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Some ‘Certified’ Wood Is Not All It Is Cracked Up To Be

Jim Coulson on the importance of proper quality assurance

I MAKE no apology for referring once again to Diamond Marked flooring plywood, because two things have happened recently which show up both the good and the not-so-good sides of Product Certification.
You may remember that we at TFT Woodexperts have a sister company – Technology For Timber – which has the Diamond Mark, used as a registered certification mark for timber and wood-based products.
But of course, there are a number of other certification marks out there – the BSI Kitemark, for example. But none of the other are exclusively concerned with wood; they all ‘certify’ many different types of products. And in my view, that lack of focus will dilute their relevance to the wood industry.
But first, let me give you an example of the not-so-good side of QA; which was the result of one of those ‘non-specialist’ QA bodies becoming involved. Recently, a colleague who also does testing of wood-based products told me about some plywood he had been asked to check. It had been stamped with another certifier’s mark (although it was not the Kitemark, I hasten to add). And to spare anyone’s blushes, I won’t name them. Yet that quite well-known mark is used on many products other than wood-based ones, even though many specifiers believe it to be only a wood organisation.
The point here is that the ‘certified’ plywood delaminated after only a few minutes into the test, long before it should have done. Yet that mark supposedly gave ‘quality assurance’ that the product was fit for purpose.
However, most QA certifiers (and hence their ‘marks’) only check the factory system, not the actual product. So although the documentation which comes with it says words to the effect that a producer is ‘capable of producing a product that does so-and-so’, that certification itself is still no guarantee of the quality of the actual product that you have bought! And in my book, that is hardly a robust ‘assurance of quality’ —- is it?
But now to show the good side of QA: It is a fact that all Diamond Marked products are subjected to regular sampling as well as full product auditing. That is to confirm that the product itself is regularly checked, and not just the manufacturing process and the documentation side of the quality system which, as I have said, is mostly all that other certifiers concentrate on.
And that is why, when our colleagues at Technology For Timber recently checked samples of Diamond Marked flooring plywood for its compliance with the draft CFA specification, they made sure that the material itself fully met that specification.
Therefore, when the inspector at Technology For Timber noted that the plywood was getting very near to its minimum tolerance on thickness, the mill was immediately notified about it.
Then, within a few days, the mill had written back to Technology For Timber, promising to increase their quality inspections and employ more QA personnel, so as to reduce the risk of substandard plywood reaching the UK. Now that’s what I call proper quality assurance in action!

Jim Coulson, Director: TFT Woodexperts, Ripon, North Yorkshire T: 01765 601010

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal. You can find them at