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I am documenting some homes in a BAL 12.5 bushfire zone. We were interested in using Pacific teak, but have realised that it is classed as an eco timber, sourced from the Solomon Islands. Are you aware of any suppliers of Pacific teak who have had ATIC certification?

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Some teak production has achieved certification by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) but we are not sure that "Pacific teak" is actually teak. Some importers are applying the name "Pacific teak" or "New Guinea teak" to a timber more commonly known as vitex (botanical name: Vitex cofassus). This is a major commercial species of the Solomon Islands, so is probably what you are sourcing. Vitex is available certified under several different schemes, you can find our more if you enter "vitex timber certification" in your browser.

For more information about the design, construction and maintenance of timber in bushfire-prone areas, download the free WoodSolutions guide Building with timber in bushfire-prone areas.

Pacific teak, vitex, certification, ATIC

As I am building a home located within bush near Daylesford, Victoria, I would like to use river red gum as the external flooring/decking timber. What do you think? Protection from the elements etc.?

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You do not mention whether your new home is in a declared bushfire area, but it sounds as if it might be. If so, only certain types of timber are permitted for external structures, i.e. timbers deemed to be bushfire-resisting, as defined in Australian Standard 3959-2009, "Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas". River red gum is one of the seven bushfire-resisting timbers listed in Appendix F of AS 3959-2009. Whether timber structures are permitted also depends on the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) applicable to your building. You can find more detailed information on this topic here.

For more information about the design, construction and maintenance of timber decking, download the free WoodSolutions guide Domestic Timber Deck Design.

For more information about the design, construction and maintenance of timber in bushfire-prone areas, download the free WoodSolutions guide Building with timber in bushfire-prone areas.

River red gum, fire, safety

What is the best way for people to go about sourcing sustainable timber for their decks? What are some good plantation species to look out for? What is the best timber to choose in terms of durability? What are the best hardwood options, and what price do they start at per linear metre?

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We consider that any Australian-grown species that is available commercially can be considered sustainable. Our native forests are managed to world’s best practice through sustainable forest management regulations and codes of practice. Furthermore, over 90 per cent of managed public forests in Australia are subject to additional voluntary standards which are independently certified through international sustainability standards such as the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). When it comes to imported timbers, species from developed countries such as the US, Scandinavia and Europe are produced under much the same conditions as Australian timbers. Developing countries, for example in the S-E Asian region, are at different stages of sustainable forest management. This is where certification can help, for example under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) system. Plantation pines are not sufficiently durable to be used outdoors without preservative treatment, but they can be readily treated to a level of durability equal to or exceeding that of the most naturally durable species. To compare the natural durability of different species, we refer to Australian Standard 5604, "Timber - Natural durability ratings" which gives a rating on a scale of 1 to 4 for commonly used species, both in-ground and above-ground. As an independent advisory body we don't quote prices, but a phone call to a few timber merchants should provide a guide.

Sustainable timber, environmentally friendly, plantation timber

How many years to grow grey box timber in south Qld?

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That's a pretty open question because it depends on site conditions and also whether you intend to manage the timber in a plantation with weed control, watering, etc. or whether you are going to let nature take its course. As a very general guide we would expect it to take 60 to 80 years to produce quality timber under managed conditions. You might be able to get more specific advice from someone who knows your area, e.g. the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Grey box, life, lifespan

Hi there I was wondering about the little "did you know" about not being able to use plantation timber in the same way as wood from native forests. Can you explain this further please? Also I am looking for someone to make low/no formaldehyde cupboards in SA, preferably in the south. Many thanks.

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Plantations provide a high proportion of the timber used in Australia - as stated in another of our "Did You Know" items, "Australia’s 1.9 million hectares of timber plantations produce about two-thirds of the timber products consumed by Australians each year". While most of our softwood construction timber comes from plantations, it is more difficult to produce high quality hardwood in plantations. Hardwood is much slower to grow and when we try to increase the growth rate the quality often drops. Consequently, hardwood for furniture, flooring, decking and other high quality products is best sourced from sustainably managed native forests. In Australia we are also limited with regard to areas that are suitable for the establishment of plantations. Australian-made particleboard and MDF is produced to low formaldehyde emission levels, and any joinery works should be able to produce cupboards for you. Australian Standard 1859.1, Reconstituted wood-based panels - Specifications, Part 1: Particleboard, provides for two levels of "formaldehyde potential", E1 and E2. Our understanding is that Australian producers manufacture to E1, with some producing an E0 board. You can find out more about these products by browsing the internet.

Plantations, , native forest, Australian timber, Australian forestry, Austalian forests

I entered a previous question about Australian wormy chestnut. My information says that it is predominantly Eucalyptus obliqua, Eucalyptus sieberi and Eucalyptus fastigata. Is there any possibility that these are from old growth forests in East Gippsland?

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Thank you for this further information. The three species you mention are more commonly referred to as messmate, silvertop ash and brown barrel, but no doubt it is simpler to group them under one name for marketing purposes. We cannot say from which precise area your timber will be harvested, but we can say that the East Gippsland forests are administered under a management plan that conserves representative areas of old-growth forest. You can find the East Gippsland Forest Management Plan on the Victorian Government's Department of Sustainability & Environment website at www.dse.vic.gov.au.

Australian Wormy Chestnut, East Gippsland, messmate, brown barrel, silvertop ash

I am soon to build a home and want to make it as environmentally friendly as possible. I'd like to know the best source for sustainable pine framing, from certified forests please, thanks!

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Whether timber is produced "sustainably" or not is tested by assessing production against a range of criteria and indicators set out in standard documents, such as the Australian Forestry Standard (AFS). The assessment process is carried out by independent organisations which can then certify that the products come from properly managed forests. The great majority of Australian growers of plantation pine have achieved certification to the AFS, while a number of growers are also certified against the Principles and Criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Major Australian hardwood producers are also certified under these systems. You can find out more about the Australian Forestry Standard and download copies of a newsletter and fact sheets from the net at www.forestrystandard.org.au.

Pine, framing, certified, plantation

My husband and I are interested in planting trees for carbon credits and helping the environment instead of farming, on our property at Foster Victoria. We have 168 acres which we are leasing at the moment to a local farmer as we don't live there.

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Planting trees is a practical way to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. However, the economic viability of growing trees for timber production depends on rainfall, proximity to a sawmill, and a number of other factors. You will need to consider these factors carefully if you want to sell the logs at maturity, as opposed to just planting trees to help the environment. There are some useful booklets to help you get started, some of which you can download from the net. If you type “farm forestry” into your browser you will find the relevant links. Organisations such as Australian Forest Growers can also help. You can visit their website at www.afg.asn.au. Their booklet Getting Started in Farm Forestry sets out some of the basic issues. Once you complete your preliminary research, it might be worth engaging a consultant forester to advise you on the specifics.

Carbon credits, tree, farming

In reference to the question on illegally harvested forests on 30th Sept 2008, your response does not give info about the industry in terms of how we minimize the risk. You should mention that state and private forests are certified.

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Our answer refers to the illegal logging of forests outside Australia. It never occurred to us that anyone would think Australian forests were illegally logged, given the strict legislative framework under which they are managed. However, we take your point that the certification of Australian forests helps to reassure timber users that they are harvested sustainably.

Logging

I am looking at the option of planting timber as a renewable resource and would like some information on the Australian regulations and viability of such a project. Thank you.

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Your question is a very broad one and needs more detailed consideration than we can give it here. The viability of growing trees for timber production depends on the area of land available, rainfall, proximity to a sawmill, and a number of other factors. There are some useful booklets available to help you get started, many of which you can download from the net. If you type ‘farm forestry’ into your browser you will find the relevant links. Organisations such as Australian Forest Growers can also help. You can visit their website at www.afg.asn.au. Their booklet Getting Started in Farm Forestry sets out some of the basic issues. Once you complete your preliminary research, it might be worth engaging a consultant forester to advise you on the specifics.

Australian regulations, renewable resource

We manage plantations in WA and have government approval for clearing/thinning of natural bush, with the condition that we commit to planting 20 times that removed. We are having trouble finding markets for our hundreds of thousands of tonnes of resource

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Our role is a promotional one and we don’t become directly involved in commercial projects. However, someone who reads your question on our Q & A page might be interested. If so, we will seek approval before passing on your details. Meanwhile, are you aware of the Biomass Power Generation Plant proposed by Western Australia Biomass Pty Ltd for the Manjimup area? This would seem a suitable market for your resource. Connell Wagner has been facilitating the environmental approval process for the plant and you may wish to contact their W.A. office for more details.

Forest clearing, plantation, biomass, Manjimup

Could help me out with some advice? The company I work for supplies kwila for external posts supporting porch and alfresco roofs. I was wondering if there were sustainable plantations of kwila in Australia as I have some concerns about importing kwila from Indonesia. Also is there an alternative sustainable hardwood product I could suggest as an alternative?

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Kwila (merbau) doesn’t grow in Australia, either naturally or in plantations. The nearest source of supply to Australia is Papua New Guinea.

Producer countries are at various stages of development in achieving sustainability. Some producers are working with The Forest Trust (formerly Tropical Forest Trust) to achieve sustainability and you will find more about the Trust on the net. There is an argument that it is better to support their efforts than to boycott them, since in the long run this is more likely to lead to sustainable practices.

However, if you would be more comfortable with sustainably produced Australian hardwood, spotted gum and blackbutt are Class 1 durability timbers out of ground contact, ie. supported on a metal base. Suppliers in your area may have other species available, although it is difficult to kiln dry hardwoods in the usual 90 x 90 post size and many suppliers are limited to a maximum of 45mm for kiln-dried material. If you find kiln-dried posts unavailable, you could consider laminated posts made from durable Australian hardwood.

certification, kwila, merbau, The Forest Trust, Tropical Forest Trust

I am building a 6m x 5m deck in Victoria and was considering merbau however i have since discovered that it is destroying the orangutans habitat so certainly not using it now! Can you please advise me of another type of timber that is less harmful to the environment?

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We assume merbau was to be used as decking rather than for the supporting structure. If so there are several Australian hardwoods that are suitable for decking, including ironbark, tallowwood, spotted gum, jarrah, etc.

However, not all merbau is sourced from forests inhabited by orangutans and another way to approach it is to look for merbau produced under a certification scheme. Merbau is an excellent material for decking and if you write the words "merbau certification" in your browser you will find more information on the subject.

merbau, decking, certification, orangutans

Is a plantation of trees specifically earmarked for an end use (e.g. woodchips, sawn, or veneer)? Or are high quality trees from the plantation directed to making veneer and lower quality trees sawn into boards or processed into woodchips?

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In some parts of the world plantation pine is "high pruned". By removing the lower branches, knot-free timber is produced. This can be turned into clear timber for mouldings, or used for veneer.

More commonly plantations are less intensively managed, and logs are selected according to quality. If a plywood factory is nearby, or integrated into the company's production, the best logs will go to making veneers. The veneers may be turned into plywood or used to make laminated veneer lumber (LVL).

Other logs may be sawn for structural timber, as used in house framing, or appearance-grade material such as flooring.

Woodchips are generally produced from "thinnings" and waste. "Thinnings" are the less favourable logs removed from the forest at intervals to allow the better formed trees to grow to maturity.

Plantation, woodchips, Veneer, Thinnings, High pruned, wood use, sawmill

What products are usually made from softwoods and what products are made from hardwoods? Has there been a trend over the last 10 years of softwood replacing hardwood products? What percentage of softwood timber is exported (v. used in Australia)?

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Broadly, the trend over the last few decades has been for hardwood to move into areas where its appearance qualities (eg. in flooring, furniture, etc.) and its higher strength (eg. in kiln-dried structural products) can command a higher price.

Consequently, there is relatively little unseasoned hardwood house framing used these days, and other low value hardwood products have declined, with their place taken by plantation pine.

Pine is a versatile timber that now dominates the house framing market and can be readily preservative treated for outdoor use.

With regard to statistics on hardwood v softwood production, and imports v exports, we rely on the report Australian forest and wood products statistics, published at intervals by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE).

Hardwood, softwood, imported timber, exported timber, ABARE

What is timber? How do we produce timber from a tree?

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Wikipedia gives this definition of timber: In the United Kingdom and Australia, "timber" is a term used for sawn wood products (that is, boards), whereas generally in the United States and Canada, the product of timber cut into boards is referred to as lumber. In the United States and Canada, "timber" often refers to the wood contents of standing, live trees that can be used for lumber or fibre production, although it can also be used to describe sawn lumber whose smallest dimension is not less than 5 inches (127 mm). Timber is produced by passing a log through a saw, either a circular saw or more commonly a bandsaw.

Timber production, Sawn lumber, live trees, bandsaw, timber definition

I am soon to build a home and want to make it as environmentally friendly as possible. I'd like to know the best source for sustainable pine framing, from certified forests please, thanks!

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Whether timber is produced "sustainably" or not is tested by assessing production against a range of criteria and indicators set out in standard documents, such as the Australian Forestry Standard (AFS). The assessment process is carried out by independent organisations which can then certify that the products come from properly managed forests. The great majority of Australian growers of plantation pine have achieved certification to the AFS, while a number of growers are also certified against the Principles and Criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Major Australian hardwood producers are also certified under these systems. You can find out more about the Australian Forestry Standard and download copies of a newsletter and fact sheets from the net at www.forestrystandard.org.au.

AFS, FSC, certification, Environmentally friendly, sustainable pine, managed forests, Australian Forestry Standard

How old can the trees grow until they die?

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The life span of trees varies greatly depending on the species. It can be as short as 35 years for apple trees, or as long as several thousand years, assuming an adequate water supply is maintained.

Tree lifespan, Tree age, Tree species

How can I be sure the wood that I specify is not illegally logged?

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The Australian Government is working with the timber industry to eliminate trade in illegally sourced forest products. The Government's policy document, Bringing Down the Axe on Illegal Logging, was released in October, 2007. A key element in this policy is the promotion of certification and chain-of-custody schemes. For more information, have a look at some of the publications on the Forestry and Wood Products Australia website (www.fwpa.com.au). You can find them by typing the words "certification" and/or "chain of custody" into the site's search function.

AFS, FSC, Illegal logging, Chain of custody, Bringing Down the Axe on Illegal Logging

If we use more wood for building, won't we run out of trees?

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Australia's timber is sourced from a combination of sustainably managed native forests and plantations. We can't significantly increase the use of our native forests, since they are not expanding, and we cannot harvest timber any faster than it grows. However, we can expand our plantations. Much more timber is produced in a plantation than in the same area of native forest, and although the increase in softwood plantations has slowed in recent times, there will be a gradual increase over the next 20 years.

Sustainably managed forests, Plantations, environment,

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