Concrete has long enjoyed a supreme and monotonous use in the Zambian construction sector as a material since post-independence architecture with an almost negligible use of timber and glass for trusses and windows respectively. Today however, this is no longer the case as timber – of note here – and glass have achieved profound recognition in construction.
In much recent years, Zambia has seen a greater appreciation for the use of wood in its construction evidently so through patio decks and pergolas.
Timber is a term that is common in the UK and Australia for unprocessed wood while the term Lumber is common in the USA and Canada.
Wood, also known as logs, is a naturally occurring block found in trees, primarily used to create wood planks. Wood is either classified as hardwood or softwood. In general, hardwood comes from a deciduous tree which loses its leaves annually and softwood comes from a conifer which usually remains evergreen for most of the year. Hardwoods tend to be slower growing, and are therefore denser. It’s this density that gives it a natural durability and consequently, it is more expensive than softwoods.
In Zambia, hardwood is harvested from local indigenous trees like Mukwa. Hardwood than softwood, lasts for as long as 20 years or more depending on how and where it is used. Due to some cost concerns, today, hardwood is mostly used for furniture and doors. Owing to its natural strength qualities, it can be used for reinforcement as well as flooring and frames – window and door – in construction. Its high density might also cause some difficulties to work with so a simple saw will not do the trick here but heavy duty machinery often will.
Softwood is harvested from pine and eucalyptus trees. This wood is not as durable as hardwood and only lasts for as long as 5 years before measures have to be taken to improve it or replace it. During construction, it is used for site works i.e. form-work and timbering because it is easier to work with such that a saw will prove to be very helpful here and for that Cost minded Zambian, softwood would be the best route to take as it is readily available. Therefore, softwood is commonly used for trusses and frames.
Softwood, more than hardwood, requires more preservative measures to be taken. The common way of doing things is by means of exposing it to Creosote using a brush or a beater. Other measures, like impregnation, can be done by way of adding similar preservatives in a pressurized tank so as to feed these preservatives into the wood’s cells. This will wad off termite attacks.
Aesthetics here can either be natural or induced, but it all comes down to the issue of cost; how much one is willing to spend to achieve it. If a bare look is something you are reaching for, hardwood is the perfect fit but it will take you back by much more than softwood will. Like any priced commodity, the returns are definitely there; for example the running cost is less than the initial cost, and when you cut through it, beautiful grain patterns come to life only as mesmerizing as artwork is. Thus, all you need to achieve this is a splash of vanish and voila! Softwood is not without individuality. Because this wood is easier to work with, it can be cut into preferred shapes and sizes with much ease than hardwood is, and cosmetic to this wood is achieved by adding paint to it of a desired hue. Vanishing will also work just as well.
With the construction industry using much timber today than most industries, our woodlands run the risk of depletion and therefore solutions to avoid this from happening have to be proposed. One long term solution has been through afforestation and reforestation schemes. A short term solution that has proved to be effective is the use of re-purposed wood from demolished and rundown structures to satisfy the growing construction needs for wood; this green redemption crusade has hereafter received relatively good acclaim the world over as the solution moving forward.