Building a Timber Frame Extension


At Acre Design, we love timber frame as a construction method for building an extension. Timber frame construction is great because it can often save you money and it is nice and quick to build. On top of this, it is a sustainable building material. When people are choosing to extend their homes, timber frame is becoming more and more popular in Newcastle and the North East, due to these benefits. It is also becoming a really popular method for constructing new build homes. Masonry is still a favoured choice for many, however we will discuss the pros and cons when compared with timber frame.

What is timber frame construction?

Timber frame is the term for a construction system utilising panelised structural walls and floors. These are constructing using small sections of timber studs, clad with boarding. The timber frame carries the vertical and horizontal loads to the foundations of your home. If you require your structural shell to be erected quickly or if you are expecting poor weather conditions (common in Newcastle), a timber frame is a great solution.

The timber frame can be prefabricated and brought on-site to be erected or using the ‘stick build’ method, your carpenter will construct the frame onsite. Platform frame is the most commonly used method in the UK. Using this method, each storey is framed with floor-to-ceiling height panels and the floor deck of one floor becomes the erection platform of the next.

Unfortunately, you may find it tricky to find a manufacturer who will prefabricate a timber frame for your extension, they tend to prefer to construct whole homes. Extensions tend to require quite a bit more technical input than new builds. However, where very accurate measurements of the existing home are provided, this is sometimes possible. Prefabricated timber frames can also be very costly to transport, which puts a lot of buyers and manufacturers off.

So, the vast majority of extensions in England are built using stick build timber frame construction. The carpenter would then be able to make your panels to suit your project, onsite. Timber frame construction usually requires less deliveries of materials when compared with other methods, this means happier neighbours too!

Environmental impact

Tress lock in carbon dioxide and expel oxygen so are a means of combating global warming. Therefore, if we increase the use of timber in the construction business, we increase the need for tree planting. On the back of this, more carbon dioxide emissions will be absorbed by these trees. Furthermore, timber is a renewable building material – in principle if one tree is felled, another is planted in its place. Hopefully, an increase in the use of this construction method will result in the growth of forests to supply the demand.

The use of bricks and concrete rely on the extraction of finite raw materials. Steel is also less environmentally friendly as it takes far more CO2 to process than timber.


The cost of a timber frame extension is generally lower than where other methods are used. This is mostly because it takes a lot less time to construct, meaning a lot less charge for labour. For builders, it is cheaper to price as the timescale is more predictable as it can be constructed in pretty much any weather conditions – builders don’t have to worry about missing days of work because of the weather. Factory costs and availability are more predictable and fluctuate a lot less with timber. This means you can price your construction a lot more accurately than with other construction methods.

Timber frame strength and suitability

As long as they are designed properly by a good architect, timber frame structures are strong and robust. At Acre Design, our designs ensure that we optimise the amount of material for the required strength. This means that the design is both the most cost efficient and reduces waste materials as much as possible.

Speedy construction

When compared to a brick and block construction, a prefabricated timber frame can come together far faster. Speeding up this part of the process means that your plasterer, electrician and plumber can get started far sooner than they would with brick and block. If you are cladding in dry plasterboard, once the building is watertight, the frame must be left to allow it’s moisture content to stabilise. However, this method is still far quicker than using mortar.

Timber frames can also be constructed in low temperatures, which brick and block work can’t.  Though the architectural design of your timber frame may take more time than the design of a traditional build, meaning a possibly slower start on site if you are in a hurry. Your timber frame structure can be made wind and watertight in a matter of days, as opposed to a number of weeks when other methods are used.

Quality of timber frames

Higher quality can often be achieve with timber frame than that of other construction methods. As it is fabricated off site, the process is done in a controlled, dry and optimum environment. When compared with methods constructed onsite, this generally provides a better quality level as things such as weather, site muck etc. can impact on on-site construction methods. Sometimes, the fabricators will also erect the timber frame on-site, this is really good continuity as they will fully understand your design.

Acoustic performance

You may not get the same level of sound insulation with timber frame structures as you would with concrete or masonry. Timber frame is not as dense. However, you can improve this by constructing two separate wall leaves with a gap between them. This gap can then be filled with sound absorbing material. You could also use a slightly denser material than plasterboard or use more than one layer of plasterboard.

Fire safety with timber frame

Often, there is a perception that timber frame structures are at more risk of fire. All forms of construction need to comply with the fire performance requirements laid down by national building regulations. Timber frame dwellings have no difficulty in meeting the required levels, given correct design, standards of manufacture and workmanship. However, additional fire protection can be added by boarding it. You can also install fire-stops within the cavity to protect your home further.

As long as they are designed and erected safely, meeting the relevant regulations, your timber frame construction would be perfectly fire safe and comparable to other construction methods.

Heat efficiency

The low thermal mass of timber frames allows them to heat up quicker than masonry constructed builds and to cool down a lot quicker too. However, efficient insulation can combat this substantially.

You can increase the insulation by using: deeper solid wood studs or deeper engineered studs, additional layers of insulation (internally and externally). You could also: ensure maximum air tightness is achieved, increase roof insulation, use double and or triple glazed windows, adding floor insulation or using very high quality wall insulation.

We hope that you find this information helpful, at Acre Design Newcastle we are passionate about all things sustainable and innovative. We would love to discuss your project with you in detail.

Take a look at our recent projects for further inspiration! Get in touch to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation at your home!

Ground Source Heat Pumps



Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) use pipes that are buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground.

This heat can then be used to heat radiators, underfloor or warm air heating systems and hot water in your home. There has been a lot of speculation about the government’s proposals to ban gas boilers in new build homes from 2025. This means that designers are looking for other, innovative ways to heat our homes.

A ground source heat pump circulates a mixture of water and antifreeze around a loop of pipe, called a ground loop, which is buried in your garden. Heat from the ground is absorbed into the fluid and then passes through a heat exchanger into the heat pump. As the ground stays at a fairly constant temperature under the surface, the heat pump can be used throughout the year. Longer loops can draw more heat from the ground, but need more space to be buried in. However, if space is limited, a vertical borehole can be drilled instead.

What are the benefits of installing a ground source heat pump?

Installing a GSHP could lower your energy bills – who doesn’t like saving a bit of cash? You could gain additional income through the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Furthermore, you could also lower your home’s carbon emissions, depending on which fuel you are replacing. You won’t need to have any fuel deliveries and the GSHP can heat your home and your water with very little maintenance costs.

Air source heat pumps are usually easier to install than ground source heat pumps as they don’t need any trenches or drilling, but they can be less efficient. Water source heat pumps are another consideration. They can be used to provide heating in homes near rivers, streams, and lakes. It’s quite exciting to think about the potential of using naturally occurring resources to heat our homes and water.

You can find some stories from homeowners who have installed heat pumps via the Green Homes Network.

Size is an issue

Are wall-hung heat pumps the future of home heating systems?

Small homes and low energy homes are the challenge here as rural homes have utilised heat pumps for years. Rural homes often favour heat pumps over oil and liquefied petroleum gas due to the cost-saving benefits. One of the reasons why smaller homes are a technical challenge is due to space. Heat source pumps require quite a bit of outside space for the working unit. With many new build homes being built upon rather cramped plots, this may be problematic. These units can also require quite a bit of space on the inside of the home. For this reason, lots of companies are beginning to develop smaller, boiler sized units. This makes them handy for installing in flats as well as small houses. Excitingly, it also means that a number of these units in close proximity could be connected to the same bring loop, allowing for cheaper running costs for the homeowners.

We find the development of heat pumps pretty exciting, we hope you do too!

At Acre Design Newcastle we are passionate about all things green and would love to discuss your project with you in detail.

Take a look at our recent projects for further inspiration! Get in touch to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation at your home!



At Acre Design, we often find that when our clients are building a self-build home, home extension or renovation, the garden design is left until last. You probably have a long list of things to plan and consider including: bathrooms, kitchens, materials, fixtures and fittings, furniture and so on. However, with even the smallest budget, spending wisely on your garden can have a huge impact on your satisfactions with your project as whole. A well thought out garden space can also have a big impact on the value of your home, so it is well worth considering! Even if you plan on carrying out the gardening and landscaping work yourself, developing a plan early on will be beneficial.

When you begin your project, you will have an idea of the funds you have available to spend. We recommending allocating some of your budget to the garden space at the start of your project. Who wants large, beautiful bi-fold doors if the scenery beyond them is a disaster?

Practical considerations

If you’re a self-builder, this is a really advantageous position to be in, in terms of landscaping. However, you may also come across a few challenges here. You’ll need to consider: access, driveways, garages, and storage, as well as the normal garden wants. If your budget is limited, you may consider focusing your budget on permanent fixtures such as access and your driveway. Greenery, turf and landscaping can always be completed in the future, once your budget has replenished a little. You may be surprised to learn that a well-built driveway can cost around £20,000.

If you are building an extension to your home, you will need to consider how to maintain privacy in your new space. Will any new windows be more visible to your neighbours? Do you need to think about screening off?

Planting early on is a good idea if you wish to use hedges and plants for privacy or protection from the elements (as a windbreak perhaps). Most hedges can take around 5 years to grow to their full height and provide the desired screening effect. It is also far more cost effective and easy to purchase and plant younger, smaller plants than it is to purchase and plant established, larger hedges and plants. Mature plants are readily available to purchase, however the cost of this is significantly more than a young plant or seed.

Fences are a great, short term, cheap and easy option for your boundaries but they can lack kerb appeal. Brick and stone walls can cost upwards of £300 a metre. Therefore, fencing and hedgerows can be a very cost-effective solution. Also, studies show that looking at greenery and plants boosts our mood. Good garden design is good for your health too!


Budgeting for the highest quality that you can afford for your garage, shed or driveway is a good idea. These elements will all add to the value and overall aesthetics of your home. Thinking of your project as a whole plot is key – you want to feel delighted every time you pull onto your driveway in front of your beautiful new home, for example. You may think that your front door and hallway will give that all important first impression. It is more likely to be the overall appearance of your home from the outside that will impress you, your family and friends and even perspective buyers in the future.

Utilise your existing garden design

If you have some garden items in place already, it is worth working these in to your plans to save money and effort. You can then spend your budget on other upgrades! Often, when you extend your home it can be disruptive to your garden. The building work can take its toll on plants and grass and the new structure can disturb the layout somewhat. If there are some plants you know you would like to keep, make sure you protect these during the build. You could even move them out of the way where possible. Working alongside your project design, you could plan pathways and terraces that flow from and to your new extension.

Lastly, research suggests that a well-designed garden can add up to 20% to the value of your home! consider your garden as a long term investment, one for your enjoyment and for future financial gain.

We hope that you find this information helpful, at Acre Design Newcastle we are passionate about all things design and would love to discuss your project with you in detail.

Take a look at our recent projects for further inspiration! Get in touch to arrange a free, no obligation consultation at your home

How to choose the right fireplace for your home extension

Why do we love a fireplace?

More and more of our clients are opting for a striking fireplace or hearth. Our post on inspiring design ideas  discusses the idea of Hygee. If you haven’t already read about the Danish idea of Hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”), get reading. What freedom is to Americans, Hygge is to the Danes. The idea of Hygge is about finding joy in simple, cosy things. These things include: candles, blankets, fireplaces and so on. There is even a word for that favourite pair of jogging bottoms that you would only wear in the comfort of your own home – “Hyggebusker”. To us, a crackling fire is the epitome of cosy calm. Our busy lives can impact on our health, so planning spaces which invigorate and recharge us both mentally and physically is important.

With so many styles and fuel options to choose from, how do you know which to pick?

Firstly, the fireplace needs to be suitable for your property. Secondly, you need to decide upon its primary function – heat, aesthetics. Or do you need both of these needs to be met?


Wood burners and open-flame fires will, of course, require a chimney or flue. Wood burners are very efficient and are currently very fashionable. Obviously, real fires will require some level of maintenance (cleaning out etc.) but some even have built in boilers enabling you to heat your water and radiators too! Check with your local council before getting your heart set on a real fire. Some areas are smoke-controlled and burning wood and coal is not permitted.

You can find information on Newcastle Council’s smoke-control policy here. If you are in North Tyneside, have a look here, for Northumberland council, it’s here and for Geteshead, it’s here.

Modern fires are often gas-fuelled and you can find flueless options. Bioethanol fires have very low emissions and don’t require a chimney or flue, however, they can be exceptionally expensive to run! Bioethanol is considered one of the greener fuels. With so many realistic-looking electric options out there, they are a good option too. However, it is questionable whether an electric fire has the same relaxing, stress-busting effect as a real, burning fire. For a fuss-free real flame, a gas fire is your best bet, as an open-basket gas-burning fire with ceramic “coals” is virtually indistinguishable from a real coal-burning fire. It’s a relatively simple task to run a pipe to the fireplace opening. However, this will need to be installed by a CORGI-registered fitter.


It is important to love your fire when it is both active and inactive.  During the summer months, will it still be beautiful to look at when putting it on or lighting it would make your home hotter than hell? With more contemporary designs, we find that they can look a little odd when unlit. Think empty fish tank with some coals in the bottom.

Traditional fires tend to suit most spaces and Architectural salvage and reclamation yards may offer the best chance of finding something appropriate. We have found that traditional designs in light-coloured stones such as limestone and marble are very popular at the moment. If modern styles are more your thing, they offer flexibility of scale and proportion. Whether the fire is gas, gel or electric, contemporary surrounds use sleek and minimalist modern materials. Glass or polished steel and lots of other materials are easily available. A hole-in-the-wall design does away with the hearth completely, and often the surround, too. These fires are usually gas, and can consist of a burner providing a regimented row of flames, a firebowl, or a pile of driftwood or pebbles. Hole-in-the-wall designs are often more suitable if you have a smaller room, where floor space is limited.

The size of your fire surround is important – too large and it will overpower your room but too small and it will look insignificant and lost. If you are renovating or altering rather than building a new space, the size of the existing opening, chimney breast and flue will influence the size of fire and surround that will be suitable for the room. If possible, it may be worth considering structural alterations to get exactly what you want.

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If you are fitting a fire, getting your chimney swept and assessed is very important. When renovating an existing property and using the current chimney, you’ll need to ensure you choose a suitable fire. However, if you are extending or building a new-build home, you have a lot more flexibility. It is worth bearing in mind that a chimney must be at least 4.5 meters tall.

If there’s no flue in your home or design, or even no fireplace opening, there are still some electric and gel models that can create an interesting focal point in the room. There is a choice of flue-less gas fires available too, where the waste gases are taken out of the room via a pipe that is ducted through an outside wall.

Look at our recent projects in Newcastle and the surrounding areas for further inspiration! Get in touch with the Team @ Acre Design to arrange a free, no obligation consultation at your home!

While you’re mulling over all of the fabulous fireplace options out there, here’s a nice warming fireplace video…