2023: The timber industry speaks out

timber industry

We asked timber industry suppliers what they thought were the key topics and issues we would all face in 2023. Here’s what they said.

Reasons to be cheerful

James Scott Managing Director, Scotts Timber Engineering

“Many commentators have sounded warnings about the new homes market in 2023 but here at Scotts Timber Engineering we see a positive outlook for the year ahead.

“From speaking to our housebuilder customers, it is clear that demand for timber-engineered products is stronger than ever. Timber prices have stabilised, materials are now in good supply, and production volumes are healthy.

“While homebuyer confidence was certainly dented by last autumn’s disastrous mini-budget and the rising cost of living, there are signs the housing market is picking up again.

“Interest rates are broadly expected to fall back again before too long, and mortgage lenders are confident that they can provide highly competitive deals over the coming months. Volume housebuilders are already starting to report increasing site visitor numbers and sales enquiries.

“The shift towards timber engineering and increased use of wood in construction is completely in line with the UK’s mission to achieve a net zero economy – a ‘major growth opportunity’, according to former Energy Minister Chris Skidmore.

“Scotts Timber Engineering is at the forefront of this market growth and we are looking forward to a busy year ahead.”

James Scott
Managing Director,
Scotts Timber Engineering

Alternatives to Russian birch ply exist

Stu Devoil, Group Head of Marketing, James Latham

“The Russia-Ukraine war has had a massive effect on access to a large number of timber products, particularly birch plywood. While it’s true the majority of Birch world stocks come from Siberia, there’s a misconception that, because the UK no longer has access to this particular supply chain, this material is now out-of-reach.

“In fact, there are a wide variety of alternative birch ply suppliers to be found across Europe, producing exactly the same grades as their Russian counterparts for the last 100 years, and at a competitive price point. Whether from Latvia, Estonia, Poland or Finland, there are other suppliers ready to step into the breach. For example, looking at our own portfolio, I immediately think of UPM’s Finnish WISA-Birch range, which is of excellent quality and in regular supplies to ourselves.

“That’s also not the whole story when it comes to Russian birch ply alternatives. Recent improvements in plywood performance and composition have also resulted in other, similar, sustainable products within the category.

“One of these is Garnica’s maple-faced Globulus, in my opinion one of the most exciting new ply products available. Created in response to the recent turmoil in the birch ply market, Globulus essentially enhances the properties of poplar ply by alternating each layer with a robust blue gum eucalyptus veneer match, which means it competes with its birch counterpart for strength.

“With a slightly pinker, Maple face, compared to the creamier birch, and in a long grain format, it’s a look currently popular in the specification market. It offers a near identical alternative at a very similar price point to Russian Birch and non-Russian Birch. In fact, we’ve noticed that Globulus eucalyptus is starting to make a strong headway in the UK market.”

Stu Devoil,
Group Head of Marketing,
James Latham

* This article was first published in the May/June issue of Supplying Timber magazine