Protecting Timber Products while on-site

Published Thursday 07th August 2014

Why timber needs love 

Failing to store and handle timber and wood-based products properly is one of the major sources of cost spikes on a building project. When these items spoil, it can lead to financial penalties and delays - particularly when dealing with specialised products where getting replacements delivered can take a significant amount of time.

By putting in a little effort in the preparation stages and making sure your timber is handled in the right way - you'll save yourself all sorts of headaches further down the line.

Common Issues

Failing to take proper care of your wood at any stage of the construction process can result in damage, but some of the most common issues include:

·         Splits

·         Decay

·         Discolouration

·         Shrinking or expansion due to changes in the wood's moisture content

·         Corrosion of metal components.

In some cases, builders will focus their efforts on timber material that's set to be exposed to the elements and neglect wood that won't see the light of day in the finished fixture. Don't be fooled though - this is a false economy and to ensure your project goes off without a hitch, you need to provide equal care to each and every timber component.

Water, water everywhere

Moisture is the number one concern when it comes to handling and storing your timber on-site. As with most natural materials, wood contains moisture. The amount of moisture it holds depends on several factors, including the species of wood, how/if it was treated and the temperature and humidity levels of the area it was stored in.

Changes in moisture content can lead to distortions in the timber (e.g. warping, shrinking or expanding) and degrade its strength over time.

In an ideal world, you'd want to take your timber into the building with its standard level of moisture content intact. However, given the demands of a project this can often be a big ask. There are a few steps you can take to minimise the risk though:

The right wood for the right task: Make sure the wood you're using is appropriate for the task at hand when it comes to moisture content. While you can treat certain types of wood to make them more resistant to changes in moisture content, in their default form - you need to be aware of the percentage of moisture your timber contains. Listing all the various types of wood, their moisture content and roles they're suitable for would easily constitute an article in itself, but for those keen to find out - TRADA has some great resources on offer for members.

Joinery: As with the rest of your timber, try to make sure that joinery and other manufactured products are kept as close to their recommended moisture content as possible. If it's necessary to store them before being conveyed to the site - keep them in conditions that'll minimise any changes in this regard.

Delivery: To prevent your timber being unnecessarily exposed to the elements, try and schedule its delivery in-line the phase of the project where it'll be required. Take extra care when handling to ensure that products aren't spoiled while being moved.

Storing needn't be boring

Planning ahead is all well and good, but delays and other timing issues are an inevitable occurrence on any building project and at some point, you'll undoubtedly be forced to store your timber. The way you handle this task will mean the difference between healthy wood that performs to specification and faulty timber that may need to be replaced.

Location, location, location: Store your timber as close as practically possible to your site, but avoid putting it somewhere where there's a risk of damage by traffic or general construction.

Take cover: The type of cover you opt for is vital in maintaining the moisture content of timber. There's no one-size-fits all answer to what works best, but try and pick something that protects your wood from the elements, allows some air circulation and prevents condensation from building up. If in doubt - consult the manufacturer.

You've been framed: Frame panels and rafters are especially high-risk items, so if at all possible, try and time your deliveries with a view to minimising the time they’ll spend sitting around on site.

Floored: Pay special attention to flooring and joinery. If available, heated storage is ideal - but if you can't manage this, try and place it somewhere dry and weather-proof.

To the rafters: Trussed rafters should be stored upright whenever possible and if you absolutely have to lie them horizontally - try and keep the time they're kept in this position to a minimum. After you've installed them, apply the roof covering as quickly as possible to minimise contact with the elements.

Bedding your sheets: Sheets are particularly susceptible to problems when wet, so avoid humid or damp conditions at all costs. Minimise your sheets' contact with the ground and keep protective wrappings on until they're ready to be used.

And You?

We've barely scratched the surface on the best ways to protect timber, so if you've got any hard-earned hints or experiences you want to share, be sure to give us a shout on Twitter.

And if you're looking for quality products to use in a project - or want more advice on the best kinds of timber for a certain task, don't hesitate to get in touch with us today.

Image used courtesy of ceogh on Pixabay