The purpose of my writing is just to put on record my appreciation for a fine looking building – from the moment I saw the lower stages of the frame being erected I knew that it was a worthwhile project.

P Griffith-Jones, Marlborough, Wiltshire

Main Orchard House Oak Frame Houses in Somerset


Below we have a selection of commonly asked questions (or FAQ’s if you like). If you have a question that we haven’t addressed on the page then contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

How long will it take to design and build an oak framed house?

This very much depends on size and complexity of your oak framed house and whether planning is straightforward or not. To generalise, having selected an architect, the design of your building might take a couple of months. Starting with a detailed list of your requirements, we and your architect would work together on sketch designs with you until you have a design which you are happy with. At this stage you’ll have plans of the layouts, elevations and sections through your building.

 Either we or your architect can then submit a planning application and a decision should be given within two months, if it is straightforward. Detailed drawings showing the construction, such as drainage, insulation and damp proofing, and the whole structure are then checked by a structural engineer before a submission for Building Regulations approval can be made. Depending on the area of the country you live in, the local authority can take three months to approve the application.

All going well, you could be ready to build your oak framed house six to nine months from your initial conceptual idea. Build time is typically nine to twelve months for an average-size house, but remember this is for the total building project. The timber frame will take anything from two weeks to two months to build in our yard and your oak frame will typically be erected in four to five exciting and rewarding days on site.

Take a look at our gallery to see some past builds.

How much does it cost to build a timber framed house or extension?

This is quite rightly one of the most commonly asked questions and one that is very difficult to answer because all our frames are bespoke so we don’t have off-the-shelf prices. Every frame is individually designed and dependent on many factors including size and complexity of frame.

As a guide, for a bespoke architect designed oak framed house, you should allow for between £1,300 and £2,100 per square metre of floor space created. This is a total build price, excluding land and fees. Of course, sums much higher than this can be spent if desired, and things like reducing timber in the more utilitarian areas can reduce the cost.The framing element of this will be entirely dependent on the amount of framing in the building and its design. Sometimes the whole building will be timber framed, other times just key features like the entrance hall and living areas, conservatory or kitchen. If you do have any conceptual drawings / architect drawings we can provide a pretty accurate price, however if you don’t have drawings don’t worry just contact us and we’ll do our best to provide you with the most accurate price we can based on your description.

What is the building process of building an oak framed house?

Below we have illustrated a typical route map from conception to completion of your timber frame house.

We’ve used a house as an example, but almost every type of building can be built using a timber frame, includingextensions.

• Engagement of an architect – you may have already appointed an architect – a good architect will help explore and develop an understanding of your brief and needs.

• Production of architect’s drawings – drawings are required for a number of reasons – initially to show you what your building will look like, later to obtain local authority consents, and eventually to show the builder exactly what it is you want him to build. It is essential to have our expert input at the earliest possible stage.

• Timber frame design – as soon as we have some idea of the oak frame house design, we can offer guidance on budget costs. Critically at this stage we can begin to engineer the project to meet your financial requirements – doing this earlier rather than later avoids the delay and disappointment of having to reappraise a project at an advanced stage.

• Outline costs for the whole project – the architect will have a good idea of general building costs, so, with the guide price we provide, they can start to put together your overall build budget.

• Planning permission and building consents – initially you will be looking for outline consent – can you, for example, erect an oak framed house on a particular piece of ground? Assuming consent is granted, you then have to ask for permission to build a particular design of building so that it is compatible with the surrounding buildings in that area. You will then need approval that the proposed construction meets with the Building Regulations.

• Detailed architect’s drawings and oak frame design – the level of detail the drawings convey is dependent on what they are to be used for; outline planning consent, detailed planning consent, Building Regulations approval, and construction detailing which tells the builder exactly what to build.

• Preparation of the site by your main contractor – when the overall build contractor has been appointed by the architect the real excitement begins. Topsoil capable of supporting plant life is stripped back, drains, electricity cables, gas and water pipes are laid, and the foundations are put in. It depends on the construction, but generally the walls are brought up to just above ground level in concrete block, the concrete slab sub-floor is cast, and everything is ready for the frame.

• Creation of our bespoke oak framed house – while the builder is busy on site our carpenters are crafting the frame in the workshops, so as soon as the builder has the site ready we have the frame ready for erection.

• Erection of your frame– the really exiting bit. Until now all you’ve seen is mud and concrete and within a few days you have the final building shape formed before your eyes in beautiful natural timber. This stage happens very quickly compared to masonry construction, and allows the builder to achieve a wind- and weather-tight shell in a fraction of the time.

• Completion of your home by your main contractor – the frame is clad with whatever construction has been agreed (e.g. brick, maybe oak weatherboarding for the walls, tiles or maybe oak shingles for the roof) to make it wind- and weather-tight, and secure to allow the plumber and electrician to start installing piping and cabling. Finishing trades follow on (plasterwork, finishing joinery, floor coverings, kitchens and bathrooms), and finally you are presented with the keys, usually with a small celebration, and everyone leaves you to enjoy your new timber frame house.

And, this is what the end result can look like.

For how many years do oak framed houses last?

The honest answer is that we don’t know. There are a great many examples of oak and elm oak framed houses that have lasted many hundreds of years and are still standing today. Their often gnarled appearance is due to the original presence of sapwood in the timber, which is prone to insect attack and rot, so has since disappeared to leave the only the heartwood.

When we build a frame, we do not use timbers with any substantial amount of sapwood (unless you specifically want it in your frame), so it is probably reasonable to conclude that our frames should be capable of lasting at least as long as their historic counterparts. As the frame dries out, the members get lighter and lock together making them stronger, so that it could be said to be at its most vulnerable when new.

Key to the longevity of the frame is the environment it is kept in. Frames can really only rot and degenerate if they get, and remain, wet. If kept in a dry state therefore, we could expect all of our frames to last indefinitely.

Just have a look out our conservation page to see how old some of the buildings we help to repair.

What maintenance do oak framed houses need?

Basically, there is no requirement for any maintenance of your oak frame other than what you may want to do for aesthetic purposes. You can, however, help the frame to settle in by being gentle with it when completing your build. The oak frame is built in green timber which will shrink over time, but the length of the shrinking process will be affected by the temperatures it is exposed to. If large industrial heaters are used to dry out the new building, this harsh and sudden heat is likely to increase the shrinkage splits. Similarly, suddenly high levels of central heating will increase the chance of the splits being pronounced. While this won’t damage the structural strength of the frame, it will make the frame look more ‘rustic’.

Can a building be oak framed and contemporary?

Definitely! While we are involved in projects from the very traditional to the ultra modern, in practice the vast majority sit somewhere in-between and take the benefits from both.

At Carpenter Oak & Woodland we love anything that’s new and exciting using natural wood. Working alongside architects and engineers to push the boundaries of design in timber stimulates new interest.

The more complicated geometry still draws on traditional carpentry skills and techniques, but no longer relies entirely on pegged mortice and tenon joints. It introduces stainless steel plates and brackets, pins, bolts, cables and rods. These modern technologies open up the possibilities of increased spans, of reducing movement where desirable, and of creating a simpler and ‘cleaner’ aesthetic by removing the visible bracing.

The real benefit of post and beam heavy timber frames is that they effortlessly and efficiently create the blank canvas to which the ideas of the clients and their architects can be added.

Check out our gallery to see some contemporary past projects.

What is green oak?

Green oak is oak that is unseasoned and has recently been felled.

We use green timber for the majority of frame construction – we’d never be able to find the big pieces significantly dried, and if we did, it would be likely that only the outside 75mm or so would be dry. 

Do you work sustainably?

Yes.  European forest cover is increasing by 3,500 square miles every year – an area the size of Cyprus or 100 football pitches every hour. As the tree grows and provides oxygen, it soaks up huge amounts of carbon dioxide emissions that would otherwise contribute to global warming. The accelerated growth rate of new timber means that a tree will absorb more carbon in the first 20 years than in the rest of its life. So, if we don’t manage the forests and don’t cut down and use the trees, then they will eventually die and decay, releasing back the carbon locked in the timber. So, providing we are cutting down and replanting, using trees has a positive effect. 

As well as supporting this industry in Europe, we work closely with the Woodland Trust charity in the UK, who campaign for, support, replenish and establish forests across the UK.

Check out our environment page to find out more about our policies.

Do you do conservation and or repair work on old oak frame buildings?

Yes. This forms a significant part of our work and we employ carpenters skilled in the conservation of historic oak frame buildings. Indeed, these unparalleled conservation skills and understanding of historic frames are part of the reason for the quality of our new builds. We can prepare joint-by-joint surveys of repairs on buildings, ranging from tiny sheds to large aisled barns.

We often save buildings which others write off as beyond repair. The most famous conservation projects we have carried out are the reinstatement of the lantern roof at Windsor Castle after the great fire and reinstatement of the medieval hammer beam roof in the Great Hall at Stirling Castle.

To find out more about our conservation services go to our dedicated microsite.

What makes your frames different?

Carpenter Oak & Woodland has over 25 years’ experience, during which it has created more hand-made bespoke oak framed houses than any other British company. Over the years we have won numerous prestigious awards for our work in all aspects of our business, giving us the name and reputation that we enjoy today.

Our reputation is based on our three key values below:

1. Design excellence. We do not just produce a frame that is good enough, but is the optimum frame for the overall building, the environment it sits in, and the clients’ requirements. A key to this is that we work alongside our partners to explore how the frame should look and perform.

2. The highest standards of manufacture. We invest heavily, and have always invested heavily in training the finest craftspeople. As a result, we have excellent people; recognised by the industry and, most importantly, our clients.

3. We are an ethical company striving for the highest standards of behaviour in everything we do. We have a strong commitment to environmental responsibility. We care about you and your project; whether you want advice, have concerns, or just want to chat, we are delighted to help out.

It is these values that, in short, ensure that we produce the finest hand crafted product money can buy.

Find out more about Carpenter Oak & Woodland here.

Do you do oak extensions?

Yes! A large part of what we do is oak framed extensions and is part of our core offering. Check out our page onextensions for more information or go to our gallery page to look through some past examples of our oak extension work.