Modified timber featured a great deal in my diary last week. It is probably more than just a coincidence that this complex subject somehow cropped up on my agenda just about every day.
What is modified timber then? Well, it seems that by either heating it or altering it with chemicals timber can be made more stable, durable and resistant to decay. The science is not new by any means but it has come on at a pace in the past few years. Combined with timber engineering, modified timbers can be applied in all sorts of previously unthought-of timber applications, such as, windows made from beech, cladding from whitewood, decking from ash. The list is along as your imagination will stretch.
Although the products can have downsides - cost, waste disposal, strength and colour can all weaken the offering - rapid scientific development is beating away the critics. For many applications it's only a matter of time before modified timbers will take hold. Especially for the hardwood market this promises to be a development of internet scale proportions that will reshape the industry.
While there will always be a market for top quality hardwoods, there are sectors of the industry that are ripe for change, especially outdoor hardwood joinery, which is still far too attached to often dubious tropical species that it would be better to avoid.
I think the most interesting technologies are the heat treated products. Baking timber at 190° Celsius does remarkable things to it. Timbmet will soon be introducing several modified products to market that take the breath away. There is a little further to go on the testing and performance verification front but it's only a question of time.
But don't just take my word for it. Take a look at the pre finished, modified beech windows that are now a regular feature in the Dutch market. There, see, I told you. My advice: don't worry about it, join it!