Understanding the qualities of wood in construction.

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Timber is an exquisite and distinctive natural material, but it is often undervalued. Natural products are designed to withstand the forces of nature, so it can be concluded that wood is inherently strong. While some types of wood are more durable than others, treatments like CCA can significantly enhance their durability. If the treatment is properly applied, the result is an exceptionally strong and long-lasting piece of timber that is ideal for construction. Unfortunately, not enough people are aware of the full potential of timber. Therefore, it is important to disseminate information about its capabilities. The more people learn about timber, the more they will appreciate its true value.

Many are misinformed about structural Timber.

Like other building materials, timber has its own advantages and disadvantages. Furthermore, if the correct building methods are used and all the necessary factors, such as the right designs and application, are taken into consideration, strong and durable structures that can last for over 100 years can be built with timber. Despite this, timber’s capabilities are not fully acknowledged at this stage. The reason for this is:

Cultural Habits

The construction practices of South Africans have traditionally relied heavily on reinforced concrete (RC), masonry, steel, and bricks. These materials have been widely used in our buildings, homes, and infrastructure for many years. This has created a culture around these materials, which has become deeply ingrained in our society.

However, it is important to note that this reliance on traditional materials has come at a cost to the environment. The production and transportation of these materials require a significant amount of energy, resulting in high carbon emissions. This has contributed to the global climate crisis, which has severe consequences for our planet and future generations.

Lack of knowledge

There is a significant disparity in the understanding and usage of structural wood in construction as compared to traditional materials like concrete, masonry, and steel. While these conventional materials have been widely used in the construction industry for many years, there has been a lack of dedicated attention to structural wood.

This is unfortunate as structural wood is a highly versatile and sustainable building material that can be used for a variety of construction applications. It has numerous advantages over traditional materials, including its low carbon footprint, ease of construction, and durability. Structural wood is also a renewable resource, making it an eco-friendly choice for construction projects.

Many professionals are more familiar with traditional materials like concrete, masonry, and steel, which have been the go-to materials for many years. As a result, there is a significant lack of knowledge and expertise in the use of structural wood, which can limit its adoption in construction projects.

Here is an example given by Vernon Collis, consultant of Civil Engineer and Architects at Collis and Associates; If a reinforced structure experiences issues such as corrosion, spalling, or cracking, or if steel displays indications of premature aging or deterioration, the designer or contractor is typically held responsible. However, when timber fails in South Africa, the blame is typically placed on the material itself rather than on the designer or contractor.

Why we should choose timber for construction.

The construction industry is one of the major contributors to carbon emissions globally. It accounts for a staggering 40% of total emissions. This highlights the urgent need for action to address this issue and mitigate the negative impact on the environment. One approach that can potentially help reduce carbon emissions in the construction industry is to transition from traditional RC-masonry-steel extraction methods to bio-based grown technology.

The traditional methods of construction involve extracting non-renewable resources like steel, masonry and reinforced concrete (RC) that require a significant amount of energy and resources to manufacture and transport. This process results in a substantial carbon footprint, and it contributes to environmental degradation.

On the other hand, bio-based grown technology involves using renewable and sustainable resources like bamboo, wood, and other natural fibers to create building materials. These materials are grown instead of extracted from the ground, which significantly reduces the carbon footprint of the construction industry.

3 busted myths about Timber for Construction.

Timber and fire

Fire behavior

All buildings carry a fire risk. Any building can burn to the ground. Fires are generally sparked by components in the building and faulty electricity lines.

But timber buildings can be made to burn in a more predictable way than those made of steel or concrete. It can be designed to be even safer than other houses.

Engineers can design timber buildings to burn for specific periods of time. They remain standing for long enough to meet the regulation escape times- generally for an hour or more.

In the case of a fire, timber will burn and char. Concrete will spall and steel will bend and break.

Timber Decking


If the timber has been treated with CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate) chemicals, it becomes more resistant to moisture and water damage.

Moisture is one of the biggest threats to timber because it can cause the wood to rot, warp, and decay over time. However, CCA treatment protects the timber from moisture by creating a barrier that prevents water from penetrating the wood. This barrier also makes the timber more durable and longer lasting, even when exposed to harsh outdoor conditions.

CCA-treated timber is commonly used for outdoor construction projects. Examples are decking, fencing, and retaining walls and other structures that need to withstand the elements.

Construction Timber


Timber is a versatile and lightweight building material. It is easy to work with and can be used to create aesthetically pleasing structures. In terms of building efficiency, timber has several advantages over concrete.

For example; When engineers design a concrete building, a significant amount of their time is dedicated to ensuring the structure can hold its own weight. Concrete is a heavy material, which means that the structural energy is primarily focused on supporting the building’s weight.

As a result, live loads such as people, furniture, and equipment are considered secondary. Engineers must design the building to withstand the weight of the structure itself before considering how it will support any additional loads.

In contrast, timber is lightweight, which means that it can be anchored to the ground more easily. This allows the building to allocate its energy toward carrying live loads.

The strength of timber comes from its ability to resist tension and compression forces, which makes it an ideal material for use in construction.

We supply top-quality timber products

At Sabie Poles, we offer a wide variety of structural timber and timber moulding products. All our products are SABS approved, which means it meets all the standards required to be suitable for construction.

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