Wood Encyclopedia

A brain for grain.

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Douglas Fir

Douglas fir is plentiful and dimensionally stable. While all lumber benefits from some degree of “seasoning,” i.e. letting it adjust to the humidity conditions of its surrounding atmosphere before it’s installed, Douglas fir seasons well in position and can be cut, nailed and fastened in “green” then allowed to air dry during construction.

Office with douglas fir furniture
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Uses

Designers appreciate the rich visual quality of Douglas fir texture and grain as well as its response to fine craftsmanship and finishing. Douglas fir’s strength, beauty and old-fashioned toughness are all prime reasons for choosing this long-lasting wood for flooring. Additionally, Douglas fir has an excellent performance record when used in exposed applications for exterior trim without ground contact.

Appearance

Douglas fir’s light rosy color is set off by its straight and handsome grain pattern and will “redden” over time when exposed to light. It is also tight knotted and close-grained, adding the bonus of beauty to its structural capabilities.

Sustainability

Douglas fir timberlands are the most productive softwood timberlands in the U.S in terms of volume per acre. There are approximately 34.6 million acres of Douglas fir managed primarily in natural stands, on long rotations. Douglas fir, along with the species combination of Douglas fir, and Western Larch account for more than 55 percent of all Western softwood produced annually.

Eastern White Pine

Eastern white pine offers a uniform texture, shapes easily, stays true to form, and holds finishes extremely well.

Kitchen and sun room with white pine floor and ceiling
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Uses

Design applications for eastern white pine include interior walls, ceilings, floors, millwork, and furniture, in addition to exterior siding.

Appearance

This wood species has a fine grain and offers designers an endless variety of looks. Eastern white pine heartwood is light brown, occasionally having a light reddish tone. Its sapwood is pale yellow to almost white. This wood’s color tends to darken with age.

Sustainability

The species played a significant role in the early beginnings of the U.S. as the primary building material for all things during the growth of the American colonies in the 1600s.

Eastern white pine is adept at naturally reproducing itself. In fact, today, the total forested acreage in New England is greater than it was in the 1930s, thanks to its regeneration ability and smart sustainable management practices implemented by the forest industry in the Northeast. It continues to create a sustainable forest products resource for future generations.

Hem-Fir

The hem-fir species combination is one of the most important in the western region, second only to the Douglas fir-larch species group for abundance, production volume, strength and versatility.

Kitchen with hem fir paneling on walls and ceiling
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Uses

In products graded for appearance, wood-savvy architects and designers often choose hem-fir for trim, fascia, paneling, molding and millwork, as well as for exposed wood ceilings. Hem-fir is also useful for a multitude of general-purpose framing applications and is capable of meeting the span requirements of many installations.

Appearance

Hem-fir lumber is light and bright in color, varying from a creamy, nearly-white to a light, straw-brown color. It can be as light or lighter in color than some of the western pines and is often considered, by those seeking a strong wood with a very light color, as a desirable western softwood.

Sustainability

Hem-fir is abundant in managed forests, and accounts for 28 percent of western lumber production annually. It is estimated there are more than 380 billion board feet of hem-fir saw timber on the managed timberlands of the Western region.

Ponderosa Pine

Ponderosa pine can be treated for above ground or in-ground contact, and it can be pressure treated for in-ground use without perforating the wood. The waterborne preservatives leave a clean, dry, odorless surface ready to be painted or stained.

Kitchen with ponderosa pine cabinets
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Uses

Ponderosa pine is prized for paneling, molding and doors, windows, frames and drawers where durability under movement is essential.

Appearance

Ponderosa pine has a small amount of reddish-brown heartwood and exceptionally wide sapwood that is honey-toned or straw-like in color. It has a straight, uniform grain, which machines to a clear, smooth surface. Ponderosa pine is often specified when appearance is of primary importance.

Sustainability

Ponderosa pine is one of America’s most abundant tree species, covering approximately 27 million acres of land. Trees can be found from Canada to Mexico and from the Pacific Coast eastward to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Its growth range covers an area encompassing more than 35 percent of the total acreage of the U.S. Ponderosa pine forests are usually selectively harvested rather than clear cut. This method of logging removes only the mature trees and leaves the other trees to re-seed and mature.

Pressure Treated Wood

Pressure-treated wood is wood that has been treated with preservatives. This protects wood from insects and decay and is ideal for projects where wood is exposed to the elements or excessive moisture. Wood preservatives are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency for their safe use.

A wooden deck with wooden rails in a backyard space
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Pressure-treated wood is labeled for above ground or ground contact. When you purchase pressure-treated lumber, be sure to let the salesperson know your intended use so they can recommend the best product for your project.

Common sense safety practices apply when working with any building material. When working with treated wood, it’s important to wear a dust mask, eye protection and gloves. Dispose of treated wood scraps using normal trash collection methods; do not burn treated wood.

Pressure-treated softwood lumber includes Southern Pine, Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir and Hem-Fir.

Learn more:

Pressure-Treated Wood Decking vs. Composites

There are numerous life cycle assessments and studies on the environmental impacts associated with the national production, use, and disposal of treated lumber decking, especially when compared with non-lumber alternatives. The results for treated wood decking are significant:

  • Less Energy and Resource Use: Treated wood decking requires less total energy, less fossil fuel and less water to produce than composite decking.
  • Lower Environmental Impacts: Treated wood decking has lower environmental impacts in comparison to composite decking when all five of the impact indicator categories are considered.
  • Less Fossil Fuel Use: The fossil fuel footprint of a treated wood deck is equivalent to driving a car 38 miles/year. In comparison, the fossil fuel footprint of a plastic composite deck is equivalent to driving a car 540 miles/year.

Download our guide on Pressure-Treated Wood: Common Misuses & Related Best Practices

Redwood

Redwood heartwood provides resistance to decay from fungus and damage from insect attack. The cinnamon-colored heartwood provides decay resistance throughout the lumber, not just on the surface.

Redwood privacy screen on fenced in deck
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Uses

For exterior projects, redwood decking, siding and trim complement most other building materials. The rich beauty of redwood interior paneling provides an atmosphere of warmth and luxury for the interior of any home. Fine-grained redwood’s excellent workability makes it an ideal material for highly detailed patterns, molding and cabinetry.

Appearance

Redwood beauty is typified by rich cinnamon-colored heartwood, cream-colored sapwood, distinctive grain and performance that keep projects looking good for years.

Sustainability

Four of every five acres of commercial redwood forest are now independently certified as well managed and harvested on a sustainable basis. The major redwood lumber mills and landowners have completed independent third-party certification of their redwood forestlands. As a result, over 1 million acres, or approximately 80 percent of the available redwood commercial forest, are certified under one of the two most widely recognized certification programs: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program.

Southern Pine

Southern pine lumber features excellent fastener-holding ability, providing framing components with strong connections. Its inherent strength contributes to long, clear spans that reduce the need for intermediate columns and load-bearing walls. Using today’s design technology, creative roof and ceiling styles are possible using southern pine.

Southern pine wood floors in dining room
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Uses

Using southern pine lumber for a raised wood floor foundation simplifies construction on sloping lots or in flood-prone areas, when compared with slab-on-grade construction. Southern pine is often pressure treated for outdoor use in decks and other structures, like gazebos, docks and piers.

Appearance

With its distinctive grain pattern, southern pine complements any décor, adding character, elegance, warmth and beauty.

Sustainability

Southern pine forests are some of the most productive and sustainable timberlands in the world, capturing large amounts of carbon from the air and storing it in lumber used every day. Southern pine is grown and manufactured from East Texas through Virginia, further improving local economies, reducing transportation costs and minimizing impacts on the environment.

Southern pine is America’s first lumber, used since Colonial times. Prudent forest management practices have kept America supplied with this quality building material for generations.

Spruce Pine-Fir

The spruce-pine-fir (SPF) grouping includes species such as balsam fir, red pine, red spruce, black spruce, Engelmann spruce, and lodgepole pine. Lumber manufactured from these species is commonly found in building supply stores throughout the U.S., identified on the grade stamp as either S-P-F or SPFs.

House frame built with spruce pine fir
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Uses

It is manufactured into 2×4, 2×6, and 2×8 products, which are used in the framing of homes as wall studs, roof rafters, and floor and ceiling joists. However, some of the grouping’s species are sawn into beams and used for both appearance and structural purposes in timber frame type construction.

Appearance

Given its typical end-use application as framing material, the grades of lumber produced from spruce-pine-fir species are based upon strength-reducing characteristics and not for appearance-grade type uses. Material sawn from these species have a wide variety of colors and textures.

Sustainability

The spruce-pine-fir species are abundantly grown within the vast forested areas of the northern U.S. and much of Canada. Smart forest regeneration practices coupled with the prolific self-seeding nature of the species ensure their sustainability as a construction material for generations.

Western Red Cedar

Western red cedar is pitch and resin-free, which means it’s ideal for accepting and holding a wide range of beautiful finishes including dark stains, shabby chic bleaches, traditional solid colors and naturally beautiful semi-transparents.

Living room with western red cedar ceiling and framing
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Uses

While the most popular uses of cedar are decking, siding and outdoor structures, such as pergolas and gazebos, you can enhance the beauty and elegance of your home with cedar molding, windows, doors, posts, beams, paneling, interior projects like feature walls, saunas, and almost anything else you dream up. And the natural compounds that give this wood its fine scent also make it resistant to rot, decay and insect attacks, so it’s low maintenance.

Appearance

Cedar complements any architectural design – from turn-of-the-century to contemporary. It has richly textured grain with colors ranging from mellow ambers to reddish cinnamons and rich sienna browns. Its warm coloring is complemented by a uniform, fine-grained texture with a satin luster.

Sustainability

Western red cedar is renewable, recyclable, biodegradable and harvested from some of the most sustainably managed forests in the world. Cedar species readily propagate, though in recent years there has been a strong emphasis on planting. An average of 8.0 million seedlings are planted each year on the coast, where cedar thrives. Western red cedar is considered a desirable tree species for reforestation due to low numbers of insect pests, tolerance to wet soils and flooding and shade tolerance.

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