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August 2017
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Sawmilling South Africa News
It has been a busy month for all involved in the sawmilling sector, what with the starting of the recovery work after the devastating fires in the Southern Cape, and the start of the new fire season up north. As we all know the month of August and September and even October are high risk months for the majority of the forest owners in the country and so we urge you all to be on the look out as we certainly don’t want another Knysna on our hands.
Here at the association we have been busy with the drafting of a submission to the Department of Environmental affairs DEA with regard to the Air Quality Act (AQA) which erroneously, in our opinion includes the measurement of volatiles in the emissions from timber drying kilns. We have submitted a document on behalf of the entire sawmilling sector which points out that emissions from “indirectly” heated kilns as used by the sawmilling industry do not contain “measurable” voltatiles and so this negates the necessity to monitor and measure same at huge cost to a sawmill operator.  I am sure that many of you out there will already have been approached by authorities in this regard and so we are trying to open the debate with the DEA to have the regulations altered. More about this, as the process unfolds.
Many of you will be aware that the industry has for some time now been working on an “additional” specification to the current SANS 1783-1-2. The subcommittee of SABS 1008  tasked with this, has completed its work and felt it necessary to highlight some potential issues that could or would effect both sawmillers and users of the new grade (SANS 1783-5-(1-2) in the future. I have copied an explanation drafted by one of the subcommittee members of some of the referred issues below in an effort to explain.

The aim of SANS 1783-5 is to ensure the integrity of South Africa’s structural timber resource through on-going mechanical testing thereof and also to give the opportunity for the use of new or untested grading methods that can be proven to deliver timber grades of the required structural properties.
SANS 1783-5 part 1 deals with assessing new resources or grading methods – requiring larger sample sizes, while SANS 1783-5 part 2 deals with on-going quality assessments of already implemented and proven test methods or resources to ensure the resource and grading methods continue to provide grades that satisfy all the required structural properties as per that grade, including strength, stiffness and density properties.

The standard is close to being published as a required South African standard, end therefore will be enforced as such.
Some important considerations from the two documents are as follows (but please go through the documents for more details):
  • All currently approved grading methods (e.g. visual grading) will be excepted, but under SANS 1785-5-2 graders will be required to test 1 in every 1000 pieces produced for bending strength (MOR) and stiffness (MOE). If a certain amount of these values fail to reach the minimum grade requirements, the grading method or resource needs to be reassessed as per SANS 1783-5-2.
  • A grading method tested under SANS 1783-5-2 and shown not to be able to make the required grade properties, will be failed, and either a new resource (e.g. older and stronger material / different regimes etc.) needs to be found that ensures the grading method delivers the required values (which will be difficult), or the grading method needs to be adjusted.
With the current South African pine resource, this means that a considerable percentage of the timber currently sold as S5 will not make the MOE required when graded through visual grading alone (backed by testing through Stellenbosch University). 
The decision that the industry now needs to make is how to handle this situation once SANS 1783-5 starts being implemented.

A few suggestions have been tabled, but this needs to be discussed in order to find the best way forward for the industry. Suggestions include:
  • Keeping all standard requirements as is,
  • lowering only the MOE requirements of the S5 grade, keeping all other properties equal (consider the effect of this on SA timber image, export markets, competition with steel etc.),
  • making a new grade, e.g. S4 with lower requirements, while still keeping the existing higher grades,
  • keep the existing available grades, while each mill has the option of creating a mill specific grade that satisfies a certain market requirement.
The effects of each of these options need to be carefully considered w.r.t. exports, structural design, competition with other industries like steel and concrete, and the ability to use our timber in future for things like CLT. The relevant structural design codes will also need to be considered should a change in structural grades be requested.
SSA is calling a meeting of all sawmillers and interested parties to discuss the comments above and any additional concerns that may arise from the implementation of the new specification. It is important for all producers of structural lumber to familiarize themselves with the above and to attend the meeting to participate in the debate.
The meeting is scheduled to take place on the 3rd October at 10:00am in the boardroom of the SAFCA building 6 Hulley Road Isando (the JHB home of the ITC) and all interested parties are encouraged to attend. If you would like to know more about the above and the meeting please contact us here at the SSA office on 083 679 2457 or mail us at
Reports from the market place this month have not improved on last month and most sawmillers are finding it tough out there. Lets hope that with the year starting to near its final quarter things will pick up as they traditionally do.

In the mean time keep cutting straight and drying flat until next month cheers.

Roy Southey
Executive Director: Sawmilling South Africa
Feature Article
Industry insight: Timber decking done right
For complete peace of mind, hire a decking contractor who holds membership with the ITC-SA. Not only will they be well versed in the construction regulations, the client will have a professional body to refer to should the workmanship or materials used not be up to standard.
While timber decking is most often associated with leisure and entertainment, and considered a complement to a larger structure, the importance of correct deck building is not always fully appreciated. Peter Bissett of well-renowned KwaZulu-Natal timber construction company, Cottage Concepts, Timber Deck Member of the Institute for Timber Construction South Africa (ITC-SA), shares insight into the dos and don’ts of timber decking, from legislation governing design and construction to maintenance.

I am often told by prospective clients that other decking contractors have told them that they do not need plans or an engineered design for their timber deck, because, among other reasons, their deck will be located at a private home, will only be utilized by one or two people, or will not be high off the ground. This is simply not true and the general rule is that if anyone can get injured due to a structural failure, like a decking slat breaking, for example, then an engineer (a civil or structural engineer, who is qualified and competent to engineer timber structures) should be engaged to check the contractor’s design.
Why should you have plans drawn up for your decking structure?
The local council usually has the final say and can ask to see any plans as well as an engineer’s certificate, even if the deck is almost on the ground. Anyone interested in having a deck built must be aware that if they do so without plans, when the time comes to sell their property, they may well end up having to submit plans, as most councils now require that plans are up to date prior to the release of rates clearance certificates. 
Another important factor to keep in mind is that most deck collapses (and there are many every year in South Africa) usually occur when the deck is loaded, such as at a New Year’s party or when heavy rains wash out one of the supports. Many timber decks that have not been designed properly can even be lifted off their posts during storms or strong winds.
The homeowner will be liable for any damage, injuries or death resulting from such failures if an engineer has not been engaged to certify the design and construction. Engineers must carry indemnity insurance which will cover most of these types of incidents.
Legislation governing timber deck construction
Timber structures must be designed and built in accordance with the South African National Standards (SANS) 10163, which governs the structural use of timber and SANS 10082 ‘Timber Frame Buildings’. An engineer would make use of SANS 10163 on a timber decking project.
SANS 10082 is the code of practice for timber structures and your decking contractor should have a copy of this document as well as SANS 10043 (Solid Wood Decking) on hand. The National Building Regulations must also be strictly adhered to when constructing a deck – or any other structure for that matter – and will refer the designer, builder and engineer to the relevant code or regulation for correct execution of the project.

Decks which are more than 1.5m off the ground should be designed by an engineer with experience in timber construction. The ITC-SA can help source an engineer with the relevant experience.
Treated structural timber for decking
Deck sub-structures (the framework or ‘skeleton’ of the deck which is not usually visible) are usually built with CCA-treated Pine due to the high cost of naturally durable hardwoods. Pine that is exposed to the elements should be CCA treated to Hazard class 3 if above ground and Hazard class 5 if in contact with the ground (mostly poles). This treatment is done in a pressure vessel, usually at the sawmill and is not something that can be painted on. Any cutting or planing of the timber on site should be touched up with a suitable remedial timber preservative, like ‘Enseal’ or CuGard 20 or similar. Refer to for any queries relating to timber treatment and preservation.
Many decking contractors do not coat the sub-structure, especially if it is not visible. This is a short-sighted approach, as the wood below the deck often remains damp for extended periods after heavy rains, making for an ideal environment for the growth of fungi, which can eat or erode the timber.
Timber poles should not be encased in concrete and should rather be supported on a pre-cured concrete foundation pad on firm ground or erected with a concrete ‘collar’ to allow for sufficient water drainage at the base of the pole. Support posts should not be supported on fill at the edge of a new embankment which will subside with time.

A serious error made from time to time by decking re-furbishers is that when they remove the old decking slats, they immediately fix the new decking onto the old timber structure. The screw holes left behind are ideal catchment areas for water, which can help advance rot in the structure. These holes should be filled with a waterproof filler and the top of the joists should be coated with supplemental and remedial brush-on preservative. Once dry, at least two coats of a good quality exterior wood sealer should be applied prior to fixing the new decking slats.
Keep in mind that timber is an organic material and part of its charm is how every piece is different. Markings and small cracks and checks are fine, as long as they do not affect the safety or structural integrity of the deck. Large, unsightly cracks or those that collect water must be avoided wherever possible.
Experts in wood preservation: The South African Wood Preservers Association (SAWPA) boasts a wealth of knowledge on the subject of timber treatment and treated timber products. If ever unsure about Hazard class treatment or suitable applications, visit or make contact with the Association directly.
Metal fastening systems
All metal fixings should be galvanized or of stainless steel, if possible, and screws should be Kal coated or of stainless steel. Screws should be countersunk in hardwoods and the holes should be filled with wooden plugs, epoxy or a suitable waterproof wood filler. Do not use regular wood filler for this application as it will dissolve after the first heavy rain.
Popular timbers for non-structural timber decking elements
Components like the decking slats and balustrades on a deck are often misconceived as non-structural, but they must be installed in a structurally sound way to ensure that they don’t fail when a load is applied onto or against them.
Popular timber choices for non-structural timber decking components include Balau, Massaranduba, Garappa, Saligna, Karri Gum and, more recently, Okan, a central African hardwood and Siberian Larch. Balau remains the most used timber for balustrading and decking slats, but due to high demand, trees are being harvested much younger, resulting in a decline in the quality of available timber. Young Balau used in a humid environment like Durban, could have up to half of the lifespan of the more mature Balau that was available previously.
Balau remains the most used timber for balustrading and decking slats, but the quality has declined over the last few years, which has seen an increasing demand for the other species. Massaranduba and Garappa are very popular in Cape Town, and Saligna and Karri Gum are also occasionally used for decking; if chosen and applied correctly, they can be as durable as the likes of Balau, Massaranduba and Garappa. Okan, while not yet well known, is a very durable timber that is growing in popularity along with another newcomer to the South African decking fraternity, Siberian Larch, which is reasonably priced and durable.
Properly treated SA Pine is probably one of the most underrated decking timbers. Correctly treated (H3) SA Pine decking slats will, under most conditions, outlast a hardwood if exposed to the elements. Some of the local treatment plants are currently offering a 25-year guarantee through timber merchants on treated Pine. Cost-wise, CCA treated Pine decking slats are not much cheaper than, say, Balau slats.
Case in point: The Gonubie Boardwalk just outside East London, was built with CCA-treated Pine in the early ‘90s. With almost no maintenance over the years, most of the slats are still original, despite having been used by thousands of sandy-footed beach-goers for more than 20 years.
Even with its excellent durability, Pine is still a softwood, and will not cope well under continuous high-heel and stiletto traffic.
Deck maintenance
The time between the completion of a new deck and its first round of maintenance depends on many factors, including location, extent of exposure to the elements, type of timber used and type of coating used. A deck should not be left for longer than 18 months before receiving routine maintenance; a 12-month maintenance cycle is preferable. If it is not weathering well before the 12-month mark, remedial action must be taken, otherwise the lifespan of the deck will be greatly reduced. Handrails endure the most wear and will usually need attention after a year.
It is best not to let the maintenance contractor sand down the deck with an industrial floor sander if it is not in a bad condition, as this reduces the number of times the deck can be sanded. This type of sanding should only be done if the deck has weathered significantly. Sanding with a big belt sander is sufficient for routine timber deck maintenance and if the deck is in fairly good condition, orbital sanders are sufficient.
All gaps should be filled with a waterproof filler prior to recoating. At least two coats of most products should be applied; if the deck has been sanded down to bare wood, then three coats will be required.
Many people enjoy the silvery grey weathered look which can be achieved in most timber species by leaving them uncoated, but the reality is that uncoated timber’s lifespan will be reduced; timber coated with a good preservative or sealant will always outlast uncoated timber.
Hiring a timber decking contractor: points to consider
There are a number of individuals in the market who are not qualified or experienced in the field of timber decking. The best decision a homeowner or project manager can make in the case of having a timber deck built is to hire a reputable deck builder. Decks are worthwhile additions to any structure, but they are expensive; one mistake on the contractor’s part can ruin the deck and be very costly to repair.
For complete peace of mind, hire a decking contractor who holds membership with the Institute for Timber Construction South Africa. Not only will the contractor be well versed in the construction regulations, the client will have a professional body to refer to should the workmanship or materials used not be up to standard.
Decking dos and don’ts
  • Do not accept a deck that bounces when walked over. Your tea should remain in its cup and not spill out into the saucer or the deck.
  • Balustrade posts should be bolted to the sub-structure and not nailed, as they will eventually come lose.
  • The balustrade should not have any gaps through which a 100 mm diameter ball would fit.
  • Any part of the deck that is higher than 1 m off the ground requires a balustrade.
  • Timber structures should have space of at least 450 mm below the decking for air to flow around the timber. Where this is not possible, try to keep the timber above soil.
A timber deck is an attractive addition to any structure and standalone (on a beach or a boardwalk, for example) makes for a durable, functional statement piece. However, timber decking, like all constructions, should be approached as an investment. The homeowner or project manager would do well to investigate the subject, ask for advice, engage the services of an accredited professional from design to final inspection, and ensure proper and regular maintenance is conducted; the yields on a well-built, well-taken-care-of timber deck are priceless and offer invaluable returns well into the future.
Contact: ITC-SA
National News
Womens month: ITC-SA profiles three women in the construction industry
The Institute for Timber Construction South Africa (ITC-SA), the SA body and regulator of the engineered timber structure industry, marks Women's Month by putting the spotlight on three of its female members, who share their experiences as women in construction. read more
Meeting nature halfway: A sustainable future built with timber
Buildings, be they domestic, commercial or industrial, are major consumers of energy the world over & this applies to much more than just their day-to-day running. From basic components, transport, construction, operation & final decomposition after its useful life, a building has significant potential for a gentler environmental footprint. read more
Luthier joins the George Working with Wood Show
The Working with Wood Show returns to the Garden Route this year for the second time since its debut in Knysna in 2014. The Show is once again being hosted by the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) George Campus (old Saasveld) over the long weekend of 22 - 25 September.
read more
Youth to be exposed to carpentry
High School scholars in George will show-off their woodworking skills during the upcoming Working with Wood Show taking place at Nelson Mandela University George Campus over 22 - 25 September. Collaborators of the Show include the School of Natural Resource Management at Nelson Mandela University. read more
First Cut endorses the use of high-quality stretcher-levelled steel from Allied Steelrode for production cost-savings 
Change in one type of technology often dictates change in another. The changes to steel cutting technology in the past three decades have been very significant and, with the development of high-speed fibre lasers, are now influencing the quality of steel that the industry uses. read more
NCT’s 2017 Tree Farmers of the Year
Two farmers from KwaZulu-Natal took top honours in NCT Forestry Cooperative's 2017 Tree Farmer of the Year competition. The winner of the Commercial Grower category was Geoff Wolhuter, a sixth generation Wolhuter on Elandspruit Farm in the province's New Hanover area. Judges praised Wolhuter's silviculture practices... read more
Invitation to National Roadshow for Wood Packaging Material (ISPM 15) & Discontinuation of Methly Bro-mide in SA
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries hereby invites all role players in manufacturing, treating, exporting of wood packing material (WPM) using Methyl bromide & Heat Treatment, as well as importers of Methyl Bromide fumigant ,Freight Forwarders and Agents. read more
National Building Regulations workshop to focus on roofing
The Institute for Timber Construction South Africa (ITC-SA), SAQA-registered Professional Body for the engineered timber construction industry, will be hosting a free CPD-accredited workshop in Pietermaritzburg on the 31st of August with the assistance of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) read more

International News
Engineered wood market to show steady 10 year growth
Engineered wood also known as man-made wood or composite wood, has become popular in recent times due to its cost effective and ecofriendly properties, it is expected to see steady growth to 2017. These woods are formed of composite materials manufactured by binding the strands, fibers and particles all together with the help of suitable adhesives. read more
Technology taking timber taller
Business as usual in the construction industry is getting something of a shakeup, as emerging trends in materials, technology & construction systems come together to create a whole new paradigm, specifically around timber. Dr Perry Forsythe, Professor of Construction Management at the University of Technology says in terms of more
Brunell: Big fires increasing prices for lumber
Massive forest fires in western parts of Canada and the U.S. are not only choking us with layers of smoke, but are cutting off lumber supplies around our country. The result is the cost of a new home is rising because of the growing shortage of framing lumber and laminated decking.
read more
Powering Up New Feedstock Demand
Nearly 90 % of Maine is blanketed in dense forests, & the state boasts nearly 40 species of trees that have commercial value. The Linkletter family has been working in these woods for 4 decades, logging, trucking & manufacturing wood pellets. Like everyone else who is economically dependent upon Maine’s forests & forest products more
Wood pellets production in the US on the rise
The US pellet plants have produced a total of 1,727 million tonnes of pellets during the first quarter of 2017, 5.4% more than in the same period last year. According to figures of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) at the U.S. Department of Energy, production of pellets for the heating market & of industrial more
Tolko Armstrong installs 3D sensors on unscrambler
When Tolko Armstrong lumber mill in British Columbia chose ifm’s 3D sensors to replace the photoeyes on its unscrambler as part of a larger upgrade to the mill in 2014, Dwayne Bueckert, a control systems specialist with Tolko Armstrong lumber mill, was a bit sceptical.
read more
Increasing lumber exports leads to new technology investment
Increasing lumber exports leads to new technology investment. Signs are good right now for the country’s wood processing industry. A report from Wood Resources International last week said that although over 50% of the wood harvest in New Zealand is being exported as logs, lumber production had picked up by about 10% over the last 3 years. read more
FraserWood innovates with high-end timber products
Just off the winding Sea to Sky Highway running along the coast from Vancouver to Whistler, B.C., the unique wooden architecture of the Squamish Adventure Centre beckons tourists to stop in. The building is almost entirely made of wood. The timber roof is shaped like two massive discs jutting out of the centre of the structure almost like wings. read more
Almost 126,000 employed in renewable energy UK
The UK’s renewable energy industry, including heat, power & transport, employed a record 125,940 people in 2015/16, according to a new report. The report is called REView 2017 & is the sector’s annual publication. The number of jobs grew by 2.5% between 2014/15 & 2015/16, a significant decline in growth from two years previous when growth was at nearly 9%.
read more
NZ export log prices weaken
New Zealand export log prices generally declined over the past month as a gain in the New Zealand dollar made the country's products less competitive. Most grades of New Zealand unpruned logs weakened by between $1-to-$3 a tonne, with A-grade logs falling to $124 a tonne, from $127 a tonne the previous month, according to AgriHQ's monthly survey. read more
Timber group pushes for wood construction in England
LONDON - Following the general election held on June 8th, The Confederation of Timber Industries (CTI) announced the reconstitution of the Timber Industries All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG); their first annual general meeting (AGM) was July 12th at the House of Commons.
read more
Canada-U.S. softwood deal possible by next month
The framework for a 10-year softwood lumber agreement between Canada & the United States could be reached in the coming weeks. Hamir Patel of CIBC World Markets Inc. said a deal setting quotas on Canadian softwood exports could be acceptable to the U.S. lumber industry if Canada drops several demands. read more
First quarter 2017 log exports
The total value of logs exported from New Zealand in the 1Q/17 was almost 3 times as high as the value of exported lumber, reports the Wood Resource Quarterly. Over 50% of the timber harvest in New Zealand is being exported in log form. However, some sawmills in the country have taken advantage of the growing demand for softwood lumber. read more
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Indecision is the key to flexibility. 

There is absolutely no substitute for a genuine lack of preparation. 

The facts, although interesting, are irrelevant. 

Someone who thinks logically is a nice contrast to the real world. 

Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting dirty for. 

Friends may come and go, but enemies accumulate. 

All things being equal, fat people use more soap. 

If you smile when things go wrong, you have someone to blame. 

One seventh of your life is spent on Monday. 

By the time you make ends meet, they move the ends.

No amount of advance planning will ever replace dumb luck. 

Anything you do can get you fired; this includes doing nothing.

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SSA · Forest Lodge, Sedgefield · Knysna, Western Cape 6573 · South Africa

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