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Timber grading

1. Visual Grades
This is the traditional way of grading timber based on how defects
(including those noted above) affect the appearance and strength of
a piece of timber.

Visual grades as defined in Australian Standards

There is an Australian Standard (AS1490) covering the visual

grading of timber. The different grades are described in Table 1.
Table 1: Visual grades of timber

Timber containing the most defects and

Building grade usually used for concealed framing and in
situations where visual quality is of no
(Merchant) consequence to the work or the work is

Standard grade Timber containing a limited number of

defects defined by the grading rules and
used for all purposes other than where select
(Engineering) grade is required.
Select grade Very few defects are permitted in Select
grade timber in the grading rules. It is used
(Engineering) for quality finished work such as stair treads
and risers, balustrades, seats and similar
(Clears) dressed work.


Merchant grade - is for general use

Engineering grade - is for load bearing beams and girders
Clears - is for joinery works

Any timber of lower grade to this would only be suitable for packing
crates or pallets etc

2. Stress grade
This form of grading is important for structural work as it gives the
capacity of a piece of timber to support a load. The designer of a
structure may specify a particular stress grade for load bearing
timbers. Grades range from F2 to F34, which closely correspond to
a force in MPa.

Stress grades are either stamped on the timber or indicated by a


Stress grade
Colour code
(Increasing Strength)
F4 Red
F5 Black
F7 Blue
F8 Green
F11 Purple
F15 Orange
F17 Yellow
F22 White

As an example of the ability of particular species to carry loads

Radiata Pine is commonly graded F4 or F5, Oregon F5 to F8, and
Hardwood (Eucalyptus species) F11 to F34.

The Plantation Pine industry has introduced a new machine graded

range of framing timber different to the F-system described above.
These pine products are called MGP Pine. The F-system and the
MGP Pine stress grading systems cant be compared directly because
they are based on different strength properties. However, to give
you a rough comparison:

F4 is similar but not equal to MGP10

F8 is similar but not equal to MGP12
F11 is similar but not equal to MGP15

The designer of a timber structure will determine what stress grade

is required by consulting span tables and selecting a timber size and
grade for the load it is required to support. You should make sure
you use timber of the stress grade specified.

3. Durability Grades
Refers to the natural resistance of a timber to attack or destruction
by wood destroying agents such as termites, borers, fungi and
weathering. It does not include resistance to fire or mechanical

Australian timbers are divided up into four durability classes

Table 2: Natural durability classes in timber

Class Durability
High natural durability

Timber that is durable when in contact with the

ground or continually damp conditions.

Some hardwoods are included in Class 1, such

as tallowwood (Eucalyptus microcorys), grey
Class 1 gum (E.punctata and E.propinqua), white
mahogony (E.acmenioides) and turpentine
(Syncarpia glomulifera). If you need hardwood
to be durable you must specify: Durability Class
1 Hardwood.

Expected service life of25 50 years when in

contact with the ground.
Durable timbers

Timber that is durable when fully exposed to the

Class 2
weather, provided that it is well drained and

life expectancy of 15 25 years when in contact

with the ground.
Moderate durability

Class 3 Timber that is durable in continually dry

conditions i.e. when under cover.

life expectancy of 8 15 years when in contact

with the ground.
Class 4 Non durable
Life expectancy of only 1 8 years if in contact
with the ground.

Note that these classes refer to truewoods. All sapwood is non-


Outdoor construction timber evaluation

Weather Wear Warping

Timber Cost Workability Comments
durability durability problems
Hardwood high high mod yes difficult
CCA pine high low Mod if not easy Avoid cutting
Oregon mod low Mod no easy Not outdoor
WRCedar high low high no easy Not structural
2 The capacity of timber members is influenced by a large number of characteristics
of the timber and the ambient conditions in which the timber is used at the time of
the strength limit state loading. Even the nature of the strength limit state loading
itself can influence the failure load of the timber. The ambient conditions and the
type of loading are accounted for in the use of a number of modification factors -
the k factors.
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