Harlow FAQ

Whether you want to learn more about the Harlow Group or if you need to understand more about what we do our FAQ provides answers to some commonly asked questions about our business.

Q: What is the Harlow Group?

A: The Harlow Group is an organisation that has been in business for over 90 years and supplies timber and associated products to both trade and retail customers throughout our network of branches. We also have divisions within the group that design, manufacture and supply engineered roof trusses & joists along with our specialist stable & poultry house manufacturing departments. When you think timber think Harlow.

Q: Where is the Harlow Group based?

A: The Harlow Group has its head office in Long Whatton in Leicestershire but has a network of branches and manufacturing capabilities spread throughout the midlands and beyond including our roof truss and engineered joist facility in Halstead in Essex. Our delivery capabilities can be nationwide dependent on your requirement.

Q: Are the Harlow Group's products available to everyone?

 A: Yes. There is sometimes a misconception that businesses such as Harlow are only accessible to businesses or tradesmen but that is absolutely not the case. So whether you need some timber or a roof truss for your self-build project we cater for everyone and you don't need to be in the trade to buy from us. Our stables and manufacturing divisions are also available to all so if you have any enquiry whatever the scope just get in touch or pop into one of our branches.

Q: How long has the Harlow Group been in business?

A: For over 90 years Harlow has been a manufacturer of timber derived buildings and products along with being a successful merchant of timber and associated products. Began by the Harlow family in 1927 Harlow flourished from an agricultural manufacturing base to a sawmill and then into a timber merchandising business that continues to expand its network at capabilities today.

Q: What timber can I buy from Harlow?

A: At Harlow, we offer a wealth of timber and associated products so whether you require structural timber, fencing, decking, joinery timber or something more decorative like skirting boards we have a full range available. We also provide an extensive range of sheet materials such as plywood or MDF, and our range of associated products such as glues, nails and screws ensure we have your entire project covered. Our engineered timber and manufacturing divisions cater for roof trusses, beams, stables and more.

Q: Is the timber you sell from sustainable sources?

A: Yes it is. We operate to industry standards and legal guidelines in terms of ensuring that the wood we procure for sale is sourced from sustainable & responsible sources.

Q: Can I just drive into a Harlow branch and buy what I need?

A: Yes you can. During our opening hours, you can pull up at one of our network of branches and purchase what you need from our wide range of stocks. And if your enquiry is too big to go in your vehicle our sales teams are available by phone or email to organise your requirement for delivery. You are always welcome to pop in and discuss your enquiry and if you need some advice our teams are on hand to discuss your requirement to ensure we provide the products that best suit your job. With our engineered timber, stable and manufacturing divisions it's likely that your requirements are more complex and with the bespoke nature of these products, it's always advisable to drop us an email or get in touch by phone to begin your enquiry.

Q: What can I buy from the Harlow Online Shop and can you deliver nationwide?

A: Within our online shop we look to provide a core range of our timber and associated products to make it even easier for you to buy from us. Our dedicated e-commerce team will manage your order and ensure that you receive your items within the stated time frame. Yes from our online shop our products are available nationwide so wherever in the country you are we'll ensure that you receive your goods either via our own delivery fleet or with one of our logistic partners.

Q: Do Harlow offer a bespoke timber manufacturing service?

A: Yes we do. We have an in house team of designers, joiners and fabricators so if you have an idea or project that requires a structure or entity that is timber derived our team would be happy to hear from you to discuss your requirement.

Q: Can I buy bulk timber from Harlow?

A: Yes you can. We have an experienced sales team that is actively merchanting bulk quantities of a wide variety of timbers each day and we have both the stocks at hand and the experience to price and supply your requirement just get in touch to speak with our sales team.

Q: I don't know what to use for my job can Harlow help?

A: Absolutely. At Harlow, we pride ourselves on being experts in timber and we also understand that with a wide variety of products and options within the market sometimes it can be daunting to know what timber product is best to use in order to successfully complete your job. In truth, we'd much rather you did ask what's best for your job as that means that you will be satisfied with the end result and sometimes our experience and advice could save you money too.

Q: Do Harlow sell garden buildings or summer houses?

A: Yes. And what's more, we have a specialist sales and service team dedicated to advising and supply of garden buildings. We have a wide range of buildings to cater for both leisure requirements and educational or commercial applications so whether you need a new office, somewhere to relax in the garden or a pavilion to teach a class outdoors we will have something within our range.

Q: Do Harlow machine timber to bespoke Specifications?

A: Yes we do if the source timber for the project is purchased from us. Throughout the Harlow network of branches, you will find sawmills and machinists that are capable of cutting, planning, rebating and in some locations moulding our timber to your specifications. Because of the technical nature of this process if you have an enquiry it is always best to phone us or pop in to discuss your requirements in more detail. This affords us the opportunity to quote, spec and deliver your job accurately.

Q: What does Strength Grading in Timber Mean?

A: Strength grading can only be conducted by sawmills with the correct equipment & certification. Strength grading can also be conducted by a trained and certified visual strength grader. Timber Strength Grading is used to identify wood intended for structural use. This must be strength graded to provide a prediction of its structural integrity and to ensure that it is strong enough for the highest expected load as a minimum. Timber is graded in the UK in accordance with BS EN 14081. 

Types of Strength Grading Classification:

  • C16       Timber marked as C16 is in reference strength grade of the wood. A C16 grade in timber can be achieved by machine at the mill or by using a visual grader to select timber that is of a standard fit for the grade. C16 graded timber is of a structural standard and is often required within construction for uses such as in general building works, for roofs or as a floor joist(s) but it is also used by some contractors for landscaping or outdoor projects if it has also been pressure treated to help withstand the elements.
  • C24       Timber that has been graded to C24 is similar in terms of the process used as above for C16 strength graded timber, however, C24 has been tested and stamped to a higher degree of load and stress capability. C24 graded timber is often designated for use within construction drawings in areas like roofs where a wider span is required and the timber used will need additional strength. In terms of stipulated requirement C24 only becomes a designated need over C16 graded timber if the application stipulates that this is required for strength & structural reasons, and if you just need good quality timber both are as good as each other in terms of a piece of regularised timber to complete your job unless C24 has been specified because of strength or structural reason.
  • TR26      A structural timber grade that is designed to be used in the fabrication and use of roof trusses or trussed rafters where the span & strength required is greater than other grades of timber. TR26 is a specialist timber that will be stipulated by either building regulators or within truss manufacture. TR26 timber is often machine graded within sawmills and sold as a manufacturing component to specialist companies that fabricate trusses or roof structure components.
  • BS 5534    BS 5534 provides the construction industry with guidance on best practices for the installation of a slate or tiled roof. This British Standard contains a body of information ranging from batten selection and safe fixing methods to wind uplift formulas. This provides manufacturers with a means of calculating fixing specifications. It is not a legal requirement to install a roof in accordance with the British standard, however, the standard can be included within a building or architectural specification, and this can be upheld in a court if necessary. If for any reason there is a legal dispute, it would detrimental to the installer’s position if the roof does not meet the standard.

Q: What is Regularised Timber?

A: A length of timber that has been regularised has been machined to ensure that its dimensions are consistent. As we know timber is a natural product and as such is not absolutely perfect in size and shape, so it becomes commonplace for timber used in construction (where a consistent size and shape is needed to build structures that are dimensionally even or square) to be lightly machined to give a consistent size, and that is what regularised means when we talk in timber terms. It does not mean that the wood has been planed or finished it simply means that regularised timber has a consistent size.

Q: What is Planed / PSE or PAR Timber?

A: Planed timber is a piece of wood that has been running through a planing machine to produce a smooth finished surface. The terms 'PAR' is an abbreviation and stands for 'Planed All Round' so when you are purchasing a length of PAR from Harlow this means all 4 sides of the timber have a planed finish. PSE is an abbreviation of Planed Square Edge and this term means that all 4 sides of the timber have been planed too and by doing so all of the 4 edges of the piece of wood are square due to the planing process. Planed timber is commonly used by joiners, carpenters and woodworkers for projects when the timber is going to be decorative or on show in the finished project and as such a high-quality finish of the wood are required for potential stain, prime, paint or varnish.

Q: What is Sawn Timber?

A: Sawn timber can often be the same wood as used for the above applications however with sawn it has not to be machined to be regularised, or graded or planed it has merely been sawn from the source log into a size and left like that for sale. Sawn timber will have a rougher surface than timbers we spoke about above, and in turn, is fantastic for applications such as fencing or were a cost-effective timber is required where a high-quality surface finish is not needed. Sawn timber can still be treated or even worked on by the joiner or woodworker themselves to a finish.

Q: What is Kiln Dried Timber?

A: When timber has moisture within it, as that moisture dries out the timber can change in structural make-up as it dries. This can cause bowing, cupping or warp to the piece of wood so when timber is graded for structural use it is largely kiln dried by the sawmill before grading. The reason for this is because the moisture content within the timber for part of the grading process, and the reason this is important is that moisture within the timber as it dries out can cause movement within the section of wood that could compromise the structural integrity of the piece. 

Q: What is Eased Edge Timber?

A: A section or piece of timber that has eased edges means that the edges rather than being sharp or square have been rounded. This is commonly seen on graded or structural timber and is done to make handling of the wood easier and safer in terms of sharpness or splinters that might be incurred from a sharper corner. Eased edge timber is also a good choice for gardening projects where the rounded corners will give a more attractive look or anywhere that the timber might be often touched or handled to help avoid injury. When timber is regularised it is quite often also eased edged at the same time as part of the light machining process.

Q: What does Primed mean when we speak of Primer Timber or MDF?

A: It is a common misconception within the market that when a primed piece of timber or MDF moulding is purchased that it is finished and no more work need to be done to the section. Primed products have usually been put through a machine that most commonly primes the material with a white finish. This means that when you are purchasing the product the job of preparing the timber or MDF for finish coat has been done for you, but for the product to have a finished coat paint will need to be applied to complete the desired look and to protect and prolong life. Primed MDF Skirting board or Architrave has grown greatly in popularity within the construction industry in recent times because of cost and ease of installation, however, timber still has its equal place in the market and offers the opportunity of an exposed natural timber finish that MDF alternatives cannot achieve.

Q: Can you Explain Some Commonly Used Timber Jargon for me, please?

A: Yes by all means. We are acutely aware that timber jargon can be confusing at times so here is a brief guide to some of the most commonly used terminology:

  • Batten or Lath: A small square or rectangular section or strip of timber used in roofing projects to secure membrane and fix roof tiles. Although used commonly in roofing batten or roof lath is a superb option for gardening or landscaping projects too, and as it mostly comes in treated form is ready for the elements.
  • CLS: This abbreviation is short for Canadian Lumber Standard and the industry has adopted this phrase for a type of timber that is used mostly in stud work or wall frames during construction. Great for framing also 'CLS' most commonly comes in 3x2" (75x50mm) or 4x2" (100x50mm) but due to the machining processes involved the actual finish sizes are  38x63mm and  38x89mm respectively. Canadian Lumber Standard is most commonly sold in 2.4m, 3.0m & 4.8m lengths and has become a stalwart of timber construction even though in more recent times, not all CLS originates from Canada.
  • Carcassing: A timber that is often strength graded, regularised & eased edge in nature and as such used often in construction projects of all types. Despite this, carcassing is a great option for a wide range of projects from landscaping and gardens to small internal jobs and is used by both trade and retail customers at Harlow for a multitude of applications. You can purchase carcassing from us in both untreated & pressure treated states. 
  • Joinery: An industry term used to describe a selection of timber products that are used internally for applications such as door frames, stairs, windows, or decorative moulded wood such as a skirting board or architrave. More ornate mouldings and beads for decorative projects would also fall within this category. We also refer to some timber as being 'Joinery Grade' which means that despite being in its raw sawn state the wood is suitable for a joinery shop or joiner to use in their project.
  • OSB: The abbreviation 'OSB' is short for 'Oriented Strand Board' and is a sheet of strips and slices of wood in all different shapes and sizes that have had a resin mixed with them and a board has been created using heat and pressure to press the pieces with the resin into a shape. At Harlow, we keep 'OSB3' which is a structurally strong board that is popular for construction use. OSB3 is a great option where you require structural integrity but the material is not on the show, and of course, in recent times oriented strand board has become a fashionable look when a cafe or restaurant requires that 'industrial' style.
  • MDF: Another timber trade abbreviation that is short for 'Medium Density Fibreboard'. MDF has become integrated within both construction & joinery projects because of its cost, versatility & multitude of applications. MDF is created by taking tiny timber fibres and mixing them with resins & glues in a heat pressed environment to create a smooth board that is imperfection free and can be lightly sanded and painted to create an almost perfect finish. At Harlow, we sell medium-density fibreboard in a multitude of thicknesses and sizes, and in addition, moisture-resistant MDF can be purchased from us that has been chemically treated to make the product more resistant to moisture.
  • Hardwood: Hardwoods are a selection of species of timber that are categorised as such because of their make-up and density. Sometimes described as being timbers from broad-leaved rather than conifer trees examples of hardwood species are: Oak, Sapele, Walnut, Ash, Beech, Mahogany, Maple, Tulip or Birch. Hardwoods come in a wide variety of colours, look and feel and are more expensive than softwood timbers used in construction carcassing or some joinery products. Hardwood is most commonly used in more decorative internal jobs and hardwood is often sold in its rough-sawn original shape for a joiner or carpenter to then create the desired item or finish from. At Harlow, we sell hardwood in its raw state but will also take source hardwood material and plane, rebate or mould the timber to your desired shape or finish.
  • Particle Board: Another industry phrase that is commonly also known as chipboard. Made of small chips of timber that have been mixed with resin & glue and then heat pressed to form a consistent and flat board. Particle or chipboard has been a hit for decades in the furniture-making industry for its versatility and cost and can be laminated to create contiboard or melamine faced chipboard (MFC for short). If you are working internally chipboard can become a great product for a multitude of uses and is also a popular product in packaging or in scenarios where a temporary structure is required.
  • Plywood: A sheet material that is made up of multiple layers of long & flat timber that are pressed with glue or resin to produce a flat and strong board for a multitude of uses. The glue used with the process can designate the type of plywood created and this becomes relevant with products such as Marine Plywood where the type of glue used designates that the finished product is suitable for use in moist conditions. Plywood also varies in type by the timber used to make up the board. Examples of this could be hardwood play where the top face of the board is one consistent thin sheet of hardwood or in spruce or softwood plywood where the board has a structural element but the face is made from softwood and has imperfections in its top board. Plywood top faces can also be graded for their quality and this becomes relevant when the sheet is being used in furniture making or more decorative work.

If you have any other questions not mentioned here in relation to the Harlow Group our services or functions then don't hesitate to get in touch with us.

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