How do the builders cope with the oak moving?


This is one of the key skills involved with designing in oak. During its first few years, oak shrinks by as much as 5% radially (that is across the grain), but the length of each piece remains the same. Good designers will take this into consideration when putting frames together. However, when detailing the joints connecting the posts and beams, the shrinkage factor is used to make the joints tight. The pegs used to fix the joints are always tapered and the holes between the timber are normally offset, allowing the shrinkage to gradually draw them into a strong alignment over time.

Another area where shrinkage is a factor is glazing and joinery. Oak builders have become adept at designing weatherproofing details which can cope with a backing frame which is set to shrink.

DIY Tips

Want to add a personal touch to your home? Then get creative to add style that’s one of a kind to your home. Patchwork, knitting and crochet can all be used to add chic soft furnishings and accessories to your home, from cushions to throws and more. If you are new to crafting there’s lots of advice available online including helpful craft tutorials. Also take a make do and mend approach to upcycling existing pieces in your home with paint, decoupage or fabric.


Oak framing has changed dramatically over the centuries. Whilst the essence of building in oak is traditional and timeless, many of the solutions needed to make it suitable for the 21st century are surprisingly hi-tech, with heavy use of stainless steel fixings and EPDM tape.

Electrical Tip

“Although at first glance lighting, sockets and off-peak heating in France may all appear familiar, closer investigation will reveal that the installation methods are different to those employed in the UK”

Excerpt From: Thomas Malcolm. “Electricity in your French house.” iBooks.


Weatherboarded oak frame house with SIPs by Border Oak

This Border Oak self-build incorporates SIPs for improved energy efficiency and is weatherboarded for a more contemporary finish

Who builds oak homes?

Border Oak started the oak revival in the late 1970s — before that there had been very little oak used in new buildings for 300 years. Their success has led to a proliferation of cottage businesses, mostly based in the west of England and the Welsh borders.

How do these businesses differ?

All oak framed housebuilders offer a bespoke service. Some are very small, little more than one-man bands, whilst others are now well established as design and build businesses, catering mostly to the self build market. Perhaps the biggest difference between them is whether they use machine cutting or stay with traditional handmade work. Computer-controlled cutters are faster and potentially more accurate, but they usually require the oak to be planed beforehand, which gives the wood a rather different look. On the other hand, machine cutting can sometimes achieve levels of complexity which would not be easy to replicate traditionally.

The designs can also vary from traditional, Tudor-style farm houses and cottages to stunningly contemporary, open plan homes, with lots of built-in glazing. Some businesses specialise, others are happy to work in any style.

Kitchen with exposed oak beams and central oak post

Oak posts can create a natural divide in open plan spaces

I love the look of oak but I’m not sure I can afford it!

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Where oak really comes into its own is in large open plan spaces, especially ones with vaulted ceilings. There is nothing to stop you going for a conventionally built home and adding an oak framed extension, enabling you to get the ‘wow factor’ on a budget.

What Are the Associated Problems?

Much like any other form of construction, oak frame carries its own inherent, potentially problematic, properties, but being aware of these from the start will stand you in good stead to eliminate any difficulties. First of all, with oak you’ve simply got to love beams, and accept that they will get in the way sometimes and that you’ll have to design around them. There’s also a limit to the room’s open depth without encountering a post: around 4.5m. Internally, oak can be difficult to light, especially with vaulted ceilings, so lighting design needs to be factored in early on. When building, the foundations tend to have to be very precise; a mass concrete strip footing is normally used, with a dwarf wall above. On the plus side, oak is very well suited to sloping sites.

Oak frame outbuilding

The use of oak can also be extended to outbuildings, such as this garage and office space from English Heritage Buildings

“We love the character of oak”

A self build oak frame house by Border Oak

Graham and Annie Boon chose an oak frame by Border Oak for their site in Oxfordshire. “Oak gives instant age and character, and a new oak framed house like this has all the advantages of modern insulation and comfort and none of the disadvantages of old oak framed houses,” says Graham. The house came in at a reasonable £950/m², with the couple keeping costs down by carrying out a large amount of labour themselves.

Getting the Best from Oak Frame

Paul Edmunds of Welsh Oak Frame offers tips on ensuring the project runs smoothly

Ensure your designer fully understands your objectives. A good relationship in the early stages will enable the optimum solution to your brief in terms of design, cost, performance and aesthetics of your oak frame. Features such as lighting in vaulted roof areas and special inglenooks can be easily incorporated if factored into the project early.

Make sure that your oak frame company has the necessary accreditations in place. TRADA is widely accepted as the industry leader in timber framing standards, which provides assurance that a line of recourse is in place should any problems arise.

Good communication between your contractor or subcontractors and your oak frame company is a must. Details for areas such as foundations, window and glazing fixing, warm roof structures and weatherboarding should be readily available to you.

Oak frame doesn’t need any special or time-consuming maintenance. A light oiling of the frame internally will give it depth and a gentle lustre but it’s not essential.

View Galleries of Oak Frame Homes


Quick tip

Paint effects

Try out different paint effects to give your home a new look, try rag rolling, stippling or marbling. If you’re handy with a paint brush and eager to let your inner artist out, then consider painting a trompe l’oeil effect on a wall. Remember you could simply project an image onto a wall and paint around it – you don’t need to be a great artist to have a go at this. So get your paint brushes out and get creative.


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Electrical Tip

“Although at first glance lighting, sockets and off-peak heating in France may all appear familiar, closer investigation will reveal that the installation methods are different to those employed in the UK”

Excerpt From: Thomas Malcolm. “Electricity in your French house.” iBooks.


We are a new website, we are still growing our content, we want everyone that is renovating in France to help us feature what we all wanted to know when we all started, contact us with all your experience and tips, we live just south of Celles Sur Belle, in Deux Servre, 79, and are just about to start out on our next renovation, every job we start on, every problem, product or skill we need to learn about i will try and find some useful information on the internet and share it with you, yes I could do this by sharing it on facebook, but the problem is it just helps facebook and disappears down the timeline, here links and articles will be searchable and here permanently for you to book mark and refer to, so watch this space … and if you have links and articles that have helped you let us know !!1

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