USA Vs British Building Style

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Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
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Mid Wales
How long do wood frame houses last?
Well, the one I live in was originally built in the mid C17 so is now 350 to 400 years old - that's the oak cruck frame mind; who knows how many times the wood cladding and the roof has been replaced :)

The oak can burn out steel drills it's that hard!
 
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TeeDee

Full Member
Nov 6, 2008
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Exeter
I think it's just the economy of scale, imagine how many brick and block factories they'd have to build to supply a brick and block house to every American family - just not possible because of how vast it is!
Sorry I can't get onboard with train of logic. Amercia is VAST abundant with natural resources and industry with a massive culturally diverse ex-immigrant population that would have surely been experienced in a range of building methods. I'm sure they could / would have built brick factories.

I'm not so much asking why they don't build with Brick there , I'm more asking why we don't build more with wood HERE.
 
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Fadcode

Full Member
Feb 13, 2016
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Cornwall
We do build with wood here, we call them sheds, and we sit and watch them rot, most of our forests are spruce plantations our spruce is not the right wood for building,
Our ancient woodlands are protected , so basically we would need to import the wood to build houses with making them more expensive than brick.

Brick build is safer, ref fire, collision damage etc probably why they don't make skyscrapers out of wood.
 
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brambles

Settler
Apr 26, 2012
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Have a look at any American town after a tornado has gone through. All those timber and tar paper houses just blow away as if they were not there, leaving just a concrete pad and bodies behind.
 

Tengu

Full Member
Jan 10, 2006
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What do they doif they live in an area prone to tornadoes AND earthquakes?

We at least have not that worry.

(When very young my Grandfather took me to see a neighbours with a carvan upside down in the garden; I was told it was blown over from next doors by a whirlwind...)
 

santaman2000

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jan 15, 2011
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Florida
Have a look at any American town after a tornado has gone through. All those timber and tar paper houses just blow away as if they were not there, leaving just a concrete pad and bodies behind.
Actually a tornado blows down the brick homes also. A hard masonry shell is helpful in hurricanes because it vends off solid objects thrown about by the wind; but no better in a tornado than wood frame. It’s not the force of the wind as such that causes tornado damage (although that’s horrendous in itself) Rather the tornado sucks up the buildings, twists them about and tosses them. The only safe spot is underground.
 
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santaman2000

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jan 15, 2011
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Florida
Well, the one I live in was originally built in the mid C17 so is now 350 to 400 years old - that's the oak cruck frame mind; who knows how many times the wood cladding and the roof has been replaced :)

The oak can burn out steel drills it's that hard!
I suspect that one was “timber” framed though. As I said most here are “lumber” framed. Full timbers are definitely more durable than dimensional lumber.
 
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Broch

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Jan 18, 2009
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I suspect that one was “timber” framed though. As I said most here are “lumber” framed. Full timbers are definitely more durable than dimensional lumber.
True - each cruck pair is made from the same tree cut in half and reaches from the floor to the apex of the roof. There's a barn of almost exactly the same structure at St Fagan's Museum near Cardiff.
 
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TLM

Settler
Nov 16, 2019
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In the core of a twister the air pressure can be surprisingly low, it is that low pressure that destroys most houses. Of course a lumber framed house can also just be blown over as they are usually not fastened to the foundation all that well and the weight of the house is not enough to keep it there. A wooden framed house can be designed to resist a tornado but the price!

In a wooden house of any kind it is the control of moisture that is the key to long life. Both from the inside and outside.
 

santaman2000

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jan 15, 2011
16,408
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Florida
In the core of a twister the air pressure can be surprisingly low, it is that low pressure that destroys most houses. Of course a lumber framed house can also just be blown over as they are usually not fastened to the foundation all that well and the weight of the house is not enough to keep it there. A wooden framed house can be designed to resist a tornado but the price!

In a wooden house of any kind it is the control of moisture that is the key to long life. Both from the inside and outside.
It’s weird about how framed houses are anchored to the foundations. The older ones didn’t neccessrily even have a foundation. Rather in the South where we don’t have basements (at least not under the house) they were set on blocks with a crawl space underneath to allow access to plumbing, etc. Yet many of those survive still. However modern frame houses in the South are set on “floating” concrete slabs and are anchored very well indeed. Yet they also don’t survive tornadoes. Nor do brick homes. There are only three ways for a house to survive a tornado:
1) be underground
2) be built of reinforced concrete at least 4 inches thick (6 is better) These are both cost and livability prohibitive.
3) simply be lucky enough not to be actually hit by the tornado (this is the vast majority of all houses)

Wood frame houses are designed and built to resist hurricanes, not tornadoes. So are masonry homes. But neither is designed to resist a tornado and neither will survive an actual hit.
This image is of the wreckage of a steel and masonry building after being hit by a tornado:
 

TLM

Settler
Nov 16, 2019
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The air pressure inside a tornado can be about 100mbar lower than outside that means that when a house is right in the core there is a force of a ton for every sqm of wall and ceiling OUTWARDS. That soon adds up to something serious as part of the load is trying to lift up the whole house. As said can be designed against but no building code includes it.

A major hurricane has a wind speed of - lets say- 200 kph=55.6 m/s that means a dynamic pressure of 1932 N/sqm so about a fifth of a ton sideways on the windward sides, some suction effects on the lee side. Still a sizeable load but can be handled. On a floating slab fastenings are fairly easy to include in the slab but I have never seen anything of the order necessary to take a major tornado head on not that the usually used structures could take it anyway.
 
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demographic

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Apr 15, 2005
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One reason some old timber framed houses have lasted as well as they have is the fact that they have a howling gale blowing through the frames,that dries them out if they get damp.
Modern houses are required by code to be more airtight and those techniques arent always fully understood. Certainly in the UK where timber framing has been less utilised due to different mortgage insurance policies.
Putting a vapour membrane so the moisture doesnt condense out in the insulation and cause the frames to rot is something thats only really being covered now, most vapour membranes aren't sealed up anything like well enough to stop interstitial condensation.
Then the frames need to be ventilated to the outside so any moisture that does manage to get in can escape.

Old timey timber framed houses didn't have that problem but you had to live in a howling gale and pay a fortune to heat the place.
 
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TLM

Settler
Nov 16, 2019
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One of the basics of moisture control in cold or cool climates is that there should always be a slightly lower pressure inside compared to outside. Water vapour (gas!) goes towards lower partial pressure which in practice means from warm to cold. (In Dubai I remember slightly wondering when the vapour barrier was on the outside of the wall but after some thinking it was apparent that the outside is almost always warmer.)
 

Fadcode

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Feb 13, 2016
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They don’t make skyscrapers out of brick either. They use steel girders and glass.
Same with our massive cathedrals, stone outside but a lot of wood and steel (cast Iron)inside, a lot of our commercial buildings would not use wood at all because of the risk of fire,, a good example was the Albert Docks in Liverpool, which were used for the storage of tobacco, wool, cotton, Brandy, tea, sugar, Ivory, it was the first non-combustible warehouse in the world, and it was also first building in the UK to be built from Brick, Cast iron and Stone, and no structural wood at all, another unique thing about the docks was that everything was put in the dock directly off the ships by by crane, no entry for goods from the ground floor, this I am ashamed to say (being a scouser) was to stop the dockers from purloining the goods from the warehouse.

If you go onto Google maps,(UK) and go to the Royal Birkdale Golf Course up near Southport, Waterloo Road, There is a house there built with Canadian timber which was shipped over in kit form, the house has a blue facade and is in the American style as opposed to our normal looking houses. It took a while to complete as one of the ships bringing the wood over actually sank in the Atlantic, apparently it was rumoured that Tiger Woods bought the house, this was way back in is heyday,(1997 ish) nice looking house though.

Most new houses over here have an inner core of wood and an outer skin of brick, or other non wood type coatings, and this is manly due to lowering the cost of the build, and speeding up the completion, many new homes have sheet timber on the floor rather than the traditional floorboards, time will only tell whether they will last as long as the older traditionally built homes.
 
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Broch

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Jan 18, 2009
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Mid Wales
One reason some old timber framed houses have lasted as well as they have is the fact that they have a howling gale blowing through the frames,that dries them out if they get damp.
I'll tell the missus that's why I've given up trying top stop the draughts in the barn (house) - it does take some heating though but the log burner sorts that out.
 
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gonzo_the_great

Forager
Nov 17, 2014
199
44
Poole, Dorset. UK
As an aside, google for some documentary films from the 60's, about an archetect called Walter Segal.
He came up with a building method, initially just for his own temporary house (whylst he was having a conventional house built), but it caught on.
It was basically a stick and bean structure, free standing on foundation pads. But the main feature was, it used standard material sizes throughout.
The idea was, to help non trades people to slef build, without the wet trades (concrete, brick laying etc). Also they were intended to be recofigurable, alomst on the fly.
If I had a bit more space here (ie. that I haven't built on already), I'd have a go at one.

Last I heard, his original temporary house was still there, 50+yrs later.
 
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