tropical hardwoods

Potential Woods for Use in Outdoor Applications

When you’re constructing a deck or building Adirondack chairs for your backyard, you want to make sure you choose a wood that can stand up to the elements.  While many people go straight to treated yellow pine for outdoor projects (it is the cheapest and most common option), there are plenty of wood species that hold up at least as well even when left untreated.  Here are a few woods to consider for your next outdoor project.

Ipe

This tropical hardwood from Central and South America makes an excellent choice for outdoor projects, including decking.  Ipe is very hard and dense and resists warping, cracking, and decay extremely well.  Its oil and extractive content makes it highly resistant to insects and fungi, and untreated ipe can last up to 40 years outdoors.  Its density makes it fairly impervious to denting and foot traffic, but also hard to cut. 

Teak

Long a popular choice for boat building, teak is another good candidate for outdoor applications.  Teak is prized for its beauty as well as its durability outdoors, and you can expect to pay a premium for it.  Teak’s high stability means it won’t shrink or expand much with changes in humidity, and its natural oils and extractives repel water and deter insects.  Unlike ipe, teak works easily.  One caveat: most teak on the market is not sustainably sourced, so if you’re concerned about the environmental impact of your wood choices, look for certified sustainable forested teak. 

African Mahogany

Less expensive than teak but more expensive than ipe, African mahogany is another top of the line choice for outdoor applications.  African mahogany is a durable hardwood that resists decay, infestation, and warping and is easy to work.  Left untreated, its durability will endure a very long time, but its beautiful reddish color will fade to gray.

VG Fir

Vertical Grain (VG) Fir has been a traditional choice for porches for over a century due to its wide availability and durability, both of which still make it a good choice today. VG fir is quite dimensionally stable, so it expands and contracts evenly and is unlikely to warp.  Naturally resistant to decay and insects, VG fir can last 10-15 years outdoors untreated, and is an affordable choice.

Western Red Cedar

Western Red Cedar is another widely available, reasonably affordable choice for outdoor use.  It’s dimensionally stable, typically straight-grained, and resists warping, decay, and insects (including termites).  Untreated, Western Red Cedar will last about 20 years outdoors.  As cedar is a softwood, you can expect to see some damage from foot traffic if using it as decking or flooring.  Beware of splitting when driving fasteners, and expect tannins to appear as stains around them.

Is Thermally Modified Hardwood Lumber Here To Stay?

Thermally modified hardwood may represent an up-and-coming contender to compete with treated wood and composite products. Thermally treated wood boasts advantages over both.

The question remains whether this product will be adopted by consumers. The process is not well understood by those outside of the wood industry. There is even confusion and misconceptions among woodworkers. Lack of understanding is a major barrier to entry into the markets. The success of this product will be heavily dependent on overcoming that barrier and helping users interested in thermally modified hardwood.

The American Hardwood Export Council recognizes thermal modification as a developing market with great potential for American hardwood producers. There are various species that can be successfully treated such as – ash, soft maple, tulip poplar, red oak, yellow birch and hickory. Appearance of

Thermally Modified Hardwood Piques Consumer Interest

The darker wood tones created by the treatment process for thermally modified wood resemble some exotic hardwoods. Designers and consumers alike have been drawn to being able to obtain this dark mocha color without having to apply a wood stain. In addition, having a wood grain choice other
than spruce, pine, and fir, is a refreshing change.

Exterior Performance of Thermally Modified Wood Holds Up

Thermally modified hardwood has similar physical properties to traditional wood choices. Thermally modified wood strength is on par with the same species that has not been thermally modified. You can cut, drill, nail and screw thermally modified wood the same as traditional wood. There are also no special fasteners required with thermally modified wood, but you can use a hidden deck fastener system if you wish.
The story of thermally modified hardwood is a good one – now we just need to do a good job of telling it.
Learn More About What Thermally Modified Wood Can Be Used For.

What is Thermally Modified Wood?

Wood treated with thermal modification has been through a natural, non-toxic process that basically cooks the wood, changing the make-up of the wood. Wood is heated in 400+ degree heat in an oxygen-free environment.

How is Thermally Modified Wood Physically Different?

Thermal modification uses heat to remove organic compounds from the wood cells, so it will not absorb water, expand, contract, or provide nourishment for insects or fungi. The high heat produces a naturally durable wood that is permanently resistant to water, insects, and decay. Because the wood is not absorbing chemicals to be treated, but rather removing moisture, the wood is lightweight.

Thermally modified lumber is also more dimensionally stable because it is less susceptible to cupping and warping. The wood has increased heat resistance and weather resistance as well. When properly maintained, it will not chip, rot, or warp over the years. Many products offered in this category are rated for 20 or 25 years of exterior use.

How Does Thermally Modified Wood Look Different?

The high gradual heat process creates permanent reactions and gives the wood a rich, deep brown appearance. The darkened color brings an unexpected tropical look.

 

The chocolate color can be maintained in exterior applications by finishing the wood with a UV-inhibitor sealant on all sides and ends of the wood. If not finished, the wood will naturally weather to a shade of gray because of exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

What Can Thermally Modified Wood Be Used For?

Since thermally modified wood does not absorb or hold moisture as it would prior to treatment, species that typically do not perform well in outdoor or wet environments can now be used in a variety of applications, such as decking, siding, or flooring. It can also be used in environments that are less stable in moisture content, such as basements (with proper sub-flooring).

The Benefits of Thermally Modified Lumber

This thermally modified wood is eco-friendly since harsh chemicals are never used in the development of this product. Unlike pressure-treated lumber, it will not corrode metals. As previously mentioned, it is also dimensionally stable with incredible durability.

A New Non-Toxic Product for Outdoor and Indoor Use

Thermally modified lumber is a green alternative to tropical hardwoods and pressure treated lumber for exterior uses and is an beautiful product to use in other applications where stability and durability are key variables.

Interested in learning more about thermally modified lumber? Visit our distributors list to find a distributor in your area.

Tips for Buying Hardwood Lumber through a Distributor or Lumberyard

 

Are you planning your first visit to buy lumber? Once you’ve decided to go beyond buying lumber at a home center, there’s some major differences to be aware of when buying lumber at a lumberyard or distributor.

Lumberyards and distribution centers have come a long way, offering a wide variety of wood species, thicknesses, grades and machining options. Here are some pointers for how to buy lumber at a distributor or lumberyard.

 

 

THICKNESS

When buying hardwoods, you won’t see lumber thickness marked in inches, but instead the convention is to use a measurement in quarters. For example, a 1 inch thick board is typically written as 4/4.

One thing to keep in mind is that lumber is sawn and then dried so the board that started out 4/4 inches will be closer to 7/8” (.875 inches) – and that thickness is before any type of surfacing is done.


BOARD FOOT

A board foot is the unit of volume used to measure hardwoods. Since hardwoods are sold in a variety of lengths, widths and thicknesses, it is simpler to have a kind of measure that can account for all of those variables at once, like volume.

12” long x 12” wide x 1” thick = 144 cubic inches

Calculate a Board Foot
   special thanks to American Woodworker for this image.

Armed with a tape measure, calculator and this knowledge, you can tackle any board foot calculation on the spot. But what happens the day you leave the shop and forget your calculator? Use this woodworker rule of thumb:  4/4 board, 8 ft. Long and 6” Wide = 4 Board Feet


GRADE

For someone just beginning to purchase hardwood lumber, lumber grades can be overwhelming. Most lumber companies use the generally accepted grading rules set by the National Hardwood Lumber Association. Grades are based on the amount of usable clear material in a board. The highest grade boards are FAS and Select, followed by #1 Common and #2 Common. What grade you choose depends on your project. Some projects, such as tabletops and high quality furniture, may dictate the highest grade available. Many other projects are just as easily adapted to #1 Common (often referred to as cabinet grade) – kitchen cabinet doors, smaller projects and items where some character is acceptable.

For a full illustrated guide to the various grades:
http://www.ahec.org/hardwoods/pdfs/IllustratedGradingGuide.pdf

MILLING SERVICES

Rough lumber is rarely flat or straight. Milling your own can save you some money but it will take time, equipment and a strong back. It can be beneficial to look into what milling options your distributor can offer.

Most yards will offer the following milling services:

–       Rip one edge of a rough board straight (called SL/E, Straight-Line Edge)

–       Plane both faces lightly by taking approx. 1/16” off the surface (called Hit-and-Miss)

–       Plane both faces, leaving no little wood with rough cut marks, removing approx.. 1/8” of thickness (called S2S, Surfaced Two Sides)

–       Mill both faces and edges (called S4S, Surfaced Four Sides).

There are typically varying costs added to the price of rough lumber to cover the additional milling. Depending on your situation, these added costs may save you money in the long run through saved labor, faster lead times and a reduction in equipment needs.

Types of Wood: Comparing American Hardwoods, Softwoods and Tropical Hardwoods

Wood products are known for their natural beauty, but when selecting a type of wood for your next cabinetry, flooring, furniture or millwork project, it is important to also consider the level of durability by understanding the difference between wood types. Each type and species of wood has an individual cellular structure that creates unique physical properties that determine suitability for different uses. For example, the hardness of woods varies widely, so certain hardwood species are not recommended for flooring because they are not hard enough to withstand heavy wear and tear.

The following offers a brief comparison of American hardwoods, softwoods and tropical hardwoods and their appropriate applications:

American Hardwoods
Hardwoods are deciduous trees that have broad leaves, produce a fruit or nut and generally go dormant in the winter. North America’s forests grow hundreds of varieties that thrive in temperate climates, including red oak, white oak, ash, cherry, hard maple, hickory and poplar.  For a more detailed list of commercially available woods in the United States, refer to our species guide. Each species can be crafted into durable, long-lasting furniture, cabinetry, flooring, millwork and more. Each offers unique markings with variation in grain pattern, texture and color.

Softwoods
Softwoods or conifers, from the Latin word meaning “cone-bearing,” have needles rather than leaves. Widely available U.S. softwood trees include cedar, fir, hemlock, pine, redwood and spruce. In a home, softwoods primarily are used as structural lumber such as 2x4s and 2x6s, with limited decorative applications. Woods such as white pine and cypress do break those rules and are treated in the lumber industry similar to hardwoods.

Tropical Hardwoods
Tropical Hardwoods, including mahogany, rosewood, teak and cocobolo, are not native to North America. They grow in the tropical forests of the world and are imported for use in the United States. Many tropical hardwoods are used for exterior applications where outdoor durability is important. However, many tropical hardwoods are also be used for interior applications, including flooring and woodworking projects. The color, grain pattern, hardness and luster of many imported woods differ from those of American hardwoods.

Visit the Species Comparison Guide to determine what woods would best suit your project needs.

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