Planed timber finding a home in the UK

With a housing shortage, home DIY growth and a greater demand for wood, the future looks bright for the UK’s wood industry. Swedish raw material has an excellent reputation and construction timber from Setra’s new planing mill in Hasselfors is a welcome addition to the market.

A load of roof truss timber is rolling into the yard at Harlow Timber Systems in Bardon, East Midlands. Within a couple of days this has been transformed into quality roof trusses which are then shipped off to a construction site somewhere else in the UK.

“We’re back on track with the upward curve that we saw before the coronavirus pandemic. The demand is there and, looking ahead, we expect to see growing demand for the materials to build new housing,” says the company’s Managing Director David Stockill.

Driven by a housing shortage

Harlow Timber Systems’ wooden roof trusses and joists are used for everything from single private homes to large-scale commercial projects. Customers include several national builders who are now beginning to step up the pace of production again.

The UK has a housing shortage and there is a pent-up demand that has certainly not receded during the pandemic. There is also a growing interest in the use of wood in new designs. Stockill reports receiving regular enquiries from architects and developers who are working on new concepts with a lower climate footprint.

“It feels good to be part of this trend. And now we can also use Setra’s excellent material in our roof trusses.

Spike in home improvements

Ninety miles to the north, G Empson & Sons takes delivery of planed timber in class C24, which is intended for load-bearing structures. The company offers bespoke specialized joinery products like windows and doors as well as a quality range of sawn and machined products. Head of Sales Sean Jones has seen customers flood in over the past few months.

“Public customers are up tenfold. In the summer we sold a lot of decking and exterior cladding and during the fall people geared up for more home improvement projects in case of another lockdown. There is also a rush of orders from professional trade customers, wanting to finish off current projects.”

Range serves customers well

G Empson uses both planed timber from Setra Wood Products in King’s Lynn and sawn timber from Setra’s sawmills in Sweden. They were quick to order planed construction timber as soon as it started rolling off the production line in Hasselfors.

“We like the idea of a one-stop shop that can deliver many different products at the same time. It saves time that we can then devote to our customers. And we already knew that Setra has good control over the grading of its material,” says Sean Jones,adding that the close relations and trust in Setra also carried a lot of weight.

“I like the consistent quality of the material and the reliably good service. Our contact Vic Young always gives me accurate information. He has years of experience and knows what qualities will work for our business.”

Top-class timber

Quality is also important to Harlow Timber Systems. They almost exclusively use roof truss timber in class Tr26 (trussed rafters). This is a higher strength grade than C24 and is only used in the UK. It is also part of the new range from Setra’s planing mill in Hasselfors.

“We choose our suppliers based on quality and service and we believe in building lasting relationships. In Setra we’ve found a dedicated partner who shows an interest in our needs, for example by supplying custom widths. What’s more, the first deliveries have been exceptionally good,” says David Stockill.

Much of the timber supplied to Harlow is turned into trusses and other exposed components that are built to catch the eye. It is also not uncommon for customers to compete for local and regional awards recognising quality construction, which puts the building material under extra close scrutiny.

“The quality has to always be impeccable. When we get a damaged pack, it slows down our whole production chain, so consistently high quality really is critical,” says David Stockill.

Flexible deliveries

Another important factor is fast and flexible deliveries. Harlow Timber Systems wants to be able to deliver customer orders within a week. They don’t keep huge volumes of stock, preferring instead to receive regular deliveries, with the wood products often put to use within 48 hours. And this is where Setra’s landed stocks in King’s Lynn and Hull come in.

David Stockill is looking forward to a long partnership with Setra.

“Next year, when the pandemic is hopefully over, I look forward to visiting the planing mill in Hasselfors,” he says.

Text: Linn Treijs

Published: 2021-03-10


"We like the idea of a one-stop shop that can deliver many different products at the same time"

Sean Jones at G Empson & Sons 

Hasselfors broadens its range

The new planing mill in Hasselfors opened in the summer of 2020 and will be ramped up production during the autumn.

Its portfolio includes planed, mechanically sorted construction timber that is classified according to the strength grading standards in Europe, the USA and Australia.

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