How to achieve a bespoke oak frame on a budget

April 29, 2017

Oak frame remains popular amongst self-builders, thanks to its ability to add instant character and warmth to a home. Although a traditional method of construction, dating back way over 4,000 years, it is increasingly used in more contemporary schemes and is in many ways a modern method of construction.

The overall build price of a timber frame home is influenced in the same way as all builds. Your chosen build route (DIY, project managed, turnkey), any complications with the site and levels of fixture and fitting will all have an impact on cost.

Don’t forget to factor in the cost of land, and non-material fees such as planning applications, warranties and insurance.

Many self-builders see oak framing as a luxury option, but you might be surprised that this route isn’t out of reach if you are on a modest budget. There are several clever ways you can keep prices down and still achieve the oak frame home of your dreams.

Keep the design simple

For any build, a simple and well considered design will keep costs down. If you’re working to a tight budget, its vital that you approach all aspects of the scheme with this in mind. It is essential and generally more cost effective that you choose an architect/designer who understands oak framing. This can help avoid issues and design costs right from the start. “Unfortunately, we often receive a set of plans that has been designed by an architect with little or no knowledge of oak framing. As a result, our in-house architectural designers have to amend these designs to work with oak framing, taking into consideration, for example, scales and proportions” says Mark Jones of Welsh Oak Frame.

It’s easy to get carried away when you see what has been achieved with those with deeper pockets – such as wide spans, feature trusses and glazed gables – but its important to stay disciplined and look for other ways to create the wow factor.

When thinking about the design with a limited budget, it’s important to consider what elements of oak framing to prioritise. Usually the main focal or gathering points are a key area to show off oak frame features, such as hallways which could feature a vaulted ceiling or rooms such as sun rooms and glazed areas.

Adopting a hybrid approach to your timber frame – using a combination of softwood and reserving oak for those high impact areas is a great way to add character to your home and at the same time, save you money.

The beauty of an oak frame is that by nature of the product, you are guaranteed a characterful home, even if you build something very basic.

Be open about your budget

Being open about your budget from the start will enable your oak frame designer to design an oak frame home to your budget. “The key is for us as a supplier is to describe in as much detail as possible where costs actually derive from and how simple (on the face of it) additions to a design can often have a huge knock on effect to price. Clients who are open about their budgets make the job easier for us to keep within” says Mark.

Reduce material and labour costs

One of the key reasons why oak frame homes tend to cost more is that self-builders look to match the highly-crafted frames with good quality products, such as handmade bricks and roof tiles. If you want luxury, you can expect a price tag to match.

Opting for a more modest style, featuring less oak, such as a basic post and beam house allows decent scope for attractive designs and reduces the cost.

Being hands on with the project (being a true self builder) can save a substantial amount of money. There are a few oak framing companies who offer a turnkey solution however you will usually pay extra for the privilege. A common alternative is to take over the project partway through. If you have the time and organisational ability you will find there are savings to be made by sourcing products and follow-on trades yourself.

Treat the oak frame yourself

If you are willing and able, consider cleaning the oak frame yourself. This could save you in the region of £1500 to £4000, depending on the size and complexity of your project. “We always encourage clients to use the Oxalic treatment for cleaning the oak.  It’s so simple but has a tremendous effect. We are not particularly keen on sand blasted finish and sanding would take forever” says Mark.

If you would like to know more about achieving an oak frame home on a budget, get in touch on 01686 688 000 or drop us an email