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One of your first design decisions will be with regard to the main fabric of the building. The two leading contenders are (traditional) block/brick or timber frame. If you want to push the boat out and go for a traditional old-fashioned look, you can build Oak framed houses. You can also have walls of straw bales, steel frames and other constructs, but we are confining ourselves here to the most common options.

Both types of structure have the external leaf made of block or brick, but the internal leaf of timber frame is of panels made of wood frame (studs) panelled on the cavity side with plywood. These panels are erected very quickly and the roof can go on as soon as the panels are built to wall plate level, as the internal wall is the load bearing element. Hence the roof can be put on and made water tight before the external block/brickwork is started. There is no difference to the structure up to slab level.

Whether block/brick or timber frame is your decision, Local Authority planning offices will not have a preference. Your architect will be able to advise, but the main considerations are:

Block/brick/stone

If you wish for a brick or stone finish then the internal leaf is usually built of concrete blocks with the outer leaf being brick or stone. For a render or pebble dash finish then both leaves are of block.

For a good guide to the bricks available - different colours, textures, environmentally friendly etc see the Hanson Brick guide

Timber Frame

Scotframe one of the UK's leading manufacturers and suppliers of timber frame kit packages for self builders, puts the key advantages of timber frame succinctly when they say "The major advantages of timber frame construction for people wishing to build their own home are its speed of erection, excellent thermal efficiency, sound performance and of course its considerable advantages over traditional building methods where environmental issues are concerned.

In ideal conditions a house constructed in timber frame can be wind and weather tight in just a few days and completed in as little as 6 - 8 weeks."

Scotframe also identify other advantages of timber frame : "The inherent dimensional accuracy of our timber frame kits, means that walls are vertical and flat and rooms are square, making decorating and the installation of carpets and fitted furniture less demanding and improving the quality of your finished home. Timber frame construction allows a very high level of internal design flexibility as internal walls need not be structural load-bearing walls, and the roof space is often useable too."

And for those wondering how timber frame is viewed by mortgage lenders, they point out that "Timber frame builds are also fully recognised by all financial institutions and building societies for institutional lending and by the National House Building Council (NHBC) for guarantee purposes."