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How to Maintain Timber Constructions in Tropical Climates

Timber constructions offer environmental advantages by preventing tropical deforestation and sequestering carbon dioxide emissions, while also being an energy-efficient alternative to traditional buildings.

Lightweight framed walls are an optimal solution in environments where daily temperature variations range between 6degC and 16degC; high mass wall construction should be employed where temperature variations exceed this amount.


Heavy timber frames are an ideal choice for building in tropical climates, providing unparalleled strength and durability while still remaining timeless in appearance. However, proper care must be taken in maintaining these timber structures so they remain in excellent condition for generations.

Building materials must withstand prolonged exposure to direct sunlight and heavy rainfall for long-term durability, and reduce their impact on energy use. To do this, humidity needs to be taken into consideration during construction; get advice from local suppliers or a building inspector on which timber is best suited to local weather conditions before choosing materials that might need refinishing later on.

Mountain Ash, which is popularly used in tropical regions, makes an excellent choice for framing and panel work as well as flooring applications. Its straight grain makes it extremely durable yet attractive in various shades; similarly, White Cyprus can be found ideal for framing weatherboards due to its hardwearing qualities as well as beautiful colour choices.

Staining exposed timber regularly is recommended to protect it from weather damage and hasten its deterioration. Once peeled away, any exposed areas are vulnerable to moisture and sunlight which accelerate deterioration further.


While exterior appearance may garner the most consideration when it comes to buildings, ensuring an ideal indoor climate can also play an integral part. This is especially true for mass timber buildings which have become increasingly popular for their sustainable design and sustainable construction methods. Therefore, understanding how to maintain mass timber buildings in tropical climates can ensure they continue to provide comfortable homes or commercial spaces for years.

One of the primary considerations when building in tropical environments is providing shade from direct sunlight. This can be accomplished using bamboo blinds, wide roof overhangs or windows on either end of a building to shield away direct sunlight and keep interior temperatures lower during the daytime and cool overnight.

Mass timber structures should also be protected with penetrating oil to seal in moisture and fungi that degrade it, such as linseed oil, which has proven popular but can easily yellow with direct sun or high humidity exposure.

Timber structures used in marine environments must withstand both high mechanical loads and attack from various degrading organisms, including soft rot and decay fungi, marine wood borers (Oevering et al., 2001) as well as natural durability issues (Tsinker 1995). To be resilient against such organisms, marine-grade timber must be dense, strong in bending strength, stiff in impact resistance, with high density in natural durability (Tsinker, 1995).


Roofs of timber buildings located in tropical climates typically feature wide overhangs or gable ends to shield walls from direct sunlight, helping reduce heat entering the building while protecting from rainwater and sunburn. This not only limits heat entering but can also protect against rain.

Shade trees provide another method of protecting a timber structure from direct sunlight in tropical regions, keeping its surroundings cooler while helping reduce energy usage in buildings. A carefully-selected shade tree will even help lower energy consumption in buildings.

Heavy timber structures exposed to direct sunlight must be regularly stained with an exterior-grade stain that won’t fade over time, such as linseed oil. Unfortunately, however, its quality deteriorates quickly over time; for optimal results use penetrating oil which provides lasting coverage.

Timber has an inbuilt ability to withstand harsh environments, from coastal environments and desert climates alike, as well as being environmentally-friendly and sustainable. Unlike concrete and steel materials, timber doesn’t contain salt content which can damage concrete structures, and offers greater resilience against abrasion and corrosion than competing materials.

Timber construction offers environmental advantages as well as supporting sustainable forestry practices. By procuring your lumber locally in the Northern Territory, you’re supporting local community members while helping prevent further deforestation of tropical rainforests.


Timber frame structures in tropical climates must be designed with long service lives in mind, including selecting materials with longevity in mind. Structural members must be strong enough to withstand tropical storms and tsunamis while remaining lightweight to reduce foundation loads. Furthermore, all treated material should be resistant against wood borer infestation, marine wood rot and soft rot fungi as well as durable against abrasion and corrosion damage.

An application of penetrating oil can provide timber structures with the necessary protection from weathering and degradation, providing lasting peace of mind for years. Reapplying this finish every 5-6 years or when signs of wear arise is advised; otherwise exposed timber could quickly begin to grey and weather before its appearance becomes compromised.

Timber that has been grown sustainably and harvested according to environmental requirements should always be chosen when purchasing building material. Unfortunately, The Netherlands is one of the main contributors to tropical deforestation in Europe due to our livestock farming system which relies heavily on soy for feed. Opting for bio-based building material made using certified tropical timber helps lower demand for soy and prevent deforestation of tropical rainforests.

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