Heart of Oak

01:00 Sun 17th Dec 2000 |

By Tom Gard

OAK-FRAMED houses usually conjure up pictures of quaint seventeenth-century cottages or barn conversions with all mod cons. But, the timber-framed house is enjoying a comeback. So, why is a form of house building that had its heyday in the 17th century proving popular in the 21st

The Elizabethans championed oak-framed buildings. Their distinctive black and white houses and cottages of our historic villages and market towns are an enduring image of Olde England.

The Industrial Revolution, and the advent of mass brick production, largely put pay to to this form of building.

But now, environmental and heritage considerations have encouraged timber-framed houses to spring up across the country.

Apart from using cranes to move giant beams into place, techniques today are the same as they were 400 years ago.

With no metal nails or screws, beams are jointed together and secured with oak pegs. The frame is held securely in place by the weight of the roof.

Green oak, which is largely used for this form of comstruction, is flexible and pliant enough to compensate for initial settling without splintering or cracking. When it eventually shrinks and tightens into its final position, it has the strength of steel.

These homes are proving particularly popular in the countryside, where the use of wood makes them more sympathetic to the landscape. But, they are also sustainable. The beams themselves should last

indefinitely; certainly long enough for another oak to mature to provide replacements.

Although oak-framed houses can be slightly dearer than a standard new home, there is a new range of economy kit cottages coming on the market that can cost as little as 75,000, excluding the cost of the plot of land.

If you're interested, here are two specialists: Somerset-based Westwind Oak Buildings (01934 877317) and Herefordshire company Border Oak (01568 708752).

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