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Top 10 Facts About Timber: Everything You Need to Know

Have you ever found yourself in a social situation where the conversation, as it so often does, turns to the origins and practical benefits of trees?


Have you ever found yourself in a social situation where the conversation, as it so often does, turns to the origins and practical benefits of trees? Of course, you have, haven’t we all, and what we always find when we have been in such a situation, is how much we are pining for some quick info to dazzle the surrounding timber aficionados. Well wait no more, read this article and arm yourself with some superb timber-based facts to make you the heart and soul of the wood-based chat.

exterior timber cladding on a lodge style building
pressure treated timber construction of a building

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1. Timber is incredibly versatile

Thanks to its fantastic natural properties, its adaptability and the various ways it can be processed and treatedtimber is an incredibly versatile material used in numerous industries for many applications. Some timbers are used in structural framing and support thanks to their strength, others are used in joinery and furniture as they are easily formable. It is also used for decorative purposesoutdoor applications, tool making, and fuel – including firewood, wood pellets or chips and it is also pulped to create paper. In the old days, you would be reading this timber facts article on something that used to be timber.

2. Timber is a great natural insulator

Wood wasn’t just used for making buildings in times gone by, as it was the only material around, it was often chosen thanks to its benefits of insulation. Within the cellular makeup of timber are natural pockets of air and multiple tiny cells and fibres that heat must navigate before it can escape, keeping it contained for much longer. This is one of those timber facts that can save you money and conserve energy.

3. Timber is a renewable and sustainable resource

Timber is one of the most renewable and sustainable resources on the planet if it is managed properly. Organisations, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), have established criteria for sustainable timber production that involves harvesting trees at a regenerative rate, replanting logged areas and protecting soil and water resources.

4. Timber buildings can last as long as brick

One of the most surprising timber facts. However, there are a few factors involved including the design and construction quality, regular and proper maintenance, correct and thorough protective measures and the location and environment it resides in. There are timber structures around the world that have lasted for centuries like the Hōryū-ji Temple in Japan.

5. Softwood and Hardwood don’t mean what you think they do

Many people naturally presume hardwood and softwood to mean exactly what they sound like, with one more suited to structural applications and the other better for carving and forming. However, this is not the case. These classifications are based on the tree’s reproductive structure, where hardwood typically comes from angiosperm trees with leaves that produce flowers and seeds like apple trees and oak trees, and softwood comes from gymnosperm trees which have needles and produce cones. But the ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ in the name doesn’t necessarily indicate that one is actually harder than the other.

Hardwoods, as a general rule, often grow more slowly making their wood denser, and therefore stronger, but some ‘softwoods’, such as yew are actually harder than American Cherry which is classified as hardwood.

6. Softwoods account for roughly 80% of the world’s timber production

It is quite incredible considering how abundant oaks, birches, elms, sycamores and more hardwood trees are on this planet, but 80% of the Earth’s trees are softwood. It is one of the most surprising softwood facts, but it makes sense when you understand the main reason for this is that softwood trees have a much faster growth rate than their hardwood counterparts. This means they can be regenerated faster and be easier to manage in a sustainable and responsible manner.

7. Planet Earth hosts thousands of different tree species

One of the great timber facts is, that although we typically only think of it as either softwood or hardwood from a timber merchant, they both derive from thousands of variations across the planet.

According to Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), their database has over 60,000 species registered. The incredible diversity is spread across continents, ecosystems and climates. Different species have evolved to fit specific ecological niches, adapt to various environmental conditions and interact with other organisms in a myriad of ways.

8. Age is just a number for trees

It is well known that many trees can reach thousands of years old, including General Sherman in California, which is a Giant Sequoias and is roughly 2500 years old, or some of the African Baobabs that are estimated to be over 6000 years old. What helps trees get to such remarkable ages is they don’t actually die of old age. Not as we know it. Trees will typically die due to resource competition, pests and diseases, environmental changes or physical or man-made damage.

9. Trees communicate with each other

One of the lesser-known facts about wood is that the tree it came from can communicate with each other. It is an incredibly complex process, that is still being researched, but they primarily communicate through below-ground networks and chemical signals. The Mycorrhizal networks are a vast web of fungal mycelium that connects the roots of different plants and trees, where trees can share nutrients with each other, and older trees can help nurture the young. Not quite like the Ents of Mirkwood in Lord of the Rings, but still impressive.

10. The Tallest Wooden Building in the World

If anyone ever should ask you what timber facts have amazed you, then why not mention when you read this article and discovered the 18-storey ‘Mjøstårnet’ building in Norway, which stands 85.4 metres (about 280 feet) tall, is primarily constructed with laminated timber. This is a testament to the potential of timber as a sustainable building material for high-rise structures, and advances in timber engineering which have made these structures compliant with safety standards.

If you want to find out even more fascinating information about timber, its origins and its capabilities, get in touch with our friendly experts at Coventry Timber Products, who enjoy nothing more than shooting the breeze and talking about trees.

For more information on Top 10 Facts About Timber: Everything You Need to Know talk to Coventry Timber Products Ltd

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