Self-build diary: designing the oak frames

Written by Emma Irvine – Frame Designer 


Church Cottage (Plot 1)

Charlie and Helen’s frame was a delight to design. There were only a few tweaks that needed to be made with regards to the final aesthetics, such as bracing placements and the style of the trusses.

The frame for their cottage is of an aisle design, which means unlike Craig and LB’s where the frame extends to the exterior walls, Charlie and Helen’s runs centrally through the building. As a result, a request was made to keep the posts as slim as possible which required some clever jointing arrangements to be configured within my Dietrich’s model (3D CAD drawing software) of their oak frame cottage. Where the main frame posts meet the glazed gable there are a lot of timbers all meeting at the same junction, so careful consideration was needed to avoid joints clashing in the limited space. The full-height glazed gable is a key feature of Charlie and Helen’s build, allowing natural light to flood right through the open-plan ground floor and first-floor landing.

Unfortunately due to prior engagements, I was unable to get involved directly with putting the frame together, however, I was informed the process was quick, seamless and took just a day and a half to complete!

Church cottage (left) and Manuka cottage (right)

Written by Julian Pilkington – Senior Frame Designer


Manuka Cottage (Plot 2)

Craig and LB’s oak frame was great to both design and erect. As I work with Craig on a daily basis, we were able to regularly touch base and develop ideas for the layout of their cottage as the project progressed. Using our software, I was able to transfer these conversations into a 3D model which enabled me to produce the final post and beam frame design.

Early modelling revealed the first-floor height was high for a ‘storey-and-a-half’ scaled project, so we decided the upstairs spaces would benefit from lowering the top floor level, without compromising the ground floor rooms. Bearing in mind Craig is 6ft+ we set about adapting the stair layout to accommodate this idea and revised the frame design to suit. Now Craig and LB’s oak framed home is in position, we can stand in the upstairs rooms and are pleased we made this alteration.

In terms of the oak frame, we took a ‘stripped back’ approach to it in comparison to Charlie and Helen’s aisle frame. In Manuka Cottage, the frame to the ground floor extends fully to the perimeter of the rooms and to the top floor the structural oak trusses are complete in the two central ‘hall’ bay frames only. At the gable ends, the loads of the ridge and purlins of the roof are supported by the encapsulation panels, which can be seen in the bedrooms. Moving through the house, I worked with Craig and LB to carefully consider their face glazed sunroom. We wanted to ensure the eaves line of each ran through at the same level, pulling the eye around the building.

Erecting the frame was a very special day, particularly for both couples and it was great to be part of the process. It was all hands on deck and everything went together as planned in the morning, allowing the team to crack on with the oak frame for Church Cottage in the afternoon and early evening. Fuelled by lots of coffee and cake, everyone left the site smiling and ready for the next part of the building plans for both cottages.


Church and Manuka cottages are just two of the six oak frame design templates within our Cottage range. To view the full range, please click here.

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