Jarrah timber is one of the most versatile, durable, and beautiful timbers in the world. It is extremely dense, and is resistant to rot, fungus, termites, and general weathering from the elements. This makes it a sought after choice for both the construction and furniture industries. However, its popularity has also contributed to its exploitation, as giant swathes of Jarrah forest have been felled over the last two centuries.
The Jarrah tree is a variety of Eucalyptus, otherwise known as Eucalyptus marginata. It can only be found in the south-west corner of Western Australia, where it grows adjacent to its Karri and Marri cousins. It is a tall, sturdy, and drought and fire resistant species. The wood is a deep reddish-brown in colour. Jarrah timber is widely used for flooring, beams, poles, railway sleepers, furniture, wharfs, and a variety of other applications.
Since European settlement in the 1800s, Jarrah trees have been under intense pressure. The old-growth forests of Western Australia have been subjected to extensive logging, resulting in a huge loss of native forest area. In fact, only 10%, or approximately 330,000 hectares, of the original forests of Western Australia are still with us today; the remainder was logged for harvesting, or felled during the construction of farms, mines, roads and railways. Thankfully, legislation was introduced in February of 2001 which brought an end to old-growth logging in the state. This was a key issue for the 2001 state election, and was celebrated as a big win by conservationists. However, it’s not all good news, as there is still some conjecture over what constitutes an ‘old-growth’ forest. Given that the definition of ‘old-growth’ does not include forests which have been subjected to “unnatural disturbance”, there are many forests which escape old-growth classification due to their prior exposure to selective logging, grazing, or dieback (a deadly plant disease). As such, there are still large amounts of high value Jarrah forest which are being cleared, including some areas of mature regrowth that are close to 100 years in age. Specifically, the state government’s Forest Management Plan 2004-2013 allows for the annual harvesting of 131,000 cubic metres of first and second grade Jarrah sawlogs, and an additional 534,000 cubic metres of other bole Jarrah logs; quite a significant sum.
And so we have a conundrum. On the one hand, Jarrah trees are renowned for their high quality timber, and on the other hand, the environmental destruction caused by continued Jarrah logging is a major problem. Thankfully, there is a solution, and it can be found in the form of recycled Jarrah timber. Jarrah is widely available as a recycled timber because it is salvaged from the demolition of old houses, bridges, warehouses, and other structures. It also comes with many advantages, including the fact that recycled timber can usually be machined to custom dimensions and re-milled into a fresh and new appearance. It can often be sourced at cheaper than new prices, and has other attractive qualities such as its resistance to warping and bending. Furthermore, the large size of the trees means that slabs, posts, and beams can be found, and the timber may even come with its own rich heritage story.
The ability to utilize recycled Jarrah timber presents us with a high quality alternative in our quest for quality industrial timber. It’s also an option that repeats itself across a number of different timber species, and one that you should definitely consider for your next building project.
This article was written by Mitchell Novak, a member of the Fremantle Timber Traders team – specialists in recycled timber from Western Australia.
Photo Credit: amandabhslater