Beauty in waste

Kaltimber is a hardwood decking and flooring specialist company which aim to provide high quality standards of production and finished goods. Our wood has been reclaimed or salvaged from ethical and legal sources. Hardwoods take thousands of years to grow and they deserve our utmost respect; as such we have a ‘full circle’ production, where we reduce waste and utilize our woods to the max.

With that in mind we aim to reuse as much as possible anything available. A good example is the piece in the picture here under. This a deco item made of a 4x15x20cm feet (leftover from a production - reclaimed from a bridge in East Kalimantan) and a 4x15x55cm board eaten by clams after many years serving as underwater structure of a harbor.

Wood inspires us with unique creations, we do not constrain wood to our ideas



papan kayu ulin

New owner

As per December 1st 2016 Kaltimber has a new husband-and-wife owner team!

After many years of hard work and constant improvement Yoga and Alex are going for new adventures while Guillaume and Siti are taking over!

On January 1st 2017, Kaltimber will resume its activities on decking, flooring, paneling, counter-top and other B2B oriented objects (in-house design or custom design).

  • Our production team; still is the same so you will continue to find this unique quality Kaltimber has to offer.
  • Our sourcing team; still is the same so you will continue to find quality reclaimed hardwood from ethical and legal sources.
  • Our sales team; still is the same so you will continue to find precise and professional information, quick reply and this forever smile.

We are looking forward to meet all of you to discuss and assist you on your projects, no matter how big or small they are.

Finish your wood with flair and care part 1.

Finishing wood in an appropriate way is exceedingly important if you want to get the best out of your wood. In this two-part series, we survey different types of wood finishes and look at what is right for you.

Before and after... teak chair finished with Woca oil

I have touched on this topic before, but really it deserves a book’s worth of attention. Little information is available to Indonesian consumers about wood finishes, and what is out there is by no means comprehensive, clear, or particularly accessible. For those of you with experience in this area, you may have noticed there are limited choices available on the local market. Your average local builder will tend to offer the standard polyurethane-based finished that they know, interchangeably called “plitur” or “Mowilex” (a brand-name). Sometimes a varnish traditionally made from resins called “sirlac” (Shellac) but nowadays made from pulmerised petro-based oils is used for finishing teak. Another product we can pick up in large Indonesian supermarkets is ‘fake’ teak oil, made from to petroleum distillates such as kerosene. The good stuff is usually made with a linseed oil base.

The sheer number of timber finishes available on today’s market can sometimes be a tad overwhelming! In Indonesia we are a way behind some of the European, Australian and American advances in timber finishes, however in recent years more options have become available. I will look at these products in the upcoming issues, but first, let’s look at some basics.

There are four different ways to treat or finish wood: oil, wax, varnish or pigment (paint or stain). The first three don’t add any colour to the wood, whereas pigment does. Let’s look at some pros and cons of the various types.

1. OIL

Permeates timber cells and simultaneously seals and protects. Oils are not affected by moisture content fluctuation of wood (they are elastic). Many wood oils are plant-based and hence environmentally sounder. Types include: Unblended Wood Oils (tung, linseed, soy, candlenut, castor), Polymerised Wood Oils (specially processed oils that have been heated to help them dry faster which create a harder surface film and a more durable glossy luster) and Pigment Oil-Based Stains (contain oil which enables the stain to penetrate the wood)

2. Wax

Fills all of the cavities in the wood to achieve an even finish that is polished. Wax doesn not achieve a film on the surface, as oils do. It creates a flat surface which allows you to polish the wood. Many oil finishes benefit from a light liquid wax coating , especially floors.

3. Varnish

Creates a transparent film coating over the entire wood surface. There are penetrating varnishes and non-penetrating varnishes. There are approximately 60-70 different types of varnish out there. In Indonesia there are probably around 10 different kinds, but many different brand names. Types include: Polyurethane Coatings (generally petro chemical-based which are thinned with petroleum distillates to enable easy application. They create a glossy finish and are easy to apply, however have potential health risks as, depending on the brand, they contain a high level of solvents/ chemicals. They can crack and darken over time, and provide a surface coating only, similar to a plastic film). Resin based varnishes made from tree sap.

4. Pigment

There are two kinds of pigment: paint, which puts a non-transparent film over the wood surface, and stain, which colours the wood but leaves the grain exposed. Pigmented Paint will protect wood indefinitely; however it will cover the wood so characteristics are not displayed. Also, some paints in Indonesia contain lead. Environmentally speaking, paints are one of the worst pollutants in the world. The best solution is using timbers appropriately, i.e exterior grade timbers outside, and softer interior grade timbers inside and accept that timbers grey with age as do we.

The type of coating that you use should be determined by timber type, use, desired gloss level or appearance, and your own personal preferences. Of these, there are more ‘natural’ choices and more ‘sythetic’ solutions.  Decide on final look first, and then move on to available options.

Stay tuned for the next issue, where I will review wood finishing products available on the Indonesian market. Till next time!

Building termites out

I was recently called over to a client’s house to take a look at a pool deck that was installed a year previous using reclaimed wood that the supplier had advised was Ulin (Kalimantan ironwood).The deck was literally crumbling and on the surface showed evidence of rot and termite infestation. The installation had all the classic signs of bad building practices and what NOT to do in exterior wood applications!

The enemy of wood... subterranean termites

When building with timbers outside there are 3 main things that we must protect against:
1) Solar degradation, 2) Rot and 3) Termites. I will talk more about sun and rain in forthcoming newsletters, but for the moment lets focus on termites.

There is a myth that some timbers are termite proof, this is simply not true. Certainly some timbers like Ulin (Eusideroxylon zwageri) are less attractive to termites as their heartwood contains specific extractives that have anti decay and insect resistant characteristics. Untreated Ulin heartwood posts are expected to last 50 years in ground contact, giving this timber the distinction of being one of the most durable timbers in the world. For sure this timber is particularly unattractive to termites, but it is not true to say that it is immune to an eventual attack from termites.

The best way to stop termite infestation is by understanding how termites like to live and build things that don’t suit their lifestyle. Although termites need water, they can’t actually drink, instead they absorb it either through the food they eat, or through a waxy layer on their outer skin. Hence if you design your building so all timber is separated by a visual barrier from any water source, you will at least be able to see them coming and going from water to food and stop them in their tracks. A good example of visual barriers are:

  • Reinforced concrete slab with an exposed slab edge (that’s a slab with no cracks greater than 1.2mm (the width of a skinny termite). Termites will have to crawl over and around the slab, to go from water to food, hence you can just check your slab edge regularly.
  • Steel stirrups or shoes on the bottom of posts, so the steel enters the ground and not the timber
  • Flat metal sheet caps on top of the brick columns under your house. (known as Ant Caps). 
  • All of these measures are environmentally friendly work forever at no running cost and all you have to do is a regular inspection.

Most of the termites that attack buildings are subterranean termites, living underground, then coming up inside trees and houses to eat dead wood, getting their water from moist ground contact. Subterranean termites cant crawl about in the open and will have to build mud tunnels to protect them from the sun, making their intrusion into your house much easier to detect and treat. In the tropics we also have arboreal and air born termites that can fly into your home. Again though as before the golden rule is that they all need to gain access to water.

A common practice in Indonesia is to install timber decks and stairs directly onto concrete slabs. This builder had closed the edges of the steps with a small wall of concrete, which had the dual impact of not letting light and air in, and trapping water under the timber boards. This is a big no-no if you want to increase the life of your timber and avoid termites. Exterior timber really needs to be kept dry and be installed in a way that allows good airflow and access. This is particularly important in the tropics, where there is a relatively higher decay and inherent termite hazard than in the temperate zones. In this case, the termites had simply tunneled up from the slab and into the boards.

Remember it’s the combination of water and timber that cause most trouble, so design your house so the timber stays nice and dry and preferably out of the sun. And build your house so it’s comfortable for you to live in but not for termites. Darrin, who runs Termite Web, one of the best information hubs on termites around ( advises that we can learn a lot from traditional house building practices in the villages in Southeast Asia, as these communities these have co-existed with termites for hundreds and thousands of years. He reckons stilt building prevents 90% of common termite problems (subterranean termites), because it controls the entry points for termites very well.

Throughout the world there are many agents selling complicated systems for termite protection, including a great range of toxic chemicals and the like. These systems vary from outright stupid to out right dangerous, with a fair amount of crossover in between. Fancy visual barriers i.e. things that termites cant crawl through but must crawl round do work, but are often expensive and often a complex solution to a simple problem. When in doubt fall back on the good old fashioned three step rule:

1. Separate timber from water (including ground) with a visual barrier
2. Regularly check the visual barrier
3. If there is an infestation, bait the termites with a nice soft piece of timber soaked in an accumulative poison that they can take back home and feed the queen to kill off the hive. Killing off 1 or even 1 million termites won’t stop them, killing off their one queen will.

Another small eco-tip… world timber supplies would be much healthier if we simply used the right timber for the right application. So build that one-off handmade guitar out of some amazing beautiful rainforest timber, but don’t waste that timber making wood pulp for paper or packing crates! And use a good quality, preferable second hand exterior grade timber in an exterior application and try not to waste it on interior uses where a less resistant more common and perhaps even prettier timber will do.

By the way, we checked the termite infested timber that my client had installed and it turned out it was NOT ulin… it was a less-resistant Shorea species completely unsuitable for external applications!

For more information read “Building out Termites” by Robert Verkerk

Thanks to Dave Hodgkin and Darrin from Termite Web for help with this article.