24 Aug

How to Check Your Timber Before Buying

Timber is one of the most versatile and useful types of wood, making it ideal for a range of building projects. But you don’t just want to use any old timber — you want to make sure you’re using the best in the business. If you’ve picked up weaker or defective timber, your building project, like your dreams, could come crashing to the ground. 

How to Check Your Timber Before Buying


Luckily, there are ways to ensure you’ve purchased good-quality timber, and we’re going to list them all today.

What are the characteristics of good timber?

You can check whether you’re in possession of decent-quality timber by checking its various characteristics:

  • Permeability — a good timber should not absorb more than 8-12% of water by its weight.
  • Elasticity — a good timber will be slightly elastic.
  • Workability — a good timber should not damage or block the teeth of the saw during cutting.
  • Weight — you should not be surprised by the weight when you pick up your timber. A good timber should be about as heavy as it looks. Lightweight timber tends to be weak.
  • Structure — a good timber will have a uniform structure with straight, firm fibres. 
  • Appearance — a good timber will be shiny when sawed. This is due to resinous matter present in the timber. The timber should also be without any visible defects such as blue stain or dry rot.
  • Colour — a lighter colour is indicative of weaker strength, whereas a darker colour is indicative of greater strength. You should seek to acquire timber of a darker colour.

What defects should I look out for?

Check your timber for any defects to determine whether or not it is of high grade. There are a variety of visible defects that can occur on timber, so it’s always best to keep an eye out.

Some of the most common defects include:

  • Shakes — these are cracks that separate the wood fibres partly or completely, compromising the overall strength and stability of the wood.
  • Water stain — this is a stain as a result of water coming into contact with the wood. Water stains will damage the colour of the word and ruin its appearance.
  • Chemical stain — this is a stain caused by any number of chemical agents. These stains greatly discolour the wood and ruin its appearance.
  • Dry rot — this is caused by a type of fungus that eats wood. If given long enough, the fungus will destroy the structural integrity of the wood, compromising its strength and stability.
  • Wet rot — this is caused by a fungus that grows in wet conditions. The fungus will decompose the timber, converting it into a grayish-brown powder.

Other types of defect you’ll want to look out for include:

  • Twisted fibres
  • Wind cracks
  • Rind galls
  • Burls
  • Knots
  • Coarse grain
  • Calluses
  • Brown rot
  • White rot
  • Blue stains
  • Honeycombing
  • Warping
  • Chips
  • Torn grain

Which suppliers should I get my timber from?

To give yourself the best chance of obtaining high-quality timber, you’ll want to ensure you use a reputable supplier. Don’t just use anyone — do some research before you buy.

  • Check reviews — reputable suppliers will have been well reviewed by happy customers. If a supplier isn’t showing good reviews, it may be because they have something to hide.
  • Experience — experienced suppliers tend to have persisted because they offer good products and services. You can expect to get good quality timber from a business with many decades of experience.
  • Knowledge — knowledgeable suppliers will be able to identify good timber from bad timber, and only allow the former into their supply. Choose a supplier that demonstrates great knowledge, perhaps with an abundance of information or resources on their website.

Hitchcock & King has been a leading builders merchants for over 40 years — and it’s no surprise why. With a strong reputation and a wealth of knowledge, we have cemented ourselves as one of the most reputable builders merchants in London. Available with fast, reliable delivery, we offer a comprehensive range of building supplies, perfect for commercial and domestic products. Find high-quality timber and more in London with Hitchcock & King.

Contact our team to place an order.