FARMERS, smallholders and decking installers can ensure long-lasting timber posts if they insist on asking for the appropriate wood and grade.
In the constant drive to cut costs, landowners may be tempted by timber which has been treated but which is “unfit for purpose”, said Bob Wynne, managing director of Mold-based Siberian Timber UK.
His company imports and wholesales timber ranging from Siberian larch cladding to oak and beech as well as various softwoods.
“If you need posts which will be below ground, or in standing water, ideally you need pine,” he said.
“A lot of producers, especially in Ireland, are exporting cheap spruce into this country but it lacks the ability to absorb preservatives like pine can.”
Limited supplies of UK pine makes it more expensive than spruce, which is faster growing and more abundant.
As a result spruce is commonly used for agricultural supplies. With appropriate treatment, spruce fence posts can provide life-spans of up to 15 years, according to Clifford Jones Timber.
Its Ruthin factory processes 100,000 cubic metres of timber each year, half of which is treated. All is approved by the Forest Stewardship Council, which promotes sustainable forestry.
Sales director Nigel Bacon said UK plantations would struggle to provide one-twentieth of the company’s needs if all customers demanded pine.
Nor was there an appetite in farming circles to pay the premium for pine – standard posts cost up to £2.50 for pine compared with £1.57 for spruce.
He said some suppliers were guilty of offering cheaper timber with inappropriate levels of treatment.
But he added: “The real culprits are in fact the farmers themselves who continually buy imported products from eastern Europe which have been impregnated with low strength chemicals, way below the standard guidelines.
“The timber is treated when it’s in a frozen state and then sold into the UK at below market prices.”
Products from reputable merchants are tanalised at plants supplied by industry leaders Arch Chemicals and Osmose.
Only Class 4 products – those with the deepest levels of preservative treatment – are suitable for below ground use.
The Wood Protection Association has launched a “Make sure it’s 4” campaign but it’s still being ignored by some companies, said Mr Wynne, who supplies only class 4 timber.
“Posing as a customer, I phoned several firms asking for class 4 products. Some didn’t know what it was, others wouldn’t provide certificates of guarantee,” he said. “Customers should always demand certificates.”
Class 4 products are marginally more expensive than lower grades but buying inferior products is a false economy, said Mr Wynne.
“I sell 4 x 4 timber posts, which are class 4, for about 30p more than class 3 posts,” he said.
“But they have a lifetime guarantee of 15 years, and will usually last for 25 years. In contrast pine and spruce posts treated to class 3 will last around six years and four years respectively.”
To quote The Daily Post