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The notes below provide identify the factors which affect the properties of timber. More
detailed information on wood types and properties is provided on webpage Wood

The timber used for construction, carpentry, joinery etch is obtained from the trunks of trees.
This part of the tree includes features required to structurally support the tree its branches and
leaves and withstand natural forces such as wind. The truck also includes a cellular structure to
transport moisture containing minerals and nutrients, sap between the roots and the upper
branches and leaves.

The trunk is composed of long tubular cells made up of cellulose which are bonded together by
lignin. Most of these tubular cells run along the trunk and result in the grain structure of the
wood. some cells run radially out from the centre of the trunk and these are identified as rays.
In temperate countries, trees produce a new layer each growing season under the bark and this
results in the annular rings. In tropical regions which have continuous growth the trunk
includes and essentially uniform section.

The central, normally darker, area of the trunk is called the heartwood and the outer area is called
the sapwood. The heartwood performs a mechanical support function and stiffness to the tree.
The sapwood transports the fluids along the trunk. The heartwood is generally stronger and
more durable .
The density of is a very important factor affecting the strength of wood. The densest woods are
generally the strongest. The density is also related to the stiffness and hardness e.g both these
properties increase as the timber density increases.
Softwoods are generally evergreens (coniferous) with needle-like leaves. They have the
following characteristic features
They grow relatively quickley and trees softwood trees can be felled after 30 years
They have, generally, poor durability qualities unless treated with preservatives.
They are readily available and comparitively cheap
Hardwoods are generally broad-leaved (deciduous) that lose their leaves at the end of each
growing season. The cell structure of hardwoods is more complex than softwoods with thick
walled cells called fibres providing the structural support and thin walled cells called vessels
providing the meddium for food condution along the trees. Hardwoods have the following
characteristics affecting their use.
The grow relatively slowly ,resulting in denser, stronger timbers. These tress
take over 100 years to mature.
They have, generally, good durability qualities with less need for preservatives.
They are obtained from tropical areas and are comparatively expensive. .
Timber has high moisture content when first processed from the tree. The moisture content is
reduced prior to the timber being used as a structural material. The drying off timber can be
achieved using either of two methods
1) Air seasoning ...The timber is stacked in open sided weatherprrof containers
is such the air can freely circulated to all surfaces of the timber to promote drying.
This process can take considerable time and much space is required.

2) Kiln Drying..The timber is dried out in heated , ventilated and dehumidified
ovens. This process requires special equipment and requires high energy energy
use. However the process is controlled and rapid.
Because of the nature of timber poor control of the drying process can result in a range of defects
including bowing, cupping, twisting and cracking.

The moisture content of wood w() is defined using the equation
w = (m1 - m2 ) / m2
w = moisture content expressed as a percentage.
m1 mass of test piece before drying (g)
m2 mass of test piece after drying (g)
The properties of timber are different in different directions. The elastic modulus and strength
of wood is much greater in a direction along the grain than across the grain. If the grain is
sloping at an angle to the direction of loading this can also have a marked effect of the strength of
the timber.

At low stress levels the strain is proportional to the strain. The strain is greater for a given stress
at high moisture contents. However timber does have significant creep characteristics i.e over
time at high constant stress values the strain will increase. In calculating strength of structures
the duration of the loading is one of the factors to be considered.

Timber is a poor conductor of heat. The denser timbers are better conductors than the lighter
timbers. Timber expands when heated but this is offset by the reduction in section resulting from
the loss of moisture.

Timber compares favourably with other construction materials in terms of fire resistance.
Small timber section may ignite easily and reduce to ash. However larger sections have
significant resistance to fire because the surfaces initially in contact with the flames burn to
charcoal which resists the further spread of the flame.

Timber does not corrode. It is however subject to weathering, chemical attack, and fungal
attack. The durability of timber varies depending on the wood species If timber is kept dry or
is continuously immersed in fresh water then decay shoud not be a problem. Timber immersed
in seawater is at high risk of damage resulting from attack by molluscs.

There are a number of preservative treatments available to prevent the deterioration of timber
resulting from fungi, insects or molluscs. The types of wood presevative treatments available
are briefly described bel
1) Tar oil penetration - Creosote is a a typical tar oil presevative. This group is
used generally for external systems such as telegraph poles , fences, railway
sleepers, timber enclosures (garden sheds) etc.

2) Organic solvents.. These are widely used and are applied using simple
techniques such a brushing spraying or dipping.

3) Water borne solvents are the most widely used for industrial applications and
are normally applied into the timber under pressure.