How to Choose the Right Tim­ber Frame Sup­plier for your Project

Tim­ber frame spe­cial­ist Mike Cruick­shank ex­plains how to find the best tim­ber frame man­u­fac­turer for your build

Homebuilding & Renovating - - CONTENTS -

Tim­ber frame ex­pert Mike Cruick­shank ex­plains how to choose be­tween sup­pli­ers, com­pare quotes and get value for money

Search tim­ber send ings re­quest­ing them Google frame your to find man­u­fac­turer, a house quote, your draw- lo­cal re­ceive and bingo a quote — that job falls done! within Ah, bud­get if only it was that sim­ple. In re­al­ity, there are nu­mer­ous pit­falls to avoid when choos­ing a tim­ber frame man­u­fac­turer for your self-build project. Ev­ery­thing starts with your bud­get. At this point it may only be a per square foot/me­tre to­tal build cost (in­clud­ing a min­i­mum 10% con­tin­gency), but you should now be har­den­ing up on the costs for all el­e­ments of the build by ob­tain­ing quotes and fine-tun­ing your bud­get spread­sheet as you go. If you’re aim­ing to build in tim­ber frame, the frame will be a sub­stan­tial per­cent­age of the over­all build cost and its spec­i­fi­ca­tion will im­pact on other costs like join­ery, heat­ing, re­new­able tech­nolo­gies and so on, so it should be one of, if not the first, el­e­ment you fo­cus on. Bear in mind that not all tim­ber frame sup­pli­ers sup­ply the same prod­uct — far from it. Some will only sup­ply the struc­tural shell (ex­ter­nal walls, load­bear­ing par­ti­tions, floor joists and roof trusses), while oth­ers will sup­ply a com­pre­hen­sive pack­age. The lat­ter could even in­clude: the struc­tural shell plus un­der­s­lat­ing felt, counter/ tile bat­tens, fas­cia, barge­board, sof­fit, win­dows, ex­ter­nal doors, non-load­bear­ing par­ti­tions, all ther­mal/acous­tic in­su­la­tion, floor­ing, plas­ter­board, stairs, in­ter­nal doorsets, win­dow sills, ar­chi­traves, skirt­ing, door iron­mon­gery, all the nails/screws/glue re­quired to as­sem­ble the tim­ber frame and some­times SAP cal­cu­la­tions and an En­ergy Per­for­mance Cer­tifi­cate, which build­ing con­trol will re­quire. Some sup­pli­ers of­fer a sup­ply and erect ser­vice, whereas oth­ers are sup­ply only and you, your project man­ager or con­trac­tor will have to ar­range the erec­tion. Some of­fer a closed panel system (where the in­su­la­tion is fac­tory fit­ted in the ex­ter­nal wall pan­els and some­times in the roof pan­els prior to ar­riv­ing on site) and some only sup­ply an open panel system and roof trusses ar­riv­ing an (re­quir­ing open on panel the site) system in­su­la­tion and some and roof only to be trusses sup­ply sup­plied to de­cide and fit­ted on what on site). pack­age You you will want have sup­plied and if you want a sup­ply and erect price or sup­ply only. An­other very im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion at this stage is how air­tight you wish the house to be. Do you want it to com­ply with the Build­ing Reg­u­la­tions’ min­i­mum stan­dards or do you per­haps want to meet Pas­sivhaus stan­dards? You’ll need to ad­vise the man­u­fac­turer what your as­pi­ra­tions are, as this will im­pact on the spec­i­fi­ca­tion and, in turn, cost. If you feel that set­ting a spec­i­fi­ca­tion is too ‘ tech­ni­cal’ for you then your ar­chi­tec­tural con­sul­tant should be able to as­sist you with this. I would al­ways rec­om­mend speak­ing to some­one who has, in the re­cent past, car­ried out a self-build near you, too. If you pass a site where a tim­ber frame is in the process of, or has been erected, then pop in and find out as much as you can about the project. Self-builders love talk­ing about their new home and are al­ways will­ing to pass on their ex­pe­ri­ences with a man­u­fac­turer and other trades­per­son/sup­pli­ers, be they good or bad. The Struc­tural Tim­ber As­so­ci­a­tion (STA) is the trade body that rep­re­sents the vast ma­jor­ity of the UK’S tim­ber frame man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies; its web­site (struc­tural­tim­­build) is a great re­source as it al­lows you to search for mem­bers that sup­ply to the self-build sec­tor (see page 165). If you search us­ing your post­code it will even give you a list of the near­est mem­bers. It’s worth not­ing that some tim­ber frame man­u­fac­tur­ers sup­ply na­tion­wide; some lo­cal re­gions. (What’s more, some also sup­ply other tim­ber-based con­struc­tion sys­tems such as SIPS [struc­tural in­su­lated pan­els], glu­lam and cross-lam­i­nated tim­ber.) I would strongly sug­gest that your pre­ferred man­u­fac­turer is an STA mem­ber, as mem­bers have to meet cer­tain ac­cred­i­ta­tions and qual­ity stan­dards be­fore be­ing ac­cepted.

“When choos­ing be­tween sup­pli­ers, don’t just dis­card the most ex­pen­sive quote — it could well be that the com­pany has quoted for a high spec or in­cluded el­e­ments oth­ers have not”

Choos­ing You rowed have down done Be­tween the your man­u­fac­tur­ers re­search Sup­pli­ers and nar- that you want to quote for your project to maybe three or four com­pa­nies. Next you need to send your draw­ings (ide­ally plans/sec­tions/el­e­va­tions to a scale of no less than 1:100) to each of the man­u­fac­tur­ers, to­gether with as de­tailed a spec­i­fi­ca­tion as you can. The more de­tailed the spec­i­fi­ca­tion, the more ac­cu­rate a quote you will get. Quotes will typ­i­cally take two to four weeks to pro­duce and on re­ceipt you need to an­a­lyse them all in great de­tail as no two will be ex­actly the same. Don’t just look at the price quoted and dis­card the most ex­pen­sive one, it could well be that the par­tic­u­lar com- pany has quoted for a higher spec­i­fi­ca­tion than the oth­ers or in­cluded for el­e­ments the oth­ers have not. You need to be com­par­ing ‘ap­ples with ap­ples’ — take your time in do­ing this and use your ar­chi­tec­tural con­sul­tant to check over the quotes, too. If you are in any doubt about what has been in­cluded for or the spec­i­fi­ca­tion of any par­tic­u­lar el­e­ment, phone the man­u­fac­turer and get them to clar­ify mat­ters. You should now nar­row down the man­u­fac­tur­ers to two, ar­range a meet­ing at their fac­tory with the busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager or es­ti­ma­tor re­spon­si­ble for your project. Run through the quote in de­tail and ask to be shown the ma­te­ri­als they have quoted for. Al­ways ask if they have any sug­ges­tions that would save costs, as fairly mi­nor changes to the plans/ spec­i­fi­ca­tion can quite of­ten re­sult in sub­stan­tial cost sav­ings. Many man­u­fac­tur­ers have show- rooms feel the where var­i­ous you ma­te­ri­als. can see, touch Re­quest and a tour of their fac­tory too, as this will give you a bet­ter over­all ‘feel’ for their op­er­a­tion. Ask if there are any projects they have re­cently sup­plied that the clients would be will­ing to al­low you to go and view. This can give you the op­por­tu­nity to get an un­bi­ased view of the man­u­fac­tur­ers di­rect from the client. You should also find out what their lead-in times are for the var­i­ous de­liv­er­ies in­volved, as you, your project man­ager or build­ing con­trac­tor will need to know what they are to ef­fec­tively pro­gramme the works. A lot of work is car­ried out by the man­u­fac­turer early on in the process by de­sign­ing the tim­ber frame, procur­ing ma­te­ri­als and then man­u­fac­tur­ing the tim­ber frame, so don’t be sur­prised if you are quoted a 10 to 12 week lead-in time for the struc­tural shell el­e­ment from when you place an or­der.

Pay­ing Pay­ment at in de­tail, for terms Your in­clud­ing should Tim­ber also the ini­tial be Frame looked de­posit the man­u­fac­turer will be look­ing for on sign­ing an or­der and stage pay­ments there­after. It is not un­usual for man­u­fac­tur­ers to ask for pay­ment 14 to 21 days prior to the var­i­ous el­e­ments be­ing de­liv­ered to site, so you or your le­gal agent need to be sat­is­fied that the man­u­fac­turer is on a se­cure fi­nan­cial foot­ing. If you have any doubt then your le­gal agent may sug­gest us­ing an es­crow ac­count or a vest­ing cer­tifi­cate which would ‘ring fence’ any monies you pay to the man­u­fac­turer should they get into fi­nan­cial dif­fi­culty. If you fol­low the above steps, one man­u­fac­turer will have im­pressed you above all oth­ers with their cus­tomer ser­vice lev­els, com­pet­i­tive price, qual­ity of prod­uct/ma­te­ri­als, pro­fes­sional/ help­ful ‘can do’ at­ti­tude, good rep­u­ta­tion and tes­ti­mo­ni­als from pre­vi­ous cus­tomers; cially sound they com­pany. will also They be a are fi­nan- the man­u­fac­turer you should, with con­fi­dence, place your busi­ness with. One fi­nal piece of ad­vice: never ac­cept the first price of­fered by your pre­ferred man­u­fac­turer. It’s worth ask­ing for a dis­count or an up­graded spec­i­fi­ca­tion for the same price.

Mike Cruick­shank Prop­erty in­vestor Mike Cruick­shank is an ex­pert in tim­ber frame con­struc­tion, hav­ing spent 26 years with one of the UK’S lead­ing tim­ber frame man­u­fac­tur­ers.

Work on Site Af­ter be­ing man­u­fac­tured un­der fac­tory con­di­tions ( top left), the frame is de­liv­ered to site. Here, the in­ter­nal par­ti­tion walls of a self-build ( left) are be­ing in­stalled on site; while tim­ber frame pan­els for the ex­ter­nal walls are craned into po­si­tion ( be­low).

Man­u­fac­tur­ing Time­line Pre­fab­ri­cat­ing the tim­ber frame al­lows for speedy on-site con­struc­tion. The im­age ( be­low) shows work in progress at the West Mid­lands-based fac­tory of Tim­ber In­no­va­tions, a mem­ber of the Struc­tural Tim­ber As­so­ci­a­tion.

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