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  • Uses for Vertical Grain and Mixed Grain Douglas Fir

    Posted on April 25, 2012 by nell

    You don’t use a fork to eat ice cream.

    You don’t use bowling shoes for ballet.

    And you don’t use mixed grain Douglas fir when vertical grain is what you need.

    These two types of lumber are both cut from the same Northwest-grown conifers, but they’re processed differently and best suited for different uses.

    Vertical grain Doug fir is sawn perpendicular to the growth rings of the tree. This means that if you are looking at a piece of vertical grain wood, you’ll be able to see the lumber’s tight growth rings in straight lines running vertically up and down the face of the wood. Vertical grain offers more consistent coloring, and is a more stable and durable product. That’s because when it expands and contracts naturally in response to natural moisture in the air, it does so evenly throughout the board--no warping, twisting or buckling.

    Mixed grain, on the other hand, is just what it sounds like--a mixed parcel of wood. When you order mixed grain from your lumber supplier, some of the boards in your allotment will be vertical grain. Others will be what’s called cathedral grain or flat grain. These logs were run through the saw parallel to the tree’s growth rings. When you look at a flat grain board, you’ll see a wider, wavier grain pattern. There’s a more visible light to dark variation. And while it’s still tough, it’s not generally considered as stable or as durable as clear vertical grain.

    For some things, we highly recommend using nothing less than vertical grain. When you need something with the highest durability available, such as flooring, decking, or exterior siding--or anything that needs to stand up to the elements or to heavy wear--vertical grain Douglas fir is your best bet. Vertical grain Douglas fir is also the wood of choice when you need the specific clear, consistent look of this beautiful, natural product.

    However, there are many times where mixed grain Douglas fir might be perfect for your building project. Not only does it offer a more varied look, it’s also more economical and still a durable type of lumber. For indoor paneling or trim, mixed grain Douglas fir provides an excellent product with a slightly different look than vertical grain. Rather than vertical grain’s subtle pattern, mixed grain can offer a more rustic look. AltruFir’s mixed grain reclaimed Douglas fir paneling features beautiful variation in color, from deepest brown to pale gold. The occasional knot and nail hole add to the antique look.

    Because sometimes, worn-in is exactly the look you want, whether it’s for paneling, trim, or even the floor. If you’re building a mountain cabin, you don’t want a polished, pristine surface. You want your wood to develop a natural patina, and mixed grain lumber will more easily acquire that well-loved, antique look.

    Mixed grain is also the builder’s material of choice for structural or dimensional lumber. According to the Western Wood Products Association, Douglas fir has a superior strength-to weight ratio, it holds nails in place well,  and it has high strength ratings when compared to other Western softwoods. It’s the leading structural building material in the country.

    All that high demand building material--which will eventually be hidden behind sheetrock--is generally mixed grain Douglas fir. It’s sturdy, it holds nails and screws well, and it doesn’t splinter or crack. And when you’re talking about framing material that won’t be exposed to the elements, mixed grain is the perfect choice--quality and economy combined.

    After all, just think about it:

    You don’t put ketchup on caviar.

    You don’t go skiing in your scuba gear.

    And there’s no reason to choose vertical grain Douglas fir when sometimes mixed grain Douglas fir is the product you really want for the job.

    By Jennifer Rouse

    This post was posted in Douglas Fir Flooring, Douglas Fir Trim, Douglas Fir Paneling and was tagged with Douglas-fir, douglas fir paneling, mixed grain doug fir, vertical grain doug fir, doug fir, uses for vertical grain doug fir, uses for mixed grain doug fir, vertical grain, mixed grain, mixed grain reclaimed douglas fir paneling, reclained douglas fir paneling, mixed grain douglas fir paneling, patina, western wood products association

  • Altrufir Provides Douglas Fir for a Beautiful State Park Renovation

    Posted on August 25, 2011 by nell

    Beautiful new Douglas Fir Floors

    Russ Hendricks, Maintenance Manager at Fort Worden State Park on the Olympic Peninsula, is very happy with the recent renovation at one of the park's many historic buildings. Altrufir is overjoyed that our Douglas fir flooringwas an integral part of that renovation.

    Douglas Fir Floors at Fort Worden State Park.

    Russ called us this spring looking for a suitable replacement for the old growth Douglas fir material used when the historic park structure was originally built. "Replacing historic Douglas fir is our specialty!" we told him. And a few weeks later we shipped the material to him. Despite a brief moment when he thought he might need just a smidge more material, the floor installation went off without a hitch. And Russ was very satisfied at how beautiful the floor looked.

    Nice picture of the natural variation in Douglas fir.

    Recently, Russ sent us pictures of the completed project and we think they are mighty nice. We like seeing how good the material looks. The natural beauty of vertical grain Douglas firis on full display, including occasional small knots, color variation, and short pitch streaks.

    We're so proud to have taken part in restoring this piece of the Pacific Northwest's history. What can we do for you?


    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, History and Interest and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, clear vertical grain, douglas fir restoration

  • Facing Cupping and Warping in Douglas Fir

    Posted on April 13, 2011 by nell

    Douglas-fir gets along with just about everybody. Builders rely on Douglas fir lumber for its stability and performance. Homeowners love its warm glow and natural charm. Mother nature respects it for standing its ground. The Douglas-fir is a popular tree because it produces a super likeable product. But, as much as we boast about this treasured tree, we also know that the Douglas fir isn’t fail safe. No wood is. And, we’re okay with that. We want you to be too. So, bear with us as we confront the sometimes disagreeable side of Douglas fir: cupping and warping.

    What is it?

    Both cupping and warping are a distortion of wood. The difference, however, is in the type distortion. Cupping happens when the sides of the wood curve up or down. In this case, you’re left with wood that cups from side to side, or its width. Warping, on the other hand, is when the board bends from end to end and causing its length to bow.

    What causes it?

    Cupping is caused by a moisture imbalance which is common in wet humid environment like the Northwest. In other words, the moisture makes the wood expand. When wood is exposed to water it compresses and leaves it uneven over time. Basically, the wood is wetter in the center than on its edges.

    Warping is also caused from a moisture imbalance but usually happens when the wood is no longer attached to its structure. In other words, it’s no longer tied down, under the influence of H2O, and free to do whatever it wants.

    Cupping and warping happens more often on wide plank flooring. Basically, there’s more space and opportunity for the wood to move across a wide plank. With Douglas fir, or any wood flooring, the wider the plank, the less stable the wood.

    How to detect it?

    It’s not a pretty picture, but let’s say you’ve got a Douglas fir floor which has developed an unpleasant “smile” over time that catches your toes as you walk around the house. Is it intentional? Well, sort of. The floor has a moisture imbalance, and the wood just isn’t all there; it’s wetter at the bottom than on the top. Water somehow found its way through to its grain. Is it too late? Well, let’s take some steps to find out.

    Step 1 – Find the moisture source. It could be a leak from behind the bathroom sink. Or, if outside, it could be rainwater runoff hitting the deck steps from a faulty gutter.

    Step 2 – Get rid of the moisture source. Tighten up that tiny water hose behind the pedestal sink or replace it all together. Or you’ll need to replace that faulty gutter and keep on it.

    Step 3 – Now it’s up to your flooring. Once the moisture is gone or controlled, the wood may dry up on its own and go back to being more or less flat. We’d like to add that Douglas fir is great at doing this – it’s a reactive wood species and does a great job adapting to its environment. Either way, an air fan can help speed up the drying time.

    When the wood’s moisture content is stabilized, either through moisture-testing or naturally flattening out, decide on your next step. You can leave the wood be, refinish it, or replace it. With any of the above make a conscious effort to keep an eye on it just in case that moisture creeps back.

    How to prevent it the first time around?

    Acclimate the wood prior to installation. It’s true that Douglas fir does a darn good job of retaining its shape and size which helps against cupping and warping. But, acclimatization is essential – it’s the number one step to ensuring your wood is in harmony with its new environment.

    There are two more things that play a role in how your wood performs. Consider these when selecting the type and grade of your Douglas fir to minimize the likelihood of warping and cupping:

    Opt for kiln-dried lumber. This process quickly removes excess moisture evenly from the wood in a controlled environment whereas air-dried lumber takes much longer to dry. Kiln-dried Douglas fir is your best bet to ensure optimal acclimatization prior to installation – its moisture content is stabilized during the process and so you’re left with a wood ready to install in your home after a week of acclimatization.

    Vertical grain Douglas fir is harder and more stable than mixed grain. Not many types of wood present the beautiful tight vertical grain Douglas fir does. Over time, the tight grain will perform better than the mixed grain, but either grain will last for 50-100 years depending on how well the floor is maintained. Items such as paneling are typically sold in a mixed grain as it does not have to take the wear and tear that flooring does.

    Last words

    1. Use a dehumidifier to control humidity levels in your home.
    2. Use minimal to no water to clean wood, especially flooring.
    3. Use a floor care kit with products recommended for your wood species.
    4. We’ve heard through the grapevine that adding water to a distorted board or bending it back by force reverses the damage. Don’t believe the hype. You’ll end up more frustrated than before.

    - Nicole Morales

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, Care & Maintenance and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, cupping, warping, cupping floors, warping floors

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