Before we go any further, I want to just state for the record I haven’t abandoned our 1930’s southeast London semi in favour of a huge open plan barn conversion in the countryside. Because I don’t know about you, but when I think about timber it conjures up images of beams and rustic furnishings rather than any other style of home.
Timber however is present in one way or another in most houses around the country. Strip them back to their bare bones and you’ll find (hopefully!) floorboards, roof timbers and joists showing just how important timber is to the very structure of the places that keep us warm and safe. Essentially all that timber is, is the treated and processed version of wood that allows it to be manufactured into common building materials and household furnishings.
There are many benefits to using timber in the construction industry which is why it’s a material that should be cherished – I’d much rather my floorboards be made of timber than concrete as I found out during a tricky phase of our recent kitchen makeover. It’s not particularly show-stopping or creates a wow-factor, but consider it more as the fundamental work horse to see how valuable it is.
- Natural Material
Think about how much we know about our homes now versus even just 30 years ago. Paint used to have lead in it, and let’s not even mention asbestos which we actually do have on the roof of our outbuilding at the bottom of the garden. This will need dealing with by a specialist when we come to renovate it. Timber comes from a natural building material, meaning it’s safe for residents, non-toxic and safe to be used and handled by builders. It also ages beautifully as wood does, giving a period, rustic look.
In our home, we have so many examples of manufactured wood. The front door is the original 1930s one; our engineered wooden parquet in the living room. We have original timber floorboards and would have also had original timber joists in the loft prior to it being converted by the previous owners. Timber has also been used for the beam across the fireplace and our hallway console and mirror were made using reclaimed timber from 1930s loft conversions in north London.
Timber as a building resource has been used for thousands of years and continues to be. It’s a special feature of tudor design and was used extensively as communities and pioneers have settled throughout history. It’s grown faster than it’s used and most countries which have largescale timber production plants have policies in place to ensure the cycle of regrowth is established.
- Insulating Factors
Wood is a very ‘warm’ material to work with, especially compared to other building materials such as stone, porcelain, concrete, metal – the list goes on. Timber is a natural insulator and it’s no coincidence that since having our wood floor fitted in the living room last autumn the room feels so much warmer. By its nature, wood has thermal insulating properties which is another reason it was always chosen to build houses with originally. Not only was it more readily available but it took less energy to heat and cool.
- Durability & Maintenance
Our staircase is made of timber as I’m sure most of yours are, too. Think about how long it lasts for, all of that usage and unusual configuration. Ours is coming close to having stood without any issues for nearly 100 years (or at least it would if I stopped hacking away at the spindles and banisters to restore them). And yes, you could argue that other materials could offer the same durability, but are they as easy to come by? Or cheap? Or to work with?
I know by our nature people always want to create homes which are exciting, challenging centuries of tradition by being inventive and trying something new. But in my humble opinion, my home built nearly 100 years ago is still standing with all of its timber materials intact. Will we be able to say the same about houses built today, in 100 years time? The jury is out.
Post in collaboration.