Like a lot of people in Ireland, you probably still think block is superior to timber frame.

Fair statement?

Simply because it’s what you’re used to – right? Wrong!

Needless to say, every company is going to boast it’s superiority in one way or another. The only difference is, we’re here to tell you the FACTS.

We agree that there’s a place for all methods of construction – but in 2023 (and in years to come), the era of the block build is dwindling – and fast!

So if you still think block is best after reading this article, then maybe timber frame just simply isn’t the one for you.

Either way..

If you’re embarking on an energy efficient or even a Passive Standard self-build in 2023, then you’ll definitely want to keep reading!

A Little Bit about Timber Frame..

The idea of a timber frame house to some might seem like a new idea.

But in reality, timber frame is the world’s most popular building method.

It accounts for 70% of all construction in the developed world.

  • Over 60% in Scotland and;
  • 90% in North America & Scandinavia 

Notice something here?

Exactly. These locations all have something in common – they’re all cold, wet climates!

That leads us on to reason Number 1 – lets get started!

1.Timber Frame Actually Suits Our Cold Irish Climate!

Contrary to what block builders might tell you, timber frame is actually the best suited construction method in Ireland. 

It’s no coincidence that timber frame is notoriously popular in similar cold wet climates as we’ve mentioned above.

Everything is constructed off site and erected quickly.

And why’s that so good?

Well, it means your following trades can get to work inside regardless of the weather.

This wouldn’t be the case with block!

It’s also much easier to insulate and make a timber frame home airtight.

The timber itself offers excellent thermal efficiency along with low thermal bridging too.

But we’ll get in to all that a little later!

So what else?..

2. Block Houses are Notoriously Slow!

Building a house block by block is a slow and laborious process.

Why not make use of technology?

It’s also extremely weather dependent – leading to more delays!

With timber frame on the other hand..

Off-site manufacturing means less time on site.

And less time on site means your house goes up quicker and cheaper!

So how long will it all take?

Your precision engineered structural shell and roof can be erected within just days.

The walls can even be delivered and erected pre-insulated and air tight!

This means you can get your house weather tight in no time – fitted with windows and doors, ready for your finishing trades.

With a bit of pre-planning, a successful 16 week turn key build is an achievable result!

3. Block Isn’t Anywhere Near as Energy Efficient!

Timber frame houses are widely recognised as the most thermally efficiency method of construction.

Why? Because they’re undeniably much easier to insulate than a block built home.

Most importantly – quality insulation (such as rigid PIR boards) can be fitted within a timber stud without compromising the breathable cavity.

I’m sure you’ve heard other self-builders deliberating over partial and full-fill cavity insulation in their block build?

Yeah, not recommended!

Think about it – why was a cavity invented in the first place?

To allow the entire structure to breathe and to ensure the outer leaf never touches the inner leaf – right?

Exactly – a cavity is an important element of a build that should NEVER be closed over.

This will cause all sorts of issues in years to come. Just wait and see..

4. Block is More Difficult & Costly to Insulate!

As you’ve read above, timber frame is undoubtedly easier and cheaper to insulate.

And there’s issues full fulling the cavity of a block build.

Actually.. to fit enough insulation so that the build meets Part L, you have to increase the size of the cavity.

Although increasing the size of the cavity means taking away from your internal wall measurements..

I’m sure you’ll agree that making your rooms smaller is never a good option!

So what other options are there?

Well there’s 2:

  1. You could use internal insulated plasterboard.
  2. You could externally insulated over your block walls.

So what’s the problem here?

Let’s take internal insulation for example.

The one thing block builders are clinging on to as their sales pitch is the thermal mass of block (more on this later!).

So, say you want to use the thermal conductivity of block as a source of heat.

If you add internal insulation, you’re effectively removing the potential conductivity benefit.

Now lets take external insulation as an example.

Not only is it extremely costly, it also means that your exterior wall is an insulation board rather than block – surely this defeats the purpose?

With timber frame you get the best of both worlds:

  • A 100mm external leaf of block or cladding
  • A clear 50mm breathable cavity with wall ties.
  • 150 – 225mm frame fill insulation in the stud.
  • Internal insulated plasterboard if required (Passive Standard).

5. Going Airtight? Block Won’t Make It Easy

Yes! And it’s not that difficult to achieve either.

Well… except in a block house.

So what’s all the fuss about?

The facts:

  1. We spend on average 90% of our time indoors.
  2. Air leakage accounts for up to 50% of heat loss.

Then it only makes sense to have a draught free home – right?

Well why haven’t we done this before?

Because in the case of a block build (which most homes have been), air tightness is much more difficult (and much more costly) to achieve.

At a bare minimum, you need to ensure an even spread of plaster at full coverage on the internal walls of a block house.

And that requires highly skilled labour.

Regardless, self-builders are being forced to meet these new standards.

So what’s happening?

Simple – we’re seeing more and more self-builders choosing timber frame over block!

6. Cold Bridging Accounts for 30% of Heat Loss!

Energy efficiency and u-values are important, but so is thermal efficiency!

A good u-value will not compensate for a poor quality, leaky construction.

And what self-builders often don’t realise is that thermal bridging alone can account for up to 30% of heat loss a well-insulated, airtight home.

The difference is massive!

So what exactly is ‘Thermal Bridging’?

Thermal bridges or ‘cold bridges’ are caused by breaks in the insulation layer.

Essentially, this happens when the cold outer leaf touches the warm inner leaf of the build.

Consider a block build for example..

The cold from the foundation rises to the walls above.

These walls surround your rooms – both internal and external.

And have you ever touched a block wall or lay with your head against one?

It radiates cold.. right?

So how can it be energy efficient?

Simple answer is – it’s not!

Not only do thermal bridges account for up to 30% of heat loss…

They can also result in the build-up of moisture, causing condensation and damp.

Yes – that’s why you’ll sometimes see those wet looking patches on the external walls of a block house, especially in the winter!

I’m sure you’ll agree, this isn’t something you’d expect from a newly built home?

But with timber frame..

The internal stud walls are packed full of insulation.

This insulation sits above the VAC pressure treated timber soleplate.

There’s a DPC layer underneath this to prevent rising damp/moisture..

And the insulation layer also works to force the cold back down so that it can’t reach your internal walls.

In the unlikely case that it does..

Your internal insulation will prevent thermal bridging through the timber studs!

This wall detail is essentially bulletproof (and we’re not just bias!).

So what are the takings from this..

If you focus on airtightness and thermal bridging, you’ll significantly lessen the energy demands of your build.

In turn, you’ll drastically reduce your heating costs!

So the obvious advice here would be to use a construction method that offers:

  • A low u-value
  • Excellent airtightness and;
  • Minimal cold / thermal bridging.

And what construction method is that?

You guessed it.. timber frame!

7. But What About Block’s Thermal Mass?

All the builders you’ve quoted keep telling you that you “can’t beat” the thermal mass offered by concrete – right?

Block may very well offer a higher thermal mass;

But when you think about it logically..

Thermal mass isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Houses are getting warmer and more airtight – and that’s not set to change any time soon either!

With nZEB (Near Zero Energy Building) expected to take effect from next year (replacing Part L) – you can be sure we’ll be making every attempt to COOL our homes rather than heat them!

Consider this…

Concrete offers a high thermal mass, yet insulation offers virtually none.

So why is this?

Well think about it..

Have you ever been in a block house with freezing cold temperatures outside? The wall is almost unbearably cold isn’t it?

And it takes those walls a LONG time to heat up? Then its too warm upstairs at night?

Sound familiar?..

Research proves that in a highly insulated airtight home, concrete’s high mass simply means that:

  1. it takes much more energy to raise the temperature, and;
  2. it also takes much longer to cool.

For this reason, it’s a well-known fact that block houses are much harder to heat (which makes them much less ‘energy efficient’) than timber frame houses.

timber frame home in ireland

And here in Ireland, one thing we can be sure of is that the weather is changeable!

One day it’s freezing, the next it’s a scorcher and we’re all out in our shorts and t-shirts.

Am I right?! Consider this scenario..

On a warm day in a block build, your underfloor heating and block walls retain the heat.

So how do you cool your house down without a cooling system?

You’ll have to open your windows to let in some cold fresh air – and that’s not something you want to be doing after paying out for a well-insulated airtight home with MHRV – right?


With timber frame on the other hand, the timber is naturally thermally responsive.

Timber frame houses heat up quickly in winter and cool quickly in the summer. Effectively, timber works in the same way as insulation! 

In comparison, concrete offers virtually no insulating value.

In fact, the R-Value (the most important measure) is only -0.08 per inch.

This applies to both a block house and an ICF (Insulated Concrete Form) construction.

ICF actually completely eliminates any potential benefit from its thermal mass.

Think about it..

The insulation is placed on both sides of the concrete, so effectively the ‘thermal mass’ of the block no longer works to its advantage.

Plus, ICF is really expensive and the skilled labour available for this method of construction in Ireland is virtually non-existent! 

And on top it all off – do a quick Google search of “leaky ICF walls” and you’ll see hundreds of causes for concern – just ask your engineer.


But we’re not here to directly compare other methods, so let’s just stick to stating the facts!

8. Block Actually ‘GIVES OFF’ Carbon Dioxide

Now you don’t have to be any sort of environmentalist to care that block actually ‘gives off’ carbon dioxide.

It’s a well-established fact that block built homes are responsible for an enormous amount of:

  • Energy usage
  • Resource consumption, and
  • Greenhouse gas emissions!

Timber frame on the other hand isn’t just carbon neutral, it’s carbon NEGATIVE.

So what does carbon negative mean?

Timber frame actually captures CO2 and stores it for the lifetime of the build.

In fact, rather than giving off unhealthy CO2, timber frame provides Oxygen!

9. But What about Mortgage Approval & Insurance?

So you’ve probably heard that house insurance is more expensive with timber frame – right?


Timber frame houses comply with all building regulations and fire safety standards.

All materials used are CE approved and A1 fire rated!

So there is absolutely nothing to worry about.

Consider this:

In a block build, what are the floors, furniture and often the upstairs walls made of?

Exactly – all timber!

In fact

It’s been suggested that mortgage providers actually consider timber frame of less risk.


Because the exposure to risk is minimised as the build goes up much quicker!

And you’re wondering if mortgage approval is any different – right?

Timber frame is the most widely used method in the world.

Now accounting for over 70% of all construction.

We can assure you that mortgage approval for a timber frame house is NO different!

Here’s what Zurich & Halifax had to say..

Insurance companies draw no distinction between timber frame and brick or block construction.” -Steve Birt (Zurich)

Timber frame housing is equally as good (if not better) than housing constructed from brick or block. We make no differentiation on the lending terms offered on either form of construction.” -Patrick Sawdon (Halifax).

 10. Awkward Site? Block Isn’t for You!

So you have an awkward site?

Difficult access?

Sloped grounds?

If you’re nodding your head to any of these, then block isn’t for you!


Consider access – can you get a truck in easily?

No… But they can be carried – right?

Blocks are heavy.

Imagine carrying your entire build block-by-block.

How many labourers would that take?

And how long?

Heck, more importantly – how much would it cost?

On the other hand..

Timber frame is light weight.

But did you know that it offers the same strength to weight ratio as steel?!

Strength-for-strength, timber is 16 times lighter than steel and 5 times light then concrete block.

It’s structurally load bearing, yet light weight to transport and carry!

So what does this mean?

Lighter work is easier work.. and a quicker build reduces labour cost!

But what about access for timber frame?

Not a problem!

Our pre-insulted airtight panels can actually be craned in.

So an awkward site even with tight access is no match for timber frame.

On top of being bulky to store on site..

Block is also quite fragile.

A fractured or chipped block is no good to anyone.

Blocks need to be stored carefully out of the wet and kept on site ready for use.

Often for LONG periods of time – its important to factor this into your budget..

 11. Where’s the Quality Assurance with Block?

The thing with block is that although it’s a skilled trade..

Anyone can pretend they know how to lay a block.

But just like everything else – 

There’s a right and a wrong way to do it!

And that’s just the block work itself.

Then there’s air tightness – and we’ve already pointed out how difficult that can be in a block build!

Skilled labour is essential and can be expensive.

So where’s the reassurance?

Well other than researching your builder or contractor – there’s isn’t really any!

And what about timber frame?

For a start, you have the reassurance of certified products.

Then there’s fire safety regulated materials, best practice standards, building regulation compliance, certification and accreditations.

 12. Cracks are Almost Inevitable!

As we said back in point 1 up at the top of the article..

Timber frame is actually the most suited material for our Irish climate.

Why not block?

Simply put, block doesn’t like movement.

In areas where ground conditions are poor and a good foundation is hard to achieve, a full block build doesn’t fair well.

It’s common to get settlement cracks on the exterior leaf of block – but the interior can be frustrating!

So what works best?

A durable block or cladded exterior and a flexible interior.

Sounds like the best of both worlds – right?

You guessed it!

That’s exactly the build structure of a timber frame house!

 13. Is Timber Frame Cheaper than Block?

There are many things that inevitably make block more expensive than a timber frame house.

For one..

The build takes longer – meaning more paid labour hours.

Most importantly, as it can’t be manufactured onsite, the costs associated with delays can accumulate very quickly!

And the words “delayed” and “additional cost” are NEVER something a self-builder wants to hear…especially in the same sentence!

 14. Block is Extremely Unpredictable!

The main reason why our clients choose timber frame (besides all the other great benefits) is that block is unpredictable!

Nothing about a block house can be manufactured off site.

It is solely dependent on the weather and the conditions of the site.

And let’s face it.. we’re in Ireland after all!

I’m sure you’re well aware that delays usually mean the dreaded mounting of unforeseen expenses.

But with a timber frame house – you can retain this control in a dry, quality controlled factory environment.

Watching someone’s house be delivered and erected within a matter of days never fails to amaze me..

And for the client, it’s a spectacle never to be forgotten!

 15. Can You Wait? Block Needs 6 Weeks to ‘Dry Out’!

Consider this scenario..

So you’ve built your dream home, made of block..

You’ve chosen your paint colours, paint brush in hand and you’re ready to go!

But there’s a problem:

The plaster stops you in your tracks and says you have to wait a MINIMUM of 6 weeks to allow the internal plaster work to dry out.

You’re told if you do it any sooner, your paint could bubble and crack!

Why does this happen?

Well, 3 layers of are required in a block house.

  1. the scratch coat.
  2. the cement coat.
  3. the hard wall skim coat.

Not only does this take longer to do and means you have to wait.. its also obviously more expensive.

Here comes the comparison..

With timber frame, you’ll only need a skim coat before painting with a recommended drying out period of just 1 to 2 weeks!

 16. Architects LOVE Timber Frame.. & So Do the Planners!

It’s a well known fact that architects love timber frame.


Because its flexible.

Architects HATE being bound by the restrictions of block.

They get to take your idea of a dream home and run with it!

Without having to worry about the logistics and associated costs.

And from the view of the planners – timber frame is much quicker to erect.


  • A quicker finished build.
  • Less disruption to neighbours, and;
  • A cleaner, safer working environment.

 17. FINALLY.. But a Block House Will Last Longer – Right?

But surely block is still more solid, it’ll last longer – right?

Actually, wrong..

In fact, timber frame houses are proven to be every bit as solid.

Remember that buildings go through strict, rigorous regulation.

They’re designed to meet certain minimum build standards.

And in the case of timber frame houses – they actually exceed these standards!

After all..

I’m sure you’ve heard of Tudor Architecture? 

Believe it or not, timber frame is the world’s most preferred building method.

There are timber frame homes built in Scandinavia and North America lasting well into their decade, showing minimal signs of age!

Have you seen where Shakespeare was born?

His timber frame home house was built in England in the 16th CENTURY!

It’s now a museum open to the public.

I guess Ireland just hasn’t caught up yet..

It might be the case that we’re just set in our ways (well, some of us!).

But most definitely, when it comes to structural integrity and strength..

Any build that effectively ‘Passes the Test’ is as good as the next.

And in terms of everything else – energy efficiency, speed, value for money and so on…

Well, that’s up to you to decide!

Ok, Lets Sum It All Up!

So you’ve spent time ready ALL 17 reasons not to build block in 2023.

And you’re still not sure?

Have a read of our latest blog:The Truth About Timber Frame – Myth Busting Facts!”

Feel free to fire away with any questions in the comments box below and we’ll do our very best to help!

At the end of the day..

There’s a place for every method and there’s no convincing a diehard block builder otherwise.

But if you’ve just received planning permission and you’re starting off on your self build journey..

Then you’d be silly not to consider another option like timber frame.

Especially when the statistics (and all of the interviews we’ve sourced above) rule in its favour!

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