Here in Merchant Land, life is interesting. We’re coping with many of the same issues that people further up in the timber industry supply chain are facing, but the big difference is that merchants are the interface between trade and consumer.

Covid related issues, along with container prices and the inevitable post-Brexit problems all bear down on us; we then have to explain why prices are rising and lead times are extended. Thankfully it isn’t just timber seeing significant price rises, although on this occasion we’re certainly taking a lead role.

But let’s try to remember how fortunate we are. For those of us who’ve escaped the ravages of Covid, we’ve been able to continue trading and seen almost unprecedented demand. If you’re struggling at the moment, you probably need to review your business plan.

Unfortunately, high demand creates complacency. Some see the current position as an opportunity to ignore the need to continually improve standards, which is the only way the industry will thrive in the future.

For those of you who’ve known me a while and read my previous articles, you’ll know I believe in the importance of raising the quality of timber products, descriptions and specifications.

Preservative treatment of softwood has been a longstanding irritation to me. Our industry should hang its head at the reticence of many to describe and produce treated softwood to its correct requirements. The current market has only increased slackening of standards, with merchants effectively told to “take it or leave it”.

Nick Boulton, who heads up the TTF’s technical committees is far more qualified than me to harangue you, but he’s much more diplomatic and also far better at setting the facts out – here is a link to his recent updates on the issue: preservative-treatments-for-timber/

What the TTF and its members have finally done is crucial for the survival of timber in construction; their efforts will ensure that timber can be specified and used in ways where it can give clearly defined performance levels, because treated timber will be described and processed in accordance with relevant Use Classes. As Nick explains, TTF surveys have found the industry, let alone its customers, woefully unaware of different Use Classes and their applications. In many instances this fog is deliberate; it’s done to allow poor treatment processes to continue.

I applaud the work and the courage of the TTF to stand firm and insist that members behave responsibly. We saw a similar programme for clarity on plywood a few years back; now it’s treated softwood’s turn and it cannot come soon enough.

In the same way we saw the demise of ‘WBP’, we will now see ‘Treated Timber’ going the same way. The sooner the better.

So, if you think you’re a serious, professional timber trader, make sure you can confidently tell your customers what UC1 to UC4 means and where they can be used.

The future of treated timber as a mainstream constructional, landscaping or agricultural product is in your hands. Do the right thing; stick to the facts.