7th Dec 2022 -

Timber is a handy old type of wood that’s widely used as a construction material. It’s safe to handle, simple to cut and shape, has excellent thermal properties, is high-strength and is also extremely durable. Here in the UK, the term simply refers to sawn wood, though in other places (including the US and Canada) the word lumber is used, and timber instead describes unfelled wood that’s yet to be harvested. The most frequently used types of timber here include softwoods like spruce and yew, and hardwood such as sycamore and birch. 

In addition to its popularity in construction, timber is also a great fuel source, can be used as furniture material and produces oil that’s used to create products including paints, resins, and gum. A multipurpose, renewable material, it's been crucial in construction for millennia.

Heavy construction work

Heavy construction work involves large structures requiring extensive engineering and project management. While materials like steel and concrete are also used, timber is relied upon for the following structures:


Columns (or pillars) are vertical structural components that transmit the weight of the structure above to the elements below via compression. They are also often used to support beams or arches of a building.


A truss consists of multiple triangular units that create a rigid structure which acts as a single object and is used in bridges, roofs and towers. 


Piles are foundations driven into the ground to carry and transfer loads in weak soil and typically consist of long, columnar structures.


Also called shafts, caissons are box-like structures sunk into areas submerged in water. This provides access to the water bed and allows for excavation of foundations to the required depth.

Light construction work

Timber is used in the construction of properties and built into the floors, walls and ceilings. A few examples include:


Joists are a type of structure that span horizontally between the foundations of a building, or between walls and structural beams. Their purpose is to support a ceiling or floor. 


If you were to look up at the roof from the shell of a building, you’d see one long beam running across the length of it, supported by individual joists. They are usually the thickest and most important structural aspect of a roof or levels within a building.


Rafters run from a ridge (a horizontal junction between two roof slopes) to a wall and are installed side by side to support a roof.


Studs are vertical framing materials that make up most of a wall’s frame and hold in place windows, doors and insulation.

A stack of timber sleepers next to a garden timber sleeper bed with a metal builder square, a wooden fence and wheelbarrow in the background.

Temporary construction work

Temporary building structures are erected for a variety of purposes, with timber commonly used in the following instances:


Scaffolding is put up to elevate and support workers and materials during construction. It consists of planks to work from and a frame made up of vertical posts and horizontal parts called ledgers that tie the structure together.


This is a temporary structure that supports a permanent one throughout its construction. This prevents the building from collapsing during the process.


Formwork is used as a mould to pour concrete into. For instance, the stones of an arch or vault are laid onto a formwork called centering during construction. This keeps the stones in place until the concrete has gained sufficient strength.


Shoring involves using a prop to support a structure when it’s at risk of collapsing. These props can be vertical, angled or horizontal.

Other uses of timber in construction

Timber is commonly used to create wooden doors, window frames and gates. Meanwhile, railway sleepers are the rectangular wooden supports you see in railway tracks that are laid perpendicular to the rails and hold them in place. The more you know. Those big utility poles you see in the countryside? Yep, they’re also made of timber.

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