Northbeam — stronger, stiffer beams and square posts

Architectural designer Corry Clayton: “I wanted solid chunks of timber with a long span and natural finish to suit the rural setting and to tie in with the concrete block fireplace.”

When architectural designer Corry Clayton designed this poolhouse in Northland, he chose Northbeam by Northpine, a specialist sawmill in Waipu, and one of the few New Zealand suppliers of engineering-grade SG10 pine.

The strength, stiffness and beauty of Northland-grown radiata pine is showcased in the interlocking framework of this sheltered outdoor room.

“LVL beams didn’t have the look I was after,” Clayton says. “I wanted solid chunks of timber with a long span and natural finish to suit the rural setting and to tie in with the concrete block fireplace. Northpine was the only source I could trust for this job.”

New Zealand’s strongest pine

SG8 and SG10 are often used for jobs requiring strength and stiffness such as wharfs and outdoor walkways.

Northbeam, however, comes in rough-sawn, structural and dressed finishes, giving it a wider application for residential and commercial use.

Radiata pine grown in Northland is the strongest and stiffest mature pine produced anywhere in the country — as demonstrated by Forest Research Institute research in
the 1990s.

Northpine produces it in lengths up to 7.2 metres. It’s ideal for specialist structural uses such as pergolas, walkways, decks and gates, as well as many commercial and civil applications.

Interlocking post-and-beam with hidden fixings

For the poolhouse project, Clayton sought to make a virtue of its good looks as well as its brute strength.

“Pine looks better stained than, say, macrocarpa — it will silver off in time, and resists mould.”

Its strength allowed him to specify unusually long beam spans. And the exceptional density of Northbeam timber also helps minimise any twisting or warping.

He designed the joints with hidden fixings. Instead of using bolts, they interlock, as he puts it, “like a Tetris game”.

The frame, with its projecting chamfered corners, is topped by a butterfly roof in aluminium and clear polycarbonate, with neatly concealed gutters feeding into twin downpipes.

Angled vertical 200 x 75mm timber louvres, also from Northpine, create a screen wall, admitting cool breezes and allowing peeks of the rolling rural landscape beyond.

Framing up

For builder Matt Brown, working with Northpine was “a breeze from start to finish”, despite the fact that everything was upscaled for this project.

Where most designers would specify 100 x 100mm, he was working with 200 square lumber.

One advantage of its size and strength grade is that, volumetrically, less is needed to do the job, which means cartage costs are lower.

“The Northpine machinist came on site to see what we were aiming to achieve.

“We were looking for a big log, to get the full characteristics of pine — that natural look.”

Although pine tends to “breathe” and move, the end product was well within specifications. Even so, Brown screwed aluminium bracing to the top surfaces to add
to rigidity.

The right tolerances in the joints allow for the pine’s expansion and contraction. The client also wanted LED strip-lighting to be chased into the beams.

“It had to be bang-on,” Brown says, “and the product was very easy to work with.”

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