The benefits of building with wood range from its natural beauty and structural versatility to a capacity to be uniquely crafted.
Q: What are the benefits of working with wood as opposed to manufactured materials?
A: Over the past few decades, there has been a dramatic increase in the variety of building materials available. Smaller, harvestable timber from managed forests along with technological innovation in the building materials arena have driven the use of pre-manufactured, laminated and composite materials in modern homes. This development ensures today’s builders will have access to both manmade products as well as the timeless resource of wood from sustainably grown forests.
Environmental benefits. Wood offers significant environmental benefits as the only building material that is natural, endlessly renewable, recyclable and compostable. Wood is the best way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere because the source of wood fiber is almost entirely composed of this heat-retaining gas. Wood is also the only major building material that biodegrades in a relatively short period.
In today’s lumber processing plant, every portion of the tree is put to good use: solid wood for lumber, veneer for plywood or laminated veneer lumber, chips for oriented strand board (panels and truss webbing), sawdust for paper and chemicals, bark for landscapes, and remnants for generating electricity to run the plant and replenish the grid.
Structural benefits. The structural attributes of wood have been clearly demonstrated by the variety of ways tradespeople have used it throughout the centuries. From delicate, hand-carved instruments made hundreds of years ago that retain their ornate design to this day, to the versatility of plywood and the way it’s incorporated in homes, wood has earned its place as a key structural element in modern construction.
Wood continues to be prominently featured as cabinets, interior and exterior moulding, and laminated beams, and can be easily fastened using nails, screws, glue or bolts.
Aesthetic benefits. The visual appeal of wood inspires people to adorn their homes with this natural product. The welcoming shapes, grain patterns, textures and colors lend themselves to artistic use. When wood is enhanced with oils and stains, it becomes an even better candidate for a home’s central features, such as staircases, railings, paneling, and cabinets.
Look at Seattle’s historic homes, where craftsmen have rebuilt wood-framed windows that were made 100 years ago. It will be another 100 years before anyone needs to rebuild those windows again. Will the man-made products we put into our homes last 100 years? After that same span of time, will those manmade products still be available for an exact replacement, and will they be reusable?
The benefits of building with wood seem endless, from its natural beauty to structural versatility, stability and capacity to be uniquely crafted. Given our experience working with wood, the advantages and appeal simply cannot be replicated by manmade materials.
Daniel Westbrook is the founder and owner of Westbrook Restorations and Mike Dunn is the president and CEO of Dunn Lumber. Both are members of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, and HomeWork is the group’s weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBA’s more than 2,800 members, write to email@example.com.