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Pros & Cons of Masonry & Timber Frame Construction for House Extensions

pros & cons of masonry & timber frame

Masonry & Timber Frame Construction

For a self-builder it can be difficult to decide between whether to use traditional masonry construction, or to use a timber frame construction for their house extension.

The most pertinent deciding factors are, and always will be, cost and time. But consideration also needs to be given to quality of the construction, the structural capability of the exiting building to take the proposed extension, environmental factors (ground conditions) etc., the influence of regulations, the benefits of reducing carbon emissions, the longevity of the materials, and maintenance.

Subsequently, we have put together a summary of some of the main pros & cons of masonry & timber frame construction in order to help you decide which suits your project ambitions, budget, and programme best.



Why Use It?

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it “ – Mr. Contractor

This is still the obvious choice for the majority of self-builders. Its relatively cheap, contractors are used to it, they all do it, and they all like it. It’s nice and simple. Nine times out of ten your general builder will recommend you use masonry construction.

Security. One thing you won’t get if you choose the standard bricks and mortar method to build your extension is the contractor reeling off excuses about being delayed because the supplier for bricks has gone bust, unless you choose a particularly rare brick (not recommended by the way). On the other hand, choose to build your house from Norwegian spruce glulam beams only made in a small factory in Lillehammer and you may have a different storey.

So, bricks and mortar is reliable, it’s tested, it works, and it lasts. Put simply, it’s the safe option, and there aren’t many situations where it isn’t an option in the UK.

Aesthetically it is in keeping with the majority of the UK housing stock and it can provide all the thermal properties required in order to meet the Building Regulations.

Why you wouldn’t use it

Time: The first reason you may choose not to use masonry construction is because of time. It’s not as fast as prefabricated frames options. This means disruption on site for weeks normally, depending on the size of the job, and if you are living in the property can be more hassle than prefabricated options which go up much quicker.

Loading: If you have a bungalow and want to extend it vertically, masonry as a construction method for the first floor will put a lot of loading on the existing building. Many of the bungalows in the UK were built post-war and cheaply, with shallow foundations, and they were not designed to have effectively their own weight put on top of them. So, if you’re adding a new floor to a bungalow you may want to consider using a timber frame or SIPs instead of masonry.

Pros & Cons of Traditional Masonry


+ Contractors know it and they like using it.

+ Its relatively inexpensive.

+ It lasts and is low maintenance

+ It’s readily available: low lead in time, easily supplied.

+ It’s low risk.

+ It is in keeping with most buildings in the UK.


– Slow construction time.

– More disruption to yourself and your neighbours.

– Loading may not be appropriate for vertical extensions especially on bungalows.

– Walls will be thicker than other forms of construction.



Why use it?

It’s fast. The key benefit of using timber frame for your self-build is speed. A prefabricated timber frame can be constructed much quicker when compared to traditional masonry construction. Once all the pieces have been formed off site they can be assembled on site often within a period of only a few days. This saves you a lot of hassle.

It also allows for thinner walls, meaning you can increase the gross internal floor area slightly when compared with masonry. This is because the insulation sits in-between the structural elements themselves, as opposed to being sandwiched between to leaves of 100mm thick structural masonry.

It is lighter than masonry and therefore may provide a more suitable option for vertical extensions on some projects.

Why wouldn’t you use it?

All contractors are used to building using masonry construction; however this isn’t necessarily the case with timber frame. At least not in the UK. Therefore, you may need to be more selective with your choice of contractor.

As far as cost goes there isn’t much difference between timber frame and masonry construction. Whilst it used to be argued that the shorter construction period offered by timber frame construction reduced the contractor’s preliminary costs and overheads, there really isn’t much in it. If anything however, you can expect to pay slightly more for a timber frame building than for traditional masonry.

Pros & Cons of timber frame construction


+ On site construction time is much shorter than masonry

+ External wall thickness can be thinner

+ It is lighter than masonry construction

+ Considered more environmentally friendly than masonry 


–  Not as commonly used as masonry construction

–  Slightly more expensive when compared to masonry


Further reading on timber frame building:

Timber Frame Buildings – Some of the key points about using a timber frame for your build.

Find a timber frame supplier – Timber frame supplier directory UK

TRADA – Timber Research and Development Association  – The leading resource on timber in construction in the UK



1      Is either method of construction more likely get planning approval?

The success of the planning application will be dependent on the external appearance of the building and therefore the method of construction chosen is unlikely to affect the outcome of planning since brick slips can be applied to a timber framed house, or render can be applied to a masonry house.

2      What do the Building Regulations say?

As long as the energy performance criteria are met by the envelope of the building and the structural detailing is compliant then both methods are perfectly acceptable to Building Control.

3      Which option is more energy efficient?

Both masonry and timber frame construction can achieve the same energy efficiency as the other. One plus of timber construction however is that it can do so using a thinner profiled wall. Therefore if internal space is important it may be worth exploring the use of a timber frame in order to cut down on wall thickness.


Finally, if you’re planning an extension and can’t decide on what construction method to use, or if you already know and require professional drawings for your project, please get in touch to ask a question.

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