Now for the good bit.
Well not quite. Before your frame is delivered by lorry you will have been busy with groundworks and completing foundations to sole plate level. This is clearly an important if unglamorous part of the build which provides an essential, solid and permanent base for your frame to sit on. It goes without saying that the base must be square and level as there are surprisingly only small tolerances within the assembled and braced frame.
A 10mm lump in a block wall might necessitate the whole frame having to be chocked up by the same 10mm!!
The building site will need to be readied for the arrival, storage and organisation of the frame prior to raising, which can take up quite a bit of room. It may occasionally be necessary to lay down some temporary hard standing in the form of scalpings. Access can also be an issue if you live (like most people seem to) right at the end of a steep and narrow country lane with no passing places! Needless to say these are all problems that can be overcome with a little sensible forward planning.
The right crane will have to be chosen for the job both in terms of lifting capacity and access to the site – generally we use one between 8 tonnes and 50 tonnes, ( a decision usually dictated by the crane company) and try and ensure that we can get it as close to the slab as possible. Even a 50 tonne crane on full reach can barely lift an empty wheelbarrow.
Raising a frame is potentially dangerous work and you will need to have erected a full scaffold to wall plate height before raising day. This allows for safe working and a stable structure to temporarily shore up parts of the frame during the early stages of the raising. As soon as the frame is up, the scaffold will then allow your roofers to crack on and make the building watertight.
Finally the day comes which may be the culmination of much time spent planning and dreaming on your part, and a lot of hard work in the workshop on ours. Seeing the frame rise from ground level is a deeply satisfying, exciting and emotional experience which is shared by everyone, clients and carpenters alike.
Frame raising can be a relatively quick process – a medium sized house might just take 2 days to erect including the rafters! We are happy to involve clients in the raising if they are so inclined – all we insist on is good weather and the occasional cup of tea.
A carefully choreographed sequence of assembly is followed starting with the sole plates and working upwards with the posts, cross frames, wall plates and finally the trusses and roof timbers. Joints are temporarily held together with metal framing pins or “podgers” until the whole structure is secure and in the right place, at which point the joints can be pegged up.
This involves knocking in hundreds of handmade tapered oak pegs. It’s hard work but rewarding as it firms up the frame by pulling all the joints tight. It also means we can relax as it means the frame fits! The pegs can be left proud both on the outside and inside at your discretion.
All that remains to be done is to stand back and admire.
Prior to assembly your building contractor will have completed the foundations and laid the slab, and scaffolding, if required, will have been erected.
The frame will be delivered by lorry in pieces and raised with the help of a team and a crane in a day or two. This is a fantastic moment which is just as exciting for the framers as it is for the clients. Finally hundreds of hand made green oak pegs are driven in to secure the frame.