eco-friendly, nothing is better than good old fashioned oak. That’s because, unlike brick, it’s renewable. Cut down one tree, and it can simple be replaced with another. Whereas brick relies on the extraction of raw materials from the ground, and once those are gone, they’re gone.
They’re also much less wasteful than other industrial materials. For example, to produce aluminium or steel, raw materials have to be mined and transported, before being processed into their constructed forms. This generates waste, which cannot be used for anything else. Whereas with oak, even the sawdust can be recycled, into either paper products or even insulation for homes.