One of the reasons that people are choosing timber homes is that, with the cost of heating and cooling our homes escalating, it makes sense to choose the building method that keeps these costs in check. Insulation within the hollow structure walls regulates indoor temperatures, keeping homes warm in winter and cool in summer.
Our history of wood and iron
South Africans have a love-hate relationship with timber homes that goes right back to the 1800’s. In those years — late 1800’s to early 1900’s — wood frame and iron clad homes were common in South Africa. Some of these were designed and built here, but others were pre-fabricated, kit homes, imported from Europe.
You’ll find a good example of a locally designed and manufactured wood and iron building in Barbeton. Built in 1887, the Globe Tavern opened for business just two and a half years after the gold mining town was founded. The Tavern, designed by Arthur Hubert Halder, was one of the many iron clad timber buildings that characterised the gold-fields of the Eastern Transvaal during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The building needed to be restored in order to stand the test of time, and was declared a National Monument in 1979. Unfortunately, it is not open to the public.
Other wood and iron buildings in the country have a much more exciting past. One of the most famous of these is Smuts House – a building you can get an inside peak into – which was pre-fabricated in the Britain and shipped to India by the British Army and later shipped to South Africa. The dismantled building was brought to Pretoria by rail. Its journey didn’t end there, however. It was then transported to Doornkloof by ox wagon. Even in those days, this was not a cheap undertaking: it was re-erected at the substantial cost of £1000. The Smuts family moved into the house on 10 July 1909. Despite alterations over the years (kitchen and pantry were added in 1918 and the front verandah was enclosed in 1942), the building remained unpretentious.
Falling out of fashion
But, iron clad timber frame buildings fell out of favour with the local authorities. In fact, there came a time when it became illegal to build them. You’ll still find clauses like, ‘no corrugated iron’ on many of our older title deeds. And this is something that makes us quite out of step with developed countries: whereas in Canada, the USA and New Zealand, 90% of the population lives in timber-frame homes, only about 1% of our population does.
Today, there are many construction companies that specialise in timber homes – how did South Africans make the leap and come to accept timber homes as a desirable option? It was in the sixties that folk started to consider timber buildings as an alternative to brick and mortar, and to appreciate the benefits of building with timber. And then, only after the formation of the Timber Frame Builders Association in 1982 (now called the Institute for Timber Frame Builders) did local authorities and lending institutions begin to recognise timber homes as a viable building system. Nowadays, timber homes are included in the South African National Building Regulations.
Benefits of building with timber
Timber-frame homes offer many benefits over traditional brick and mortar buildings. Timber homes are easy to construct and quicker to build (quicker by between a half and a third), have a lower carbon footprint, can easily be built on difficult sites with minimum disturbance to the existing vegetation, and can save you money because not only is timber a superior insulating material, these buildings can be insulted so well. The ceilings and external walls can be filled with insulation, helping you to achieve a home that is warm in winter and cool in summer, without the huge bill that comes with using electricity to regulate the internal temperature of your home.
The best insulation
If you have chosen a timber home because of the eco-considerations, it makes sense to choose a green insulation product. ISOTHERM Thermal Insulation is made from the thermally-bonded polyester of recycled plastic PET bottles. Designed for application within hollow structure walls like steel frame walls, timber walls and interior dry walls, environmentally-friendly ISOTHERM Thermal Insulation is non-allergic and maintenance-free. ISOTHERM is all about energy saving, from the recycling of plastic bottles, to the time, money and energy saved because the product is maintenance-free, to the fact that you don’t have to use up resources to heat or cool your home.