Using Timber in the Landscape

Wood is the most environmentally sound material on earth. It is renewable, highly versatile, provides natural insulation, is grown with relatively little effort and is carbon friendly.

There are many ways to use timber in the building or embellishment of a structure. It will blend effortlessly into almost any natural landscape, mature with time if untreated, or can be stained, oiled or painted for striking effects. Polishing and lacquering wood adds warmth and a slightly elegant feel.

Natural timbers are quicker to work with and cheaper by comparison to composite timber. Think about creating a feature wall to shield household garbage or car parking.

Remember, horizontal timber slats are a contemporary alternative to standard timber paling fences.

Distressed Oregon timber panels are great if you are going to renovate an undercover entertaining area. One such example is to use whitewashed timber which lightens the wood while the distressed technique allows the natural grain to show through. Ideal for beachy, country or industrial design. One can construct stairs with it to move through level changes in the landscape. Maybe inset an outdoor fireplace in a wall of an entertainment area and surround it with wood up to ceiling height.

Curved timber walls are breathtaking. The ultimate combination of form and function, this might be the most interesting way to use timber cladding.

Decking extends the living space of a home and is an asset in many ways. It can be used to complement internal flooring and form a natural flow from indoors to outdoors.

Timber is also ideal to use as seating in BBQ, pool and spa areas.

It’s great to use for privacy screens with a maximum span between uprights of 1500mm on a continuous span and perfect for elevated pathways in our protected natural environments. Timber is used to make privacy, wind and noise protection, and boundary fences.

Play equipment is often made from timber but ensure that you do not use arsenic treated timber in the playground; it’s illegal.

Pergolas, trellising, garden furniture, raised garden beds, garden mulch, paving and planter boxes made from timber; are common features in backyards worldwide.

Termites are the enemy in any Australian landscape. The many Australian hardwood timbers exhibiting natural resistance to subterranean termites in Australia do so with a number of conditions attached. Detailed conditions are in Australian Standard (AS)3660.

Timbers treated against termite attack must attain appropriate levels of treatment to suit the application involved. Further details are in AS1604.

Queensland Cypress pine “Callitris Glaucophylla” is a termite resistant timber, along with over twenty Australian hardwoods including Jarrah, Grey Ironbark and Brush Box.

Australia has a number of native timber species that are ideal for bushfire prone areas and landscape designers utilize these when specifying for projects in these risk areas. Merbau (termite resistant), Red ironbark, Red river gum and Silvertop ash are good choices.

Both Blackbutt and Spotted Gum are native Australian grown species that offer a rich, earthy hue for an outdoor area. They can either be left unfinished for a natural, weathered look or stained to complement a specific colour theme.

In the parts of Australia that are prone to bushfires, there are limitations on the use of timber in deck construction. This limitation varies depending on the risk of bushfire attack and the elements of the deck under consideration.

Refer also to AS1530.8.1-2007. Building a deck in bush-fire prone areas will require adherence to Australian Standard AS3959: Construction of Buildings in Bush Fire Prone Areas. Spotted Gum is classified under Australian Standards as a Bushfire Resisting Timber.

To ensure we meet regulations for post sizes, stress grades, bearers and joists spans and other structural elements pertaining to building a deck; refer to Australian Standard AS1684: Residential Timber-Framed Construction and AS1720: Timber Structures – Design Methods.

For instance, under the Building Code of Australia, if the deck is more than one metre off the ground; handrails or balustrades are required. The choice of appropriate handrails and balustrades will depend on the design and application and even location in relation to other structures like swimming pools. Again, check with your customers’ local Council.

Timber yards all over Australia supply the right timber for the right job and have experts on hand to provide advice and assistance. The major hardware chains stock a vast range of timber to suit all jobs and even have prebuilt stringer kits for stairs, handrails in different designs, decking timbers, bottom rails of all sizes; all made from different wood.

Landscapers use different timbers in a variety of ways to produce a variety of structures in the landscape; some structural, others decorative.

In Australia, the forest and wood manufacturing industries generate more than AU$23.5 billion a year and employ an estimated 64,000 Australians*. If forests are to continue to deliver the full range of benefits that people and nature are dependent on, they need to be conserved and managed responsibly. Sustainability is at the core of this approach.

Certification is the tool to verify that a forest is sustainably managed and to connect the consumer with the sustainable origins of their products.

As well as providing assurance of sustainable practices, forest certification also acts as an enabler of sustainability. It empowers consumers and companies to choose sustainably sourced products, thereby allowing us to reward responsible forest owners.

For information on standards, refer to Sustainable Forest Management (AS 4708) and Chain of Custody for Forest Products (AS 4707).

Consider using recycled timber in your next project. You can find a range of recycled timber, some over 100 years old.

Recycling timber from sources including:
• Railway sleepers.
• Timber sourced from old factories.
• Recycled hardwood timber from wharves and bridges.

Beautifully seasoned,they are full of character. Reclaimed timber from old bridges, many with the pins, bolts, plates remaining and the checking of yesteryear, are perfect for retaining walls, garden edging and seating around a firepit. Measuring 400mm by 400mm and 1900mm in length, they bring new meaning to the words durable and rustic. Create architectural feature pieces like archways and entrances.

Importantly, Australia’s native forests, timber plantations and wood products are all net absorbers of greenhouse gases.

For more information on sustainable forestry, visit

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