Timber Aging Gracefully
|Longevity of a building is rooted in its materiality. We want our buildings to stand the test of time, and we often go the extra mile to separate our buildings from the elements. What would happen if we embraced and celebrate aging and the signs that come along with it?|
Let’s take a look at patina – particularly applied to timber – and how it meaningfully enhances the appearance of a building while being in complete harmony with nature.
What is Patina?
Simply put, patina is the visible aging of materials over time caused by environmental factors. As timber ages naturally, it forms a silver patina as the surface of the wood oxidises .
This thin film protects the wood during the weathering process – commonly known as “silvering off” . Noteworthy, however, is that the surface changes do not affect the stability, strength, or function of the timber .
Patinas are a by-product of age. They’re variable, and its appearance depend on a wide set of climatic factors, including orientation and exposure. Humid environments (Auckland) may see a different formation of a patina compared to a more arid environment (Central Otago) . For example, certain orientations of building facades may be more exposed to the impact of wind-driven rain, which will weather faster. Buildings without eaves also weather more quickly at the top of the wall, where they tend to get the wettest .
If left natural and uncoated, the entire building will eventually be evenly weathered, and will remain the same silver-grey colour for years to come .
Timber is a living material and needs to be fed and nourished. Some New Zealand climates experience extreme weather conditions, and it’s important to look after your timber. It’s best to use a natural penetrating protective oil, which prevents the growth of mould and lichen that grows on dirt that accumulates on the surface. Additionally, it requires in-frequent maintenance .
These wood oils penetrate deep into the timber, acting as a moisture-repellent that prevents warping, cupping, and splitting. It feeds and nourishes the timber and keeps it healthy, while still allowing it to age naturally into its beautiful silver coat .
All changes in a surface – whether it is a scratch, a dent, discoloration, or minute cracks – give the object its specific character. In the art world, patina is synonymous with ‘character’ .
There is a certain aesthetic appeal in making an object’s aging visible. It creates a connection with the observer by displaying its personality. An object’s character is realized by making the ravages of time visible .
The regenerative occurrence of patinas allows us to use naturally durable materials and celebrate the beauty of the very natural cycle of aging and decay. Sometimes beauty can come with a little wear and tear.
References: Abodo. Maintenance: Understanding How Timber Weathers  HWZ International. The New School Shows Children the Magic of Wood  Natural House. Deck Oil  Dryden. Timber cladding: the importance of maintenance  Material District. Growing old Beautifully
For more information about untreated timber products in New Zealand, see:
For more information about natural timber oil products in New Zealand, see: