Timberlife (Pty) Ltd – A Company Overview

Founded in 1993, Timberlife started with literally nothing but a vision to become the market leader in the supply of a complete range of timber treatment products in South Africa and neighboring countries. After many years of hard work and dedication, Timberlife has emerged as one of the leading companies that manufactures and supplies a vast range of timber treatment chemicals, many of which not only are unique in the local market, but also internationally.

What is different about Timberlife?

All our main line products are “Proudly and uniquely Timberlife”. This means that all the formulations have been developed in-house and cover a product range of well over 50 different timber treatment chemicals that have been successfully commercialized.

Timberlife is the only local company, and one of only a very few companies in the world that manufactures and supplies a comprehensive range of wood preserving, wood protection and wood finishing products. In this particular market segment of the timber industry, Timberlife therefore services the entire pipeline. Broadly speaking, this includes the timber processors (saw millers, pole treaters, etc.), timber product manufacturers, (e.g. window and door manufacturers, joinery and furniture manufacturers.) as well as timber end-users (deck builders, log home builders, thatchers, DIY-ears, etc.)

Why has Timberlife been successful?

Sustained product innovation and development, motivated by constant customer needs identification and analysis, was and still is the key to Timberlife’s successful introduction of such a broad spectrum of timber treatment products into the Southern African market. For example, many wood protection products have been specifically developed for industrial applications and use by manufacturers of windows and doors, up market outdoor wooden furniture as well as for developers and contactors.

It is our belief that the very basic requirements for the successful development of wood protection products is a sound knowledge of wood itself as well as the behavior of wood when used under different conditions of exposure. A clear understanding of wood deterioration and the prevention thereof is essential when deciding on the most appropriate wood protection system to be formulated. During the initial stages of research and development, important questions that we address and keep in mind throughout the process, are:

What is the desired functionality of the particular product;

  • should it have wood preserving properties, e.g. provide protection against wood borer attack, termite attack, fungal decay, mould growth and/or fungal discoloration?

  • should it have wood protection properties, e.g. provide protection against ultra-violet degradation caused by sunlight exposure and/or reduce wood movement by controlling moisture uptake and loss during exposure, provide protection against mechanical wear, provide protection against fire, etc?

  • should it have decorative properties, e.g. provide a finish with an aesthetic appearance?

  • should it have one, or a combination of the above desired properties?

Other important criteria also taken into consideration are the life expectancy of the product, the application process or method required, frequency and ease of maintenance, health, safety and environmental aspects and obviously the cost effectiveness of the desired product.

However, at the end of the day it is the customer that dictates what he wants and it is therefore necessary to satisfy his needs. Our philosophy has always been to listen to the customer and whenever, work with him rather than against him. We therefore believe that “feed-back is the food of kings” and develop and/or improve our products accordingly.

What significant achievements have Timberlife accomplished?

Some unique technologies that have been developed and commercialized by Timberlife over the years and that still are the only locally formulated and manufactured products of its kind available for timber treatment and protection in Southern Africa, can be summarized as follows:

  • Borate-based wood preservative for timber treatment (TOPRO 94, launched 1994)

To date, it is still the most cost effective wood preservative available in Southern Africa. Also, from a health and safety point of view, it has always been and still is the preferred wood preservative available.

  • Anti-sapstain and mould treatment for freshly cut/sawn timber (BLUPRO ST, launched 1995)

A highly effective and cost competitive formulation that provides wide-spectrum protection again blue stain and mould growth problems commonly experienced with wet pine timbers.

  • Wood preserving pastes for external remedial and supplemental treatment of treated poles (REMPRO, launched 1995; VIKA GEL, launched 2008)

These are the only two registered products that have been approved for use on Eskom wooden utility poles to protect the critical external ground-line area against fungal decay and termite attack.

  • Wood preserving rods for internal remedial and supplemental treatment of treated poles and wooden structures. (ECO ROD, launched 2004; VIKA ROD, launched 2008)

These are the only two registered products of its kind for DIY as well as industrial use in South Africa. The VIKA ROD has also been approved for use on Eskom wooden utility poles to protect of the critical internal ground-line area against fungal decay.

Not only was Timberlife the first South African company to develop and manufacture these borate-based rods, but is also one of only six companies in the world that have developed this type of technology.

  • A combined wood preservative and fire retardant treatment for timber (FLAMBOR, launched 1997)

FLAMBOR has been patented and accepted internationally. For example, it has been tested and approved by Disney World engineers for fire protection treatment of Eucalyptus poles used in the construction of the Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge. Subsequently, FLAMBOR-treated Eucalyptus poles have also been tested in accordance with ASTM E-84 – “Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials” and have successfully passed the minimum requirements for a Class A rating.

  • A combined fire retardant and preservative treatment for thatching grass and reed (THATCHBOR, launched 1998 in collaboration with Micon Coatings).

It is a first in the world for permanent protection of thatching grass and reed. Has been patented and accepted internationally. For example, it has been tested and approved for fire protection treatment of thatching grass used in large public projects in Hawaii. The only product to pass the stringent permanency and fire retardant tests of the ASTM D 2898-94, “Accelerated Weathering of Fire-Retardant Treated Wood Products for Fire Testing”, showing that THATCHBOR does not leach from vacuum/pressure treated thatching grass after exposure to extensive rain and heat.

Other significant product technologies, to name a few, that have also been developed and commercialized by Timberlife, include the following:

  • First wax emulsion-based end sealer for freshly cut poles and pole products to reduce end splitting (SUPRO EM, launched 1993).

  • First locally formulated and registered brush-on insecticidal/fungicidal treatment for timber as an alternative to replace PCP (pentachlorophenol) and γ-HCH (Lindane) (CTX 108, launched 1995).

  • First privately owned company to formulate, manufacture and supply a CCA oxide liquor wood preservative in South Africa (CHROMAC CCA, launched 1996).

  • First company to launch the complete range of timber cleaning agents, i.e. fungal stain remover (TIMBRITE RFU), wax/oil remover (INDEG), varnish remover (COTE-STRIP, launched 2000).

  • First range of 5-in-1 wood protection coatings that not only serve as aesthetic finishes but also protect timber products against UV degradation, water ingress and more importantly, provide additional protection against insect attack as well as fungal discolouration (SATINWOOD 28/28 BASE, launched 1998; SATINWOOD GLOSS, launched 2000; ULTRACARE GOLD, launched 2004).

  • A solvent-borne, semi-gloss finish with good wear resistance that is particularly suitable for use on exterior timbers such as wooden decks and walkways (ULTRADECK, launched 2010).

  • An unique multi-purpose surface cleaning formulation for regular cleaning and maintenance of sealed and oiled outdoor timbers such as wooden decks and garden furniture – Cleans, disinfects and nourishes in one simple application (DECKWASH, launched 2007).

  • An odourless, quick drying water-based wood coating for internal and external use that provides an ultra clear finish (COLOR-COTE, launched 1998).

  • A hard wearing, solvent free floor and furniture varnish based on the latest water-borne technology available (FURNI-FLOOR, launched 2005).

  • A water-borne, user- and eco-friendly alternative to solvent-based nitrocellulose and acid catalyzed lacquers that provides an ultra clear, tough and tack free coating with excellent blocking resistance (AQUA-SATIN, launched 2014).

  • A complete range of cost effective industrial water repellent and wood stabilizing sealers with high quality, UV resistant transparent iron oxide pigment stain additives for manufacturers of wooden windows and doors, garage doors, garden furniture, decking boards, etc. to be applied at factory level by simple dip application (SATINDIP, ULTRADIP, KHUNIDIP and DIPTINTS SB, launched 2005).

How does Timberlife service its customer base?

Apart from its own KwaZulu Natal branch in Pinetown, Timberlife has also appointed the following distributors for marketing and distribution of its DIY wood care product range: Brits Pale (North West Province), JT Distributors (Eastern Mpumalanga and Mozambique), AIP Chemicals (Eastern Cape), Northern Building Supplies (Northern Botswana), Hemco Distributors (Namibia) and Micon Coatings (Zambia).

Timberlife has a well trained sales team and technical representatives servicing customers from our head office in Pretoria. We take pride in the fact that we provide a comprehensive technical backup service to all our customers, helping them to select the right product for the desired job and to ensure that the product is correctly applied and maintained. Technical Information Sheets, Product Data Sheets and Material Safety Data Sheets are also available to further assist our customers in making the right product choice.

What about the future?

Timberlife has certainly focused and lived up to its vision. Our focus and determination to reach certain set goals have been rewarded with many successes and make us proud of what we have achieved.

One of our remaining focus areas is to become more visible to the home owner and expand further into the DIY market with our wood care products through retail outlets. We believe that we now have the right product range for this market segment. All we need to do is to establish a good strategic marketing and promotional approach. For example, a more user friendly product selection chart has been designed for our DIY wood finishes range which will be complemented with a colour chart of all our different stain additives.

Furthermore, the need for the development of more acceptable, newer generation chemical products for timber treatment is growing at an ever increasing rate. This creates new challenges and consequently opportunities for formulators and manufacturers of timber treatment chemicals that have never been experienced before. Therefore, as far as the future of Timberlife is concerned, we firmly believe that the sky is the limit.