Tollgate Farm Timber Frame House Construction

In 2016, Surrey Forestry took on our biggest challenges to date. A labour of love, we felled, milled and built a house with approximately one hundred English Oak trees all originally growing from Mornshill Wood in Bookham. A site just a few miles down the road from the location of the new house at Surrey Forestry’s Tollgate Farm in Effingham.

The build took staggeringly shorter than a regular standard brick build, a mere six weeks to mill, eight weeks in the carpentry workshop completely all the jointing work and just four days to erect!

Surrey Forestry Director Craig Ketley explains his decision to go ahead with the project;

I always wanted to build my own oak framed house from all my years in the industry it seemed the most logical thing to do.”

The milling was the biggest challenge. Working with oak is unlike any other material. There are many issues with structural timbers that you need to be aware of. Some of the contractors hadn’t worked on an Oak framed house so detailed, intensive planning was required. Every frame is different so any problem had a drop on effect. Lighting was another huge aspect to get right. Craig found his biggest challenge was creating the house to look as aesthetically pleasing on the outside as it was inside.

An oak frame in an envelope of a house is an expensive luxury but one you could never regret. Although it makes the build quick to erect it is extremely costly to cover it up. At the same time, you are trying to retain as much oak as you can because as most of the timber is lost in the walls and ceilings.

Craig explains his worst and best moments building the house;

Losing planning for the first time was a massive blow. Also, using a new product to cover the frame to protect it was a total disaster. It had never been tested on a sandblasted frame before and it simply would not come off! It was difficult to fit the correct window system and curtains with apex windows everywhere. We have sixty-seven windows that are encased in oak as well as ally windows elsewhere.

Milling my timber from the trees I had felled by my own hands was a powerful experience as was erecting the frame and seeing the end result from all the hard work it took to bring together. I have an enormous amount of pride in being able to give my family the house I envisaged. It was a long and hard journey for us all but one we’ll only remember fondly because of our unique home the hard work produced.”

Asked if he would do it again, Craig explained he wouldn’t want do it for himself again because he has no need. This house is his home for life, but he’s learnt so much he would definitely consider building a frame for someone else and being involved in other wood frame construction projects on a consultant basis.

The biggest difference living in a timber framed house compared to a traditional steel framed building is the experience of living in a house while it continues to dry and settle. This takes approximately five to seven years, so be it colour or shape, the wood is constantly changing at the beginning and it’s a wonderful experience to live amidst.

Craig’s final word of encouragement if you’re thinking about undertaking a similar project?

“You can’t beat an oak framed house. It’s totally unlike any other house and a very strong personal experience.”

To speak to Surrey Forestry about a similar project don’t hesitate to contact us by email or phone 01483 285 951.