Timber construction is common across the world and, more particularly, in the USA, Europe and Australia. While it enjoys popularity in South Africa as well, timber construction carries with it a few misconceptions in the marketplace. In this article, we debunk five of the most common myths about timber construction.
1. Timber construction represents a fire hazard
Some may find it surprising, but in the unlikely event of a fire, wood performs better than many other building materials. It chars and burns at a slower rate and is less likely to melt or collapse. Built correctly and according to national building codes (incorporating a variety of modern fire retardant materials and techniques), a timber home comfortably measures up to South African fire safety requirements.
2. Timber homes don’t last as long as brick and mortar homes
If built by a qualified builder who adheres to all national building codes and diligently maintained, a timber frame home can last lifetimes. Unlike other building materials, wood is a ‘living’ thing and its durability is underpinned by its superb adaptability to the elements and inherent, natural strength properties.
3. Timber is not as strong as other building materials
Timber is a naturally light and durable building material that has stood the test of time – and continues to do so. Available in many forms and strength grades, the right type of timber should be used for the application in question. In South Africa, structural Pine (S5) treated to H3 or H4, which we normally use for timber framing, has a strength-to-weight ratio four times that of unreinforced concrete in compression and 20% higher than that of structural steel.1
4. Timber frame construction is only for holiday homes
In South Africa, timber houses have more often than not taken the shape of beachside holiday homes or safari lodges, but with a gentle approach to the environment, a potentially negative carbon footprint and short construction time, timber frame is ideal for just about anywhere. Statistics show that a staggering 70% of the developed world’s population lives in timber frame homes. Up to 90% of this number is made up collectively by Canada, the US and New Zealand, and 20% by the UK.2 While timber frame construction has had limited market share in South Africa in the past, it is seeing good uptake in the local residential market, proving that this building material is not just for holiday homes, but for every-day residential homes as well.
5. The banks will not finance my timber frame home
Major South African banks have the same approach to financing a timber frame home as they do a brick and mortar home. If you qualify for a bond in line with the financial institutions’ basic credit requirements and your home is built correctly and according to all national building standards and regulations by a qualified timber frame builder, you will get a bond to build or buy a timber frame home.
Remember: When you’re ready to invest in a timber frame home, make sure that the builder you employ is a member of the Institute for Timber Construction (ITC-SA) as well as the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC).
1 Cronje, J. ‘10 Good Reasons to Consider Building a Timber Frame Home.’ www.timberdesign.co.za/10-good-reasons-to-consider-building-a-timber-frame-home/ Accessed: 26 August 2015.
2 Cronje, J. ‘Timber Homes.’ http://timberdesign.co.za/timber-homes/ Accessed: 4 September 2015.