Nestled in the stunning Cheshire countryside, timber frame property Fourways combines country charm and clean minimalism to create a lovely cottage that the owners are proud to call their forever home.
The two-storey, four-bedroom property was completed in 2022, but passers-by are forgiven for mistaking this delightful home for a well-preserved 18th-century dwelling. Set in its scenic 0.7-acre plot, this home fits perfectly alongside the properties of the surrounding village. This is achieved by a series of carefully curated design choices, including Old Farmhouse bricks, a unique modern brick style that recreates the traditional red blend of old agricultural dwellings, dark grey slate roofing, large cream wooden windows, painted metal anthracite grey guttering and a homely pigeon-blue front door.
Meanwhile, inside, the couple have created a light and airy home. The popular kitchen-diner-snug includes a set of well-placed French doors that create a sense of inside-outside living while respecting the country cottage style that owners Stephen and Dawn Laverick have embraced throughout the home. On the first floor, the property’s delightful French doors in the main bedroom open onto a simple glass Juliette balcony – a dreamy spot to survey the local village and beyond to the surrounding Cheshire countryside.
Fourways is a charming addition to the area, with cyclists, walkers, and horse riders stopping regularly to compliment the homeowners as they enjoy the garden and period façade. The Parish Council has further praised the project’s sensitivity to the local area.
Self-build vs renovation
Stephen and Dawn first considered self-building when they realised that the current housing stock on the market in Cheshire was both out of budget and failing to meet their expectations. As self-building offered a way to get the home they truly wanted, the couple purchased a plot with potential.
The plot already contained a home; it was a dated property with an energy efficiency rating of E (44) that required extensive interior and exterior renovation work to bring it up to date to meet the modern expectations of a sustainable home. The decision was made to demolish the existing home and self-build a property to their ideal specifications using a two-phase approach. The house would be completed in the first phase so they could move in before starting on the fully detached garage.
Ambitiously, the couple gave themselves a target of eight months to complete their project. Fortunately, Stephen and Dawn were able to remain living in their old property whilst the new house was being built.
Time for timber frame
Stephen and Dawn required a construction method that was both energy efficient, as well as one that could be erected within the ambitious time frame of their project.
Stephen first discovered Frame Technologies and MD Simon Orrells at the National Self Build and Renovation October Show in October 2019, before meeting again in February 2020 at Build It Live Northwest in Manchester. He was initially attracted to Frame Technologies’ status as a well-known timber frame provider. Still, Stephen says MD Simon Orrells’ friendly approach and industry-leading knowledge eventually led him to choose Frame Technologies as the company to provide the timber frame. During the initial meetings, Stephen was deeply impressed by Simon’s willingness and patience to answer in-depth questions. After visiting the factory in Wales in August 2020, numerous discussions followed before a final order was agreed upon in January 2021.
Following the demolition of the pre-existing property, the project began on site with groundworks commencing in August 2021. Frame Technologies delivered the timber frame the following month, and it was erected quickly in just 10 days.
The whole property was completed in just 8.5 months, meeting their tight deadline. This is an extremely impressive feat, given that the build occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, which had implications for supply chains and costs. During this time, costs of building materials increased significantly. However, due to Frame Technologies’ approach to sourcing timber materials, the cost increase of the timber frame package was limited to less than 2%. This was significantly lower than the increases in timber costs at the time.
Stephen and Dawn moved into their new house in March 2022.
A collaborative approach
Despite a background in project management, Stephen felt more comfortable leaving the project management to his builder, Andy Jackson (Jackson Homes Cheshire Ltd). Andy was the main contractor for the build, controlling the site, managing the planning and scheduling of build processes, alongside coordinating the activities of all tradespeople and suppliers, including Frame Technologies.
Whilst Stephen wasn’t necessarily ‘hands-on’ with the building work, he did contribute significantly to the project. After extensive research, Stephen chose all the build partners for the project himself with support and validation from Andy, including Kloeber for external windows and doors, who had previously worked with another Frame Technologies home, Gryphon House. All major work packages’ materials were costed, and delivery schedules were agreed upon with the suppliers well before the build started.
David Rees (REESARC Ltd) designed the property and was key in facilitating early planning changes and supporting technical questions. David’s skills were particularly instrumental in changing the design of the Garden Room, adapting it to a more straightforward design to increase the airtightness of this room.
The support and an open collaborative approach, both before and during construction, was a key factor in the project’s success.
Combining the old with the new for an environmentally kind house
The homeowners aimed to reimagine the archetypal country cottage, a property with an exterior that complemented the nearby properties in the area. They both love the Victorian touches in their home, including the Kitchen Maid pulley clothes airer in the utility room and the trademark large windows and windowsills.
But that’s where the traditional approach ends. After guaranteeing a period aesthetic, the couple ensured the property had key modern elements found within modern, sustainable homes, including:
• High levels of insulation and airtightness
• An air source heat pump providing heating and hot water at lower energy usage levels
• Underfloor heating throughout the home to remove the need for radiators
• A mechanical ventilation and heat recovery (MVHR) system – an essential tool for maintaining airflow in a property with a high level of airtightness
• Solar panels fitted on the garage roof to generate electricity
• A plant room of sufficient size containing all the key utility systems and their controls (including the heating and ventilation systems, security systems, and home data network)
Stephen and Dawn keep on top of their energy usage. Their air source heat pump metre means they know exactly what is being used for heating and how key appliances such as the MVHR and water pressure booster are using energy throughout the day. From this information they can derive the energy consumption of major everyday household appliances such as lights and the washing machine. Overall, this gives them a clearer picture of how energy is used within their home.
Stephen has compared the energy consumption for heating at Fourways to his previous home. The previous house was a conventional brick and block property built in 1993 and was 27% smaller in internal room space compared to Fourways . Factoring in the Fourways’ larger floor space and taking readings from all energy sources (the grid, directly from solar panels and from battery storage), for heating alone Stephen has calculated that his new property used 85% less energy annually than the previous brick-built home (data gathered between July 2022 – July 2023).
This difference in energy consumption is staggering, and Stephen feels this has been achieved through a combination of factors working together. The timber frame is naturally insulating and delivers excellent thermal and airtightness properties. Meanwhile, the windows and doors provide high levels of thermal insulation and airtightness. Together, these factors maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of the air source heat pump system, which heats the house.
Stephen is conducting a follow-up comparison from July 2023 to July 2024, which will provide a better insight and understanding of the impact of the timber frame and the property’s solar PV and battery system.
Energy efficiency is key
Frame Technologies supplied their unique TechVantage™ S system for Fourways, a closed 140mm closed panel system with factory-fitted insulation between the sheathing board and the wood fibre board. A service batten is fitted to the OSB inside the panel. TechVantage™ can be used with several cladding options, and it was the perfect system for accommodating Stephen and Dawn’s beloved Old Farmhouse bricks.
Underneath the cladding, Frame Technologies’ timber frame facilitates a home with reduced energy bills for the lifetime of the house and lower carbon output. But from the outside, you’d never know; this system achieved a U-value of 0.12W/m2K. The timber frame and its ability to facilitate renewable energy technology has significantly improved the airtightness – the EPC rating is A (98), a significant improvement on the pre-existing property’s E rating.
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This house is the perfect example of a timber frame’s design flexibility. Combining Stephen and Dawn’s preferred period aesthetic with the benefits of timber frame, they have created a home that looks straight from a Jane Austen novel but provides a level of comfort that exceeds Building Regs to create an energy-efficient, low-carbon footprint home.
If you’d like to know more about using timber frame to build your dream home, contact us today.