Part of Historic Environment Scotland

Conservation of timberwork

Learn about the properties, use and conservation of one of Scotland's most widely used building materials. This course will cover the biology, variety, decay mechanisms and sourcing of timber in traditional buildings.



Download a prospectus for more information on the diploma and short courses.

Temp prospectus link

Study time

Taught:21 hours

Self-study:26 hours


As a stand-alone short course:£420

Blocks of timber in a pile

Timber is one of Scotland's most significant traditional building materials. It has a rich history from cruck frame houses to decorative internal timbers, and is used across a range of building features including structural material.

What you'll learn

On this course, you'll gain an introduction to the essential biology of timber used in Scotland over the centuries. With our expert tutors, you'll learn how to trace the sources of timber, from early samples of Scots origin to imports from the Baltic states and North America.

The course will examine timber's physical properties, its natural weathering and decay processes, and its resilience to man-made damage or interference. We'll also explore the complex issues surrounding decay caused by wet and dry rots, and examine current best practice methods for the eradication and prevention of these devastating fungal problems.

By the end of this course, you'll understand how to:

  • undertake repairs including:
    • initial survey and documentation
    • assessment of fabric condition
    • diagnosis of the causes of defects
    • deterioration or mechanical failure
    • specification
    • procurement
    • on-site repair of existing or installation of new material
    • identify different types of timber
    • match and source appropriate and sustainable replacement materials

Everything you learn on this course will be in the context of current principles of conservation best practice.

Topics covered

  • Scottish timberwork traditions
  • Types of timber
  • Key structural elements
  • Key joinery elements
  • Decay mechanisms
  • Repair and Conservation techniques
  • Maintenance
  • Health and safety

Course content

Classes, lectures and presentations

This course is taught by national and international experts, through a mixture of lectures, hands-on experience, and site visits.

Hands-on workshop/lab activities

Traditional joinery techniques including cutting splices, joints and decorative carving

Potential site visits

  • Bannockburn House
  • Great Hall (Stirling Castle)
  • Timberwork workshop


Short courses are not formally assessed. Students will be awarded a certificate upon successfully completing this course. Anyone looking for a formal qualification can study our full diploma course or separate units.

What our students say