Timber and insect identification

Identify and understand how timber is affected when under the attack of insect and fungal decay

Exova has expertise in all types of timber and timber-based products, enabling us to identify timber species used to manufacture a wide range of products as well as the organisms that damage them.

Understanding timber species is necessary in assessing the strengths of timbers already in service, although the species is only part of the story as an assessment of the strength reducing characteristics is also required to assess the ‘strength grade’ of the timber. This ‘strength grade’ combined with the species allows for a strength class to be assigned.

For historic timbers, species identification can provide evidence about the history of the object and will enable you to select the appropriate timber for replacement suitable to the conservation project.

Our fungal and insect identification service involves hands-on inspection and non-destructive testing to assess the extent of damage for replacement / repair. We have a wealth of experience in the behaviour of timber in service and the characteristics of damage caused by fungal and / or insect attack as well as the types of insect that attack timber, we use a range of non-destructive techniques and reference data to reach our conclusion.

These services are carried out by our highly experienced timber consultants in our internationally recognised laboratories using specialist techniques.
The importance of identifying fungal attack and insect damage
Timber, being a natural material, provides food for a wide variety of fungi and insects particularly if sapwood is present or where wetting up in service has occurred. Fungal and wood boring insect attack can deface timber and, more importantly, may reduce the strength which can be critical for structural  members.

It is important to recognise that fungal and insect attack may not be active but historic. We can provide information on the risk of the insect / fungal attack spreading and we are able to offer advice on the likelihood of this occurring based on the type of damage/insect and the surrounding environment as well as suggestions for remedial measures.
Basics of timber identification
Timber being a biological material has a cellular structure. There are many different wood cell types and anatomical structures some and each family or genus has a specific combination of these features. Softwoods are generally easier to identify than hardwoods since they are fewer in number.

Initially we carry out a visual examination to determine gross features such as colour of grain. Following this we prepare thin sections for examination under the microscope to identify the cell types present, dimensions and their distribution. By using published keys based on authentic sample taken from trees and reference data we are able to identify timbers. We also draw upon our expertise and our extensive library of reference timber samples to reach our final conclusion.
Related services
Contact us
Email: Timber
+44 (0) 1494 569966

Nick Clifford

Timber species expert

Technical Consultant

View profile