The Renaissance of Oak Framing

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Timber framing was a method of construction that was prevalent in the medieval period and dates back even further, with the first instances of mortice and tenon joinery appearing in Roman architecture. The Roman’s introduced timber structures far more complex than those used by the natives, following their conquest of Britain. However, these techniques were lost when Rome’s influence wanned in the fifth century.

During the Saxon and Viking rules that followed, timber framing reverted to less complex methods like lap joints and notches. It wasn’t until the reign of King Henry II that the complexity of oak frame structures began to increase. The method was popular due to the hardiness of oak and the elegant aesthetic of the frames. It became a status symbol and the master carpenters behind them were celebrated and famed for their creativity. However, a decline was to follow.

Following the fire of London, legislation was put in place limiting the use of timber in urban construction. This legislative change resulted in timber being used primarily for roofs and internal flooring. There were also new demands placed on the resource with the expansion of the British empire. Oak was need for the construction of ships and consequently appeared less in domestic buildings. Brick replaced timber as the UK’s go to building material.

The 1970’s saw a revival of oak framing as the construction method was popularised in North America by the likes of Tedd Benson, a famous timber framer. By the 1980’s the revival had caught on in the UK. Traditional British style oak framing became a popular construction method, and its popularity continues growing today. The method is particularly popular with self-builders.

The resurgence in oak framing can be attributed to multiple factors. Today many people try to be mindful of the environment as they go about their lives. Consequently, both self-builders and those looking to add a new feature to their home look for sustainable building materials and find that oak is one of the most sustainable materials available. Another, benefit of oak structures is the speed of construction. Unlike many structures, which take months of onsite work, oak frames can be assembled rapidly. Most of the labour is conducted in the workshop and so when the frame arrives on site it can be raised in a matter of days. Smaller structures can be assembled even faster.


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