Have questions?

Call 877-372-9663

RSS Feed

Douglas Fir Flooring Blog

  • Douglas Fir in California Vacation Homes

    Posted on May 3, 2011 by Jennifer

    With summer on the horizon we’re thinking about how Douglas fir is put to use in vacation homes old and new. We’re traveling to California -- in this post and future posts -- to start our adventure. As part of the Douglas-fir’s native habitat, how has its lumber been used in California homes?

    The California landscape, from its majestic mountains to its sandy beaches, has long beckoned vacationers as a perfect getaway destination. And when it comes to building a vacation home, Douglas fir has been a material of choice for California cabins. A native West Coast species that’s both attractive and durable, Douglas fir echoes the best qualities of the California landscape and brings them into the home.

    From the Douglas Fir Plywood Association vacation home catalog.

    For much of America’s history, having two homes—one for daily life and the other solely for vacationing—was feasible only for the wealthy. It wasn’t until the middle of the twentieth century that average Americans began thinking about owning a second home. According to a 2004 article in Old House Journal, “The mid-20th century was the era of the ‘second everything,’ when postwar prosperity made second televisions, second bathrooms, and second cars the just desserts of middle-class American life. Signs at hardware stores and ads in popular magazines took the idea to the next step, declaring, ‘Every family needs two homes!...one for the work-week, one for pure pleasure.’”

    When the idea that vacation homes could be affordable and accessible caught on, Douglas fir was the material many Americans turned to in order to build them. The Douglas Fir Plywood Association was one of the first trade groups to tap into the growing market. In 1958 it issued a book called “Leisure-Time Homes of Fir Plywood” that included plans for five different models of vacation house. The plans relied extensively on use of pre-formed Douglas fir beams and panels, for a streamlined construction method that owners could do themselves. The publisher promised that the simple Douglas fir panels would age well, weathering the home “into a glistening castle of driftwood.”

    Douglas Fir Plywood Association beach house model.

    Author Chad Randi, in an article written for the Society of Architectural Historians, said that these early, modest vacation homes, with their reliance on natural materials like Douglas fir, “exhibited a harmony with nature and blurring of the distinction between interior and exterior through the creative use of glazing and natural, unfinished materials.”

    As the ‘50s moved into the ‘60s, California vacation homes began to get more elaborate. The Sea Ranch, in Sonoma, Calif., is a planned vacation community developed in 1960s by architects Lawrence Halperin, Charles Moore, William Turnbull and Joseph Esherick. The houses were intentionally designed to reflect the natural surroundings of the Northern California coast. They used local lumber mills to supply Douglas-fir and Redwood as the main building materials, and the homes feature unpainted or muted stains on the exterior, allowing the natural materials to blend with the beauty of the landscape. Interiors of the many of the homes also feature floor-to-ceiling vertical Douglas floor paneling as a way to bring the natural world inside. A 2008 article in the New York Times described a visit to the Sea Ranch, calling a Turnbull-designed house featuring Douglas fir interiors “poetry in wood.”

    Now, contemporary Californians are restoring the beauty of some of the mid-century vacation homes that have been neglected over the years. In Encinitas, Calif., stucco and sheetrock had covered up the original Douglas fir of a beach house overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The new owner stripped away the decades of neglect and the house now features exposed Douglas-fir beams and soaring ceilings. The cabinets and walls also feature Douglas-fir, in a deliberate effort to use as many of the original natural building materials as possible, according to a 2010 article in California Home & Design.

    Designers of new vacation homes as well seek to mimic earlier generations’ use of Douglas-fir in new construction, while using reclaimed wood when possible to create a sense of history. A vacation house in Stinson Beach constructed in 2007 features reclaimed Douglas fir on the ceilings—boards that were originally part of the gymnasium at Stanford University, built in 1914 and deconstructed in 2004.

    In 2011, the California Home and Design award for residential architecture went to a mountain home in the Sugar Bowl, one of the oldest of California’s Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts. Hearkening back to early vacation home plans, designer John Maniscalco went for a simple, geometric design with extensive use of native materials—although this modern 3,000-plus square foot house is a far cry from those early do-it-yourself vacation homes. Narrow-planked Douglas fir covers the ceiling and huge windows frame the snowy, pine-dotted hillside surroundings.

    From tiny mountain A-frames to luxurious beachside getaways, Douglas fir continues to be prized by Californians as a material to make vacation homes as beautiful inside as the landscape outside.

    - Jennifer Rouse

    This post was posted in All Entries, History and Interest and was tagged with Douglas-fir, Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, California vacation homes, douglas fir paneling

  • Keep it Green: Is Douglas fir flooring eco-friendly?

    Posted on March 9, 2011 by nell

    Dilemma: you love the look of Douglas fir flooring, but you want to be sure you’re picking a product that’s not harmful to the environment. Do Douglas fir floors fit the bill? Isn’t cutting down trees bad for the planet?

    In truth, there are a lot of factors that go into determining how environmentally-friendly any product is. There are a few things to consider regarding flooring. To start, where does the flooring come from? Carpet, vinyl flooring or engineered wood products might be made of components produced in various locations, shipped to China, assembled in a factory, and then shipped back across the ocean to the U.S. There are a lot of miles built into that product.

    Douglas-fir is native to the Pacific Northwest, where it’s the state tree of Oregon. If you’ve hiked a trail anywhere west of the Rockies, chances are you’ve seen Douglas-fir growing in its native environment.

    Douglas fir trees

    Douglas-fir trees in a native forest.

    Knowing where your wood comes from is important—according to the Forestry Stewardship Council, wood that comes from certain regions—especially Eastern Europe, Latin America, China and Southeast Asia—is often logged illegally, then processed and exported to North America as products like plywood and decking.

    Bamboo and cork, often praised as eco-friendly choices because the plants they come from replenish much more quickly than trees used for other wood floors, lose out to Douglas fir flooring when it comes to the energy used to transport them from their tropical origins to the homes of U.S. consumers.

    Douglas fir flooring sold on this site comes from trees grown in the Northwest, then processed and milled near Portland. There’s very little shipping and manufacturing involved in creating Douglas fir floors—during the whole process, from tree to log to plank, the wood stays within the same region where it was grown.

    When you’re weighing out the environmental pros and cons of a purchase, you also need to think about how long what you’re buying is going to last. You don’t have to be an environmental scientist to realize that a floor that endures for a lifetime is a more sustainable choice than one that needs to be replaced every 1 or 2 decades. Every time a floor is replaced, resources are used in manufacturing, shipping and installation. The average synthetic-fiber carpet will last about 15 years, while a higher-quality wool carpet could last 20-30. A vinyl floor, depending on the quality, can last anywhere from 10-30 years. A Douglas fir floor will last up to 100 years, sometimes more.

    When you buy wood flooring, you know you’ve got a product that will most likely last the lifetime of your house. That one-time purchase is a more economical buy, both for your pocketbook and the environment.

    If at some point a homeowner decides to replace their wood flooring, those boards can then be recycled and used again, sold as reclaimed wood flooring, where they’ll find new life in a new home. Reclaimed wood has seen a huge surge in popularity in recent years, both from folks who love the unique patina of aged wood, and for people who enjoy purchasing wood knowing that no new trees were cut down. Reclaimed Douglas fir floors and timbers are available for homeowners looking for that blend of history and green living that comes with reclaimed wood.

    And if, someday, the boards of a wood floor are simply too worn out to serve any more useful purpose, they will break down naturally over time. If stripped of chemical finishes, boards can be turned into wood chips and toss them into your compost pile.

    Indoor Air Quality
    Many household products contain volatile organic compounds, commonly known as VOCs. A VOC is any substance that contains carbon and readily “off-gases”—or turns into a vapor—at room temperature. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs can have both long and short-term health effects, and VOC levels are often two to five times higher indoors than outdoors. Carpets, vinyl flooring, and other building materials are among the many substances that emit VOCs. Carpet fibers are often coated in chemicals to repel stains or moisture, and the carpet pads they rest on and the adhesives used during installation emit VOCs as well.

    While wood does naturally emit small amounts of formaldehyde, it does so at very low levels. Environmentally-friendly, low-VOC stains and finishes are available for your wood floor, to further reduce the amount of indoor air pollution.

    Carpets are also known to trap dust, dirt, and allergens within their fibers—with a wood floor, a quick sweeping and cleaning removes the dust and allergens from the home. For people with allergies or asthma, having a floor that you know isn’t emitting chemicals or storing pollutants is a literal breath of fresh air.

    Wood, by its very nature, is a green material. It’s non-toxic, recyclable, grows naturally, and it doesn’t take any extra energy to manufacture. While illegal logging and deforestation is a concern worldwide, Douglas fir flooring comes from legally-logged forests that are managed for long-term forest renewability.

    So if making the perfect choice for a green home is weighing on your mind, fret no more. You can have beautiful Douglas fir floors and peace of mind too: they are a responsible choice for maintaining a healthy planet.

    - Jennifer Rouse

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, History and Interest and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, fir flooring, eco-friendly flooring

  • Let’s talk about Doug fir’s Janka hardness

    Posted on February 3, 2011 by nell

    Douglas fir flooring gets called out sometimes on the topic of Janka hardness. We can’t help feeling the need to defend its reputation a bit. Before we get into it, a brief definition follows. Janka hardness is the amount of force it takes to push an 11.28 mm (.444”) steel ball into a plank of wood to half the ball’s diameter. In the U.S., numbers listed as a wood’s “Janka hardness rating” represent the pounds of force required to embed the steel ball halfway. It can also be measured in kilograms or newtons, depending on where you are.

    Our elementary Janka illustration.

    The U.S. Janka hardness rating for Douglas fir is 660. This puts it fairly low on the scale. Does that make Doug fir a bad choice for flooring? We don’t think so. It’s true that there are plenty of woods that are harder, but we don’t agree that makes a big difference over the lifetime of a floor. Douglas fir will last for decades with moderate maintenance (regular sweeping & an occasional cleaning). As with any wood, when the grain is tighter, the wood is harder.

    Janka hardness is commonly used to determine a wood’s durability, especially in relation to flooring, but it is not an absolute determinant. The best way to prevent scratches, dents and general wear on fir flooring (or any wood flooring) is to apply a quality finish and keep the floor clean and well maintained. In other words, start with a high-quality finish, take your shoes off when you enter your home, and keep the floor clean. Nothing does damage on wood flooring quite like shoes (high heels are like tiny powerful hammers) and neglect.

    What do you consider a good lifetime for a floor? Does 85 years work for you? My own house is that old, and still has its original Douglas fir floors. We refinished them ourselves when we moved in a year ago. They are still beautiful, and the previous owner of 30 years had dogs. We’ll keep those floors as long as we’re in the house.

    Ultimately, choosing Douglas fir floors comes down to taste. What we like about it is how it looks and feels. The color is warm, and the wood wears beautifully. Even when it goes for a long time without being refinished it remains a durable floor. The Douglas-fir is a heroic tree conditioned to withstand harsh coastal, mountain, and coastal-mountain weather for hundreds of years. This endurance does translate to the quality of the lumber, and the quality of the flooring.

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, History and Interest and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, janka, janka hardness

Items 13 to 15 of 16 total

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6