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Does Saltwater Affect Timber?

It goes without saying that Australia is a coast dwelling population, with more than 80% of residents living within 100km of the coast. Whether it’s the magic of the underwater marine life, the world class waves or the pristine, desolate beaches, there’s no denying one or the other has you captivated by the coast.

Building your dream home by the sea has endless benefits. Most never tire of waking up to the sea breeze or the sound of waves crashing. Our breathtaking beaches are part of who we are as Australians, and we’ll take every chance we get to enjoy the beauty of the ocean and all of its offerings.

Coastal architecture tends to mirror the natural beauty of its surroundings. Timber first appeared on the shoreline of Australia in the form of rustic beach shacks in the early to mid 1900’s, and it remains a popular choice for land owners building beachfront homes today. Internal and external cladding, timber accents and decking are simply a must for a spectacular seaside home. However, the concerns of durability can arise, and rightfully so.

Can timber withstand the battering effects of saltwater?

Our experts will lay down all the information you need to know about building with timber on the coast, and how it matches up to mother nature.

How does saltwater affect timber?

Saltwater can accelerate the deterioration of timber. Over time, UV rays will dry out timber, creating cracks for salt and moisture to seep through. From this point on, mould and rotting are inevitable.

Saltwater does also have the tendency to damage wood that is in its constant, direct contact, specifically boat docks and decks overhanging the water. The wood wicks saltwater into the structure, and similarly once dried, salt crystals form in the timber cells and push the fibres apart.

Despite the damage to the outer layers, timber houses, decks and docks can still be structurally sound for over 30 years, as the inner layers of the timber retain their strength.

Timber that is constantly exposed to damp conditions, or is alternately wet and dry over a long period of time, can fall victim to several forms of fungal decay. However, in this case, salt is on our side! Fungi is unable to grow in salty conditions.

Should you use timber for your beachfront build?

Is it possible to build your dream timber home without it looking like a historic ship wreck in a decade’s time? The answer is yes. There’s no way we’ll sacrifice family BBQs on the back deck, the calming atmosphere of internal timber panelling or the breathtaking views from the timber deck overlooking the water.

When building with real timber, choose a timber coating that will protect against UV and water damage. Timber coatings will prevent cracking and splitting from direct sunlight, and will defend against the effects of saltwater. Remain attentive to your timber and ensure general upkeep in order to maintain its beautiful appearance.

If you’re looking for less maintenance, composite timber could be the answer for you. Composite timber has been formulated to withstand Australia’s harshest elements, whilst still maintaining a stunning, natural appearance. Urbanline composite cladding offers UV resistance and poses no risk of expansion, contraction or rotting. It’s durable, low maintenance and a smart choice for decks and beach front homes.

Alongside composite lies another innovative cladding product that has passed the sea salt spray test to guarantee corrosive resistance. Urbanline’s Alu Selekta is made from solid extruded aluminium, and is an excellent low maintenance and durable alternative for beach front apartment buildings.

Composite and aluminium cladding have the potential to last a lifetime, and are giving Australians the opportunity to build along the coast without a worry.

While saltwater generally does affect timber, innovative architecture and construction means Australians don’t have to sacrifice durability or style to live by the beach. Our coastal lifestyles will continue long into the future, and timber will always turn heads on beachfront properties.

If you have any questions regarding Urbanline’s timber solutions, or you’d like to discuss which option is best for you, contact our team of professionals today.