How It's Made: Timber House Framing Australia

How It’s Made: Timber House Framing Australia

How It’s Made: Timber House Framing Australia

Foreword by Ian Thompson, Editor

Around the world, different types of timber are used for conventional timber house framing (stick framing) based on their inherent strengths and the local availability. For instance, North America and Scandinavia predominantly use softwoods like spruce, pine, and fir. These softwoods are known for their excellent strength-to-weight ratios and ease of construction. In contrast, tropical regions often prefer durable hardwoods like teak and mahogany, which have higher density and offer superior resistance to insects and decay. They are harder to work with but offer excellent durability and cosmetic appearence. They are also used for outside furniture, such is their durability and appeal.

Radiata pine, native to Australia, stands out for its versatility,
workability, and uniformity, making it ideal for a variety of structural
applications. However, its natural durability is lower compared to most
hardwoods, which is why it is often treated to enhance its resistance
to termites and decay, extending its service life significantly.

Treated timber is common in many countries, especially those with
climates conducive to wood-destroying organisms. For example, in the
United States and Canada, pressure-treated southern yellow pine is
widely used for outdoor structures to resist termites and fungal decay.
Similarly, in the UK, timber used for ground contact, such as fence
posts and decking, is usually treated with preservatives for the same

In this video, we’ll guide you through the journey of Australian radiata pine from plantation to construction site, highlighting the high-tech processes
and sustainable practices involved in its production.

How It’s Made: Timber House Framing Australia

Timber framing has long been the backbone of Australia’s domestic housing market. You may be familiar with the stud frames, floor joists, and roof trusses now commonly seen throughout Australia’s domestic construction sites, but do you know where they come from?

In this episode of WoodSolutions InFocus we take a closer look at the humble softwood holding up millions of roofs across the nation. What we find is an efficient and sustainable industry which has rapidly adopted technology to support a faster, safer, and more cost efficient construction industry.

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Video Transcript

If you live in the southern half of the country, you’re probably familiar with radiated pine. It grows beautifully in Australia, which is fortunate because it plays a crucial role in building our houses. As well as producing several other products, radiated pine is a softwood best known for structural timber framing, the skeleton of our homes, and an integral part of the Australian building industry.

The growing cycle of pine, currently about 28 years, is cutting edge. It starts right at the planting stage, continuing through to harvest and at the mill. Special equipment with lasers and sensors measures the logs multiple times during the process to minimize waste and to ensure that as much as possible of each and every log is used.

Visitors to a pine sawmill are often surprised by the level of technology employed. For many years, we’ve used geometrical scanning, where every log and every board that’s cut gets scanned by lasers to measure its geometry. Now, we’re moving into quality measurements. We acoustically grade our timber boards to ensure the timber going into the process is stiff enough to make structural timber at the back end. We’ve also introduced high-tech multi-sensor scanners at the end of the process for timber grading, combining high-speed color video to detect metals, knots, and defects, and lasers that shine onto the wood to determine the direction of the grain.

Mills such as Timberlink’s Bell Bay Mill are planning to increase capacity in the future. At the moment, Australian grown pine makes up around eighty percent of our supply, with approximately twenty percent of sawn softwood imported. However, if we can grow more trees locally and continue investing in sawmill technology, we can meet more demand.

There’s a notable process when a log comes to the mill. First, it’s cut, then it’s dried. In some instances, it’s treated for termites, which is referred to as the “blue stuff”. After treatment, the timber is packaged and dispatched on a truck to be sold as timber house frames. We’ve streamlined this process down to just a few days.

Wood is the ultimate renewable. Every tree that is harvested to supply this mill is replaced by at least one tree and often more. Practices improve over time so that the plantation yield increases. We put a lot of effort into minimizing the carbon impact of the manufacturing process. We’ve set internationally recognized and verified carbon reduction targets in place, which we track every year.

We’re world leaders in this regard. We’re the first in the region and about the third internationally in our industry to get those targets in place. This involves the carbon used when we manufacture the timber, including the forklifts and trucks driving around, and the electricity we use. More than that, every piece of timber that goes into a building is trapping carbon. There’s over half a tonne of CO2 equivalent captured within every cubic meter of timber used in a dwelling, and that’s there for at least the life of the building, which is usually at least 50 years.

Pine farming is another good news story of the Australian forestry industry, further proving why wood is the ultimate renewable.

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