The Wood Protection Association (WPA) and the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) have entered into a partnership agreement aimed at strengthening the UK market for treated wood. In this article WPA Chief Executive Gordon Ewbank explains what led up to the partnership agreement and the strategic priorities that are to be tackled.

A mission to build confidence in treated wood

In any conversation about treated wood it’s not long before service life comes up. Just how long will treated wood last, particularly when used outdoors? In any market there is a choice of products and price points. Inevitably, price almost always has a direct relationship to quality. Just because a piece of wood may look like its treated doesn’t mean to say that it is fit for the purpose for which it was purchased. The early in-service failure of incorrectly treated wood fencing, decking and landscaping products is bad news not only for the final customer but also for everyone in the supply chain – installer, timber merchant and treater.

The WPA has long recognised the need to provide buyers of treated wood with credible reassurance about its ability
to perform. Back in 2011 the Association initiated a long-term strategy aimed at providing that reassurance. Three important elements are involved: 1) an independent quality scheme, the ‘WPA Benchmark’, to verify that individual wood products are pre-treated correctly for their end use; 2) an approval scheme for impregnation preservatives establishing the minimum retention required to protect timber in ground contact and 3) commissioning BRE to carry out the UK’s largest field trial of sawn softwood posts to assess durability performance over 15 years.

TTF and WPA partnership a game changer

Currently, only members of the WPA have benefited from this strategy but this could be about to change significantly with the TTF and WPA joining forces on treated wood strategy. Many see this trade association partnership as a game- changer for the UK treated wood market. The TTF’s supply chain understanding, communication networks and lobbying influence together with the WPA’s technical, standards and regulatory expertise and profile in European wood protection markets creates a powerful alliance for change. This is not a merger; the partnership agreement is very much focused on combining resources to deliver a joint action plan for the benefit of the members of both organisations and provide a springboard for treated wood growth.

Survey identifies the key priorities to unlock growth

The starting point of the partnership was a joint survey of WPA and TTF wood treating and buying members between October 2017 and February 2018. This survey revealed clearly that three key issues must be addressed if the UK market for treated wood was to flourish and grow. These issues are: 1, the common failure to specify treated wood correctly; 2. the lack of understanding about how to correctly install and use treated wood and 3. independent verification of the treatment process.

The WPA and TTF has wasted no time in starting to tackle the actions highlighted by the survey. A range of communications designed to improve buyer and user knowledge are already being worked on. The first manifestation of the collaboration is a free ‘Buyers Guide to Treated Wood’, published this month. This new style guide deals with communicating the specification basics. It is focused exclusively on helping buyers understand that the level of preservative treatment must be tailored to the end use – wood treated for indoor applications
must never be used for outdoor applications.

TTF has consulted its members about the introduction of third-party quality assurance as a mandatory policy for treated wood. A significant majority have said that they favour such a move and the policy is up for ratification at the TTF AGM on 26 June.

WPA will keep readers of F&L News updated on developments in this important initiative in future editions.