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Choosing softwood for external jobs

By Mustafa Korel, Head Gardener

At, we’re committed to staying on top of trends and innovation in the sector. We’re also open to changing our established practices when new practices demands it of us, especially so when choosing timber for jobs.

Our sector is increasingly moving towards softwood for external projects, and I’m convinced for good reasons.

This is a continual learning process for us, too and sometimes its easy to forget that our clients might not always be aware of these developments – and it reminds us that communication all throughout the job is important, from selection of timber, to completion of the job.

My solution for this is to go into some of the technical details for enthusiasts and those of you who’d like to know more about our thinking processes in our Journal.


When we think about Redwoods, we’re immediately taken to California and the beautiful, elegant Sequoia trees towering towards the clouds.

In carpentry however, we tend to use Redwood in place of softwood and particularly these two popular species: Swedish Redwood and Scot’s Pine.

These softwood make for a great crafting material and compliments contemporary external projects.

Softwood’s chemistry is different from hardwood. It has a higher concentration of natural oils and a different elemental composition.

These are positive features: the higher oil content repels water, disease and rot more effectively than hardwood, however once in its final placement, it must be treated to seal any exposed sections that goes a long way of extending the life of the product – they also go through waterproof treatment. Otherwise, you’d end up with splits along the length.

You can see from the picture below that if not treated properly, you can end up with a fence that has cracks and splits (blue circles) and the start of rot (red circle), even though these timber selections are pressure treated to minimize such imperfections:

Regardless of how big or small the job, I always make a point that treating the timber on our project is a constituent part of the job rather than an optional extra, and my choice for this job would have been a clear treatment (Ronseal is my preferred choice) applied with an air-sprayer.

While it may take longer to install redwood projects owing to this extra care, the soft-to-touch finish is worth it. You can see this feature starting to develop through weathering on the image above (red circle) however because it was untreated, it’s being stained by the rot that’s setting in.

Hardwood does not generally need treatment and is supposed to last 30 years. In reality, I’ve yet to see a hardwood project that has lasted beyond 12 years, even when treated.

Softwood, when treated by the merchant and the gardener, it becomes a durable material that lasts as long as hardwood. It’s a more affordable option and I’m always pleased at the finish line with the outcome.

There is also a sustainability element that I take into account, it’s more sustainable to use a faster growing tree that remains abundant in Europe.

This material has gained popularity among the larger player’s this year, too…

B&Q’s contemporary choices like this double slatted fence panel is, surprisingly, pine and guaranteed for 15 years:

I hope that this explains a little more about my choices and preferences and as ever if you’ve any questions, please do get in touch on, and I’ll be happy to answer any more technical questions you may have.


Our projects are guaranteed for 12 months, and should the timber develop faults within the suppliers guarantee period, we’re happy to follow this up on your behalf as our promise to deliver quality, affordable and sustainable garden projects.