5 myths and realities of building with wood

María Eugenia Velásquez

March 16, 2022
Wooden housing beams under construction

Many of the myths we have about timber construction may have been inherited from the Romans.

Yes! 🤯 It sounds crazy, but history backs me up on this. Let me tell you: although the image we usually have of the Romans is sumptuous brick, stone or marble buildings, the reality is that most family dwellings were built of untreated wood. This, coupled with overcrowded conditions and the regular use of firewood for cooking, meant that fires were very frequent, thus giving wood a "bad reputation" as a building material.

Despite the fact that the construction methods and processes to which wood is subjected have improved infinitely since then, in the Mediterranean area of Europe - direct heirs of the Romans - we still have this negative perception of wood, unlike the countries of Northern Europe and the United States, where it has always been the main building material.

I think it's time to put these myths to rest and that's why I've set out to tell you the facts about the top 5 myths of building with wood. Read on!

1. Increased fire risk

This is probably the biggest fear people have when thinking about building with wood; however, the reality is quite the opposite. Although wood is a combustible material, it provides much better fire resistance compared to other materials such as metal and iron.

Wood has a natural defence system that creates an outer layer of charcoal and slows down the combustion process. So, in the event of fire, the wood will be able to support the weight for longer.

Also, if you are worried that the fire might start in the wooden structure, this is very, very difficult (not to say impossible). For example, if you try to light a fire with only thick logs, you can spend the whole night trying without success, that is why smaller logs are used to start the fire. Well, the same thing happens in a house, fires do not start in the wooden structure, carpets, curtains, papers and books burn first. So you have the same chances in a wooden building as in a concrete or brick building.

2. They have low durability

With improvements in the processes and materials used, the timber frame houses being built today can have the same durability as a traditional masonry house. On average we could be talking about a century.

In order to avoid durability problems, it is important to choose the right wood species and to take care of the construction details at all points of the construction site. This is why it is very important to choose a professional who is familiar with timber construction.

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3. Requires a lot of maintenance

You may have thought: "A wooden house needs a lot of maintenance, sanding, varnishing, painting... over and over again". As it turns out, it doesn't.

When we talk about building with wood, we are referring to the structure. This structure can then be covered with sate or any other material you prefer for the finish, so the maintenance is the same as for a house made with more traditional materials.

If you decide to leave wood exposed or use it for the façade, then obviously you should consider maintenance, just as you would do with the paint on your house. But in order for this maintenance to be less frequent, it is important to consider from the outset how the appearance of the wood will change over time and design accordingly.

4. Increased termite risk

The reality is that the percentage of wooden houses that suffer from this type of situation is the same as that seen in metal structures and rust. In other words, it is more a matter of neglect, lack of maintenance and fumigation than the material itself.

3. The environment is harmed

I've heard this one many times: "But if we all start building with wood we'll run out of forests" There's no flaw in that logic, is there?

Nothing could be further from the truth. Wood is one of the most sustainable building materials available today. In addition to being carbon positive, i.e. it absorbs more CO2 than is necessary for its manufacture, the process of growing and felling forests ensures a sustainable and renewable cycle: every time a tree is felled 10 more are planted.

The FSC and PEFC certifications ensure the conservation of forests and guarantee responsible and careful harvesting.

Thinking of building a wooden house? Schedule a video call with us and let's start shaping your project.

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Are you interested in building a passive house out of wood?
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Are you interested in building a passive wooden house?
schedule a video call