What is Timber? Your Guide to Types, Quality, Uses, and Production  

Timber is a building material that has been used all over the globe and throughout time. Timber, which is derived from trees, undergoes a lengthy process to turn it from a raw material into a product that builders use in construction in versatile ways. Because of its inherent strength, visual beauty, and sustainable growth patterns, timber has been prized by furniture makers and builders to create functional and appealing designs. Builders rely on various qualities from distinct timber types from softwoods like pine and cedar to hardwoods like oak and walnut; there are such a range of choices of timber available that they can tailor their choice to the specific demands of their project.

What is Timber?

What is Timber?

The word timber refers to wood, but there is some confusion surrounding the exact meaning of this word. Timber can have different meanings in various contexts and regions. In most cases, timber refers to wood that has been processed for use in construction or woodworking applications. Manufacturers obtain timber by cutting down trees, removing their branches and bark, and transporting the logs to a sawmill where they are cut into planks. The timber planks are further processed by cutting, planing, and treating them to enhance their strength and to ward off wood pests.

Yet timber can also refer to wood that has not yet been cut. This term usage is prevalent in the logging and forestry industries. In this context, timber refers to trees that are eligible to be cut down for the production of wood logs and planks. Foresters and loggers assess the age and health of the trees by measuring their circumference and height. The commercial value of the timber is based on the size, quality, and species of the timber that is measured.

Types of Timber

A wide range of types of timber exist and each has distinct characteristics that make them useful in specific applications. The most common types of timber are hardwoods and softwoods, but there are exotic varieties like bamboo that cannot be categorized into either group.

Hardwood Timber Types

Builders prize hardwood timber for its strength and durability. Hardwoods tend to be more stable than softwoods and less prone to shrinking, cracking, and warping.

  • Oak
  • Mahogany
  • Cherry
  • Walnut
  • Maple
  • Teak
  • Rosewood
  • Ebony
  • Ash
  • Birch
  • Poplar
  • Acacia

Softwood Timber Types

Softwood timbers are more affordable than most hardwood varieties. They are easy to work with and are fast-growing, so they are more sustainable than hardwood timber types.

  • Pine
  • Cedar
  • Fir
  • Redwood
  • Spruce

Bamboo Timber

Experts do not consider bamboo to be either a hardwood or a softwood. They classify bamboo as a type of grass. Yet bamboo is a popular timber variety used in homes and furniture making.

Qualities of Timber

Timber has a variety of qualities that make it an enduringly popular choice for home builders, architects, and craftsmen.

Strength and Durability

Timber wood has inherent strength which makes it a reliable and durable building product. It provides structural support and can withstand different levels of loads and forces. Certain types of timber such as oak, mahogany, teak, ipe, ebony, and ash are well-known for their strength and durability.


Timber is a versatile resource that builders can shape and carve to fit a variety of applications. They use wood in applications such as flooring, cladding, furniture, and in structural support. Woodcrafters can also choose different types of wood based on the characteristics they need such as flexibility, strength, beauty, and longevity.

Thermal and Acoustic Insulation

Timber has both excellent thermal and acoustic insulation characteristics. Timber has air pockets that provide insulation. This helps to regulate indoor temperatures and reduce energy consumption. Timber can also absorb sound waves which reduce noise transmission between rooms.


The natural beauty and warmth of timber are some of its most valued qualities. Timber has unique grain patterns, colors, and textures that add visual appeal to interior and exterior applications. Builders and designers use wood in its natural state or paint or stain it to achieve a desired look.

Sustainability and Environmental Benefits

Timber is a renewable resource when it is sourced from responsibly managed forests. When it is managed well, timber can be a source of carbon sequestration and can help manage climate change. Timber also has a relatively low carbon footprint compared to other building materials like concrete.

Repair and Modification

Using timber allows builders to repair damaged places and modify building designs more easily. They can replace damaged sections without destroying the surrounding sections. They can also cut or join timber sections to modify designs on an ongoing basis. This quality gives builders more flexibility and freedom to change their designs as circumstances dictate.

Health Benefits

Experts link timber with a variety of health benefits. Timber creates a neutral and peaceful atmosphere, which contributes to lower stress and improved well-being. Timber also has low VOC emissions compared to other building materials, which helps to improve air quality.

Uses of Timber

Timber’s qualities make it ideal for a wide variety of applications.

  • Construction – Builders use timber to create building frames, trusses, beams, and columns that can withstand heavy loads and wear from environmental conditions.
  • Furniture and Cabinetry – Timber is a popular material for furniture and cabinetry because of its beauty, warm texture, and strength.
  • Flooring – Timber floors have been popular throughout time. They are available in a variety of forms including solid hardwood planks, engineered wood, and laminate flooring.
  • Interior and Exterior Cladding – Builders use timber to clad walls in both interior and exterior spaces. They do this using wood planks and panels.
  • Doors and Windows – Timber framing is popular for door and window frames because it is resistant to the weather when it is finished with paint, stain, or varnish.
  • Packaging and Pallets – Manufacturers use wood to create pallets and to provide structural support in packaging because of its strength.
  • Woodcrafting – Craftsmen use wood for various projects including furniture production, sculptures, and wood toys.
  • Fuel – People use timber as a fuel resource in many forms, both raw and processed forms like wood pellets.
  • Creating Other Construction Materials – Manufacturers use wood to produce a variety of other wood products like veneer, plywood, and fiberboard.
  • Paper and Textiles – Timber is used to make pulpwood from which paper manufacturers produce paper for magazines, books, and newspapers. Timber is also vital in the production of synthetic textiles like rayon.
  • Other Uses – Manufacturers use wood to produce a wide variety of other products like gums, resins, and chemical dyes.

Production Process of Timber

Creating a usable material from raw timber involves a series of steps, from the gathering of the wood to the final product.

  1. Harvesting

The processing of timber begins when trees have reached a sufficient size and maturity. Foresters use chainsaws, harvesters, and other machinery to fell trees. Responsible companies take care to ensure that the harvesting practices are sustainable. Some of these practices include reforestation and minimization of environmental impact.

  1. Logging and Transportation

Once foresters fell the trees, they cut the limbs off and cut them into manageable lengths. Next, they transport the logs to a sawmill or other processing facility using trucks, skidders, and other logging equipment.

  1. Sawmilling

The sawmill is where the logs are processed into usable timber products. These mills remove the bark and cut the logs into various shapes and sizes. They use various saws to cut the timber into planks, boards, and beams.

  1. Drying

Freshly cut timber has a high moisture content. To prevent the timber from warping, cracking, and splitting when builders use it, manufacturers use kilns to dry the timber. This is an environment-controlled temperature and humidity that helps to reduce the moisture content more quickly than would naturally occur. Air-drying is another method that involves stacking the timber and drying it over a longer period of time.

  1. Processing and Treating

Timber may undergo further treatment depending on its intended usage. Mills can plane and sand the planks in order to achieve a smooth finish with specific dimensions. They can also add chemicals to the timber to strengthen it against decay and wood pests.

  1. Finishing

Some timber products will undergo more processing to enhance their appearance or to strengthen certain qualities. They can be stained, varnished, and painted to achieve desired aesthetics and durability.

  1. Distribution and Utilization

Once they are finished, timber products are distributed to consumers and various industries. Timber products are used throughout the production world, most notably in construction, but also in other industries like paper, textiles, and paints.