Timber Treatments: Profit from Knowledge

Merchants profit from their knowledge, encouraging customers to come back time and again.  In the case of timber treatments, that knowledge is not as broad or as solidly embedded amongst merchant staff as it perhaps should be.

This can occasionally lead to confusion and to the wrong products being recommended to customers, storing up potential for future complaints. The Timber Trade Federation (TTF) has been working closely with the National Merchant Buying Society (NMBS) in the last six months to bring accessible information to the thousands of NMBS member branches across the country through a series called ‘Timber Topics’, available on both the TTF and NMBS websites.  Treatments are high on the list for further education.  Getting the right timber treatment for a particular end use is key to merchants selling a fit for purpose product.  The first step is to ask the customer where the timber is to be used.

Many merchants sell joist material.  Some of that may be labelled as ‘preservative treated’, or ‘green treated’, or ‘brown treated’, or even just as ‘treated’.  But what do those terms actually mean? Joist material, carcassing or studding, along with roofing or tiling battens, are for use internally within a building where they will receive minimal exposure to water or weather. Such timbers need a level of timber treatment for a Use Class 2 application, under BS 8417.

A Use Class 3 timber treatment is needed for all external construction timbers used above ground – which is the critical point – such as deck boards, fence rails and boards, claddings and fascias.  Previously, decking joists were also considered as an ‘above ground’ use, but regulations are changing.  As of this year, decking joists must be treated to Use Class 4 for ground contact, as the joists are permanently exposed to wetting.  The key factor is that decking joists, even if they’re on top of a membrane, gravel, or grass, are still in contact with the ground, which means wood will stay wet for a lot longer and thus needs to be treated accordingly.

Decking joists treated to lower Use Classes have failed in use causing complaints at merchant trade counters. To protect the reputation of your business, make sure you are selling decking bearers which have received a Use Class 4 timber preservative treatment.  Timber treated to Use Class 2 for interior applications simply won’t last outside.  Merchants should take advantage of the opportunity to market this new level of treatment as part of the quality and service they offer to customers. Local reputations are built on selling ‘Timber you can Trust’.

Ask your supplier to confirm in writing, or on the order or delivery documentation, to which Use Class the timber you’re receiving has been treated and ask for Use Class 4 treatment if you are ordering any kind of softwood product that will be in contact with the ground.  Any external softwood timbers in ground contact are covered by the need for Use Class 4 treatments, including fence posts, agricultural timbers, retaining walls, playground equipment, as well as decking posts and joists.

For the complete feature read the Summer Issue of Timber Trader UK

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