With so many beautiful varieties of natural timber on the market, Jarrah still manages to stand out from the rest. This stunning native hardwood has been a feature in many Australian homes for decades. Jarrah is a classic choice for flooring and joinery, but the potential of Jarrah extends far beyond this traditional use.
More recently, homeowners have embraced Jarrah as the material of choice for outdoor decks, pergolas and patios. But is Jarrah timber all it’s cracked up to be?
Jarrah is a fantastic choice when looking to invest in a timber deck that will stand the test of time – it’s naturally durable, weather-resistant, and, when correctly maintained, has a very long lifespan. However, Jarrah is a premium product and also requires more upkeep than other timbers.
Is Jarrah worth the investment when selecting the suitable wood for your timber deck? And how does Jarrah compare to other hardwoods such as Merbau? This article has everything you need to know about Jarrah timber.
What Is Jarrah Timber?
Jarrah is a unique, Australian-grown hardwood that has made waves worldwide with its gorgeous rust hue and durable nature. Native to Western Australia, these slow-going trees are part of the Eucalyptus family, and the wood they produce is naturally resistant to insects and the elements.
An Australian hardwood, Jarrah comes in distinctive tones of red and brown, with shades ranging from blonde to a richer, darker burgundy finish. The eye-catching colour of Jarrah is created from the high iron and aluminium content in the soil where it grows.
Grain patterns for Jarrah timber vary, from interlocked to wavy and even curly. Natural defects such as gum pockets can add to the natural appeal of Jarrah timber.
When purchasing Jarrah, be sure you’re getting the real deal – ‘Pacific Jarrah’ is not genuine Jarrah timber at all, but rather a South American or Indonesian lookalike species, Manilkara bidentata. Pacific Jarrah also lacks the signature gum vein that makes eucalypt timber so striking.
If the price seems too good to be true, it’s worth checking to ensure you’re getting true Australian Jarrah or Eucalyptus marginata rather than the imitation product.
Is Jarrah Good For Decking?
You‘ve made the right decision if you’ve chosen Jarrah to be your decking timber of choice. With its Class 2 rating, Jarrah is an excellent timber for all kinds of outdoor and landscaping uses. Jarrah is fire-resistant as well, making it particularly suited to rural Australian conditions.
Installing a sturdy, high-quality deck in your home increases your home’s aesthetic and resale potential. Due to its remarkable properties, Jarrah timber makes an excellent choice for a deck that indeed enhances your property’s value.
Jarrah is often compared to Merbau, another traditional and popular timber used for decking and house frames. Although many people prefer Jarrah, many still use Merbau because it’s more affordable than other timbers with the same Class 2 Timber rating.
Merbau is resistant to insects and premature rotting. However, it’s also harvested from Southeast Asian rainforests where illegal logging is rampant. Sustainably sourced Merbau comes at a higher price point, so you may opt for Australian-grown Jarrah at a similar cost.
Pros Of Decking With Jarrah
Many homeowners don’t settle for anything less than Jarrah timber. The classy look, high quality, and renowned durability of the wood provide homeowners with the assurance of a tough, beautiful deck.
Here are the benefits of Jarrah as a decking timber:
- Native Australian timber product – Jarrah grows naturally across Western Australia, particularly in the southeast.
- Naturally resistant to moisture – as a dense hardwood, Jarrah offers superior water resistance compared to other varieties of timber, making it suitable for damp and humid climates and around splash-prone areas such as pools.
- Resistant to rot, fungi, termites, and other insects – the natural properties of this durable Eucalyptus species help deter bugs, algae and fungal growth, which can undermine the integrity and lifespan of your deck.
- Pairs nicely with oils, stains and treatments – Jarrah can be treated with a variety of decking oils to enhance the natural colour and grain of the wood or stained to suit the colours of your existing home and landscape.
- Naturally fire-resistant and suitable for bushfire-prone regions – once again, Jarrah’s natural properties make it an excellent choice for outdoor use, offering a high level of resistance to accidental fires or bushfires.
- High density and durability – the overlapping grain pattern of Jarrah make it durable and damage-resistant, perfect for decking and flooring that will truly stand the test of time.
- Lots of character – the grain pattern of Jarrah is aesthetically pleasing. Like many Eucalypt species, Jarrah contains natural ‘defects’ sought-after for their charm and character, such as gum pockets and streaks. Many owners love Jarrah for its beautiful, natural colour, ranging from light to dark browns.
Cons Of Decking With Jarrah
Despite the many benefits of Jarrah timber, no material is perfect. If you’re considering Jarrah for your outdoor deck, here are the downsides you need to be prepared for:
- Expensive high-end product – to enjoy the unique appearance and durability of Jarrah timber, you do have to be willing to make the upfront investment, and a premium product does also come with a premium price tag.
- Requires more maintenance – compared to other hardwood products, Jarrah does require an ongoing commitment of time and money to keep it in top condition via regular staining or sealing, or else risk losing that distinctive red colour.
- Colour can change over time – before choosing Jarrah, be sure you’re aware of how the colour will evolve once the deck is exposed to the elements. Correctly sealed and treated Jarrah wood will darken, while untreated Jarrah left to weather will fade to a grey tone.
- Difficulty to cut and machine – the hardness of Jarrah wood can pose a challenge when it comes to working with it, and extensive work will blunt any tools that are used in the process.
- Scent and sawdust can be a health risk – for those with allergies or asthma, exposure to freshly cut Jarrah timber or sawdust during the construction process can trigger an allergy attack, so consider any health conditions you or your family have when working with Jarrah at home.
How Much Does Jarrah Wood Cost?
The cost of constructing a deck made of Jarrah is typically higher than other wooden decking, except for composite decking. As a rule of thumb, Jarrah timber prices sit between just under $200 to $320 per square metre.
Jarrah is abundant and vastly distributed throughout southwest Australia. Because of this, customers purchasing locally in Western Australia won’t need to pay the margin that comes with transporting it interstate. However, if you’re building a Jarrah deck in the Eastern states, be prepared for transport costs to be rolled into the final price you pay for materials.
Jarrah also grows and is harvested outside Australia. Rates for imported and exotic Jarrah tend to be moderately expensive. Burl block and curly pieces, in particular, tend to have a higher price.
Like many other construction projects, the prices differ according to many factors such as the area, complexity, and project location. For example, an elevated Jarrah deck, a deck with a roof or one supporting a slow-combustion stove will be more expensive than a standard flat deck just a few inches off the ground.
Jarrah timber is highly sought after, but purchasing recycled Jarrah can help support an industry that reclaims wood from old or demolished residences. In 2004, the cost of recycled Jarrah was around $1.50 per meter. Mill-ends, off-cuts, and even partially burned Jarrah can be sold. A single ton load can be more than one hundred and sixty dollars.
Where to Source Jarrah For Decking
If you’re having your deck installed by a landscaping or decking professional, sourcing your timber through your contractor is a great option. Thanks to their years of experience and industry connections, it’s likely you’ll end up with great quality timber at a competitive price.
When sourcing Jarrah timber for your deck, there are two key things to keep in mind:
- Ensure you’re getting genuine Australian Jarrah, rather than ‘Pacific Jarrah’, an unrelated imported species.
- Check the sustainability credentials of your supplier. You want to contract a supplier that does not buy or harvest their wood illegally or destructively.
To help you start your search for suppliers, here are some Australian-based businesses that you may want to check out:
- Ramien’s Timber is a reputable Australian business that has been in the timber industry for over 50 years. They stock and sell timbers from eco-friendly suppliers. These suppliers are certified distributors of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Australian Forest Standard (AFS), and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) timber products.
- Parkside Timbers has been supplying Australian homes and businesses with top-quality timber since 1947. Their timbers are certified by PEFC, meaning that all their wood is harvested from sustainably managed forests.
- Hufords continually provides high-quality and innovative timber manufacturing since 1932. The Ultimate Renewable website recognises them for carefully managing forest resources.
- The Recycled Timber Company is an Australian company that specialises in constructing decking from recycled and re-milled timber.
- Ridgewood Timber specialises in selling and processing sustainably sourced PEFC-certified timber. Their products are grown, sourced, and harvested from well-managed forests. For imported timber, they always make sure to verify the supplier’s legality first.
How To Maintain A Jarrah Deck
Just like any other timber, Jarrah timber needs some degree of aftercare. With some regular TLC, a jarrah deck can last for decades, even when exposed to the elements.
Oiling A Jarrah Deck
When using natural timber such as Jarrah, homeowners typically opt for applying a natural oil over painting or staining, allowing the wood’s colour and finish to shine through. Jarrah takes stains and oils well if you’re looking to alter that distinctive Jarrah colour or darken a lighter variety.
When choosing a colour treatment for a Jarrah deck, it’s important to remember that Jarrah wood changes colour over time. You can expect the signature red hue to grow deeper and richer over time, leaving you with a more saturated burgundy finish.
If uncoated or left to weather, Jarrah can fade to a grey colour – something that some people opt to do intentionally. Silver-grey tones are very on-trend when it comes to both decking and indoor flooring. However, deliberately weathering your deck may also lead to splinters and surface damage, so keep a close eye on its progress and be quick to apply a sealant as soon as the desired appearance is achieved.
Cleaning A Jarrah Deck
Oiling your deck is just one way of maintaining it. You also need to do a few extra things to keep your Jarrah in top shape.
- To remove algae growth from your deck, along with mould or mildew, use a spray-on fungicide or mild oxygen bleach solution. Always test a small spot first, as it may fade or stain some finishes.
- For encrusted stains and dirt that are impossible to remove by scrubbing, use a pressure washer on an appropriately low setting – too harsh an approach can damage your deck.
- Trisodium phosphate or TSP is a powder-based cleaner designed to kill mould, mildew, algae, and moss. However, TSP isn’t exactly the most eco-friendly option out there, so use it with extreme caution.
Finally, you need a few household tools to help you clean your deck. Most of them are already in your storeroom: like a broom, long-handled brush, rags and bucket.
Is Jarrah Decking Durable?
One of the best features of Jarrah is its hardness and durability, making it perfect for use in outdoor decking.
When using timber outdoors, it’s important to understand timber durability ratings. Timber durability is measured according to four class ratings. These ratings are based on trials that focus on the resistance of chemically untreated timber against decay, termites, and other factors.
- Class 1 Timber – highest natural durability. The wood is expected to have a lifespan of twenty-five years below ground and more than forty years above ground.
- Class 2 Timber – high natural durability. The material is expected to last fifteen to twenty-five years below ground and fifteen to forty years above ground.
- Class 3 Timber – moderate natural durability. This wood’s lifespan is up to fifteen years below ground and between seven and fifteen above ground.
- Class 4 Timber – low natural durability. The wood is estimated to last around five years in the ground and just seven years above the ground.
Class 1 and 2 timbers are considered suitable for outdoor use – and Jarrah typically falls into Class 2, meaning it will last for about 25 years.
But the environment in which a wood product is installed does impact its durability. In practice, Jarrah performs as a Class 1 (the most durable) for above-ground conditions but a Class 3 in contact with the ground.
In short, the exposure to additional moisture and microorganisms in soil or concrete will still damage Jarrah timber, so it’s necessary to use a Class 1, pressure-treated wood for the deck substructure.
Given that Jarrah is an expensive timber, it makes perfect sense to save your money on any out-of-sight components. Once the deck is complete, you’ll have a beautiful Jarrah deck being supported by another unseen wood type, more resistant to being in the ground.
H3: Does Jarrah Wood Rot?
The solid nature of Jarrah makes it naturally resistant to wood rot, making it ideal for outdoor use. Its high density even makes it resistant to termites, marine borers, and other bugs. Of course, wood treatments will improve this resistance even further, as will proper maintenance.
Is Jarrah Wood Fire Resistance?
Jarrah’s exceptional density makes it fire resistant. Thus, it’s the perfect timber for use in bushfire-prone areas of Australia.
Is Jarrah Decking Sustainabile?
Compared to other outdoor-graded timber varieties, Jarrah makes for a very sustainable choice. The widespread use of rainforest hardwoods such as Merbau has resulted in mass deforestation. While some suppliers are committed to sustainable harvesting of Merbau timber, eco-savvy consumers may opt to play it safe and avoid rainforest timber altogether.
Enter Jarrah – an alternative, Australian-grown hardwood that is not a threatened species and is responsibly harvested in Western Australia. Opting for an Australian timber product over an imported variety can also make the construction of your deck more sustainable, reducing emissions from long-distance shipping and transport.
How To Source Sustainable Jarrah
We all know that today’s forests are in danger of being wiped out. Centuries of logging, both legal and illegal, have scalped the world’s forests. A byproduct of the loss of vast forests of trees is the negative effect of the forests’ natural ecosystem, threatening all wildlife in and connected to the forest.
Since Jarrah timber is harvested from these woodlands, it’s essential to know that you’re getting them from responsible suppliers. Here are a few tips on how to source sustainable Jarrah.
- Check if the suppliers are certified distributors of sustainable products. Timbers that have certifications from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Australian Forestry Standard (AFS), or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) are sourced by sustainable means.
- Check if the supplier follows the policies and guidelines for responsible timber harvesting. Specifically, they should follow the Forest Management Plan of the Government of Western Australia’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation, and Attractions and the West Australian Regional Forest Agreement. These legally binding documents are based on thorough scientific research and consultation. They also review their standards regularly.
- Jarrah is among those solid timbers that can still be recycled. A lot of people purchase Jarrah timbers that are recycled and salvaged from demolished houses and buildings. Several timber suppliers offer recycled Jarrah, providing a low-waste decking option for eco-savvy consumers.
How Long Will Jarrah Timber Last?
One of the best qualities of Jarrah is that it’s a durable timber that lasts for years with sufficient care.
As a Class 2 graded wood, Jarrah has a predicted lifespan of around fifteen to twenty-five years if it’s located below ground. Above ground, the lifespan is approximately fifteen to forty years. The proper treatment can prolong the timber’s life even longer.
Prolonging The Life Of Jarrah
To keep Jarrah in good condition, regular maintenance is required. Routine and straightforward maintenance steps should be followed to prevent Jarrah wood from prematurely deteriorating. Here are some tips:
✓ Before cleaning, clear the deck of all plants, decorative pieces, furniture, and cooking equipment. Removing the deck makes it easier for you to access and clean the entirety of the deck.
✓ When lifting heavy things, don’t drag the item to avoid scratching the wood.
✓ Get rid of visible dirt and debris by sweeping them off; a standard broom will do just fine.
✓ Scrubbing the deck with commercial or homemade cleaners allows you to get rid of hard-to-remove scum, stains, mildew, and algae. Alternatively, you can have a professional clean your deck with a pressure washer.
✓ If you’re using household cleaners or detergents, make sure you rinse your deck thoroughly. Those soap suds can attract dirt, and the residue can look unsightly.
✓ Always let your deck dry thoroughly to prevent mould and mildew.
✓ Oiling the Jarrah seals the wood and helps prevent moisture from seeping inside and wreaking havoc on the wood. Anti-termite treatments also deter bugs from chewing through the wood.
✓ If your Jarrah decking boards do start displaying some unsightly grey weathering, sanding back, the timber and re-staining or sealing can give your deck a whole new lease on life.
WIs Jarrah The Best Choice In Timber?
Many landowners prefer buffalo over couch turf because couch is quite a high maintenance turf – couch grass needs more water and fertiliser and is less re Being tough, durable, and fire-resistant, not to mention aesthetically stunning, Jarrah is one of the best timbers for decking. If you have the time to maintain it, a Jarrah deck will look beautiful for decades to come.
Is Jarrah Weather Resistant?
As a Class 2 timber, Jarrah has natural properties that resist moisture, rot, moisture, UV rays, and insects. However, the wood needs to be properly maintained and treated to sustain its weather-resistant properties.
Sam Christie is the owner and operator of Christies landscapes, founded in 2013 Sam and his team of landscapers and designers have many years experience in the landscape construction industry. Over the years they have developed and refined a broad range of skills, qualifications and techniques to deliver outstanding projects throughout the Canberra region.