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Timber comes in many forms or species each with their own set of characteristics. Here’s you’ll find the primary species that we use to produce our products and some of the factors you should consider before determining most appropriate timber species for your project:
The durability of timber is based on the results of placing testing hardwood samples into the ground, fully exposed to the elements, with the number of years before decay becomes obvious determining the durability of the natural (untreated) timber into one of five classifications.
The hardwood of species with a rating of Durable or Very Durable can be successfully used in exterior situations without the support of preservative treatments.
Due to the varying grain structure and how it responds to the elements, and in our furniture we prefer to use the more stable species. Regardless of species, all timber will ‘move’ to some extent as its moisture content changes in varying climates, resulting is fissures or cracks during hot, dry conditions, but which will tend to close up in periods of cold, wet weather.
There is a huge variety of colour and grain characteristics across different timber species, preferences on which are very much subjective. Photos of timber products and component parts shown on our website and in our brochures are generally new products with freshly machined timbers (<3 months old), before any significant weathering has occurred that will cause the original timber colouration to fade.
The density of the timber is important in two respects – firstly to perform its structural function (with an appropriate visual mass), and secondly to resist marking in general wear and tear. In simple terms, the denser the material the lighter the section can be and the more resistant it is surface marking. Generally speaking the more dense the species, the higher its cost.
The natural colouration of new machined timber will fade as it is exposed to UV light, fading to a weathered patina that some people prefer in a landscape setting over the original colouration. Many proprietary timber finishes are available, which bring varying degrees of maintenance implications – read up on our timber treatments for more info on this.
Converting timber from a tree to a useable machined section is a labour intensive process, and with tropical hardwoods especially, involves considerable transportation – all of which adds to the cost of the raw material. With our standard product range our approach is generally to use timber sparingly, in sectional sizes that are appropriate to the performance requirement, and often supported by structural steelwork. Our design team are happy to offer advice on the appropriate material sizes that will minimise the cost of timber product and components.
As standard , we use FSC Iroko to product most of our products. Here are a list of timber species commonly used in street furniture and a brief summary of their characteristics and typical product applications.
Classification: Very Durable
Source: West Africa
Weathering: 3 months
A West African species that is rich in natural oils with a ‘Very Durable’classification, which is also relatively stable, readily available and is cost effective. Iroko is the timber that we use on the vast majority of our timber surfaced seating products, most often supplied in a smooth planed finish that will typically fade to silver-grey within 12 months.
If supplementary treatments are required to retain the original colouration for longer, the natural oils must be either allowed to dissipate through weathering over 3 months outdoors before application, or be cleansed if treatments are applied at the outset (applying a treatment directly to freshly machined timber tends to result in it sitting on the surface and not penetrating into the grain).
Classification: Very Durable
Source: South-East Asia
Weathering: 9-12 months
Teak is a deciduous hardwood of ‘Very Durable’ classification, sourced from South East Asia. Like iroko, it has a naturally high oil content making it steadfast, as well as resistant to rotting.
As with all natural timber, teak will fade to a silver grey colour over time if exposed to weathering and sunlight in particular. Treating with proprietary teak oil will darken the grain and add a glossy finish of teak, but is essentially a cosmetic treatment only.
European Oak is a species that it is often requested, but less often supplied, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is classified as ‘Durable’ (iroko is ‘Very Durable’), secondly it is prone to unattractive black surface marking from unavoidable reactions with metal saw or planing machinery, and lastly because of its tendency to leach natural tannins (oils), which can be problematic on seating in particular and can also stain surrounding hard surfaces.
Oak is also more prone (than iroko) to movement as it weathers, causing sometimes significant fissures as it dries out. So oak is generally used more for ‘rustic’ products such as bollards and posts than it is for seating.
All hardwoods used by Furnitubes are supplied only from countries where governments operate strict controls on the size of trees that can be felled and where a forest conservation policy and re-plantation programmes are in operation. The countries of origin for Teak and Balau are Malaysia and South East Asia with Iroko and Ekki from the West Coast of Africa, predominantly Ghana and Cameroon.
From the hundreds of trees available, the timber logger rarely takes as many as thirty trees and then only those with the dimensions as ruled by the government. After the trees have fallen in a particular area the forest is left alone for a minimum period of 25 years. The main problem is undoubtedly the over population in those parts of the world where the huge natural forest and vegetation areas are being cleared by burning, so that the land is then available for agriculture and building. This action not only destroys the trees that could have been put to better use, but releases carbon dioxide adding to the ‘greenhouse’ effect.
Furnitubes is not directly registered with the Forestry Steward Council (FSC). Where certified timber is specified or offered the material will be purchased as such from our timber merchants, who will be the end named party in the chain of custody certification, which will be supplied if requested. The terminology that we may use for such material is ‘timber from a well-managed source’.
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