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Douglas Fir Flooring Blog

  • Douglas Fir Trim: Seasoning the Room

    Posted on April 8, 2011 by nell

    Did you know that AltruFir sells more than Douglas fir flooring? Indeed we do, and one of those additional products is Douglas fir trim.

    Adding quality Douglas fir trim and joinery to a room is like adding the perfect seasoning to a gourmet meal—when it’s done right, it provides a tasteful accent that plays up the flavor already there in the rest of your home.

    The terms “trim” and “joinery” refer to all those little accents around the edges of your home that add to the overall look without taking center stage themselves. Things like a mantelpiece over the fireplace, moldings and baseboards along the top and bottom of the walls, casings around the windows and doors, even the doors themselves—they make a room seem complete.

    douglas fir trim

    Douglas fir trim (1x4) available on our site.

    When you’re selecting a material for those elements, you need something durable, attractive, and adaptable. Good trim and joinery needs to stand the test of time, enduring throughout years of use and the whimsies of passing styles.

    Lucky for you, we have a material that fits the bill: the naturally beautiful but tough Douglas fir.

    First let’s talk about appearance. Trim ought to enhance a room without overwhelming it. Douglas fir’s natural color is a rich, warm shade with a rosy tint and a very straight grain pattern. Depending on the way the wood has been cut, you can find Douglas fir trim that showcases either the flat grain, which has a wider light to dark pattern and slightly more contrast, or the vertical grain, with a clean, straight-lined grain pattern and consistent color.

    The process that wood goes through when it’s being transformed from a rough, bark-covered tree into smooth, precision-made components for your home is called milling or machining. Craftsmen use specialized machinery to cut and plane the raw wood into boards of very specific sizes and shapes, in the process smoothing and shaping it. When Douglas fir is machined, it creates a very smooth, glossy surface on the wood that’s perfect for trim.

    Douglas fir is also a very adaptable wood—it will look good no matter what you decide to do with the rest of your room. Do you like the simplicity of Douglas fir in its natural color? A clear coating that showcases the wood’s beauty works well. If you want to stain it to complement furniture or fit with a specific color scheme, Douglas fir also stains well, accepting bright or subtle stains and tints. Want to change the color of your trim entirely? The smooth surface of Douglas fir is also easy to paint or enamel.

    If you walk the hillsides of the Pacific Northwest, you’ll see Douglas-fir growing in its natural habitat. And you may notice, if you come across a grove in which these trees have been growing for 10, 20, or more years, (these giants have been known to reach 330 feet in height and to live more than 1,000 years) that most of the Douglas-fir’s limbs are high out of reach, concentrated on the upper portion of the trunk, with long stretches of towering, limb-free trunk. That’s because Douglas-firs are a shade-intolerant species, self-pruning their lower limbs and reaching up for the sun. What does that mean for the woodwork in your home? It means Douglas-fir trees produce long expanses of straight, knot-free growth with consistent fibers.

    That’s important, because when you’re talking about trim, you need to select something with durability. Can you trust that the wood trim you install today is still going to look great five, 10, or 15 years from now? Or will you install it only to be surprised when your trim is exposed to variations in temperature and moisture and those nice, straight planks start to shrink and warp?

    The straight, tough fibers found in Douglas-fir hold fasteners extremely well, so you won’t have to worry about your woodwork literally coming apart at the seams. Douglas fir trim won’t crack or separate, and it’s great even for very high-traffic uses, like stairs, baseboards, and doors.

    In fact, although Douglas-fir is technically a softwood, that doesn’t mean it’s wimpy. It’s the hardest of all the softwoods, with a rating of 660 on the Janka hardness scale. Douglas fir products, even those that get a repeated pounding, like floors, are known to last 100 years or more.

    Douglas-fir is also unique among softwoods in a property called dimensional stability. That means it doesn’t shrink or twist as it dries. For precision products like trim and joinery, the wood is dried in temperature and humidity-controlled kilns until it reaches a certain moisture level. Kiln-dried Douglas fir is a very stable wood that will remain the same size and shape without warping, cupping, or otherwise wiggling itself away from the duties you have planned for it. If only you could count on the other members of your family to do their job that reliably—and look as good as Douglas fir while doing it.

    - Jennifer Rouse

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Trim and was tagged with Douglas-fir, douglas fir trim, wood trim

  • Kiln Drying Douglas Fir: An Essential Process

    Posted on April 5, 2011 by nell

    One of the greatest concerns in using Douglas fir for construction (and especially flooring) is the moisture content of the lumber. Wood can absorb and secrete moisture depending on its environment. For Douglas fir used in wood flooring, controlling the shrinking and expanding of planks is essential, which is why flooring should always be acclimatized before it is installed. If the planks swell too much, they can push up against each other or the walls, causing damage to the wood and moulding; if the planks shrivel up, the space between boards expands to the point of creating hazardous gaps in the floor.

    Each variety of lumber has a point of moisture equilibrium – the moisture level at which the wood is most stable (when the vapor pressure within the wood is equal to that of the ambient space above). When left to its own devices Douglas fir, or any lumber, will absorb or evaporate moisture until it reaches its equilibrium. To ensure the durability of the wood, planks should be at equilibrium before being installed.

    This can be problematic, however, when you consider that trees – especially Douglas-firs grown in the lush Pacific Northwest – have incredibly high moisture content at the point of being cut down. Something has to be done to the lumber before it is sold to ensure moisture equilibrium in the final product. Drying is an important step in the process of acclimating wood to a new environment (specifically, drier interior spaces). Drying reduces the moisture in lumber to replicate the future conditions to which the lumber will be exposed. This process can take place out in the open; this is known as air drying.

    There is also a faster, more precise alternative: kiln drying. Kilns for wood drying are typically large spaces with heated coils on the ceiling. Nearby fans redirect the flow of warm air evenly around the room. The heat greatly speeds up the drying process, and the stable environment allows for wind control (an important factor in effectively drying wood). Kiln drying can also be carried out in stages through environmental control, which is ideal for drying the wood at an optimal pace.

    There are other factors to consider in terms of kiln drying. One added benefit of the process is, for salvaged products, that the heat kills insects and their eggs. One drawback is the increased price of a product that has been kiln-dried. However, the benefit of kiln-dried wood is typically great enough to warrant the extra charge. The long-lasting effects of kiln drying – and the money you could save on avoiding frequent refurbishing or replacement of your Douglas fir floors – certainly make the process and the cost worth it in the long run. All of AltruFir’s Douglas fir products are kiln dried to ensure that a more stable product is made available to the consumer.

    - Ian Friedman

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, Douglas Fir Trim, Care & Maintenance and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, kiln dried lumber, kiln dried flooring, kiln drying

  • Taking Measure of Your Douglas Fir: Knowing how much footage you need

    Posted on March 31, 2011 by nell

    You’ve found the Douglas fir flooring or trim that you love. You can imagine exactly how that amber-hued Douglas fir will look installed in your home. But now the time has come to put a number on your infatuation. Exactly how much of this stuff do you need to get, anyway?

    When it comes to ordering flooring, siding or paneling, you’ll most often hear them measured in one of two ways: lineal feet or square feet.

    Lineal Feet

    Measure before installing Douglas fir flooring and trim.

    A lineal foot is a simple measurement of how long something is. That’s it. The width or the thickness of the product in question doesn’t come into play—a lineal foot just deals with length.

    Say, for instance, that you have a rectangular room: 10' wide and 14' long, and you want molding to trim it at the ceiling. Think back to your days in geometry class—what you’re doing here is finding the perimeter. To determine how many lineal feet to buy, you’d simply add up the lengths of all the walls you want to put molding on: 10’ + 14’ + 10’ + 14’ = 48 lineal feet. But not too fast—when you order, you’ll need to get a little bit extra, just in case of mistakes. Or, you might need extra length for mitering the corners. Give yourself a 10% margin of error and order an extra five lineal feet of trim, for a total of 53 lineal feet for your 10’x14’ room.

    Square Feet

    Square feet are little different. Whereas with lineal feet, you’re just measuring the length of something, square footage gets at the area of the space you are measuring. Let’s step back into our rectangular room and once again recall our geometry basics: to find the area, you need to multiply the length times the width. Ten times fourteen gives you a 140-square foot room. As with any installation, you need to order a little extra to account for possible mishaps. Assume you’ve got 140 square feet of floor space, factor in a 10% overage, and you’ll be all set with 154 square feet of flooring.

    Putting them together

    But what happens when that’s not the case? Sometimes, you need to convert between the two measurements. For example, if a product is sold by lineal feet and you only know the square footage.

    In order to do that, you need to know not just how long a board is, but how wide it is on its face. A board that’s 5 1/8” wide and 12” long, for instance, would be one lineal foot, because lineal footage only takes length into account. But to figure out how many square feet that is, you have to factor in the width, too.

    For the board in question, you’d take 12 (the number of inches in a foot) and divide it by the width, which is 5 1/8, or 5.125. The answer is 2.34. That means that in this scenario, with boards of this width, for every square foot, you have 2.34 lineal feet.

    Let’s go back to our hypothetical 140-square foot room. You’re using the 5 1/8 boards, and you know that 2.34 lineal feet of this stuff equals one square foot. Multiply the total area—140—by 2.34, and you wind up with 327.8. In theory, that’s how many one-foot-long and 5 1/8” wide sections of board it would take, laid out end to end, to cover the room.

    So, just in case you find a product that’s measured only in lineal feet, you can be prepared to order like a pro.

    At AltruFir, we try to make things easy on you. Rather than converting from one measurement to the other, we sell our products in the measurement that makes the most sense for the material you want to order. If you’re installing trim, you don’t really need to know the square footage. You’re only putting it around the perimeter of the room, so we sell trim by the lineal foot. When it comes to flooring, you’re not putting it just around the edges of the room. You need to know how much surface area to cover, so we sell flooring by the square foot.

    And if you really want to satisfy your inner math wiz and work out exactly how many lineal feet are in your shipment of square-foot-measured Douglas fir flooring? Now you know how to do that too.

    - Jennifer Rouse

    Photo from aussiegal's photostream at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/14516334@N00/286709039

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, Douglas Fir Trim and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, measuring square footage, measuring lineal footage, measure flooring

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