Carpenter Oak is a specialist timber frame company based in Devon and Scotland (UK). We are award winning specialists in the design, construction and raising of timber framed buildings. We have a dedicated team of Project Managers, Timber Frame Designers and Carpenters who work closely with clients and architects to deliver a wide variety of bespoke timber frame projects across the UK, Europe and beyond.
We celebrate the beauty and joy of timber frames in many different styles and raise over 60 frames a year for inclusion within schemes ranging from oak extensions to extensive high-end architectural oak houses.
We love wood, we love design and we love a challenge.
If you want to work with a team of experts that can deliver a bespoke timber frame on time and on budget Carpenter Oak is the right choice.
At Carpenter Oak we live and breathe timber framed buildings, large and small, and we love a challenge. We create truly unique timber frames that respond to your brief giving you a bespoke 'made to measure' and personalised solution to your brief and budget.
Carpenter Oak is the most established and experienced timber frame company with yards in Devon and Scotland - we are well placed to supply design and timber framing services across the UK and beyond.
Yes! We only use handheld tools and power tools (such as chain mortisers, circular saws and drills) to cut and shape the timber. We are adaptable – we design and build bespoke frames (not repeat designs), often incorporate large beautiful curves within them and utilise a huge variety of structural framing techniques. Skilled carpenters adept in all the techniques and who can use their judgement in the selection of every timber and the cutting of every joint are therefore critical.
The same carpentry team carries their understanding of the frame right through to seeing it raised on site. We do not use large automated 'Hundegger' CNC machines to cut whole frames. We don’t believe in this way of doing things for a number of reasons: Hundeggers reduce your options – they only handle planed timber and give the finished frames a homogenised look (check the curved braces), they can't cope with large curved timbers such as slings and curved ties and, since the programming of the machines is so time consuming in relation to the cutting time, they are ideally suited to repeat designs.
We do not use large 'soulless' CNC machines, but favour a hand crafted approach which enables us to work in a variety of styles and with the most challenging designs – we work in Oak, Douglas Fir, Larch, Chestnut Glu-Lam, in contemporary, quirky and cutting-edge styles as well as in more established traditional designs.
Yes! We really care about where our materials come from and we do not compromise on timber quality, why should we? Our customers and architects understand the real value of high quality materials. Bought in at least 12 months before we need it to minimise the shrinkage of timber on critical (aesthetic and structural) elements.
PEFC certified sustainably managed woodlands in Normandy, France. When this mill is unable to fulfil our order we divert to an alternative mill in Germany. The mills have access to a plentiful supply of exceptionally well managed and very high quality timber.
Why not use UK sourced oak, I hear you ask? Sadly, the lack of investment and good timber management for hardwoods in this country over many years means our domestic supplies are generally of a lower quality, inconsistent supply and can be more expensive. Although the situation will gradually change, it means that currently continental Oak is the best option for our framing. Carpenter Oak Ltd are investing in the future of UK woodlands.
Our Douglas Fir and Larch all comes from sustainable, managed UK forests.
Is using oak sustainable? All of the timber we use is from sustainably managed forests (PEFC certified) and there is a plentiful supply. The total quantity of Oak we use as a company in one year re-grows in the forests of France within 24 hours. Moreover, the use of timber in construction encourages further planting and management and increases the value of our woodlands and forests; it forms an important part of the investment in our sustainable natural resources and protection of our environment.
Carpenter Oak Ltd are investing into the natural resources of the UK. As well as supporting sustainable European forests, we work closely with the Woodland Trust charity in the UK, who campaign for, support, replenish and establish forests across the UK.
Green Oak' is a term used to describe the unseasoned, freshly sawn oak which is used for timber framing. It is not a reference to the colour of the Oak, but rather to the fact that it was recently cut. It implies a moisture content of between 30%-80%.
Just to clear it up from the start Green refers to the amount of moisture in the timber rather than the colour!
Large section ('heavy') timber framing has a style and rawness of its very own which is everything to do with the material. Its style, rhythm and methods have developed hand in hand with the use of timber in its unseasoned state. Any potential problems that the shrinkage and movement of the timber could create are designed out at the detailing stage, creating modern buildings which retain all of the beauty and stature of their historic predecessors whilst meeting and exceeding our stringent modern standards of weathertightness, airtightness and insulation.
Oak has always been used by timber framers in its 'green' state for a variety of very good reasons:
- It is far easier to cut and shape.
- Seasoned beams deform significantly and develop splits, shakes and checks. This makes it far more difficult and time consuming to mark out and frame accurately.
- Storing timber is very expensive and time consuming and the resultant seasoned material can be anything from 2 to 5 times the price.
- Oak in fact takes several years to get anywhere near being dry and so after a year when it is cut, it is still wet to the touch. Even large section beams which are sold as seasoned or 'air-dry' are very far from being dry inside and will still undergo significant movement and shaking afterwards.
Although green oak accounts for 90% of of past new build houses we also regularly build in Douglas Fir, Larch and more recently Glulam (in a variety of timbers). These 3 form the primary fresh sawn building timbers in the UK due to their structural and durability characteristics and because there is a reliable & consistent, high quality supply of them. We also use Glulam (glue-laminated) beams. Glulams are available in a variety of different timbers as they use dry smaller section source material. Please note however they can be several times more expensive than fresh sawn timber.
In short: No. We use only quality timber classed as 'Highly Durable' for any outside elements. This means treatment is not necessary as the timber is naturally resistant to insect attack and decay. Internal timbers do not require any treatment except for an occasional brushing down to prevent dust build up.
Oak frames will shrink (between 8-10% across the width), split, bow and display surface checks and distortion as it dries out. Green Oak has a moisture content of between 60-80% and can be stored outside for long periods (it will gradually dry out). Air dried oak (3-8 years) will have a moisture content of 20-30% and will be relatively stable but usually more expensive.
Oak will mellow slightly in colour over time and outside it will gradually go to a silver colour (unless UV stabilised). These tendencies form a large part of the beauty and character of the timber for which timber frames are regarded and are taken into account in the architectural detailing of an oak house, creating modern timber buildings which are perfectly able to meet and exceed our stringent modern standards of weather tightness, airtightness and insulation.
Checks and shakes are the natural fissures which appear on the surface of an oak frame as it dries out. Checks are very small and shakes are deeper but never extend deeper than the centre of the timber. They are nothing to worry about and form part of the much loved character of timber framed buildings.
There are certain options for finishes that can be applied to a timber framed building, such as liming oils, stains, wax, sealer or paint. In the majority of cases the finish is applied to the timber frame at the decoration stage in the build process. In the majority of projects the frame is cleaned removing a microscopic layer of the oak beam revealing a uniform finish.
The cost of an Oak Frame depends on a huge number of variables. A timber frame for a house will cost more than an oak framed cabin for example.
We are proud of our product, service and materials, and provide great value for money. It would be understandable to assume that being a sizeable company we are therefore more expensive but this would be a mistake - we put a great deal of effort into ensuring we are competitive without compromise.
We build and raise in excess of 80 frames a year. We are experts in timber framing and can offer you the assurance of a fully insured highly skilled team, with the economies offered by our size.
The cost of an oak framed house may seem expensive to some but Carpenter Oak deliver maximum value for money. As theh old saying goes; buy cheap, pay twice.
As in most walks of life, if it looks too good to be true then it probably is. You get what you pay for and if the price is the only factor which drives you then you will always find someone who is willing to cut corners and do things cheaper. We are confident in our competitiveness and can say with some experience that there will be a reason for a substantially lower price even if it is not obvious to you. This can mean that things have been left out of the price (a common tactic) or it can mean that the service you would receive in terms of project management and design support and guidance is not as complete which can simply increase your costs elsewhere. It can mean a lesser grade of materials, less time spent on the craftsmanship or cheaper, less skilled labour.
We are different and instead pursue excellence (our Award Winning track record speaks for itself). We are the best at what we do whilst maintaining affordability, accurate and realistic pricing. We seek the trust and loyalty of our clients as this is the basis of positive working relationships which last beyond the raising of the frame.
Probably less than you think!
Budget considerations are of course one of the primary factors for anyone undertaking an oak frame self build project whether it's a new build oak frame or a timber frame extension. 'How much will it cost?' is therefore a question which will be asked over and over and will almost certainly form a central thread of your project.
Overall build costs for a complete new build oak house typically vary from £2,500 to £3,500+ per square metre (referring to the total area of the lower and upper floors added together) i.e. for a two storey property times the ground floor area by 2.
If you intend to self build then expect to budget toward the lower end of the scale (although of course it may take longer!).
- Access - Difficult access affects the whole build not just the timber frame aspect, but don't panic if your site is tricky as there is usually a solution for the most extreme cases. We love a challenge at Carpenter Oak Ltd.
- Size - smaller doesn't necessarily mean cheaper!
- Ground conditions
- Specification - Kitchens alone can vary from £1,000 to £100,000.
- Design and shape - a house designed with a timber frame in mind from the outset will be more efficient to build. Consider this at the planning stage.
- Complexity of the building and its shape - A 'H' shaped will be more expensive to build than a rectangle.
- Good information and knowledge from the architect, builder, timber framer and the rest of the team you employ.
At every stage your decisions will affect the overall costs, from the complexity of the design to the level of finish. Engaging an architect will almost certainly save you money in the long run. Getting advice from us on the timber frame concept prior to going in for planning will minimise the risk of sending your architect 'back to the drawing board'.
A timber frame can be a simple primary structure or a partial one in a certain area of your house. It can incorporate fully raftered vaulted roof spaces, mezzanine floors, balconies and fully joisted areas, all of which will affect the price of the frame. Areas such as the roof structure can be done in revealed oak frame or can be entirely hidden and done by your builder in softwood. This will affect your overall cost to some extent but will vary the value of our work significantly.
The timber frame is just one element of your overall build cost and can typically range from 15% - 30% of the overall figure. All of our frames are unique and so there are no standard price or designs. We do show a variety of designs in our pack however with corresponding frame prices and overall build prices which will help you to get a good sense of the cost. The cost of a frame often ranges from £300 - £500 per square metre.
As soon as you have architects drawings, we can offer you an estimate for the manufacture and raising of the frame. We generally offer clients a fixed price.
3 months is a good estimate for building timber frame
The full process of creating a new timber framed home can take longer. Once you have found a site it can take around a year to draw up a design, obtain planning permission, then work up a detailed design and get through Building Regulation approval. In the case of extensions it will still take 4 to 8 months to get the stage of being able to start construction. It can then take from 3 months to construct on site (dependant on the size of the project and building team). If you keep in close communication with us and give us the go ahead promptly our design process can continue alongside the architects work on the design.
Our construction time is around 10-12 weeks from having signed off drawings to being on site. However, one of the major advantages of timber frame is that the carpentry can be taking place in our workshops while your builder is starting on site and getting the groundwork done. Once they are ready, the really exciting part comes next: raising the frame! This only takes a week or less, allowing you to push straight on with wrapping the structure with SIPs, straw-bale, or brick and block, and getting the roof on – you will be watertight very soon afterwards.
We are able to make it easy for you by being approachable, knowledgeable and professional. Whether it is an oak frame and glazing service, complete build or an oak and SIPS wrap service you need we can help get you there easily.
We have an experienced team of designers, carpenters and office staff. Everybody in senior roles has been a carpenter with vast experience of timber framing on the workshop floor. It would seem obvious for a carpentry firm but this is rare. We thrive on the differences between each and every one of our projects, overcoming the challenges of the build (access, design and budget constraints) while developing a strong rapport with our customers.
approximately 80 projects a year ensuring a personal service - whatever the size of the build. We are large enough to have capacity yet small enough to be versatile and flexible which is important when your timescale is quite tight!
Devon and ScotlandWe take on oak frame house or extension projects in all corners of the UK, Ireland & the Channel islands as well as Europe and beyond (in the last 5 years we have sent frames and raising teams to France, Germany, Cyprus, Holland & Russia).
The whole Carpenter Oak Team will be involved in your project. Choosing Carpenter Oak Ltd, you are choosing a whole team – a client manager to facilitate the initial stages of your enquiry and ensure your requirements are fully understood, the Frame Designer who works intensively with you and your architect to interpret your brief and develop a detailed design which fits into your overall building, the Project Management team who oversee the making and raising of your frame and a team of skilled Timber Framers who undertake the workshop carpentry and raising. Each step is crucial and we have a very committed, skilled and experienced team.
No, we do not currently offer a complete build service, but we can still help you to achieve your dream of a timber framed home. We have developed our network of experts for over 30 years and can recommend architects and builders to help you with your project. Please get in touch with us today about what you’re planning.
Bespoke, hand crafted and uniquely designed, an exposed timber frame offers the character, beauty and aesthetic that many people crave in their home and which is missing from so many modern buildings. Timber frame homes are designed to be entirely self-supporting, removing the need for interior walls. This allows for magnificent cathedral-style roof spaces which are uninterrupted by ceilings, with open plan living for a light and spacious feel. Wood’s eco-friendliness is three fold: Our frames are traditionally hand-crafted, which reduces the carbon impact of construction; wood is a highly sustainable building material as it soaks up CO2 while growing, and the wood we use is from fast-growing PEFC certified forests which increase in size by 1.5% every year. Far from cutting down forests, buy a Carpenter Oak frame and you’ll be contributing to them. Additionally, for every tree used in your project, we’ll donate a further 10 oak saplings for planting in the UK, something we have been doing for over a quarter of a century.
We take pride in the skill and craftsmanship which goes into each and every frame, but this doesn’t mean we’re stuck in the dark-ages! Indeed far from it: we thrive on pushing the boundaries of timber frame design, with many of our contemporary cutting edge projects winning awards. Your timber frame can be finished in any material, to blend in to any environment and suit your local planning requirements, the finishes available meet and exceed modern building regulations. The frame is built in our workshops meaning no disruption on site until it is ready to be raised, which usually takes our team 5 days in total on site, leaving you the skeleton which can be closed in and watertight within days. Timber frames are adaptable and flexible - they can be easily ‘bolted’ onto with an extension at a later date, the only limit is your imagination.
We encourage you to talk to us at an early stage. We welcome hearing about your ideas and plans and can offer you advice along the way. Obviously we hope to be able to build you an oak frame when your new build or extension comes to fruition and if you include us in discussions about design and site particulars at an early stage it will enable your architect to understand the requirements of the timber frame and incorporate them into the overall design early on. This is likely to save you money, time and hassle in the long run.
Almost certainly, yes. For all but the simplest projects there are a surprising number of elements to think about. Carpenter Oak Ltd can help you find an architect who specialises in timber frame design and detailing. Your architect doesn't have to to have a vast experience in timber framing to result in a successful project- a willingness to be involved is usually enough - combined with our knowledge and experience to have an enjoyable experience.
Carpenter Oak Ltd are foremost structural timber framing designers & carpenters and although we can look after you in terms of the design of your frame and our frame designers have an extensive understanding of architectural demands and parameters, we do not take on the architectural side of things. We offer guidance and support to your architect.
You will need an architect (in most cases) if you need planning permission or building regulations/ construction drawings. You will be able to gather accurate builder estimates if you have detailed drawings. The more detail the more accurate the price will be. We are happy to refer you to an expert architect who specialise in timber frame design and architecture.
Yes. Around 50% of our work involves working with clients' own architects. You may have someone in mind, or just prefer the idea of using someone local to you, but it's important to use an architect who has experience in incorporating timber framing into their buildings. If they don’t have the experience then there is an element of learning which will need to go on, with timber framing being a very different way of detailing - it's not rocket science but needs a willingness to understand. We have developed a set of Typical Construction Details (TCD's) over the years which are available free of charge as a reference material for the detailing of the building. The TCD's may not be the exact solution for your project but will point your architect in the right direction. We release these details once a deposit is paid.
The other 50% of our projects involve the expertise of Roderick James Architects. View Roderick James Architects Website, award winning timber frame specialist architects who have worked alongside us for over 20 years – because of this the symbiosis of frame and detailing is very smooth and this can have real benefits and cost savings for you as a client. That said we enjoy being challenged and pushed in different directions by the ideas that our clients and their architects have – it's one of the joys of framing and building houses. We don’t impose our own style on you – we are always open to innovation and new ideas.
We regularly build oak frames for renovations and barn conversions. A timber oak frame structure is ideal if the existing building is in structurally poor condition. The oak frame can slot into the fabric of the building to then carry the new roof etc.
You will need to find a builder to undertake the project as a whole but we are happy to design and build a frame for you or to give your builder dimensions. We can deliver this to site either as a kit or with the carpenters who made the frame, dependent on the size.
Yes! We design and build a wide variety of timber frame extensions. A timber frame is often the perfect solution to your need to extend or renovate and can be tailored to your particular situation giving you an oak beam WOW factor to your home. Whether small or large, single or two storey pitched roof or lean-to, solid roof or fully glazed, or if its a substantial 2 storey extension to double the size of your property.
We have created numerous oak framed extensions, timber framed conservatories, oak framed garden rooms or oak orangeries. Whether you would like minimal oak, a feature oak truss, or maybe you are looking for a traditional style or a contemporary twist. We can build virtually anything you require to a range of budgets.
Sometimes yes! Most of the time we design, build and raise the timber frame. Finding a good builder that you can work with and trust is therefore an important first step. (We can help with this if you give us a ring.) On select smaller and more local projects however we do take on more of the build and we can discuss including the groundworks if required. The best thing to do is pick up the phone and talk to us about your project as each one is different.
Timber Engineering' is a term which describes the use of timber within engineered structural solutions. Often it involves the combination of timber structural elements and steelwork and is often used in adventurous, exciting and large scale architectural designs, minimising the sections and mass of individual elements whilst achieving spans and shapes which are way beyond the capability of traditional carpentry. Computers have revolutionised our ability to carry out structural analysis and 3-D modelling and have made the construction of even the most complex structures possible, but the same approach can also be used sparingly within a house frame to achieve larger spans or very complex junctions, or to reduce the amount of timber needed within a frame.
The majority of our work are new builds, re-builds and extensions but our company roots lie partly in conservation & repair work and we have all the necessary knowledge and experience needed.
Usually this kind of work requires a site visit, advice and a report before the work is agreed in discussion with the engineer, architect and conservation officer. We regularly work on a consultancy basis during that phase and if there is a frame to build at the end then we can take that on too.
Modern timber framing encompasses the use of a variety of materials and techniques. If you are not looking for the traditional Oak-frame style there are still plenty of options.
Douglas Fir is a common alternative and is still a high quality framing timber. It still checks and shakes but somewhat less so than oak and retains its straightness even years down the line. This gives a much cleaner appearance and so tends to be used more for contemporary frames. If you want an even crisper look, the Douglas can be planed and because it has a much lower moisture content, it can take a light surface treatment such as liming oil which gives a cleaner appearance.
Glulams can be used and are available in a variety of different timbers. Glue laminated timbers are very stable - 8-12% moisture - and it can be used with similar applications to steel (large spans and stable). They are planed, straight and clean and have very few surface anomalies. They can be easily treated with decorative finishes. Please note however they are significantly more expensive than fresh sawn timber and need special care during the framing process to maintain a clean surface and dry storage.
Yes! We offer a nationwide oak frame glazing service of our oak frame houses or timber extensions. Read more about our oak frame glazing services.
One of the joys of timber framing is the possibilities it offers for the use of light within your build. The sense of drama, excitement and fun which can be achieved with the combination of the frame and glazing are the major aspects to the aesthetic of timber frame building. Most of our frames are glazed with a mixture of applied glazing, floor to ceiling glazed panels, glazed roofs, velux-style roof lights and glazed joinery which provides opening doors and windows. The slenderness and spacing of the supporting timbers means that you can have a great deal of glass and relatively little interference to your view. The detailing has all been thought through and established over a long period of time; it's all possible and really just up to you to let your ideas flow. We can offer technical detail sheets and plenty of advice to your architect to incorporate glazing into your build. Come and discuss your ideas with us!
The most commonly used timber framed double glazing unit is 24mm thick; this is constructed from two 4mm sheets of glass with a 16mm argon gas filled void. These units can be applied to areas up to 2.5 m², for areas larger than this it is necessary to use 28mm units which are constructed from two 6mm sheets of glass with a 16mm argon gas filled void. This increase in unit thickness does mean that a much larger glazed area is possible, however, of course there is a cost implication to this.
The beauty of our applied timber frame glazing system is that any shrinkage of the green oak frame is allowed to occur independently from the glass, thus ensuring a fully weatherproof seal that is maintained.
Its construction sees the glazed panels applied to the outside face of the structure and clamped into position with dry oak cover boards around the perimeter of the window opening.
Sub-frame joinery units are installed in a similar manner. Inserted into pre-cut rebates and clamped with an external oak cover board they benefit from an additional adjustable fixing through the unit into the oak frame, allowing the sub-frame unit to accommodate any movement in the oak frame.
Accidents do happen and it is possible for crushed glass to break. However, the beauty of applied glazing is that the whole construction can be reopened at any stage to repair or replace any broken or failed unit with relatively little upheaval.
We use code 4 lead as standard for timber frame glazing flashings, however we are able to offer alternative flashings such as copper if required.
£500 per m² is a good estimate. A very rough figure of £500 per m² can cautiously be applied, as there could be factors which alter this figure, for example access and the location of the site, and also the size, shapes, and type of glass required.
Using the best possible materials is of greatest importance, to eliminate any chance for dramatic movement or splitting over time. Top grade air dried oak cover boards are used to provide optimum natural weatherproofing performance and stability, however other materials such as Western Red Cedar can be used achieving an alternative aesthetic.
Firstly, it's important to say that we advocate that the frame is not exposed to the outside. That means that it can be finished in a variety of ways. The choices are extensive, and that means that wherever you are in the country (or world!) you can adopt a vernacular which is in keeping with the style of the buildings around you (and keep on the good side of the planning authorities!)
The insulation build up can be done on site or using SIPS panels (Structural Insulated Panels). Outside of that our clients finish buildings in an outer layer of brickwork, rendered block, weatherboarding, natural stone, slate, shingle, glass.
SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) - are an advanced method of timber frame construction. SIPs offer superior insulation, structural strength and air-tightness over traditional construction methods or systems.
SIP panels are used in floors, walls and roofs for residential, industrial, educational and commercial applications, providing ecologically friendly and energy efficient buildings. They are custom made and pre-manufactured before arriving on site, therefore saving on time and waste.
They are highly eco-friendly with a U value of 0.15, saving on energy costs and reducing the impact on our environment. For more detailed information, visit our SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) page.
Getting planning permission can seem like a daunting and complicated process. For a full explanation of how to go about getting planning permission for an oak framed house take a look at Our Oak Frame Planning Permission Page.
We all have that idyllic image in our minds of the perfect spot for our timber frame house, and what a feeling when you find it! There are a few things to consider when searching for your plot. Access is important, although Carpenter Oak Ltd have the experience and technology to negotiate the quirkiest of sites. We use a range of cranes (some are small and nimble enough to get through doorways) as well as hand winch cranes for access to more challenging ground. Do bare in mind that there is always a compromise with whichever plot you find. It is the skill of the architect to design out the problems! We’re happy to discuss your plans at any stage of your project, contact us to discuss any queries with your potential plot of land.
A timber frame house is able to be finished in any material and blend in to any environment to suit your local planning requirements. Timber frame is therefore favoured by planners and the thoughtful design and high quality of build is often a winner. The system we use employs the oak frame as the internal skeleton with the skin after the insulation being render, stone, brick, cladding, glass or a combination. It is totally flexible for the surroundings you are building in.
We have raised frames in Russia, Cyprus, remote Scottish islands, City Centres, flat sites, in flood plains, by rivers and sloping sites. We have transported the timber by boat, sited cranes on river beds and carried entire house frames onto site by hand. We have lifted frames over houses, squeezed down Cornwall lanes and build frames on site rather than in the workshop. We always welcome a challenge and would be happy to hear from you whatever your brief.
Depending on where you are, we are likely to be able to suggest builders which we have worked with before.