Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Not All Hardwood Lumber Is Equally Good

So you want to build a hutch or put down wood flooring in the living room. The question is which hardwood lumber is the best for the job. The answer is not difficult if you learn a little about the characteristics of hardwoods and what gives them their unique qualities.

What is Hardwood Lumber?

Hardwood is defined as wood coming from broad leaf trees or those that produce nuts. It is the hickory, oak, Walnut, Maple, and cherry trees that are most popular in North America. This is because the climate is just right for large production of such species of trees. The lumber that is created from these strong trees is given the generic name of “hardwood.”

Not all hardwood is the same. Industry groups have made great strides in standardizing wood by strength and grade. This helps consumers know which are truly the hardest and which are right for specific woodworking jobs.

For example, the hardest of the hardwoods is hickory and Pecan. It is measured by how many pounds of pressure is needed to mar the wood. In the case of these two woods it is approximately 1,820 pounds of pressure before the wood is marred.

On the other end of the hardwood scale is Aspen. It is classified as a hardwood, but requires only 350 pounds of pressure to mar its surface. In between are hard maple at 1,450 pounds and white oak at 1,360 pounds. This give you a comparison of which woods are best for flooring (the harder woods) and which make better material for building furniture. Cherry is just about in the middle of the hardness scale at 950 pounds of pressure to mar.

How Hardwood Can Change

Hardwood contracts and expands depending on temperature and moisture. This is because it tries to adapt to its environment. It was once a living thing and continues to have a life of its own to some degree. In order to minimize the amount of change to wood it is kiln dried to remove much of the moisture and stabilize it. This helps keep the finished wood product truer to the size and shape of when it was manufactured.

Leading manufacturers of hardwood lumber take into account changes in wood and the purpose for which it will be used in designing the lumber. For example, the Windsor plywood is often used as sub-flooring and for exterior wall bases. Dunn, Carter, Lowes, and Siegel lumber all stock their lumber rack with rough cut lumber for any job. Online retailers such as Lumber Liquidators have a huge supply of hardwood lumber mostly for finished flooring applications.

Careful consideration needs to go into the right type of lumber for your hardwood project, but equally as important is the finished look. Many hardwoods vary only slightly in their strength and durability, but as a consumer, you need to decide to you like the grainy look of white oak or the smooth finish of maple. Any type of hardwood lumber can be stained and finished with several colour variations, so look more at grain than colour when choosing what wood looks best to you.

About the Author
Clinton Maxwell repeatedly writes summaries on themes relating to 84 lumber and carter lumber. His articles on hardwood lumber are published on .

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