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Salvaging and Reclaiming Timber in Marine and River Environments

Traditional practice for UK marine and river structures has depended on using species such as Greenheart, Balau, Oak, Douglas Fir, Jarrah, Opepe or Pitch Pine for groyne piling, planking, wharfing, decking and more.

Today, we all agree that action must be taken to reduce the environmental impact of marine construction if we are to protect and restore our natural environment, this includes the reuse of existing tropical and temperate hardwood timbers and the reduction of waste materials sent to landfill.

Unsure whether timber salvage and reclamation is right for you?  In this bite-sized guide Janine Davies-Tutt, Managing Director at Ashwells – and the UK’s leading expert on tropical timber reclamation and reuse for over 30 years – shares her top tips to help ease the decision making before the demolition stage.


Timber Salvaging and Reclamation Opportunities

At a certain point a timber structure in a marine or river environment will have to be replaced or dismantled and reconstructed, usually because it presents a significant safety hazard or maintenance becomes increasingly uneconomical.  The timing of this is usually determined by the condition of the primary timber members, which are the most difficult and expensive to replace.


Janine’s Top Tip:

“Once you’ve identified that the structure has reached end of life it is important to carry out a thorough assessment of the timber, quality, length size, type, condition, inclusion of metal, and the potential for reclamation.  If you are planning to reconstruct, you could reuse substantial quantities of timber reclaimed from the original structure, but this needs early planning.  You’ll need to consider dismantling, and storing, until the next round of work is undertaken.”


Waste timber can normally be reclaimed and reused, but great care must be taken with preservative-treated timber components.  It should be noted that preservative-treated timber is now classified as hazardous waste and therefore: cannot be burnt and carries a premium when disposed of to tip. It should also be noted that it is a crime to throw away, burn, compost or recycle reusable timber (EU Waste Framework Directive 2008, UK Waste Regulations 2011) for which there is a market.


Janine Davies-Tutt surveying timber at the Thunderer Jetty site at the invitation of Herbosch-Kiere


Pre-demolition Reclamation Survey

At Ashwells we use a pre-demolition reclamation survey (audit) to help clients identify timber material that could be salvaged.  If this is a process you’d like to manage yourself there are a few pre-demolition audit guidelines or tools developed or under development by different bodies (e.g. BREEAM, BRE, SmartWaste, Resource protocol NFDC, EU Construction and Demolition Waste Management) that could be used, and contractors could plan in accordance to these.

However, pre-demolition reclamation audits of marine and river structures are not currently business as usual, and so are best conducted by a professional if the aim is to maximize opportunities to reuse materials within reconstruction or generate revenue from salvage.


Janine’s Top Tip:

“Carry out a pre-demolition reclamation survey as early as possible in the process. When we visit a site the aim is to audit the structure (e.g. condition of joints), the condition (e.g. decay and inclusion of ironmongery), the type of load the elements are being subjected to and the environment to which they have been exposed.  Through this process we are able to help clients understand the unique demolition, categorization, reprocessing requirement, and value of the material to be reclaimed at the outset.”


Janine Davies-Tutt surveying timber at Free Trade Wharf site at the invitation of Constructex


FSC Accredited Reclamation Process

The Forest Stewardship Council® is a global certification system that promotes responsible timber reclamation and procurement best practice.

As an FSC certified reclaimed tropical timber contractor we provide a transparent and traceable chain of custody for all our reclaimed timber, whatever its source.


Janine’s Top Tip:

“Work only with credible reclamation contractors with the FSC stamp of certification.  This gives concrete assurance that your project’s demolition and salvage policies comply with the highest social and environmental standards.”


Choosing to salvage and reclaim timbers through an FSC accredited process provides you with a credible solution to complex environmental and social issues.  Our clients find that it is an effective way to gain public and consumer recognition of their responsible salvage procurement practices and helps to make progress against Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) targets.


Greenheart Piles stored in Ashwells Timber Yard reclaimed from Southampton Docks on invitation of Maritime Solutions


Feeling inspired?  Walk through our step-by-step guide to help you unlock the value of timber salvage in refurbishment and demolition projects.  Download our guide,  click here.