There are many, many different ways of using wood to build houses, and over the centuries, humans have tried them all. Some of these methods are fairly temporary in nature, being built by nomadic or semi nomadic peoples, but building in wood has endured the test of time, as have many of the actual homes. So how long DO wooden houses last?
We don’t know a lot about the very earliest human house builders, but we do know that a timber dwelling, a Neolithic longhouse, with oak posts and split logs, and wattle and daub walls, was built by settlers in many areas of Europe between 5000 and 6000 BC – not surprisingly, none of these are still standing, although their remains have been found by archaeologists!
Somewhat later on the human development timeline, the good old Romans were using a form of timber frame construction by AD50, and there’s a reconstruction of one that was found during archaeological excavations at Herculaneum, a town which was buried under volcanic ash after Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79.
In Switzerland, there are a number of very old wooden houses still standing, some even in use as homes, the oldest of which is Bethlehem House in Schwyz, built in 1287 and now a museum.
There’s also the old farmhouse at Kirkjubøur in the Faroe Islands (part of the kingdom of Denmark), which was built in the 11th century and is still occupied as a working family farm, although it too is technically a museum.
In the UK, the earliest surviving timber houses are at Boxted in Kent and Upton Magna near Shrewsbury, and date from the 13th century. There is also St Andrews Church at Greensted in Essex, some of the timber parts of which date back to 1060 (ok, it’s not a house, but it’s pretty impressive!)!
In Korea, the incredibly environmentally friendly ‘Hanok’ houses, built with heavy use of timber and paper produced from local wood, were first built in the 1400s, and many of them survive to present day. Hasadang Hall in Suncheon was built in 1461, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the village of Yangdong has over 50 houses still standing that date back many centuries.
Post War Timber Housing
Jumping enthusiastically forward to a more modern era, immediately after the 2nd World War, the British Government bought 5,000 pairs of pre-fab wooden houses from Sweden to replenish housing stock lost in the bombings, and built 2,444 of them in England and Wales, and the rest in Scotland. 80 years later, some of them are not only still standing, despite being intended to last at most 60 years, but are still occupied. There are some here in Yorkshire where Scandinavian Homes Ltd is based.
Today, wooden homes are increasingly popular in countries across the world, in part because of their environmentally friendly construction materials, energy efficiency and healthy interiors. As well as the Scandinavian countries like Finland, where our log homes are manufactured, wooden homes are built in the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and parts of South-East Asia. The UK is still lagging behind a bit, with around 15-20% of new homes in England being some form of timber construction (often timber frame) while Scotland is at around 70%.
With all of that in mind, why not consider timber for building your own forever home?