Eternal as the universe itself, the question is unwelcomed as a Monday morning – What type of home should you choose?
Should you follow the lead of builders in North America and Scandinavia, who predominantly choose wood homes? Or should you opt for a brick-and-mortar home, still popular in Lithuania and other central and eastern parts of Europe.
The question has perplexed many specialists. Many have tried to answer it. But many self-builders are still confused. It is our time to give you a straight answer.
Which is the Superior Material?
Although no official statistics exist, our experience suggests that at least in Lithuania, houses are still more likely to depend on masons, rather than carpenters. New homebuyers tend to choose brick homes because they care about the price, the duration of the construction work, the fire risks and thermal-insulation properties of their home.
But they let appearances deceive them. On closer inspection, wooden homes are superior in every regard described above. Let us explain.
Differences in Construction Cost
It is commonly accepted that the construction cost of a brick home is much cheaper than wood. Nevertheless, many potential homebuyers are surprised to find evidence of the contrary.
Yes, high-quality timber is more expensive than brick blocks, but a timber-frame house is lighter than a brick house. Thus house foundations need not be as deep and massive, meaning – savings.
Another important cost variable to consider is thermal resistance. Comparing two homes of equal thermal resistance, per square meter price of a timber-frame wall is far lower than that of masonry. That is because in timber-frame homes, insulating material is installed inside the structure, not on top of it. Installing insulation on top of a masonry inevitably requires an additional frame, further compounding the costs.
Additionally, any timber-frame and brick house of the same energy efficiency class will have varying widths of the exterior and interior walls. Masonry walls with insulation will be at least 20 centimeters wider. Useful living space is thus lost because the insulation is installed on top of masonry, as opposed to inside the timber-frame.
Comparing the overall construction costs, the choice is between a higher energy efficiency class timber-frame home and a lower class masonry. It’s really a no-bricker.
Differences in Building Speeds
Building a timber-frame home is usually up to 2x faster because there is almost no “wet” work involved, i.e. there’s no need to wait around for concrete or mortar to harden, or for plaster to dry. Factory-produced timber-frame homes can be erected on-site in a matter of days.
Additionally, the construction speed is not contingent on weather conditions: timber-frames can be installed even during the winter season. Insulation is installed from inside, so after erecting external walls and putting up a roof, thermal insulation works can begin even in most precarious weather conditions. Meanwhile, bricklaying or facade insulation works, are constantly behind schedule, delayed in rainy autumn and snowy winter.
Safety in Case of a Fire
No one wants to go through the nightmare of seeing their own house engulfed in flames. Perhaps that’s why first-time homebuyers, wary of fire risks, follow the advice from the tale of “Three little pigs” and opt for a brick home.
But, although wood is (of course) a more flammable material – it is not the full story. First, it is not to be forgotten that most brick houses have wooden overlays and wooden roof frames. Second, and more importantly, fire risks depend heavily on the quality of insulation materials.
Here at Cedar Homes, we only use the highest quality wood, hemp or jute fiber, and we only use materials that have been proven to be far more fire-resistant than glass wool or polystyrene, which are commonly used as insulation in brick-and-mortar homes.
As an advantage, we also side with house-building regulations which require wooden homes to have protection against lightning, significantly reducing the likelihood of a fire. Brick homes do not face the same regulations, and many self-builders simply ignore the risks.
On a different point, proponents of brick-and-mortar homes like to point at higher insurance costs for wooden homes. Prices do vary, but the final cost will depend on the circumstances. Wooden house insurance costs can be up to 20% higher, but factoring in the energy efficiency and the economics of house-building, this cost is more than compensated for.
One of the most common myths in house-building is that wooden homes are not suitable for climate conditions characterized by sharp differences in seasons: scorching summers and biting winters. This myth can be disproven by simply pointing at the North American and Scandinavian countries, where despite differences in seasons most homes are built from timber.
Wooden homes have ideal thermal-insulation properties, meaning that your home will retain its warmth in a bitter winter, and will be cool in a flaming summer. Such excellent thermal insulation properties are inherent in the very timber used for construction. Nevertheless, insulation matters. And because the insulation is installed inside the timber frame, any insulation material will fill in the gaps better and lead to a higher level of energy efficiency.
Furthermore, masons like to argue that because wood is a natural material, it bends and deforms over time. Temperature differences, they say, can lead to cracks and thus air leaks.
That is nonsense. We can ensure you that this only happens when builders use poor quality wood, that hasn’t been properly treated, and such inefficiencies only materialize when numerous errors in the construction and insulation works have been made.
Wooden houses must be built only from the highest-quality timber (preferably conifer), which has been properly dried, treated, graded and cut to perfection. When timber is dried in special-purpose furnaces, as well as properly installed and insulated – its structural integrity will not change. It will not bend, twist, turn or crack. Its durability will last a lifetime.
Similarly, contrary to other myths, properly treated and installed timber will not become a habitat for insects or mould.
Why are brick-and-mortar homes still popular?
In light of all the advantages timber has over brick-and-mortar, why do so many homeowners still choose the latter?
The main reason – a more immediate supply of materials and masonry construction services. Additionally, self-builders quite often choose to prolong the construction process. They lay the foundations during the first year, erect walls the next, install a roof during the third, and so on. Masonry construction method allows for this. Meanwhile, timber-frame houses can’t be left half-finished and exposed to unpredictable weather conditions for long – so construction works must be completed as soon as possible.
But, in conclusion, it is mistaken to believe masonry to be a quicker, cheaper or more energy-efficient way of building your home. Neither should you worry about your home catching on fire, as long as wooden homes are built using properly-treated timber, and high-quality insulation materials.
Professional carpenters and high-quality materials ensure that timber-frame homes are superior to masonry in almost every regard.