Three point plan to selling structural timber

BMJ magazine, May

Published: 20/07/2009 00:00

Where the building regulations demand that a structurally classified panel product is used, it needs to comply with European Standard EN 13986. Stephen Rumsey, Timber Panels Specialist for Finnforest dispels any misunderstanding, explaining how the EU Construction Products Regulation affects merchants selling timber, and offers a three-point plan to avoiding costly pitfalls.

The customer is always right. This is one of the first golden rules for a successful sale. However, sometimes it is important to check that the customer really does understand what it is they need in order to ensure the merchant protects himself against legal and financial recourse later down the line.

For builders merchants and timber merchants it is important to make sure that the customer knows what type of product they require and whether there are any legal demands that it must fulfil. According to the EU Construction Products Regulation, merchants selling timber sheet materials are expected to provide, when requested, load resistance information relevant to the material they are selling. For the customer, buying the right sheet timber for the job is crucial when the building regulations demand that a structurally classified timber panel complying with European Standard EN 13986 is used.

1. Check what the customer needs
The responsibility here lies in part with the merchant and in part with the customer. This is particularly important given the serious nature of building control and the costs involved if the customer is unable to provide the correct loading information for the materials they have used. Their direct line of recourse is with the merchant who sold them the product, with legal implications that can escalate such an issue to a complicated, costly and long-winded process that is preferable to avoid. This can be achieved by taking a few simple precautions.


The legislation states that the merchant has the responsibility to ensure the product they supply for structural application conforms to the relevant European standards, covering the end use of the product supplied. Therefore as a first point of action sales staff should be trained to ask the customer exactly what the product is to be used for, never assuming that the customer fully understands their own requirements in this matter. This will determine whether, under the building regulations, the material must be suitable for structural applications.


ProductChain of custodyThicknessProfilePanel markingsFormaldehyde emissionsApplications
Spruce plyPEFC9mmS/E EN636-2 S, BS5268-2E1Wall sheathing
Spruce plyPEFC12mmS/EEN636-2 S, BS5268-2E1Wall sheathing/ flooring/ roofing
Spruce plyPEFC15/18/21/24mm S/E & T&GEN636-2 S, BS5268-2E1Flooring/ roofing
OSB 3FSC 9mmS/EEN300-3E1Wall sheathing
OSB 3FSC11mmS/EEN300-3E1Wall sheathing
OSB 3FSC15/18mmS/E & T&GEN300-3E1Wall sheathing/ flooring/ roofing
T&G ChipboardFSC18/22mm S/E & T&GEN312-1 to 7E1Flooring


2. Work with the timber supplier
A reputable timber supplier will ensure that the merchant is always provided with the relevant structural information and supporting documentation for the products they are selling. From the merchant’s point of view and the second step to best practice it is important to check that the timber panels and sheet materials they stock are either stamped or carry the relevant paperwork. Other supporting tools can really help to raise awareness in the branch, for both staff and customers. For example, displaying posters explaining the issue provides a simple reference point.

3. Provide the customer with loading data
Plywood and OSB are some of the most common sheet timbers for structural use. Structural plywood is denoted as fit for structural purposes by the EN636-2S and BS 5268-2 marks, while structural OSB 3 carries the EN300 mark. They need to be supported by load resistance data, which as a third point of action should be made available to the customer at point of purchase upon request.

Ensuring branch sales staff are trained to establish exactly what the panel is to be used for so that they can offer the customer the right advice, working with the timber supplier to ensure that structural sheet and panel products are stamped and backed up with the relevant documentation and load resistance data and finally offering this data to the customer as a matter of standard practice will help avoid the pitfalls. Putting this three-point plan into place provides a ‘belt and braces’ approach to the sale of structural timber, helping to safeguard the merchant against recourse, financial outlay and legal implications.