For most South Africans, the term ‘wooden house’ conjures up an image of a log cabin in a holiday-like destination, either in the heart of the Drakensberg mountains, in a bushveld region like the Kruger National Park, or overlooking a sun-kissed beach in Cape Town. But don’t be misled into thinking that just because a residential structure is made of wood that it, automatically, needs to be of a rustic nature.
Thanks to wood being one of the more versatile building materials, a wooden house can be so much more than a rustic- or country-style home in a rural setting somewhere – in fact, it can be as modern (or classic, or Asian, or Scandinavian-styled) as you wish it to be.
Is wood the building material of the future? Well, wooden houses are among the oldest in history and are especially popular in Northern Europe and America. Timber homes were introduced to South Africa around the 1960s, mostly as summer homes, but today a mere 1% of wooden houses have a relatively minuscule share of local market. However, the last decade seems to have ignited a trend in timber structures on a local level.
But let’s look at the facts: sustainable grown and harvested wood has a carbon footprint much smaller than other prominent building materials, such as concrete and steel. That makes wood one terrific choice for even tall buildings (even though not many wooden skyscrapers can be glimpsed here in South Africa… not yet). A mass timber building’s carbon footprint is nearly 75% less than a concrete or steel building of similar size, which leads us to the conclusion that wood construction is both cost effective and energy efficient.
Thanks to numerous architects and designers, even local ones, coming up with clever ways to make new and existing buildings more ‘green’ (just think of solar heating panels visible on countless homes nationwide), wood continues to enjoy popularity for its environmental friendliness. How so? Because unlike concrete and steel, wood takes in massive amounts of carbon dioxide as opposed to aiding in greenhouse gas emissions – a definite plus in today’s modern age where cities seem to be expanding at a daily rate.
You’re no longer restricted to coating only your flooring with the wood of your choice – wooden houses, although not visible in every neighbourhood, are not such a far-fetched concept as they used to be. But before we vote that all residential houses be turned into log cabins, let’s first compare the pros to the cons.
· Wooden houses have a certain ambience that is just aesthetically pleasing.
· Wood has terrific natural insulation properties.
· Wooden houses (and doors and windows) are energy efficient.
· Although not a problem in South Africa, wooden houses are quite sturdy against earthquakes.
· Wood absorbs humidity better than brick, meaning you are less likely to have mould issues.
· Wood does require regular maintenance.
· Wood tends to be more costly than aluminium after glazing, painting or varnishing.
· Termite and fire can cause severe damage to a wooden house, which can be an issue if you live in an area where both are common.
One of the more popular products from a company specialising in wooden houses in South Africa with 275m² of floor space clocks in at R1,4 million, working out to building costs of around R4,500/m². Compare that to the R3,000 to R6,000 it can cost per m² to build a house using traditional brickwork and mortar.
If you’re looking at a high-quality, solid log or wooden house with high interior finishes, you can expect a budget of around R5, 500/m². This price can definitely be lowered by incorporating innovative design and plenty of open-plan living areas.
And how about purchasing your own, ready-made wooden or timber home in South Africa? It is possible, with a 30m² design starting out at roughly R290,000, and a 75m² two-bedroom cottage from about R650,000 from a local supplier of timber homes. For a larger family, consider a 128m² design with three bedrooms at about R1,080,000, or a 170m² unit with four bedrooms coming in at about R1,4 million.
Of course various factors influence the final price, such as size, location, provider, type of finishes, etc.
And on a side note: South African insurance applications for timber homes are subject to the same enquiries and procedures as conventional bricks-and-mortar homes, with no discrimination between wooden- and brick houses, for example – provided that all the necessary authorisations have been obtained.
Whether it’s a mountain cabin, a prefab home, a log house or a brick home that you dream about, homify is sure to have a range of examples to inspire you. In addition, we also provide a list of expert professionals (such as architects, interior designers, carpenters and many more) working both in- and outside the house, which means you are sure to find not only the residential structure of your dreams, but also the professional ripe and ready to help you design and build it.