You are on page 1of 14

UBALDO, Hans Darren S.

BS – Civil Engineering 5

I. STRUCTURAL TIMBE DESIGN


by Jack Portieous and Abdy Kermani (2 nd Edition)

1. What are Soft woods?


Softwoods, characterized by having naked seeds or as cone-bearing trees, are generally
evergreen with needle-like leaves (such as conifers) comprising single cells called tracheids, which are
like straws in plan, and they fulfil the functions of conduction and support. Rays, present in softwoods,
run in a radial direction perpendicular to the growth rings. Their function is to store food and allow the
convection of liquids to where they are needed. Examples of the UK grown softwoods include spruce
(whitewood), larch, Scots pine (redwood) and Douglas fir.
2. Give the characteristics of Soft woods.
 Quick growth rate (trees can be felled after 30 years) resulting in low-density timber with
relatively low strength.
 Generally poor durability qualities, unless treated with preservatives.
 Due to the speed of felling they are readily available and comparatively cheaper

3. What are Hard woods?


Hardwoods are generally broad-leaved(deciduous)trees, which often lose their leaves at the
end of each growing season. The cell structure of hard woods is more complex than that of soft woods
with thick-walled cells, called fibres, providing the structural support and thin-walled cells, called
vessels, providing the medium for food conduction. Due to the necessity to grow new leaves every year
the demand for sap is high and in some instances larger vessels may be formed in the springwood,
these are referred to as ‘ring-porous’ woods such as in oak and ash. When there is no definite growing
period the pores tend to be more evenly distributed, resulting in ‘diffuse-porous’ woods such as in
popular and beech. Examples of the UK grown hard woods include oak, beech, ash, alder, birch,
maple, poplar and willow.
4. Give the characteristics of Hard woods.
 Hardwoods grow at a slower rate than softwoods, which generally results in a timber of high
density and strength, which takes time to mature, over 100 years in some instances.
 There is less dependence on preservatives for durability qualities.
 Due to the time taken to mature and the transportation costs of hardwoods, as most are
tropical, they tend to be expensive in comparison with softwoods.

5. Define Reaction wood.


Reaction wood is referred to abnormal wood tissues produced in tree trunks subjected to
strong wind pressures. Horizontal branches and leaning branches are believed to form
reactionwoodinanattempttopreventthemfromexcessivebendingandcrackingunder their own weight.
There are two types of reaction wood: in softwoods it is referred to as compression wood and in hard
woods as tension wood. Compression wood, forms on the underside of branches of leaning softwoods
and contains more lignin than normal wood. Tension wood forms on the upper sides of leaning
hardwoods and contains more cellulose than normal wood. Reaction wood is much denser than normal
wood with the specific gravity of around 35% greater in compression wood and 7% greater in tension
wood. Longitudinal shrinkage is also greater, 10 times more than normal for compression wood and 5
times for tension wood. Timber containing compression wood is liable to excessive distortion during
drying and tends to fail in a brittle manner. It is harder to drive a nail in compression wood, there is a
greater chance of it splitting, and compression wood may take a stain differently than normal wood.
Most visual strength grading rules limit the amount of compression wood in high quality grades.
6. What is Juvenile wood?
This is a wood that is produced early in the first 5–20 rings of any trunk cross-section and, in
general, exhibits lower strength and stiffness than the outer parts of the trunk and much greater
longitudinal shrinkage than mature, normal wood. Juvenile wood is mainly contained within the
heartwood. In this regard, in young, fast grown trees with a high proportion of juvenile wood, heartwood
may be inferior to sapwood, but is not normally considered a problem
7. Differentiate Visual grading from Machine grading.
Visual grading
Visual grading is a manual process carried out by an approved grader. The grader examines
each piece of timber to check the size and frequency of specific physical characteristics or defects, e.g.
knots, slope of grains, rate of growth, wane, resin pockets and distortion. The required specifications
are given in BS4978 and BS5756 to determine if a piece of timber is accepted into one of the two visual
stress grades or rejected. These are general structural (GS) and special structural (SS) grades. Table 2
of BS 5268-2:2002 [10] (reproduced here as Table 1.2) refers to main softwood combinations of
species (available in the United Kingdom) visually graded in accordance with BS 4978:1996 [8].
Machine grading
Machine grading of timber sections is carried out on the principle that stiffness is related to
strength; where the relationship between the modulus of elasticity, E, and the modulus of rupture of a
species of timber from a certain geographical location is determined from a statistical population, based
on a substantial number of laboratory controlled tests. There are a number of ways for determining the
modulus of elasticity, including resonant vibration (dynamic response), but the most common methods
are either load- or deflection-controlled bending tests. The machine exerts pressure and bending is
induced at increments, along the timber length. The resulting deflection (or the load to induce a known
deflection) is then automatically measured and compared with pre-programmed criteria, which leads to
the direct grading of the timber section and marking with the appropriate strength class. An example of
the grading marking, based on the requirements of BS EN 14081-1:2005, is shown in Figure 1.7. In
general less material is rejected if machine graded; however, timber is also visually inspected during
machine grading to ensure that major, strength-reducing, defects do not exist.
II. SOLID WOOD: CASE STUDIES IN MASS TIMBER ARCHITECTURE, TECHNOLOGY AND
DESIGN
by Joseph Mayo
1. Building with wood is sustainable.
A Renewable Resource
Wood is one of our few domestic and truly sustainable structural materials. As a renewable
material, it is capable of offering yields for generations to come through the sustainable forestry
practices now used across the U.S. and Canada. Common building materials emit greenhouse gasses
during extraction, processing and transportation. The natural growth of wood in our forests sequesters
large amounts of carbon naturally from the atmosphere. Once harvested, wood products typically
sequester more carbon than is used in their processing, equating to a net negative carbon building
material. Wood’s low thermal conductance properties also means that it is a natural insulator and is
able to meet ambitious energy performance goals without complicated envelope detailing or added
project costs.
Wood is strong, having a similar strength-to-weight ratio as steel, can be shaped using simple
tools, and is lightweight, aiding in transportation and erection. A strong, flexible and sustainable
material, wood is well suited for a variety of building types and can offer many benefits to design teams,
contractors and owners.
2. Carbon Problem
Forest are massive carbon sinks. While many plants are able to sequester carbon, trees have
the unique ability to lock it up for long period of time. During the growing season, all plants inhale some
120 billion tons of CO2, but during the winter months most decay and emit this carbon back into the
atmosphere. Because trees can live for decades or centuries rather than just a few growing seasons,
their carbon remains in storage. Wood traps huge amount of carbon – roughly half of its dried weight –
and a single tree can easily contain a ton or more of carbon, with each cubic foot (0.028m) of wood
holding between 11 1nd 20 pounds (5-9 kg)
Forest are both sources of carbon and carbon sinks, participating in a two-way flow of carbon
that can be measured with reasonable certainty. They can also provide source of carbon displacement,
which occurs when the use of fossil fuel-intensive material is replaced by a material of lower energy
and fossil fuels intensity.

III. DESIGN OF WOOD STRUCTURES


Moisture in wood cells
The wood cells of a living tree are very porous and contain a great deal of water. In fact,
the moisture content of wood in a tree can often exceed 100%. Moisture content as defined in all
aspects of timber production uses the weight of the moisture in the wood divided by the dry weight
of wood material. (This is an unusual definition compared with many other materials that use the
wet weight as the denominator.) In a live tree, there is actually a much bigger mass of water than
wood!
Water is stored in wood in two main forms:
As free water in the vessels and/or cells, used to move nutrients within the tree.
As cell (or bound) water, which is an integral part of the cell walls.
As soon as the timber is cut, the wood starts to lose moisture. The initial reduction in
moisture content is a result of free water loss. This usually occurs without any significant
dimensional changes to the timber as the loss of moisture represents the drainage of voids or
vessels in the timber. If the environmental conditions are favorable, the moisture loss continues
until all the free water is released to the atmosphere. This point is known as the fiber saturation
point (fsp). The fiber saturation point varies a little with each piece of timber, but it is generally
taken to be at a moisture content of between 25% and 30%.
The loss of free water will occur relatively quickly in small cross-sections of timber, even if
the timber is exposed to rain. However, in larger cross sections, it can take many decades for all of
the free water to be lost. Initial drying of the outside forms a hard “case” which can act as a barrier
to further moisture loss.
After all of the free water has been lost, the timber will still contain moisture, but this
moisture is bound into the cell walls. Much more energy is required to remove this moisture as it is
held in the wood structure by weak chemical bonds. This loss
of moisture occurs more slowly than the loss of free water. It also results in a reduction in the size
of the cell walls, which causes the timber to shrink in size.
Moisture in timber
Timber can be classified according to its moisture content:
Unseasoned or “green” timber has a moisture content higher than the fiber saturation point
(~25% mc). In unseasoned timber, all of the bound water is present, and at least some of the free
water is still in the wood. Unseasoned timber can “feel” wet to touch, and if very green will ooze out
water as a nail is driven in.
Seasoned timber has had the moisture content reduced to 15%mc or less, and will
generally lose very little further moisture if used in a protected environment, such as under cover or
indoors. Some shrinkage has taken place in the transition from unseasoned to seasoned timber.
Partially seasoned timber has a moisture content of between 25% and 15%. Some
shrinkage has taken place, but further shrinkage will result from additional moisture loss. Partially
seasoned timber can come from unseasoned timber that has partly dried, or from seasoned timber
used in a moist environment so that it has taken up moisture and increased in moisture content
above 15%mc.
Partially seasoned timber is often unseasoned timber that has partly dried since
processing and is also sold as “unseasoned”. The process of removing moisture from timber or
drying timber is known as “seasoning ”.
Changes in moisture content
Moisture can move between the atmosphere and the timber where an appropriate
moisture gradient exists between the wood and the environment in which it is placed.
Moisture movement out of the wood into the atmosphere happens where the atmosphere is
relatively dry and/or the wood contains a lot of moisture. It is the process of continued seasoning.
Typically, this may happen if unseasoned timber is used in framing that is protected from the
weather (such as in a house frame), or if seasoned timber is used in an air-conditioned
environment.
Where the wood has already been dried (seasoned timber) and it is used in an
environment that has a lot of atmospheric moisture, then the moisture will follow the reverse path
the cells will take up moisture from the atmosphere. This movement is the reverse of seasoning.
Examples of its use may occur when the timber is used unprotected in a temperate climate, or if
used as part of an indoor swimming pool enclosure.
Equilibrium moisture content
Timber loses or gains moisture to be in equilibrium with the atmospheric moisture in its
immediate environment. When the timber and its environment have moisture contents that are in
equilibrium, then the moisture content in the timber in this state is known as the equilibrium
moisture content, or emc. No moisture will move in or out of the timber where the moisture in the
timber is in equilibrium with the moisture in the atmosphere.
Shrinkage
As wood dries below its fiber saturation point, it shrinks. Shrinkage is the reduction in
dimensions of timber due to the movement of moisture out of cell walls of the wood. Below the fiber
saturation point, all of the moisture remaining is bound water and is an integral part of the cell
walls. Removing this water makes small changes to the thickness of the cell walls. Aggregation of
this reduction over thousands of cells causes reductions in the thickness of the timber.
The loss in dimension is not the same in all directions:
There is little change in the longitudinal dimension. There is virtually no shrinkage parallel
to the length of a piece of timber. Radial shrinkage is perpendicular to the growth rings. It is
shrinkage in the direction towards the centre of the tree.
Tangential shrinkage is in the direction parallel to the growth rings. It is always a little larger
than the shrinkage in the radial direction because radial shrinkage is partly restrained by rays
(fibers that run perpendicular to the growth rings).
Designers rarely know which cross-sectional dimension is radial and which is tangential,
so shrinkage is often estimated for each cross sectional dimension using the data for the tangential
direction.
Shrinkage not only causes a change in cross sectional dimensions, but can also produce
unsightly and sometimes dangerous splits and cracks that can be avoided in many cases. In some
cases, shrinkage can change load paths that may be potentially dangerous or costly to repair.
The effects of shrinkage vary depending upon the species, thickness of the timber
member, the part of the log from which the member was cut, the initial moisture content, the rate of
change of moisture and the environment in which the timber is placed.
Shrinkage tends to be more of a problem for hardwoods than for softwoods. However,
regardless of the species, appropriate allowances for shrinkage need to be made in the detailing of
all timber. The effects of shrinkage are obviously more significant for unseasoned timber that is
allowed to dry in service. For some structural applications, it may be necessary to use large cross
sections of unseasoned timber. In these cases, careful design is required to limit the effects of
shrinkage, particularly around connections where splitting may occur.
To minimise the adverse effects of shrinkage:
Specify timber with appropriate moisture content for the service environment envisaged. In
most cases in Australia, the emc will be lower than the 25% of unseasoned timber and closer to the
moisture content of seasoned timber. Detail elements so they are not affected by changes in
cross-sectional dimensions. This is especially important where unseasoned timber is used.
Particular care is needed in connections. Appropriate detailing will minimise additional
restraint that will prevent timber from moving as it shrinks. It is usually when shrinkage movements
are restrained that the cracks develop.
Effects of moisture in timber
The general rule for effective long-term use of timber is ‘Keep it Dry’. Moisture can have a
number of detrimental effects on timber:
Change in cross sectional dimensions – At moisture contents less than fiber saturation
point (~25%), wood that is taking up moisture swells, and wood that is drying shrinks. The shrinking
and swelling takes place at a range of moisture contents that the wood will experience in normal
service. However, the loss in dimension is not the same in all directions. There is little change in
the longitudinal dimension. Tangential shrinkage is in the direction parallel to the growth rings. It is
always a little larger than the shrinkage in the radial direction because radial shrinkage is
restrained by rays (fibers that run perpendicular to the growth rings).
Strength -Water in the cell walls tends to make them a little slippery. It acts as a lubricant
and allows the fibers to slide past each other a little easier. There is a small reduction in strength of
wood fibers as moisture content increases. This effect is seen in the relationship between strength
and moisture for clear wood specimens.
Stiffness -Water lubrication within the cells causes a small increase in elastic deflection
under load (this is a decrease in stiffness). However, moisture has a marked effect on creep. With
only loose bonds between the cells, as load is applied, the fibers rely on friction to stop them sliding
over each other. Under long term loading, some sliding will occur. This is creep. Water in the cell
walls increases the creep markedly by lubricating the slip interface. Creep is accelerated while
water is moving into or out of the wood.
Durability – fungi and termites need to have moisture to thrive. Moist wood is more
vulnerable to biological degradation. Most paints and glues are only really effective if applied to dry
wood. Moisture therefore can compromise the durability of timber by making conditions more
favorable for biological attack and by reducing the effectiveness of protective coatings.
Coatings – unless the protective coatings are flexible, the shrinkage and swelling of timber
as moisture moves in and out causes deterioration of the coatings. Once a coating has been
broken, water can move into the timber. The undamaged portion of the coating can trap moisture in
the timber. The swelling and shrinkage of the timber in response to changes in moisture content
will cause rapid deterioration of the rest of the coating. Paintwork must be kept in good condition,
otherwise rapid deterioration of both the paintwork and the timber will result.
Specification of moisture content
Designers must match the moisture content of the timber with the environment in which the
timber will be placed. For example,
Unseasoned timber
Useasoned timber is any timber with a moisture content > 25%. However, for practical
reasons, most timber sold as unseasoned has a moisture content > 15% rather than the more strict
definition of unseasoned timber (> 25%).
Seasoned timber
Seasoned timber is timber with a moisture content between 10 and 15%. Timber in this
condition will be in equilibrium with internal environments in many parts Australia. (Little moisture
will move into or out of the timber while it is in service.) It will, therefore, not shrink significantly
while used internally. Seasoned timber should be chosen for indoor use where it is particularly
important not to have shrinkage associated with drying out in service.
SANTOS, Jeda Lisette M.
BSCE 5

What are Soft woods?


Softwoods, characterized by having naked seeds or as cone-bearing trees, are generally
evergreen with needle-like leaves (such as conifers) comprising single cells called tracheids, which
are like straws in plan, and they fulfil the functions of conduction and support. Rays, present in
softwoods, run in a radial direction perpendicular to the growth rings. Their function is to store food
and allow the convection of liquids to where they are needed. Examples of the UK grown softwoods
include spruce (whitewood), larch, Scots pine (redwood) and Douglas fir.
Give the characteristics of Soft woods.
 Quick growth rate (trees can be felled after 30 years) resulting in low-density timber with
relatively low strength.
 Generally poor durability qualities, unless treated with preservatives.
 Due to the speed of felling they are readily available and comparatively cheaper
What are Hard woods?
Hardwoods are generally broad-leaved(deciduous)trees, which often lose their leaves at the
end of each growing season. The cell structure of hard woods is more complex than that of soft woods
with thick-walled cells, called fibres, providing the structural support and thin-walled cells, called
vessels, providing the medium for food conduction. Due to the necessity to grow new leaves every
year the demand for sap is high and in some instances larger vessels may be formed in the
springwood, these are referred to as ‘ring-porous’ woods such as in oak and ash. When there is no
definite growing period the pores tend to be more evenly distributed, resulting in ‘diffuse-porous’
woods such as in popular and beech. Examples of the UK grown hard woods include oak, beech, ash,
alder, birch, maple, poplar and willow.
Give the characteristics of Hard woods.
 Hardwoods grow at a slower rate than softwoods, which generally results in a timber of high
density and strength, which takes time to mature, over 100 years in some instances.
 There is less dependence on preservatives for durability qualities.
 Due to the time taken to mature and the transportation costs of hardwoods, as most are
tropical, they tend to be expensive in comparison with softwoods.
Define Reaction wood.
Reaction wood is referred to abnormal wood tissues produced in tree trunks subjected to
strong wind pressures. Horizontal branches and leaning branches are believed to form
reactionwoodinanattempttopreventthemfromexcessivebendingandcrackingunder their own weight.
There are two types of reaction wood: in softwoods it is referred to as compression wood and in hard
woods as tension wood. Compression wood, forms on the underside of branches of leaning softwoods
and contains more lignin than normal wood. Tension wood forms on the upper sides of leaning
hardwoods and contains more cellulose than normal wood. Reaction wood is much denser than
normal wood with the specific gravity of around 35% greater in compression wood and 7% greater in
tension wood. Longitudinal shrinkage is also greater, 10 times more than normal for compression
wood and 5 times for tension wood. Timber containing compression wood is liable to excessive
distortion during drying and tends to fail in a brittle manner. It is harder to drive a nail in compression
wood, there is a greater chance of it splitting, and compression wood may take a stain differently than
normal wood. Most visual strength grading rules limit the amount of compression wood in high
quality grades.
What is Juvenile wood?
This is a wood that is produced early in the first 5–20 rings of any trunk cross-section and, in
general, exhibits lower strength and stiffness than the outer parts of the trunk and much greater
longitudinal shrinkage than mature, normal wood. Juvenile wood is mainly contained within the
heartwood. In this regard, in young, fast grown trees with a high proportion of juvenile wood,
heartwood may be inferior to sapwood, but is not normally considered a problem
Differentiate Visual grading from Machine grading.
Visual grading
Visual grading is a manual process carried out by an approved grader. The grader examines
each piece of timber to check the size and frequency of specific physical characteristics or defects,
e.g. knots, slope of grains, rate of growth, wane, resin pockets and distortion. The required
specifications are given in BS4978 and BS5756 to determine if a piece of timber is accepted into one
of the two visual stress grades or rejected. These are general structural (GS) and special structural
(SS) grades. Table 2 of BS 5268-2:2002 [10] (reproduced here as Table 1.2) refers to main softwood
combinations of species (available in the United Kingdom) visually graded in accordance with BS
4978:1996 [8].
Machine grading
Machine grading of timber sections is carried out on the principle that stiffness is related to
strength; where the relationship between the modulus of elasticity, E, and the modulus of rupture of a
species of timber from a certain geographical location is determined from a statistical population,
based on a substantial number of laboratory controlled tests. There are a number of ways for
determining the modulus of elasticity, including resonant vibration (dynamic response), but the most
common methods are either load- or deflection-controlled bending tests. The machine exerts pressure
and bending is induced at increments, along the timber length. The resulting deflection (or the load to
induce a known deflection) is then automatically measured and compared with pre-programmed
criteria, which leads to the direct grading of the timber section and marking with the appropriate
strength class. An example of the grading marking, based on the requirements of BS EN 14081-
1:2005, is shown in Figure 1.7. In general less material is rejected if machine graded; however, timber
is also visually inspected during machine grading to ensure that major, strength-reducing, defects do
not exist.

Building with wood is sustainable.


A Renewable Resource
Wood is one of our few domestic and truly sustainable structural materials. As a renewable
material, it is capable of offering yields for generations to come through the sustainable forestry
practices now used across the U.S. and Canada. Common building materials emit greenhouse gasses
during extraction, processing and transportation. The natural growth of wood in our forests sequesters
large amounts of carbon naturally from the atmosphere. Once harvested, wood products typically
sequester more carbon than is used in their processing, equating to a net negative carbon building
material. Wood’s low thermal conductance properties also means that it is a natural insulator and is
able to meet ambitious energy performance goals without complicated envelope detailing or added
project costs.
Wood is strong, having a similar strength-to-weight ratio as steel, can be shaped using simple
tools, and is lightweight, aiding in transportation and erection. A strong, flexible and sustainable
material, wood is well suited for a variety of building types and can offer many benefits to design
teams, contractors and owners.
Carbon Problem
Forest are massive carbon sinks. While many plants are able to sequester carbon, trees have
the unique ability to lock it up for long period of time. During the growing season, all plants inhale
some 120 billion tons of CO2, but during the winter months most decay and emit this carbon back
into the atmosphere. Because trees can live for decades or centuries rather than just a few growing
seasons, their carbon remains in storage. Wood traps huge amount of carbon – roughly half of its
dried weight – and a single tree can easily contain a ton or more of carbon, with each cubic foot
(0.028m) of wood holding between 11 1nd 20 pounds (5-9 kg)
Forest are both sources of carbon and carbon sinks, participating in a two-way flow of carbon
that can be measured with reasonable certainty. They can also provide source of carbon displacement,
which occurs when the use of fossil fuel-intensive material is replaced by a material of lower energy
and fossil fuels intensity.
Moisture in wood cells
The wood cells of a living tree are very porous and contain a great deal of water. In fact,
the moisture content of wood in a tree can often exceed 100%. Moisture content as defined in all
aspects of timber production uses the weight of the moisture in the wood divided by the dry
weight of wood material. (This is an unusual definition compared with many other materials that
use the wet weight as the denominator.) In a live tree, there is actually a much bigger mass of
water than wood!
Water is stored in wood in two main forms:
As free water in the vessels and/or cells, used to move nutrients within the tree.
As cell (or bound) water, which is an integral part of the cell walls.
As soon as the timber is cut, the wood starts to lose moisture. The initial reduction in
moisture content is a result of free water loss. This usually occurs without any significant
dimensional changes to the timber as the loss of moisture represents the drainage of voids or
vessels in the timber. If the environmental conditions are favorable, the moisture loss continues
until all the free water is released to the atmosphere. This point is known as the fiber saturation
point (fsp). The fiber saturation point varies a little with each piece of timber, but it is generally
taken to be at a moisture content of between 25% and 30%.
The loss of free water will occur relatively quickly in small cross-sections of timber, even
if the timber is exposed to rain. However, in larger cross sections, it can take many decades for all
of the free water to be lost. Initial drying of the outside forms a hard “case” which can act as a
barrier to further moisture loss.
After all of the free water has been lost, the timber will still contain moisture, but this
moisture is bound into the cell walls. Much more energy is required to remove this moisture as it
is held in the wood structure by weak chemical bonds. This loss
of moisture occurs more slowly than the loss of free water. It also results in a reduction in the size
of the cell walls, which causes the timber to shrink in size.
Moisture in timber
Timber can be classified according to its moisture content:
Unseasoned or “green” timber has a moisture content higher than the fiber saturation
point (~25% mc). In unseasoned timber, all of the bound water is present, and at least some of the
free water is still in the wood. Unseasoned timber can “feel” wet to touch, and if very green will
ooze out water as a nail is driven in.
Seasoned timber has had the moisture content reduced to 15%mc or less, and will
generally lose very little further moisture if used in a protected environment, such as under cover
or indoors. Some shrinkage has taken place in the transition from unseasoned to seasoned timber.
Partially seasoned timber has a moisture content of between 25% and 15%. Some
shrinkage has taken place, but further shrinkage will result from additional moisture loss.
Partially seasoned timber can come from unseasoned timber that has partly dried, or from
seasoned timber used in a moist environment so that it has taken up moisture and increased in
moisture content above 15%mc.
Partially seasoned timber is often unseasoned timber that has partly dried since
processing and is also sold as “unseasoned”. The process of removing moisture from timber or
drying timber is known as “seasoning ”.
Changes in moisture content
Moisture can move between the atmosphere and the timber where an appropriate
moisture gradient exists between the wood and the environment in which it is placed.
Moisture movement out of the wood into the atmosphere happens where the atmosphere is
relatively dry and/or the wood contains a lot of moisture. It is the process of continued seasoning.
Typically, this may happen if unseasoned timber is used in framing that is protected from the
weather (such as in a house frame), or if seasoned timber is used in an air-conditioned
environment.
Where the wood has already been dried (seasoned timber) and it is used in an
environment that has a lot of atmospheric moisture, then the moisture will follow the reverse path
the cells will take up moisture from the atmosphere. This movement is the reverse of seasoning.
Examples of its use may occur when the timber is used unprotected in a temperate climate, or if
used as part of an indoor swimming pool enclosure.
Equilibrium moisture content
Timber loses or gains moisture to be in equilibrium with the atmospheric moisture in its
immediate environment. When the timber and its environment have moisture contents that are in
equilibrium, then the moisture content in the timber in this state is known as the equilibrium
moisture content, or emc. No moisture will move in or out of the timber where the moisture in the
timber is in equilibrium with the moisture in the atmosphere.
Shrinkage
As wood dries below its fiber saturation point, it shrinks. Shrinkage is the reduction in
dimensions of timber due to the movement of moisture out of cell walls of the wood. Below the
fiber saturation point, all of the moisture remaining is bound water and is an integral part of the
cell walls. Removing this water makes small changes to the thickness of the cell walls.
Aggregation of this reduction over thousands of cells causes reductions in the thickness of the
timber.
The loss in dimension is not the same in all directions:
There is little change in the longitudinal dimension. There is virtually no shrinkage
parallel to the length of a piece of timber. Radial shrinkage is perpendicular to the growth rings. It
is shrinkage in the direction towards the centre of the tree.
Tangential shrinkage is in the direction parallel to the growth rings. It is always a little
larger than the shrinkage in the radial direction because radial shrinkage is partly restrained by
rays (fibers that run perpendicular to the growth rings).
Designers rarely know which cross-sectional dimension is radial and which is tangential,
so shrinkage is often estimated for each cross sectional dimension using the data for the tangential
direction.
Shrinkage not only causes a change in cross sectional dimensions, but can also produce
unsightly and sometimes dangerous splits and cracks that can be avoided in many cases. In some
cases, shrinkage can change load paths that may be potentially dangerous or costly to repair.
The effects of shrinkage vary depending upon the species, thickness of the timber
member, the part of the log from which the member was cut, the initial moisture content, the rate
of change of moisture and the environment in which the timber is placed.
Shrinkage tends to be more of a problem for hardwoods than for softwoods. However,
regardless of the species, appropriate allowances for shrinkage need to be made in the detailing of
all timber. The effects of shrinkage are obviously more significant for unseasoned timber that is
allowed to dry in service. For some structural applications, it may be necessary to use large cross
sections of unseasoned timber. In these cases, careful design is required to limit the effects of
shrinkage, particularly around connections where splitting may occur.
To minimise the adverse effects of shrinkage:
Specify timber with appropriate moisture content for the service environment envisaged.
In most cases in Australia, the emc will be lower than the 25% of unseasoned timber and closer to
the moisture content of seasoned timber. Detail elements so they are not affected by changes in
cross-sectional dimensions. This is especially important where unseasoned timber is used.
Particular care is needed in connections. Appropriate detailing will minimise additional
restraint that will prevent timber from moving as it shrinks. It is usually when shrinkage
movements are restrained that the cracks develop.
Effects of moisture in timber
The general rule for effective long-term use of timber is ‘Keep it Dry’. Moisture can have
a
number of detrimental effects on timber:
Change in cross sectional dimensions – At moisture contents less than fiber saturation
point (~25%), wood that is taking up moisture swells, and wood that is drying shrinks. The
shrinking and swelling takes place at a range of moisture contents that the wood will experience
in normal service. However, the loss in dimension is not the same in all directions. There is little
change in the longitudinal dimension. Tangential shrinkage is in the direction parallel to the
growth rings. It is always a little larger than the shrinkage in the radial direction because radial
shrinkage is restrained by rays (fibers that run perpendicular to the growth rings).
Strength -Water in the cell walls tends to make them a little slippery. It acts as a lubricant
and allows the fibers to slide past each other a little easier. There is a small reduction in strength
of wood fibers as moisture content increases. This effect is seen in the relationship between
strength and moisture for clear wood specimens.
Stiffness -Water lubrication within the cells causes a small increase in elastic deflection
under load (this is a decrease in stiffness). However, moisture has a marked effect on creep. With
only loose bonds between the cells, as load is applied, the fibers rely on friction to stop them
sliding over each other. Under long term loading, some sliding will occur. This is creep. Water in
the cell walls increases the creep markedly by lubricating the slip interface. Creep is accelerated
while water is moving into or out of the wood.
Durability – fungi and termites need to have moisture to thrive. Moist wood is more
vulnerable to biological degradation. Most paints and glues are only really effective if applied to
dry wood. Moisture therefore can compromise the durability of timber by making conditions
more favorable for biological attack and by reducing the effectiveness of protective coatings.
Coatings – unless the protective coatings are flexible, the shrinkage and swelling of
timber as moisture moves in and out causes deterioration of the coatings. Once a coating has been
broken, water can move into the timber. The undamaged portion of the coating can trap moisture
in the timber. The swelling and shrinkage of the timber in response to changes in moisture content
will cause rapid deterioration of the rest of the coating. Paintwork must be kept in good condition,
otherwise rapid deterioration of both the paintwork and the timber will result.
Specification of moisture content
Designers must match the moisture content of the timber with the environment in which
the timber will be placed. For example,
Unseasoned timber
Useasoned timber is any timber with a moisture content > 25%. However, for practical
reasons, most timber sold as unseasoned has a moisture content > 15% rather than the more strict
definition of unseasoned timber (> 25%).
Seasoned timber
Seasoned timber is timber with a moisture content between 10 and 15%. Timber in this
condition will be in equilibrium with internal environments in many parts Australia. (Little
moisture will move into or out of the timber while it is in service.) It will, therefore, not shrink
significantly while used internally. Seasoned timber should be chosen for indoor use where it is
particularly important not to have shrinkage associated with drying out in service.