Assessment on Strength and Stiffness Properties of Aged Structural Timber


  • Maarja Kauniste
  • Alar Just
  • Eero Tuhkanen
  • Targo Kalamees



structural timber, visual grading, in-situ assessment, MoE, bending strength


Despite the growing popularity of wood and wood-based products in the construction industry, there has been insufficient focus on assessing the condition, preservation, and potential reuse of existing timber. While numerous standards evaluate the quality of freshly sawn timber, there is currently no standardized system for assessing the strength properties of aged and reused timber. The lack of these guidelines is also one of the reasons the results obtained in numerous research are often fluctuating, and we cannot draw clear conclusions. The matter is further complicated by the lack of data on old in-situ wood and its exploitation, which would help to evaluate its condition. Consequently, there is a real practical need to assess the condition of old timber to avoid unnecessary demolition and the loss of valuable and structurally sound building material.

What sets this study apart from others is that, in addition to destructive testing, the 4-point non-destructive (ND) bending tests were conducted on all four faces of test specimens. This provided an opportunity to assess the wood visually and then find connections to associate external characteristics with real properties. This methodology aimed to determine whether it is feasible to visually assess the most practical way to use wooden elements in construction. If this question arises, which face of the beam would be better suited for the tension side and which for the compression side? The old timber used in testing originated from an old library building located on Vaksali Street, Tartu, Estonia and is estimated to be about 120 years old.

This paper investigates and compares the collected data with a Nordic standard for grading fresh-sawn timber and two established Italian standards for visually assessing aged timber. This comparison contributes to developing a standardized framework for future visual assessments. ND and destructive four-point bending tests were performed to validate and find appropriate visual characteristics to determine the strength and stiffness of the timber elements. The primary goals of this study were first to compare the results obtained from existing ND methods with actual results and secondly to provide guidelines for better visual grading of wood in the future, based on Nordic Standard INSTA 142 (2010) and Italian standards UNI 11119 (2004) and UNI 11035 (2010)

Contrary to previous research conclusions, the visual assessment results yielded unexpected outcomes. The results show that the grading standards significantly underestimated the real strength of the wood, and even more, none of the visual assessments overestimated the real strength of the specimens. Therefore, based on prior research and the findings derived from this study, there is evident a substantial potential for extensive development and optimization within this field.