Insuring a Timber Framed Building

Insurance of Timber Framed properties is a job for specialists.  In the insurance industry this is known as Non Standard Insurance.  Costs are normally higher, because of the greater perceived risk of fire.  Timber Framed buildings need not be old - many spectacular new buildings are created around a custom designed timber frame.  Most thatched cottages were originally timber framed - usually using oak or elm.  Repair costs ARE a little higher - labour intensive jobs such as thatching are more expensive than roofing with tiles.This reflects in Projected Rebuild Costs, which can be in the £2500 a square metre region for a thatched cottage, as opposed to £1000 or £1500 a square metre for a standard brick building with tiled roof.

It is interesting to note that oak is actually considered a good fire risk - it burns very slowly, and chars rather than burns. I've seen burned out cottages in which the oak skeleton still stands, albeit somewhat charred - the rest of the house has gone, but 400 year old oak framing still survives.  We often see charred oak beams in houses we are surveying - it was common for oak beams to run right through chimneys for example, and sometimes they charred and smouldered within the chimney.  Bressemer beams over inglenook fireplaces can get hot and smoulder - but they rarely burn.

Fire Prevention Measures in Timber Framed Buildings 

Your insurer may ask for specific Fire Prevention measures to be installed.  For instance, thatched cottages now have almost mandatory spark arresters fitted to chimneys.  Chimneys are a major source of problems with timber framed buildings - you should make sure the chimney is swept clean, and preferably lined with an insulated stainless steel flue liner.  

Modern timber framed buildings are very different - entire houses are built from softwood which burns easily and quickly - there are specialised regulations designed to prevent spread of fire in these structures, but they are rarely built using oak.  

 

Cover for Reinstatement cost:

You should make sure cover allows for the use of appropriate materials if the property is listed.  English Heritage point out that rebuild costs are often greater if Listed properties are damaged, and you are legally required to repair or replace 'As Was', in Like for Like condition. If more than 40% of the building has survived, it is likely, according to English Heritage, that this will be the case.  Rebuild Costs vary enormously.  A brick built structure, with owner builder supervision can be as low as £900 per square metre, but a burned out thatched cottage could cost upwards of £2500 per square metre.  It is important to make sure your building is properly covered, otherwise you may well be penalised if an insurance claim is made and you are found to be under insured.  We can help with estimating rebuild costs as part of our Building Survey if needed.

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