Matter of Fact

MATTER OF FACT

BLOG · BY TTF CEO, DAVID HOPKINS · FIRST PUBLISHED IN TTF BUILDERS MERCHANTS NEWS COLUMN APRIL 2021

The outdoor timber products season this year will be the first to be influenced by the up-coming roll out of the Code for Construction Products Information. 

Whether the weather is fine or not, it’s decking season. It’s also the season for all kinds of outdoor products, from shed cladding to sleepers. As we move towards the peak of summer and the potential unlocking of all society’s freedoms, there are two great opportunities emerging to market your reputation for knowledge and your outdoor timber product offering.

Firstly, help is at hand to give your marketing of preservative-treated timber products a boost, in the form of the TTF’s new joint campaign with the Wood Protection Association and Timber Decking & Cladding Association. From this month, free materials, including accurate, factual product information for your customers and training for your staff, are being made available to all merchants. Secondly, the new Code for Construction Products Information, which applies to everyone throughout the supply chain from forest to merchant and builder, will begin its roll-out from June. It requires product information to be clear, accurate, accessible, and unambiguous. Combine these two factors and you have an ideal opportunity to sell preservative-treated timber that is fit for specific end-user applications, expanding your business and reputation.

Factual, accurate product information on treated softwood timber is at the heart of the TTF and WPA campaign. We are providing merchants with a free poster to put up at branches, detailing the applications which fall into the three key Use Classes under BS 8417: Use Class 2, for dry interior use in covered situations; Use Class 3u for timber used outside but above ground, and Use Class 4, for any softwood timber product that is either in temporary or permanent contact with the ground. This helps to ensure you’re selling the right product for the right purpose.

Again from the beginning of this month, TTF members selling or trading in preservative-treated timbers will be marking documentation such as invoices, sales notes and delivery notes with the Use Class number, demonstrating the timber is fit for its intended purpose. The Merchants Resources page on the TTF website features downloadable information including a training presentation, so you can make sure your trade counter staff are singing from the same treatments hymn sheet before they advise customers.

The Code for Construction Product Information, a construction industry-wide initiative progressed in the wake of the Grenfell disaster, is intent upon ensuring that information is also ‘accessible’, namely it can be understood by any competent person working in the supply chain right through to those installing products. It applies to all products that can be used in a building context, whether domestic RMI or volume house-building.  Product claims must be backed up by evidence, and non-specific language such as ‘green treated timber’ will no longer be acceptable. As Elvis Presley once said: “Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t going away.” So take up this opportunity to be matter of fact about the treated timber you sell this summer. It will benefit your reputation as a reliable business.

The common mistake many branch staff make is to think that all ‘treated timber’ is the same.  It may look the same, but the level of preservative loaded into the wood may be very different, leading to differences in performance on site. Use Class 2 treated timber, destined for, say, roof joists, just won’t last if mistakenly used underneath a timber deck to support the deck boards. The deck boards themselves, along with softwood claddings, should have a Use Class 3 level of treatment loaded into the wood to perform correctly. And fence posts and decking support joists, the latter providing structural support for the deck, need to be treated to Use Class 4.

The key to gaining business advantage with preservative-treated timber, and to gaining market share over your competitors, is not to regard your responsibilities for providing accurate product information as a chore.  It’s a sales and marketing opportunity. Last summer, the WPA passed the 5-year mark in its independently-run, long-term research study to observe the differences in performance of treated and untreated fence posts. It is already proving that Use Class 4 treated material out-performs untreated material. That’s good news for your customers, and gives you opportunities for added value sales.

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