A selection of images related to dendrochronology (tree-ring dating)

Services & Costs

Further details on various aspects of our services are listed below: -

Historic buildings dating

Our call out service begins with a survey to identify potential timbers and, where agreed to proceed, includes the specialist drilling of 12mm cores from the timbers for analysis.

Sampling usually takes between 3-4 hours, the analysis and results then normally take 6-8 weeks (although this wait can sometimes be fast-tracked at an additional cost). Dendrochronology results are presented either as PDF files or printed full colour written reports, which generally include a floor plan and photographic record of sample locations.

Building dates are normally also published in Vernacular Architecture. Tree-ring analysis of a building from £980.

The removal of cores does not affect the structural integrity of timbers, but if desired for cosmetic reasons, plugging and restoration of core holes is charged at an additional cost of £5.00 per core hole.

Example of tree-ring sequences revealed through the sanding of extracted cores Example of tree-ring sequences revealed through the sanding of extracted cores

No payment (except the assessment/call-out fee) is required for any number of samples taken on-site and you are only subsequently invoiced for samples actually dated. This means that in the unfortunate event that samples cannot be dated you will incur no further charge.

The English Heritage guidelines document on dendrochronology states that "Where possible, at least eight to ten timbers should be sampled per building or, for more complex buildings per phase". To maximise the potential of dating a building phase we preferentially take 10 samples.

Our prices remain keen. By way of comparison with our charging structure, an estimated un-itemised fee of between £500 and £750 was published in 1997 for dating a building or phase of building and this price was be payable whether or not the analysis was successful. Today, you are likely to pay between £800 and £1000 to date a phase of building, with any of the University associated dendrochronology laboratories in this country.

Live tree, veteran tree, or woodland analysis

The only precise way to determine the age of a living tree is to cross-date tree rings in increment cores that intersect the pith of the tree. Timbers are sampled using a 3-thread, 5.15mm core diameter Halglof increment borer to offers the same astonishing impact of absolute tree-ring dates as has been achieved with the dating of historic timber-framed buildings in this country. While the girth of our very largest trees (and hence the trees of greatest interest) may make it impossible to reach their piths with hand-driven increment borers, increment sampling still offers the most accurate empiric refinement to the estimation of a tree's age. The total cost of tree dating analysis (which includes call-out) is: £700 for up to 3 trees, or £1500 for up to 10 trees.

Yew tree analysis

While English yew Taxus baccata L. has become extinct or rare in many parts of Europe, Britain contains a large population of very large and old yew. Toby Hindson (tobyyew@hotmail.com) is an associate of Tree-Ring Services specializing in the analysis of yew trees. Toby is founder member of the Ancient yew Group and has regularly publishes his ongoing research into yew trees. Sections of yew can be posted to Toby for analysis, or he can undertake on-site sampling. The total cost of undertaking tree-ring analysis on posted samples is £350 for 1-3 sections, or £500 where on-site sampling is required. Please enquire for costs on larger projects.

Professional reports

The full colour illustrated reports explain the methods and results, and includes interpretation, discussion, a floorplan and photographic record of sampling locations. Reports are charged at £10 per copy. (click here for an example of one of our reports). Photographs, where supplied with posted samples are incorporated into the report to help identify timbers and location. Photographs of specific objects for dating provide an extremely useful means of identification and are normally incorporated into the certificate of dendrochronological provenance.

Certificate of dendrochronological provenance

Dendrochronological research

Timbers that have sufficient rings to be dated using tree-ring analysis may nevertheless be impossible to date. Pollarding and other human disturbances can sometimes make timbers impossible to date by tree-ring analysis. Weaknesses in currently available reference chronologies may also make it difficult to date timbers from some areas at the present. Tree-ring dating continues to develop as a science and all samples which cannot be dated (at the present time) will be held by us and periodically reviewed in the hope that they will date in the future.

Unless prior to sampling a client specifically requests otherwise, Tree-Ring Services policy is to make its reports available to further research and to publish building dating results in Vernacular Architecture. To obtain copies of the journal Vernacular Architecture please contact: the Publications Officer, 16 Trefor Road, Aberystwyth, Dyfed, SY23 2EH. The dating results and summaries of all buildings dated are published on the Building Archaeology Research Database (located at www.buildingarchaeology.com)

The availability of reference data is crucial to tree-ring dating and the pioneer work of dendrochronologists, who make their reference chronologies availably for use in dating is gratefully acknowledged. Tree-Ring Services policy is to publish raw data in its reports to help the furtherment of the science. Each report on dendrochronological analysis, contains a section on methodology, results, interpretation and conclusions. Reports also generally contain figures, building descriptions and floor plans.

Where confidentiality of the results is requested there are a number of options, but these all incur additions to the costs quoted above, as follows:

  1. The report & publication of the date can be suppressed for 1-years at a cost of £50.
  2. The report & publication of the date can be suppressed for 3-years at a cost of £100.
  3. The report & publication of the date can be suppressed for 10-years at a cost of £150.

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Updated: 15/05/2024