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Timber Preservation

Timber has been used in the construction of buildings since prehistoric times. In many ways it is the ideal building material. Strong, durable, easily worked and renewable; it can be found in almost every residential, industrial and commercial building standing.  

However, as a naturally occurring product, timber is susceptible to organisms that would feed on it. Luckily the catalyst for these decay processes, whether fungal, insect or chemical is water. So it follows that if timber used to build things is kept dry, then it will be preserved for a very long time. 

When Timbers get wet...

Unfortunately, though buildings do get wet. This can be the result of defects in the building fabric, plumbing leaks, atmospheric moisture flooding or even the use of water to put out a fire. 

When the fabric of a building is wet, this moisture can be transferred to wooden components that then become susceptible to decomposition, rots, fungi and insects that begin the natural processes that will inevitably return timber to the soil. 

What does wet rot look like - Weakend Floorboards

Protecting & preserving timber

The protection and preservation of joinery and structural timbers is essential to the success and longevity of almost every building. This is usually achieved by ensuring the timber components are protected from moisture and remain too dry for insects or fungi to colonise them and begin the process of biodegradation. 

In some circumstances, it can be anticipated that wood will become wet. Where this is the case, the type of wood chosen for exposed situations can be critical. Some wood/timber is far more durable than others and this natural resistance to wood rot and wood destroying insects is important to understand.

Paints, preservatives and coatings can be used to protect and prolong the life expectancy of wooden components. These can be used in manufacturing processes, as part of a maintenance programme or retrospectively to help slow decay or eradicate insect infestation. In so doing, they provide an opportunity to preserve timbers. 

Even the best preserved buildings suffer from timber decay

Even the best maintained and cared for buildings inevitably suffer with the ravages of time, weather and events. This often results in high levels of water in places that it should not be. Timbers that were once preserved, are then at risk of decay. Whether it be an ancient windmill affected by woodworm, a stately home where dry rot has taken hold or the floor of a terraced house where just are decayed by cellar fungus; the retention, preservation and protection of the structure and the timber elements that are susceptible to degradation can and should be retained, repaired and sympathetically restored. 

The retention of every bit of a timber structure affected by insect attack or fungal decay may not be possible, economically justifiable or safe, but with the correct skills, knowledge, equipment, tools and experience; timbers can and should be retained, saved and protected. 

Technical documents you can view

For those interested, there is a variety of timber preservation related 'Codes of Practice', Technical Documents, Guidance Notes and other related documents via our Timber preservation Document Library.  Simply click on the button below to view the library.  Documents of interest include:

  • Code of Practice for the Investigation and Control of Wood Destroying Insects and Fungi in Buildings
  • Fungal Decay in Buildings
  • Guidance Note Party Wall Act 1996
  • Wood Destroying Insects in Buildings

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Free training - Timber related CPD videos

Want to learn more about timber preservation?

For those interested in learning more about timber preservation, there is a variety of PCA training options for surveying professionals as well as technical/trade professionals. 

Use the search tool below to find available timber preservaton related training courses or simply go to our training & qualifications section.  Alternatively, if you want to chat to someone, contract our training team on 01480 400 000 or contact them online.

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