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Choosing the right external materials for your oak framed home

Words by Craig Alexander – a Chartered Architect within our in-house Architectural Design team

When it comes to planning your dream oak frame home, we understand that with such a variety of materials available for external finishes, it can sometimes seem like a challenge to envisage the overall look from the outside in the early design stage. So, here’s some advice and top tips to be mindful of when it comes to developing the right material palette for your self-build.

 

Keep the local context in mind
As you embark on the early design stage, it’s certainly worth bearing in mind the local context and regional material palette typically used in your area. This doesn’t mean there isn’t scope for innovation, or introducing your own preferences but at least referencing, rather than imitating the local materials in your area can help keep the Planning Department (and potentially locals and neighbours) on board.

Planning conditions and material samples
When submitting a planning application, clients often choose to keep their material palette as open and flexible as possible, as at this early stage you wouldn’t need to have specific suppliers or products in mind.

It’s common for Council Planning departments to attach a condition requiring the approval of some (or all) of the external materials proposed. For example, the planning application may state ‘natural slate roof’ and ‘brickwork walls’ allowing a good scope for client choice, whereas the condition attached to the approval would require information, or a sample to be delivered to the council of the specific products and suppliers. This could well be a pre-commencement or post-groundwork condition, so it’s important to allow good time to discharge this (and any other) planning condition(s) to avoid delays.

Freedom to choose
Modern external finishes are part of what are called ‘rainscreen’ systems, designed to protect the structure from damaging weather and UV from the sun but act as a breathable ‘first line of defence’ to rain and water. This gives more flexibility when it comes to material choices and finishing techniques, as there’s no requirement for the external finish to be ‘hermetically sealed’. Utilising natural materials is feasible (and in some ways preferable) as a little movement and character can be accommodated while ensuring the envelope remains fully weather-tight.

Whether you’re planning to use one of our encapsulation or any other system, they’re all inherently flexible. Any range of external finishes can be accommodated, such as:

  • masonry (brick or stone)
  • timber weatherboard cladding
  • a rendered finish via a carrier board system
  • contemporary finishes such as standing seam metalwork or the appearance of a traditionally jointed oak framed infill panel system.

A balance mix
While there’s a dizzying array of high quality materials, products and finishes available, we always recommend streamlining your external finishes. A palette of two, three materials is typically an ideal mix, depending on the size, scale and overall complexity of the form of your proposals. Here at Oakwrights we work in 3D at the planning stage. Our software allows us to produce perspective visuals and detailed 3D models, so we can assess and appraise the mix of materials with you before submitting to planning. It’s important to note that junctions and changes between different finishes often need careful consideration, particularly when the thicknesses of the materials vary.

The right materials in the right place
Taking time to consider the positioning of external finishes can make a big difference to the cost and time taken on-site to finish the external skin. For example, avoiding ‘heavy’, non-self-supporting materials such as masonry above large clear openings, or where a stepped down roof meets the main body of the house or dormers and cheeks, can greatly simplify the requirement for expensive lintels and complicated support. Quite often our oak frame houses incorporate a brick plinth and/or brickwork to ground floor window head height, with render or weatherboard above. This avoids the requirement for supporting large amounts of masonry above openings and gives a natural and well balanced mix of materials.

Aiming for quality, naturally
A large number of our clients choose to complement their high quality oak frame with a palette of natural materials. In order to best align your build’s overall aesthetic, or best compliment the green oak frame, you might be tempted to choose natural or naturally derived materials, such as oak or larch weatherboarding, lime-based renders or handmade bricks. We tend to find such materials weather and ‘bed in’ with the most ease and grace, giving your home an almost immediate timeless quality, with limited requirements for ongoing maintenance.

 

Achieving the right balance between the practical requirements and the overall aesthetic appearance is all part and parcel of the early design stage here at Oakwrights. Our architectural team are available for site appraisals and initial design consultations as well as design work and preparing planning applications. Click here to discover more about our oak frame design process or simply call 01432 353353.

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