Specifiers Guide

Wood Information

In this section we provide guidance for specifiers and users of wood and wood products on a range of topics.

Specifiers should be aware that all timber to be used for structural purposes in the UK must be strength graded and marked in accordance with the relevant British/European Standards.

Some background information for specifiers….

Timber is a versatile and unique material and has unparalleled environmental credentials, after all, it is the only truly renewable construction material. The timber industry in the United Kingdom has made significant progress in sourcing its materials from legal and sustainable sources. Chain of custody certification is now well established in the industry, which provides specifiers and users with the assurance that wood and wood products have been obtained from legal and sustainable sources where forest management is carried out in accordance with internationally recognised standards.

The main species of timber and their end uses

Commercial Species Source End Uses
Whitewoods (Spruces) Sweden, Finland, Norway, Russia, Baltic States, UK & Ireland, Canada and Germany Construction timbers for all forms of building; some joinery; scaffolding
Southern Pine USA Construction; joinery
Redwood Sweden, Finland, Russia and Canada All forms of joinery; some construction; panelling
Larch UK & Russia Fencing; boat building
Western Red Cedar Canada & USA Panelling; roof shingles; exterior cladding; furniture
Douglas Fir Canada & USA Panelling; heavy construction; joinery
W. Hemlock Canada & USA General construction
N. American Spruces USA General construction
Parana Pine Brazil Stairs & finishings
Yew UK & Europe Furniture & finishings
Oak, Ash, Elm, Beech, Sycamore finishings UK Shopfitting, joinery, furniture, flooring, construction (Oak)
Oak, Beech finishings Europe Shopfitting, joinery, furniture, flooring, construction (Oak)
White Oak, Cherry, Walnut, Maple, Red Oak, Ash USA Shopfitting, joinery, furniture, finishings, flooring
Meranti S.E. Asia Shopfitting, joinery, furniture, finishings, flooring
Sapele, Iroko, Utile, Idigbo W Africa Shopfitting, joinery, furniture, finishings, flooring
Keruing S.E. Asia Decking, lorry floors
Greenheart, Purpleheart S America Civil/marine construction
Opepe, Iroko W Africa Civil/marine construction
Balau S.E. Asia Civil/marine construction

Timber has an excellent and highly predictable performance in fire, as the charring rate depends on density and enables fire performance to be closely calculated. Unlike some other common construction materials it will not flake or spall in fire nor will it soften or melt. Timber is also highly resistant to corrosion – more effectively so than many metals – hence it is used in marine applications and in areas exposed to corrosive chemicals. Timber also offers excellent embodied energy credentials, as the processing and manufacture of wood and wood products requires very low energy inputs by comparison with many other commonly used construction materials

For example, to produce 1 tonne of building material it takes:

435Kw hours for timber
3,780Kw hours for steel
20,169Kw hours for aluminium.

Description/end use
Dimensions – nominal or actual
Finish – e.g.: sawn; dressed; moulded; sanded; or primed.
EN ISO/BS references
Delivery date
Delivery address
Packaging (where required)
Labelling (where required)

We suggest the following statement as an addition to your Bill of Quantities preamble:

“The contractor shall obtain all of the timber products for the works from a supplier who has undertaken appropriate environmental due diligence and has relevant procurement policies in place, including compliance with EUTR, where appropriate”

You should also require that the contractor provides evidence that:

The supplier is committed to an environmental policy
The policy is being implemented
All timber being supplied is derived from legal and sustainable sources managed in accordance with the laws governing forest management in the producer country or countries.

Structural timber

  • BS 5268: The structural use of timber.
  • Part 2: Code of practice for permissible stress design, materials and workmanship.
  • Part 3: Code of practice for trussed rafter roofs.
  • Part 4: Fire resistance of timber structures.
  • Part 5: Code of practice for the preservative treatment of structural timber.
  • Part 6: Code of practice for timber frame walls.
  • Part 7: Recommendations for the calculation basis of span tables.
  • BS EN 1995 Eurocode 5. Design of timber structures.
  • BS EN 14080 Timber structures. Glued laminated timber. Requirements.
  • BS EN 14081-1 Timber structures. Strength graded timber with rectangular cross section. General requirements.
  • BS 4978 Visual strength grading of softwood.
  • BS EN 519 Structural timber – Grading – Requirements for machine strength graded timber and grading machines.
  • BS 5756 Specification for visual strength grading of hardwood.
  • BS EN 385 Finger jointed structural timber.

Timber sizes

  • BS EN 336 Structural timber. Sizes, permissible deviations.
  • BS EN 844 Round and sawn timber. Terminology, terms relating to moisture content.

Trussed rafters

  • BS 5268:Part 3: Code of practice for trussed rafter roofs.

Tiling/slating battens

  • BS 5534 Code of practice for slating and tiling.

Joinery and wood trim

  • BS EN 942 Timber in joinery. General requirements. Replaces BS 1186 Part 1.
  • BS 1186: Timber for and workmanship in joinery.
  • Part 2: Specification for workmanship.
  • Part 3: Specification for wood trim and its fixing.

Wood based sheet materials


  • BS EN 313 Plywood. Classification and terminology.
  • BS EN 635 Plywood. Replaces BS 6566
  • BS EN 635 – 1 Classification by surface appearance: General.
  • BS EN 635 – 2 Classification by surface appearance: Hardwood.
  • BS EN 635 – 3 Classification by surface appearance: Softwood. 
  • BS EN 636. Plywood. Specifications.
  • BS EN 636-1: Requirements for plywood for use in dry conditions.
  • BS EN 636-2: Requirements for plywood for use in humid conditions.
  • BS EN 636-3: Requirements for plywood for use in exterior conditions.

Structural plywood (Click here for Structural Plywood Grading Tables)

  • BS 5268:Part 2: Code of practice for permissible stress design, materials and workmanship.

Marine plywood

  • BS1088-1 Specifications for plywood for marine craft. Replaces BS1088 and BS4079.

Particleboard (chipboard, OSB, cement bonded particleboard).

  • BS EN 309: Wood particleboards. Definition and classification. Replaces BS 5669.
  • BS EN 312: Particleboards. Specifications.
  • Part 2: Specification for wood chipboard.
  • Part 3: Specification for oriented strand board (OSB).
  • Part 4: Specification for cement bonded particleboard.

Fibreboard, including hardboard, medlumboard, softboard and MDF.

  • BS 1142: Specification for fibre building boards.

Oriented strand board (OSB)

  • BS EN 300: OSB. Definitions, classification and specification.

Glue laminated timber (glulam).

  • BS EN 386. Glue laminated timber. Performance requirements and minimum production requirements.

Preservative treatment

  • BS 5268:Part 5: Code of practice for the preservative treatment of structural timber.
  • BS 5589: Code of practice for the preservation of timber.

Exterior finishes for timber

  • BS EN 927-1. Paints and varnishes. Coating materials and coating systems for exterior wood. Classification and selection.

Floors and flooring

  • BS 1297: Specification for tongued and grooved softwood flooring.
  • BS 8201: Code of practice for flooring of timber, timber products and wood based panel products.

Kitchen furniture

  • BS EN 1153: Kitchen furniture. Safety requirements and test methods for built-in and free standing kitchen cabinets and worktops.


  • BS 1722: Fences.
  • Part 4: Specification for cleft chestnut pale fences.
  • Part 5: Specification for close boarded and wooden palisade fences.
  • Part 6: Specification for prefabricated wood panel fences.
  • Part 7: Specification for wooden post and rail fences.
  • Part 11: Specification for woven wooden and lap boarded panel fences.

Scaffold boards

  • BS 2482: Specification for timber scaffolding boards.


  • BS EN 13556: Round and sawn timber. Nomenclature of timbers used in Europe. Replaces BS 7359.

While not exhaustive, this list covers most of the common topics referred to in timber specification and the relevant British Standards are listed under these topics.


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