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How timber can be used as a construction material

One of the most valuable building materials we have is timber.  This is because wood has an internal structure that results in an extremely anisotropic material (properties are different in different directions), making it a typical natural composite material. 

Although a wide variety of industries use timber and wood products in the UK, most of the material is still used in construction, for example as structural materials such as floor joists or roof trusses, which contribute for roughly 43% of total consumption.

You might have heard the terms ‘timber’ and ‘lumber’ used interchangeable in the context of wood. However, they are not the same.

Timber:  describes wood that has not yet been harvested and comes from a living tree.

Lumber: A treated piece of wood that complies with predetermined dimensions.  

, How timber can be used as a construction material

Uses of timber as a construction material

Wood from well-managed forests is classified as sustainable and environmentally friendly as it does not disintegrate into harmful toxins that harm the ecosystem as it ages naturally. It is a renewable resource since it is constantly growing in plantations and forests.  You can find out more about sustainable construction through our Diploma in sustainable construction

Among the many uses for wood are:

  • Load-bearing structures including beams, columns, trusses, and piles, due to its high strength.
  • The unfinished wood is utilised for short-term projects like scaffolding and lining up an arch, among others.
  • Used in the construction of furniture, roofing materials, door and window frames, and shutters as it is simple to cut and mould into any size and form.
  • It is naturally suited for use as a flexural member because of its extremely high strength to weight ratio, ability to transmit both tension and compression stresses, and capacity to do so.
  • Used in the building of boats and movable bridges.

Timber also gains from its inherent growing qualities. For instance, its grain patterns, colours, and availability in a wide range of timber species, sizes, and shapes make it a remarkable material that is both functional and visually beautiful.

The following figures show some selected applications of timber in construction works –

Timber columns, beam, trusses and piles:

, How timber can be used as a construction material

Timber roofing details:

, How timber can be used as a construction material

Timber scaffolding:

, How timber can be used as a construction material

Timber shoring:

, How timber can be used as a construction material

Timber house with wooden, doors windows and balconies and wall:

, How timber can be used as a construction material

This video shows some really interesting information on classification and properties of timber, as well as some of the uses:

You can also read this guide to gain further understanding of timbers and their performance:

Materials Handbook

Of course, there are lots of different things we need to take into account when selecting timber for our construction project, and some of these will be covered in future articles.  Keep an eye out for more exciting information around construction and the different materials we can use!

Interested in our courses?

Interested in civil engineering? Find out more about all the civil engineering courses we have available by clicking here.

Diploma in Civil Engineering

Diploma in Renewable Energy

Diploma in Sustainable Construction

Diploma in Structural Engineering

Diploma in Building and Construction Engineering

Higher International Certificate in Civil Engineering

Higher International Diploma in Civil Engineering 

Alternatively, you can view all our online engineering courses here.

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