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Douglas Fir Flooring Blog

  • Douglas Fir Wood Issues: What are common flaws found in Douglas fir?

    Posted on October 12, 2011 by Nicole

    Douglas fir is a fine product that produces fine results. So fine that people forget that it is a natural product harvested from the earth. Just like Mother Nature, fir isn’t perfect – it’s got issues. Issues!?! Yup, of the wood variety.

    If you’ve been browsing before and after photos online of flooring jobs, thumbing through renovation magazines, or stepping inside showrooms, you don’t see the flaws and might expect that same ‘homogenized’ appearance in your future wood project. Again, keep in mind that wood is a natural product and natural variances may be present in your future wood order. But, if you know what questions to ask your lumber vendor and if you know what to look for, you’ll be that much more forgiving of natural wood. Your AltruFir crew is happy to give you a heads-up on the answers to these wood issue questions.

    3/4" knot

    What are some Douglas fir flaws I should know about?

    They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This adage applies to Doug fir too. Its natural characteristics of say, small knots, may be beautiful to one homeowner and unsightly to next. Common characteristics or “flaws” found in fir are also found in other wood species. These characteristics influence the grade of wood. We would like to illustrate the issues that might be found in our C and better grade CVG Douglas fir:

    2" pitch streak

    • Occasional knots no larger than ¾” in diameter.
    • Occasional pitch streaks of 1”-2”, a narrow indentation filled with resin.
    • Slight torn grain, which occurs when the blade used to mill the material has become dull. This will be the least likely to appear in your bundle.

    We should mention that these flaws are small, cosmetic, and do not affect the wood’s performance in end-use projects, such as flooring, paneling, and trim & moulding. There are some folks who would be just as happy to leave the flaws in their flooring to show the natural character of the material. Others are stylistically inclined to want only the clear grain material. For those, we suggest cutting out knots, pitch streaks and torn grain. Though we pull most torn grain material, there might still be some in the bundle. Indeed, much of the pitch streaks and torn grain will disappear with sanding.

    Torn grain

    We’ve said it before and we’re happy to say it again: Douglas fir is the strongest softwood around. It’s dimensionally stable, naturally moisture resistant, and gets heartier and harder as it ages.

    What can I do to minimize Douglas fir flaws in my wood order?

    If you’re looking for fir with minimal flaws, we suggest you do the following to ensure that what you want is what you get:

    • Place only one order for one project through one vendor.
    • “C and better” material can be sorted to minimize flaws. Ask us about sorting for the least flaws and tightest grain.
    • Calculate an additional 10% overage of the total square footage you’ll need for the project. For more information on overage read "Taking Measure of Your Douglas Fir."
    • Inspect the wood on delivery, making sure it has overall appearance you want, while remembering that it is a natural and not engineered product.

    Remembering that Old Fir is not without its flaws will help you achieve the aesthetic you’re after for your flooring, paneling, and porch decking. Seize the fir for you!

    - Nicole Morales

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, Douglas Fir Trim, Care & Maintenance, Douglas Fir Paneling and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir trim, douglas fir paneling, douglas fir flaws, wood flaws

  • Reclaimed Douglas Fir Round-Up

    Posted on September 28, 2011 by Jennifer

    Everyone knows that wisdom comes with age—but sometimes, beauty does too. When it comes to choosing building materials, many homeowners, interior designers and architects are now turning to reclaimed Douglas fir when they want to create a unique look that can’t be duplicated with new materials.

    Reclaimed Douglas Fir beams.

    Using reclaimed Douglas fir is good for the environment—rather than clogging a landfill with old boards, when old buildings are dismantled, the usable materials can be given new life in a new home. And while environmental concerns play into the decision to use reclaimed materials, that’s not the entire story. Designers are choosing reclaimed Douglas fir because its unique blend of durability and beauty only improves with age. Creative designers across North America are featuring reclaimed Douglas fir in new and innovative ways.

    In Lake Tahoe, architect Dennis E. Zirbel found that reclaimed Douglas fir was the perfect choice for the interior of a remodeled cabin. According the Tahoe Daily Tribune, the interior of the home previously incorporated modern styling that didn’t match the home’s vintage wooden exterior. By using natural materials like granite and Douglas fir, Zirbel brought back a rustic mountain feeling with the re-model. The home’s gorgeous vaulted ceiling with exposed beams and rafters is made entirely of reclaimed Douglas fir. Wainscoting and built-in cabinets also feature the weathered material. By using reclaimed wood, with the patina that has built up from years of use, designers can create a cozy, vintage feeling instantly.

    In Berkeley, reclaimed Douglas fir provides warmth and history to a new, top-of-the-line concert venue. The Freight and Salvage organization, a folk music institution born in the 1960s, is known for its history of performances in gritty urban warehouses. The new project, a performance hall built on the site of two auto repair shops, successfully marries that gritty feel with the latest in acoustic technology, largely by its use of reclaimed Douglas fir from the garages.

    ArchDaily reports that the salvaged Douglas fir was repurposed as wall slats for the auditorium and lobby of the new venue. The old boards were adapted to enhance the acoustics of the space, while their weathered patina fits in perfectly with the Freight and Salvage’s tradition of informal, blue-collar settings. The dramatic floor-to-ceiling lines of the Douglas fir wall slats give a feeling of warmth and authenticity to the new, tripled-capacity performance hall that brand-new materials would not impart.

    The rustic, weathered look isn’t the only design possibility for reclaimed Douglas fir, though, as architect Omer Arbel shows in his 23.2 house, a striking modern home outside Vancouver, Canada.

    In Arbel’s creation, Douglas fir beams reclaimed from burned-down warehouses were the inspiration for the house. The huge beams, up to 65 feet long and 35 inches deep, were of different lengths and cross-sectional dimensions. According to Arbel’s website, the design team decided to treat the beams as “sacred artifacts”—he didn’t want to manipulate them or finish them in any way. To accommodate the mismatched dimensions of the Douglas fir beams, Arbel created a triangular roof system that melts into the sloping landscape surrounding the house.

    The 23.2 house features a mixture of materials and angles. Steel columns, huge glass windows and doors, and warm-toned Douglas fir coupled with the angular structure make for a stunning home with a distinctly contemporary feel, a stark contrast to the rustic Tahoe cabin and the urban Freight and Salvage performance hall. The 23.2 house was recently featured in the design publication Inhabitat and was on the short list for the 2011 World Architecture Festival’s recognized homes.

    And for a smaller reclaimed Douglas fir project that can only be described as whimsical, look to a high-end treehouse in Southampton, N.Y. The Lake Nest Treehouse, designed by Roderick Romero of Romero Studios. Featured on parenting website Babble.com, the Lake Nest treehouse features large, rugged Douglas fir doors, perfect for giving children the sense that they are opening a door to another realm. The vines and driftwood nestled around the 100-percent reclaimed Douglas fir structure enhance the nest-like look of the project.

    No matter what feeling you want to create your building project, beautiful Douglas fir flooring, paneling and beams are an investment that will stand the test of time in your home—and perhaps one day in someone else’s home as well.

    - Jennifer Rouse

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, Douglas Fir Trim, Douglas Fir Paneling and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir paneling, reclaimed douglas fir

  • Douglas Fir Paneling: Making your choice

    Posted on September 9, 2011 by Nicole

    This is Pat.

    Meet Pat. He’s a Chinese-food-loving, ‘Wind of Change’ singing, Ironman-respecting wood pro. In other words, Patrick Monaghan is a down-to-earth guy who knows a thing or two about that hard fibrous stuff you find under bark. He’s the president of and a salesman at Altrufir, a small staff of people who want the best for you when it comes to your Douglas fir needs. On this day, he’s going to expound on Douglas fir paneling, a new product offered on our website.

    On the job
    I do the general everyday running of the company. I’ll also do sales. I’m on the phone talking with people, talking with the mills, finding the best quality and best prices. I also keep track of what kinds of products come from different mills, which is important for our company. What we’re looking for is clear vertical grain Douglas fir. We want lumber from slow-growth trees because that’s the wood that is both beautiful and durable. In a nutshell, we’re simplifying the sourcing and buying of wood on the web. We want to make it easier for the consumer, a one-stop-shop really.

    On Douglas fir
    Douglas fir has all kinds of different names like Oregon Pine, All Vertical Grain, VG Doug fir, and CVG. It’s a richer color than hemlock or spruce which are bland or flat-looking. Doug fir is a more durable wood, it holds nails really well, it’s long-lasting, and it’s plentiful – there’s a lot in the Northwest.

    Tight vertical grain Douglas fir bead board in 6" width.

    On paneling profiles
    Basically, paneling is used for spaces like kitchen walls, outside porch soffits, and decks. It creates a warmer, richer look than your standard drywall. Paneling comes standard in 4” or 6” profiles (net 3 1/8” or 5 1/8” face) with a tongue that isn’t exposed when installed. And the design can either be flat or beaded. Our paneling is CVG Doug fir or clear vertical grain which works well for people looking for a natural finish to their paneling.

    Both the 4” and 6” profile are available in tight, standard, or mixed grain. And they’re installed similarity onto the wall or ceiling.

    On paneling grades
    Usually the wood material is graded which helps to evaluate the quality of the lumber. Things that go into grade consideration are the number of knots and blemishes on the board. Old growth Douglas fir has a very tight grain, what we call clear vertical grain or CVG. Because of the tightness of the grain, it’s less likely to cup and warp over the long haul.

    The other type of paneling grade is mixed or flat. This grade has a wavy grain appearance. Mixed grain paneling is sold standard in 4” profile. Since the grain isn’t as tight, it’s best to use 4” profile is less likely to cup or warp than 6”.

    On cost
    Generally speaking, the 4” is less expensive than the 6” standard profile. But, the consumer has a couple of things to consider. Opt for the mixed or flat grain profile if it’s going to be painted. Since the grain will be covered, it’s more cost-effective. If going for a clean natural finish, use vertical grain. But keep in mind, that it’ll cost more because of its grade and how it is cut.

    And then there’s the environment. Where will the paneling be installed, outside where it’s wet all the time, inside a bathroom, or in an office? Though the up-front costs may be higher for a higher grade, it may save the consumer not having to replace lower grade paneling that likely won’t last as long. This is true especially if it will be exposed to the elements.

    Sometimes consumers want a custom profile instead of the standard 4” or 6” cuts. This is doable, but it does cost more. You might spend $300 or so for the machine setup and another $50 or more for the extra cutting blades. A custom job only makes sense for larger projects. Smaller projects can be custom-run, but anything custom will require a set-up fee.

    On finish
    From the finish standpoint, it’s better to do this first before installing the paneling. It’s messier and way harder to do a careful and thorough job when the paneling has already been installed.

    Thanks Pat! You’ve been a big help and you’re just a phone call away if we’ve got more questions. In the meantime, enjoy that little box of Kung Pao and turn up the Scorps.

    - Nicole Morales

    This post was posted in All Entries, Care & Maintenance, Douglas Fir Paneling and was tagged with douglas fir paneling, douglas fir grades, wood grades

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