With the foundations dug, a couple of courses of reclaimed brick laid and a limecrete slab poured we are at the stage of constructing some walls. The majority of these are going to be made from reclaimed timber, which will then be filled with insulation and clad. The external finish of the walls will be a mixture of reclaimed brick, lime render and timber cladding.
There are millions of tons of usable timber chipped, burnt, or thrown into landfill every year. We are not selecting our timber for any aesthetic reason, although I do think what we have done looks good enough to have left it as an exposed frame, but it is going to be covered up. We are using reclaimed timber because we can, and we think that we should. We also believe this type of construction should be used more often and hope to show how easy and successful it can be. The reason more reclaimed timber is not reused for cabinet making and joinery is that it contains nails, has the odd split, holes, and notches, but where it is not seen these flaws do not matter. As the builder commented, it is just ‘predrilled for the electrician’.
The first wall to be fabricated was along our boundary with the neighbour. We obviously wanted to get this up as quickly as possible in order to contain the site. We made this frame from some timber that I had purchased from a demolition in the Midlands. There were 110 three metre lengths of 7 x 2 inch boards, originally the floor joists in a Victorian property, and these were repurposed to make the wooden frame which went up inside two days, the carpenter commented that he would never have got such a straight, true wall using new wood.
The timber that we are buying in for this house is costing approximately 30% less than new timber. There is a little more to be paid out in labour charges than if we had been utilising new wood, in processing it, but since we are just cutting off any nails that are actually in the way, this is not a large extra cost. There is a small amount of wastage with split and damaged boards and we will treat it before covering it all up, which again will be a small extra expense but I still believe that we are going to make a financial saving over using new wood.
When the engineer was asked how we could guarantee the strength and integrity of each beam, he replied ‘well you just look at it’. This was the common sense that I needed to hear, and with visual inspection and slightly oversizing the frame we are very confident in the longevity and integrity of our timber frame.
We are re-using all the timber from the original building, some 4 x 2’s for the internal walls and the 6 x 2’s for some external walls, where we going to have the timber cladding. We are also using a lot of timber that came out of a timber Boulton & Paul sectional building, dating from about 1900, that we dismantled a few years back. However, the most challenging elements to find were some long 9 x 2 timbers for the roof that needed to be 4.8 m long. I, after a few calls, found 100 lengths in a yard in Preston that were just long enough, after fitting them the builders remarked, ‘there’s not even kindling left’.