Brick Vs Timber Houses

Hi,
We are planning on upsizing from a unit to a house. Checking online we could see there are several houses with prices within our budget but they apparently are made of timber or some sort of similar material, anyways they are definitely not made of bricks or concrete.

We are not familiar with this type of structure, so hundreds of questions come to our minds. I'm going to list here a few and hope someone here can help us out.
- Are they structurally weaker than concrete/brick houses?
- How concerned should I be with termites?
- In the long term, with maintenance, what sort of problems could we face?
- What types of reports should we get to avoid buying a problematic dwelling?

Thanks, please feel free to add any extra points you find could be relevant and helpful to us.

Comments

  • Don't forget that shifting ground underneath a brick slab home can lead to big problems too.

  • Plenty of brick houses have a timber structure too.

  • Both timber and brick houses can last for centuries or years depending on build quality, upkeep and setting. Both have advantages and disadvantages. The question is too general.

    • Yeah, good point. thanks for that.
      So what would be the main advantages and disadvantages of timber houses?

      • Less cracking

      • Builds are largely cultural and dependant on surrounds, and what local tradespeople and suppliers are comfortable with. A timber build in a new Perth suburb is exceptional, in Brisbane it's common. The hot Mediterranean is full of concrete houses, sub-Arctic Europe is full of timber houses - probably opposite of what you might expect for living / insulation but fitting for what materials were traditionally available.

        Just get a house you're happy with.

      • +12 votes

        Not wolf proof according to majority of pigs surveyed.

  • You're thinking about it too much.

  • Please post the other hundreds of questions.

  • Ask me 10 years ago, I would have sworn by brick.

    Are they structurally weaker than concrete/brick houses?

    Every load supporting point is only as strong as the worst part. In the case of brick, it is heavy and the weight can cause the floor to shift. If the floor shifts, the weight can be suspended but you have other issues to deal with such as cracks and potential leaky pipes.

    How concerned should I be with termites?

    Not very if your builders uses the correctly treated timber where required.

    In the long term, with maintenance, what sort of problems could we face?

    Neither require maintaining. It is the other components such as roof, cables and pipes that will require replacement first. Problems… The biggest drawback of wood is fire.

    What types of reports should we get to avoid buying a problematic dwelling?

    Reports will only highlight obvious problems. If you're not knowledgeable, there are no guarantees that any report will identify issues. I personally think that reports are crap but do them as a formality. Everyone of the reports have been useless.

  • Are you looking at buying existing or building new? low set or high set? Which city?
    Timber house with timber cladding vs brick veneer house (brick outside and timber inside):
    An all timber house can have worse insulation, more maintenance costs eg painting external weatherboards, more exposure to fire risk from neighbour's house if very close to you etc more susceptible to rot from wet weather.
    Brick veneer house shows more cracking if the ground moves below, bricks only act to stop weather eg rain, wind, temperature, noise, bricks are not structural. Main structure is timber. Look for treated pine to be used for the structural components eg walls and roof trusses etc
    Alternatives:
    Double brick
    Hebel
    Core filled masonry (concrete) blocks

    • Are they structurally weaker than concrete/brick houses? The brick or facing is only cladding. A brick house is called brick veneer with timber as the main structural element to hold the roof and floor over. So a timber house is no different for structural requirements for either a timber or brick veneer house.
    • How concerned should I be with termites? Check council property info in Vic as it will state if in a termite area. Termite nests are site specific, so both types can be attacked. Note steel frames can be used, so then not an issue.
    • In the long term, with maintenance?
      Brick veneer - not really any, hence why used.
      Timber - if say weather board it will require repainting now and again. A timber frame house could have a homogeneous cladding on it and not need to be painted.

    What sort of problems could we face?
    Brick - old bricks work may need mortar repointed
    Or cracking from ground movement.
    Timber - The timber cladding rots as exposed to weather from poor maintenance. A timber frame house could have a homogeneous cladding on it and not need to be painted.

    • What types of reports should we get to avoid buying a problematic dwelling? Get a termite inspection or just inspect house your self and look for termite nests under suspended floor or perimeter of house. Building inspection report. Witg these though it could cost you alot if you have to keep doing them for each house and it may delay your descision and you them may miss out on purchase. Could be a condition of offer. Exe being if termite inspection to be done by you and if termites found you have option to cancel sale or negotiate further due to cost rectify.

    Both types have pros and cons and not just for construction. If your house is timber in a brick veneer house that may or may not work as being popular for that area for resale.

    Generally brick veneer walls can be better insulated as you also have the brick cladding as apposed just a 7.5 or 20 mm cladding in timber. Mind you some houses have a foam cladding so offer very good insulation. Mostly in upper floors

    • wow, thanks for that, some very good info here. :)

      • Also be aware that even if the Council doesn't designates it not as a termite areaa a nest could be 100m away at the neighbours yard, and your house is its feeding ground. That's why the house under floor needs to be checked and areas around where timber lying around say in a shed on the site. The termites might come to the house after the shed.

        • thanks for the extra info. Not sure if we will go ahead with timber anymore, too much complications can happen. ;/

          • @chrisdop: As I mentioned brick veneer houses can still have issues with termite invasion for the timber frame. Good luck with the house search.

  • Are they structurally weaker than concrete/brick houses?

    Ask the three little pigs. :)

    … One issue no one has mentioned is WiFi - much poor reception with double brick. You'll feel like pounding your head into the brick walls if you're far away / blocked by a few walls from the router.

  • Many "Brick" houses are actually brick veneer so timber frame and gyprock walls. Very easily damaged. But also very easy to modify if you want to change walls.

    Timber, weatherboard and brick venner are all susceptible to termites and if you look up the incidence its like 1 in 4.

    Stick with double brick!

  • Termites aren't an issue with a timber frame if treated timber has been used, there are different treatment levels but the common framing treated timber is treated to a H2 level treatment, this means it's treated for white ants, this comes with a 25 year guarantee. If standard non-treated timber has been used then termites could become an issue.

    I wouldn't say one is better than the other structurally but double brick is a bit more fool proof and easier to transfer the loads from the roof through to the foundations, whilst a timber frame requires a bit more consideration to ensure wall studs are at the correct location of concentrated loads to transfer through to the foundation, this shouldn't be an issue as we have a building code for a reason.

    Double brick is great for hanging pictures etc as you can hang them anywhere whilst a timber frame has you trying to locate studs and you might have to compromise on position of frame to suit stud location. Any alterations later like shifting or adding a power point is a lot easier with a timber frame, it's very versatile and quite simple if you need to close in a door or add a door etc.

    Both can have cracking issues but double brick is more prone to cracking due to movement in the foundation

    • might have to compromise on position of frame to suit stud location.

      Wallmate plaster anchors. You are welcome.

      • I have used these before, they are great but no way I would trust it to hold 20kg in a 10mm plasterboard sheet.

        • You and I both but even big oil on canvas paintings do not come close to 10kg.

          Unless you're hanging grandiose pieces with thick timber frames, you don't have a problem. If you're hanging those, you have the money to build a house exactly as you like.

    • thanks very much for the info. Good point about hanging frames and renovations. Wasn't taking them into consideration.

  • We have a converted warehouse and the walls are triple brick. Because we went up a second storey we had to underpin the walls, which was very expensive. The advantage of solid brick is if you are just restumping the floors it is quite cheap, because the stumps just support the floor in a particular room, however, if you have to underpin the walls it is a lot more expensive. Renovating solid brick can be more expensive as you are having to remove brick rather than just plasterboard for, original, internal walls and make sure you aren’t weakening the structure. We used to joke we should’ve got Weatherboard because you could renovate with a chainsaw. Our internal courtyard was, originally, lined with weather boards and even painting it regularly didn’t stop the weather deterioration. We recently replaced it with micro ripple colourbond and it looks great and weathers well.
    When looking at buying a new place look for sagging and cracking, particularly in one section. Find out when it was rewired last. Look for damage that might indicate cracked pipes. Getting a condition report is a good idea but make sure you talk to the person doing it and find out what they will, and won’t be, checking. Will they, actually, be getting under the house and into the roof? Look up area maps for high termite infestations and clay. Clay is not good. It dries out in summer and gets sloppy in winter. Especially for solid brick houses this can result in significant cracking.
    Look for large trees near the house. They are lovely and shady but the roots could be burrowing into pipes, particularly things like willow trees.

    Happy to bore you more if you’ve got any other questions, hope that helps.

    • Thanks for all the info, it was super helpful. If you don't mind, will get back to you in case we need more clarification. :)

      • No probs at all, happy to help. It annoys me it is the biggest purchase most of us make and you get better protection if you buy a $10 shirt.

        I would also recommend a fully detached house with a little bit of land, the less you have to involve the neighbours for changes the better.

  • It's me again! We found a wood house, built in the 60s that it is exactly what we need, but we still undecided regarding going ahead because of its material.

    This house is north facing (Sydney), with master bedroom and living room placed at the front.

    Something I forgot to ask initially and it is our main concern atm (the other things you guys answered and we did some research, all good):
    - Are wood houses colder inside then brick?
    - In case yes, what can we do to improve insulation?
    - How can I know if the house wall and ceiling has enough isolation?

    thanks again!

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