houses, Renovations

Q&A: Rustic Homes

What are the benefits of choosing to build a timber home? There are many benefits in choosing to build in timber:
  • Timber homes are easy to insulate and easy to heat. A well-insulated timber home is like a cocoon and will perform well in winter and in summer.
  • Timber homes have a gentle footprint and do not require huge amounts of excavation and retaining to sit comfortably on the landscape.
  • Timber homes lend themselves to attractive interior and exterior architecture and decorating. Think: exposed beams and timbers, claddings of varying textures and a lightweight structure. This is the part our clients love the most.
  • Timber homes can be easily constructed on inaccessible sites. A large part of our structures are completed in our factory and then transported in easily handled components. Our clients are always amazed at the speed at which these components are assembled on site.
  • A great bonus is that a timber construction is one of the few sustainable building methods. Timber plantations will in fact absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere where almost all other construction materials produce huge amounts of carbon dioxide. If the timber for your timber home is grown in South Africa, even better!
I’m worried that if I build a timber home, it will require a lot of maintenance. Is this the case? We design our homes according to the conditions on site. Since our homes are predominately built in the Western Cape, near the sea, we take special care to ensure that our exposed materials require little or no maintenance. While all of our internal structural timber is treated South African Pine, we use various durable hardwoods externally to eliminate regular maintenance. We generally clad the exterior walls of our sea front homes with fibre cement and roofs are often aluminium. We also find that aluminium windows perform best in these harsh conditions. There are many alternatives and this ultimately remains our clients’ choice. What measures does Rustic Homes take to lower the risk of fire and fire damage when building a home? Timber homes, like all conventional homes built in South Africa, must have a half hour fire rating. In a fire situation, a timber home will retain its structural integrity for a longer period than a steel building, for example. Where steel beams buckle and fold, timber beams char on the outside, often remaining intact after the blaze has been extinguished.  Brick walls will crack under conditions of intense heat, which results in the roof collapsing. This is not a comparison between different building systems but merely an illustration as to how they will react differently in a fire situation. When building in remote areas where bushfires are likely to pass through, it is important to take precautions. We have some basic rules that we advise our clients to follow which apply generally and not just to timber homes. How do you ensure that your homes stay cool in summer? We insulate our homes well to keep them warm in winter and cool in summer. It is also important to keep the heat off the north and west facing glass in summer. Many of our homes have covered verandas for this very reason. Window dimensions and glass types play a big role in the performance of a well-insulated house. Energy efficiency is now part of the design of every home. Which regions are timber homes best suited to in South Africa? We are based in the Western Cape and find that we have set a trend for a particular style of home that is popular in our coastal regions. This should not exclude any other parts of South Africa. I think a good architect could design a timber structure that is at home anywhere in South Africa. It’s about putting the right materials together in an appealing, practical and appropriate way. For more information about Rustic Homes, visit