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Characteristics of Timber


Whether you’re a professional builder or first time DIYer, choosing the right timber for your deck comes down to more than just “good looks.”  The appearance (such as grain and colour), structure (strength) and durability (a timber’s natural resistance) are all characteristics that vary between timber species.   Take Merbau, for instance – it’s one of the most popular and in demand choices for timber decking, but did you know that Silvertop Ash and Karri also have the same rating of 9 on the Janka Hardness Scale?  Here are some pointers on the characteristics of timber:

  • Colour – Generally, timber colour varies between types plus, timber which is exposed to light as it will change over time due to environmental factors.  Note that the description of timber colours are associated with the heartwood of the species rather than the sapwood, which can be dramatically different.  (Sapwood refers to the younger, softer outside part of the tree, whereas the heartwood is the older, harder central part of the tree).
  • Density – This is one of the best indicators of a timber’s strength and can also pertain to stiffness, hardness and fire resistance.
  • Grain – This simply refers to the direction, size, appearance and/or quality of fibres in a timber.   For example, the grain of Spotted Gum is variable – wavy or fiddleback, while Ironbark is interlocked.
  • Texture – Coarse, fine, even and uneven are all relevant descriptions for a wood’s texture.  The actual size and distribution of pores will depend on whether a timber is fine like Atlantic Jarrah or moderately coarse and even such as Taun.


Check out the characteristics of Grey Gum and Karri below and click here for the rundown of the full list of the 13 timbers available at No Nail Decking.

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