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Building a Sustainable Dream Home with Timber Windows

A charming new build home boasting an oak frame with striking red grandis timber windows, set against a verdant landscape and a pebbled driveway, under a dynamic cloudy sky.

Building a Sustainable Dream Home with Timber Windows

Explore how the Switzers built their dream energy-efficient, timber-framed home in North Essex, emphasizing sustainable materials and design.

A North Essex Case Study on Energy Efficient Design and Renewable Materials 

This stunning oak-framed cottage in a North Essex village is the ‘dream home’ that Matt and Sarah Switzer always wanted to build.

When Matt used to walk his dog past a certain patch of land outside the development boundary of his village, he would often think that it would be an ideal spot to build a new home big enough for his growing family.

As there had already been several planning refusals on the site, he proposed to the landowner that he apply for permission to build two houses on the 1.5-acre plot and share the costs with another family.  If planning were granted, the two families would then have first refusal to buy each plot.  

Choosing a timber-framed design

The planning application centred around two ‘off the shelf’ designs from Welsh Oak Frame.

An airy and rustic bedroom featuring an elegant exposed oak timber frame, sage green walls, a rocking chair by the Juliet balcony window, and a view of the greenery outside.

“At this stage we didn’t want to invest too much just in case things didn’t work out.  Welsh Oak Frame were very helpful in offering us one of their much sought after designs to get us over the planning hurdles on the basis that we would work with them if approved,” said Matt.

“Their popular oak framed WOF 1 design had an ‘instant rural character’ which blended well with the village and so, after much discussion with the District Council planning was finally granted.”

What Are the Essentials of Managing a Self-Build Home Project?

Matt and Sarah project managed the construction of their one and a half storey three-bedroom cottage themselves, taking care to choose materials that were in keeping with the area.

“We had a clear vision of what we wanted: a country house with a porch, vaulted oak frame, light and airy open plan interior, clay plain tile roof, antique brick plinth, and traditional timber windows.

The back of a welcoming two-story home showcasing solar panels on the roof, a gray weatherboard extension, and large glass doors that open up to a well-manicured lawn with an outdoor seating area under a clear sky.

“As energy efficiency was also important to us, we also opted for thermally efficient products and renewables, including solar PVs, air source heat pump underfloor heating and a MVHR system.”

Why Are Traditional Timber Windows a Key Feature in Sustainable Building?

Nine Red Grandis casement windows and two AccoyaÒ French doors from Gowercroft’s Hardwick range were installed in a Dusty Grey colour to match the exterior cladding. These offered a good combination of traditional appearance with an excellent energy and acoustic performance.

“When you project manage your own self build, there’s lots to think and worry about.  Fortunately, our suppliers and tradesmen were very helpful. We loved the quality of the Gowercroft products, and their team really did go above and beyond to make sure the fitting ran smoothly!
“As the build involved specific window sizing, and different access levels, David Brown, Gowercroft’s Special Projects Director, came down and basically spent the whole day here doing all the measurements and calculations to make sure we got it absolutely right!”

How Do Timber Windows Integrate with a Timber Frame Structure?

The Gowercroft team worked closely with Andrew Davies, Post Contract Manager at Welsh Oak Frame to make sure that the windows and timber frame structure were well integrated.

As green oak is a natural material, which can shrink slightly over time potentially causing cracks and water ingress, windows cannot be screwed directly into the timber frame.  Instead, the Welsh Oak Frame system requires that a window subframe is fitted into the principal oak structure, and then the beading, seals and gaskets are added to ensure a stable and weather-tight installation.

Andrew Davies, at Welsh Oak Frame said:

“Ours is a very effective and tried and tested system which requires a specific way of installing windows, which not all suppliers immediately grasp. 

“This is the first time we’ve worked with Gowercroft Joinery and we were impressed with their understanding of how the Welsh Oak Frame system works and their meticulous approach.  Given their professionalism, the quality of their products, and their excellent service package, we would be more than happy to work with them again.”

How did they Expand Their Home While Maintaining Its Character?

Four years later, Matt and Sarah Switzer returned to Welsh Oak Frame to design an extension; a fourth bedroom over the sunroom. The extra space looks as though it has always been there and makes their forever home complete.

Image credits: Welsh Oak frame

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