Frame Building Surveys

(Pre- Purchase Survey Listed or Un-listed Property)

Timber frame buildings require careful inspection, ideally, this involves some opening up as part of the timber frame building surveys undertaken. However, this is rarely allowed at the pre-purchase stage and this is where an experienced eye and good understanding of this type of construction is essential.

Timber frame buildings fall into two main types, those where the timber frame is a structural skeleton, typically most of these date from the C16 and C17 although some are slightly earlier or later, and those that are sometimes referred to as ‘half-timbered’ and date from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The latter were commonly built during the Arts and Crafts period and are a common sight in cities such as Chester.

The early historic timber frames fall into two main groups ‘box frame’ and ‘close stud’ although the two styles are sometimes found together in the same building. Box frame is more commonly found along the Welsh border and in the North West of England, Close stud is more common in the South East.

When you look at this type of timber frame building it is not unusual to see that the structure is leaning or distorted in some way. In many cases, the building has remained like this for centuries, but there are instances where these distortions are the result of neglect or a modern alteration that has undermined its stability. This is where employing an experienced timber frame building surveyor is critical.

Later timber frame buildings are generally of composite construction and not fully reliant on the frame itself for structural stability. If you look at the gable wall of an Arts and Crafts period timber frame building, much of the timber is non-structural. Typically the corner posts, tie beams and principal rafters are structural members. The remaining timber is purely decorative varying in thickness between 50 – 100 mm. This type of construction does not normally have the characteristic leans and bulges found in the earlier fully structural frames. Distortions in this type of building should be considered progressive until proven otherwise.

Destructive Timber Frame Survey

Timber frames tend to decay preferentially and defects are often cleverly concealed with non-structural fillers and disguised by recent decoration. Our extensive experience with timber frames tells us where to look and what to expect.

If we suspect serious latent defects in a timber frame and you intend to proceed with the purchase, we will advise you of the risks and potential costs and recommend that you commission a destructive survey once you take ownership of the property.

Undertaking a Building Survey of a historic timber frame building requires a lot of experience and a keen eye. It is not uncommon to find that a vendor will have decorated the exterior of the building just prior to putting it on the market. To the untrained eye, all may look well, but an experienced timber frame building surveyor will know where to look for signs of trouble. Although a reasonable picture of the frame’s condition can be obtained by visual surveying, the only way to reveal the true extent of any problems is by strategically and carefully opening up the suspect areas.

To be able to specify the required repairs it is necessary to understand the extent and location of any decay and wood boring insects, the extent and type of fillers, the condition of the frame members, joints and pegs, and the type and condition of the infill panels. If you wish to obtain listed building consent for major repairs to a timber frame building then you will require this type of destructive survey.

We produce a detailed report that explains the significance of the timber frame, the defects and risks and provide all of the information required to obtain consent.

We have an excellent reputation for producing detailed and accurate condition reports and pragmatic repair specifications for timber frame buildings. This information will normally form part of any application for Listed Building Consent.

"Choosing the right level of timber-framed survey is important, finding the right Surveyor is essential."