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Chapter 5 — Wood and Wood Products

A. Wood is a Natural Engineering Construction Material of Filler – Binder


1. It is a low-cost material where trees grow

2. If properly maintained, it is durable
3. It is easy to work with
4. It can be transformed to different forms and shapes of engineering
construction material to suit specific demands

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B. What Makes Wood or Timber a Unique Construction Material?

1. Its attributes combine all of the following:

a) It is a naturally occurring material
b) It is a renewable material, as it is sourced from trees, i.e., woody
plants that are at least 20 ft long, with no branches for at least 4 ft
c) It is a biogenic, and, therefore, an organic material, that once was
living tissue, made up of cells — the unit living component
d) Its availability depends on geographic and topographic locations
e) It has very low heat absorption and emissivity characteristics
(never feels hot)
f) It is an outstanding thermal and, when dry, an electrical insulator

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2. The concentric growth rings of the (exogenous) tree (from which most
wood used in engineering construction comes) produce grain lines,
and the direction of the load relative to the grain determines the
strength and other properties of timber; namely, wood has different
strength and other properties in each of the directions of the grain:
a) It is strong in tension and compression — when the load is paral-
lel to the grain
b) It is weak in tension and compression when the load is perpen-
dicular to the grain
c) It is strong in shear when the load is perpendicular to the grain
d) It is weak in shear when the load is parallel to the grain
e) It is strong in flexure

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3. It stores moisture in two different ways:
a) Bound moisture, which is adsorbed (not absorbed) moisture,
where the moisture is held within the cell wall
b) Free moisture, which is absorbed (not adsorbed) moisture, where
the moisture, be it in liquid or vapor state, is held in the cell cav-
ity, much like a sponge
4. Its moisture content and the surrounding atmospheric humidity de-
termine if wood can act as a firewall or as fuel
5. It has good thermal and electrical insulating capabilities
6. It is susceptible to attacks by microbes, insects, and animals

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C. What Makes Wood or Timber Similar to Portland Cement Concrete (PCC)

1. It is a filler–binder material:
a) Cellulose is the filler
b) Lignin is the binder
2. Its properties change with moisture content
3. It creeps under constant, sustained stress
4. Just as PCC requires curing (providing desirable temperature and
humidity), timber requires seasoning (controlled drying)

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D. What Determines How Wood or Timber Properties Vary?

1. The type of the tree from which the lumber was sourced

2. The conditions to which the tree had been subjected

3. The conditions to which the lumber, and later the timber, were sub-

4. The environmental conditions in which the wood is used

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E. Tree Types
1. Endogenous trees, such as palm trees or bamboo, grow with new fi-
bers being added from within, and being intertwined
2. Exogenous trees, such as walnut and cedar trees, grow from the cen-
ter, with new tissue being added as annual, annular, or growth rings
from the outside by the cambium layer
a) Deciduous trees, such as oak or cedar, are classified as hardwoods,
and are broadleaved trees that, for the most part, shed their
leaves in the winter, when growth ceases

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(i) Not used in construction
• Cost is prohibitive
(ii) Used for furniture, either as visible members of furniture
or as veneer
• High aesthetic appeal of grain

b) Evergreen trees, such as pine or fir, are classified as softwoods,

and are needle-leaved trees that do not shed their leaves in the
(i) Are suitable for construction
• Cost is reasonable
• Growth is rapid — though not as rapid as bamboo
• Growth is continuous and uniform through the trunk

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(ii) Their parts — as well as those of deciduous (hardwood)
trees are:
• The pith — responsible for the initial growth when the
tree starts as a twig, and is the center of the trunk
• The roots — responsible for collecting nutrients and wa-
ter from the soil for transport to the leaves
• The leaves — responsible for manufacturing high-energy
food, utilizing their chlorophyll, and employing photosyn-
thesis to convert the nutrients and water absorbed by the
roots, the carbon dioxide (CO2) of the air, and light en-
• The outer bark or cork — responsible for protecting and
insulating the tree

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• The inner bark — responsible for the growth of the outer
bark or cork
• The cambium layer — responsible for building the an-
nual, annular, or growth rings and for transmitting the
food manufactured by the leaves to the branches and the
• The sapwood — responsible for transmitting nutrients
from the roots to the branches (and leaves)
• The heartwood — previously sapwood, converted to
heartwood, and responsible for providing stamina and re-
sistance to bending moments

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F. Desirable Characteristics of Timber — for higher strength, better dimen-
sional stability, and durability
1. More heartwood (darker and denser) than softwood (lighter and less
2. Defect-free
3. Older growth
4. Properly sawn pieces
5. Well seasoned
6. Appropriately treated (with preservatives against microbial/insect at-

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G. Defects in Timber — Natural and Man-made
1. Knot — branch base — may be face knots or edge knots
2. Shake — gap between annual rings caused by wind over-bending the
young tree before the tree re-erecting itself
3. Wane — piece of cork left at the corner or edge that might break off
4. Check — tensile crack along the circumference of a growth ring,
caused by sudden loss of moisture and shrinkage
5. Bowing — bending longitudinally because of uneven drying
6. Crooking
6. Cupping — bending circumferentially along the growth ring
7. Twisting — extremities of the timber twisting in opposite directions
8. Slope of the grade

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H. Loss of Moisture in Timber
1. Moisture change in timber occurs by losing first all of the free mois-
2. When all the free moisture has evaporated, the fiber saturation point is
reached, when moisture content is, approximately, 25 % – 30 %
3. After losing all free moisture in the cell cavity, then the bound mois-
ture begins to evaporate, and that is when shrinkage begins to occur
4. Drying shrinkage, which is mitigated by proper seasoning, can be:
a) Longitudinal or along its axis (parallel to the pith) — the least
b) Radial (across the growth rings)
c) Tangential (along the growth ring) — the most

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I. Degradation and Destruction of Timber
1. Causes
a) Fungi — cause stains and decay damage — require
(i) Right temperature
(ii) Wood fiber as nourishment
(iii) Oxygen
(iv) Moisture content of, at minimum, 20 % (not dry-rot fungus)
b) Bacteria — may result from prolonged storage on soil
c) Insects — termites (mostly and most destructive), also beetles
d) Marine boring organisms — mostly in sea water
e) Humidity — cycles of wetness and drying will cause decay

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2. Countermeasure or prevention
a) Bleaching — good for fungal attack (does not affect hardness)
b) Control of humidity — good for fungi and dry-rot fungi
c) Treatment with chemicals or preservative (pressure) treatment —
to protect against fungi, bacteria, and insects, as well as to help
inhibit combustion

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J. Classification and Grading of Timber
1. Classification by
a) Specie
b) Manner of manufacture (plywood, glulam, and other laminated
2. Grading
a) Addresses factors, such as defects or flaws, which may affect:
(i) Strength
(ii) Durability
(iii) Utility
b) In accordance to guidelines by the American Softwood Lumber

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