How to choose a construction system for a self build

How to choose a construction system for a self build

From brick and block to the latest modern structural alternatives, here’s how to decide on a build system that works for you

The construction system you choose will affect the look, layout, budget and running costs of your new home. We look at the more traditional brick and block and timber frame options and the latest modern build alternatives so you can make the best choice for your dream home

Go for brick and block

Brick and block is the most common construction system in the UK. It features brickwork on the outside and blockwork within. The cavity between the two provides space for insulation and helps combat damp.

What to consider

  • Brick and block construction is versatile and allows lots of variations and styles of build.
  • It is a popular choice so it is easy to find tradespeople who will work at competitive rates.
  • Materials are easy to source.
  • All the work is carried out on site.
  • Allow 20 weeks plus for the build, but remember progress can be hampered by very wet or freezing conditions.

Pick a timber frame

A timber frame system supports the whole building and, unlike brick and block, there are no internal load-bearing walls. Options include conventional open or closed timber frames or green oak, post and beam construction methods.

What to consider

  • Timber frame construction gives you the option of an open-plan or partitioned layout, which can be altered in the future relatively inexpensively.
  • Erecting a timber frame requires a specialist. You will usually need to commission for both the fabrication and the erection of a timber frame.
  • Factor in time for the design to be planning approved and pass Building Regs.
  • A basic package will take 12 weeks from the design stage.
  • Frames are constructed off-site so the build is less reliant on good weather. Once on site the project should be completed to watertight in less than two weeks.

Opt for insulated concrete formwork

Insulated concrete formwork or ICF is a modern alternative to brick and block construction. Hollow blocks create a mould that is filled with readymixed concrete. The structure is finished in a cladding of your choice.

What to consider

  • ICF supply companies offer training so self-builders can do a lot of the work themselves.
  • Get professional assistance to ensure the first course is level.
  • This is a quick-build system with cheaper labour costs than brick and block.

Try structured insulated panel

Structured insulated panels or SIPs offer a modern alternative to timber frames. Each panel is made of two layers of board bonded around a core of insulation.

What to consider

  • SIPs can be supplied as a whole house kit or as individual panels for walls, floors and roofs.
  • The panels can be used to create truss-less roofs that make the most of loft spaces.
  • Because SIPs are prefabricated, they save time and labour costs on site.
  • With an experienced team, the structure of a SIPs house can be erected in three days.

Get more inspirational advice on build systems from the grand designers at Grand Designs Live.

Words Anna-Marie Desouza, from original article on Grand Designs Magazine.

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