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Timber Conservatories

"Wood used for conservatories can be either hardwood or softwood. Hardwood is preferable, but good quality softwoods are perfectly acceptable."

Why Timber Conservatories Are Back In Vogue


Website: Richmond Oak ltd

An array of options is available for customers choosing wood conservatories. Traditional conservatories were all built from wood. However, in recent times, timber has played second fiddle to PVCu and Aluminum in the mainstream conservatory markets as the modern consumer has opted for a combination of cost, low maintenance and ease. However, there are indications that this trend is reversing and for a number of very good reasons wood conservatories are back in fashion. MD Charles Turner of the Richmond Oak ltd explains:
"Timber gives much better insulation than either PVCu or Aluminum and is more environmentally friendly. Processing timber uses a fraction of the energy required in producing synthetic alternatives. In fact, harvesting timber through replanting forestry does wonders for the environment. It produces oxygen and reduces carbon in the environment. A growing band of consumers are demanding a choice of environmentally friendly material. Likewise, some councils like Milton Keynes are now insisting that replacement windows and replacement conservatories are made in timber".

But the range of timber options is vast. Timber being a live material is naturally sensitive to the environment it sits in. A wood conservatory sits squarely in two diverse climates, meeting the comfort of under floor and central heating on one side and the harsh and temperamental British climate on the other. It's not the just the quality of timber that's needed, it's also its versatility. For example, woods like beech, a stalwart hardwood used extensively in chic British kitchens, is totally unsuitable for a conservatory and will crack extensively, leading to problems in both weatherproofing and insulation.

So for a customer considering a timber conservatory what are the options? There are a number of matters to consider ranging from the type and quality of the wood through to the preparation, type of joints and finish. These factors have a significant impact on the quality and durability of a conservatory as well as the price.

Wood used for conservatories can be either hardwood or softwood. Hardwood is preferable, but good quality softwoods are perfectly acceptable. Hardwood means that the trees shed their leaves every year such as an oak tree, whereas softwoods are evergreen like most spruces or pine. In fact, a Balsa wood, which is the softest of wood, sheds its leaves and therefore is classified as a hardwood.
A good start point is to look at the tried, tested, and commonly used woods in British conservatories. It is estimated that excess of 90% of all timber conservatories are built from the following ten woods:

Hardwoods

1. Mahogany
Mahogany has long been the love of the English lady. Exotic with its reddish hues it has graced many a stately home. True craftsmen like working with mahogany as it cuts nearly perfectly and it is one of the most durable of woods. But style versus political correctness is increasingly a big issue. Indiscriminate stripping of the Amazon rain forests has led to an estimated reduction of 70% of the worlds supply. In the last year direct imports of Brazilian mahogany were highly regulated in the UK and the progressive influence of the green lobby may see a decline in the use of this wood in the future. Friends of the Earth are greatly concerned about the use of this wood see www.foe.co.uk

2. Oak
Oak sits at the top of the pile in terms of the British connoisseur of wood. Britain built its seafaring reputation on the might of oak-built ships and many medieval oak-framed buildings still stand strong and erect today. However, oak is difficult to work with given it's hardness and strength and raw materials are expensive. Therefore, many mainstream manufactures shy away from using it. However, the attraction of an oak conservatory is undeniable. A combination of the classic grain, silver medullary rays and understated toughness give it unrivalled curb appeal. Most oak comes from Europe or America. European oak, which is slower growing and has a tighter grain, is the best.

3. Idigbo
Idigbo is a superb wood for people that want oak, but can't afford it. When stained, to the untrained eye it looks similar to oak. This increasingly popular wood is harvested in Ghana and the Ivory Coast and is a good material for conservatories, combining looks and durability. It is used extensively by reputable manufacturers and is probably the most commonly used quality hardwood.

4. Iroco (Teak)
For those with exotic tastes, Iroco is an excellent choice, but with a price to match. Grown in Burma, it is reddish brown in colour and it is one of the hardest woods to work with, which is indicative of its sheer strength. Like oak, it will last for centuries. Iroko has a lot of natural oil in it, so special care has to be taken in choosing stains.

5.& 6. Meranti and Sapele
Meranti along with Sapele are the most commonly used basic conservatory hardwoods. Meranti is harvested extensively in areas of the world like Indonesia: whereas Sapele is commonly found in areas of Africa. These woods have sometimes been unfairly labeled 'the poor mans mahogany'. Both are perfectly acceptable woods and if properly treated will last for a very long time. Many conservatories found in the large DIY chains will be manufactured from this wood. Conservatories made from these woods are often just promoted under the generic 'Hardwood' tag as the raw material carries no additional kudos. For a customer who wants a good hardwood conservatory, but doesn't want to break the bank these are likely to be the best alternatives presented.

7. Utile
Another mahogany look-a-like. In the demise of Brazilian mahogany, some manufacturers have switched to Utile. It is a durable hardwood of a medium to dark reddish colour and is a good material to work with, although more expensive than Meranti and Sapele.

Softwoods

8. Pine
Pine is one of the few environmentally friendly woods as the harvesting of pine causes no threat to the climate. It is a fast growing tree and has been the backbone of the window and door industry in the UK. It is increasingly used in conservatory production. It has moderate durability and if properly treated with micro-porous paint can provide a perfectly good conservatory at a reasonable budget.

9. Cedar
Red Cedar is softwood and has been used extensively in the UK. It has moderate durability to external weather conditions and is both similar in cost and life expectancy to a comparable hardwood One of its disadvantages is that it needs more regular staining to avoid fading into a silver grey.
 
So if you are looking for a timber conservatory bear in mind that all timber is not equal and that the harvesting of some of the timbers on offer from the continents of Africa and Asia is already having an impact on our climate change.

2005 Charles Turner
Richmond Oak ltd
www.oakconservatories.co.uk
Tel: 01323 442255


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