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Tag Archives: Douglas fir flooring

  • Versatility of Douglas Fir: Use in homes, boats, and planes

    Posted on February 8, 2012 by Jennifer

    Clear vertical grain Douglas Fir.

    The Douglas-fir tree: it makes beautiful flooring, paneling, and other finish lumber. If you’re from the Northwest, you’ve probably stepped into a Craftsman Bungalow or two and admired the decades-old Douglas Fir floors under your feet. You may also know that it’s widely used for construction lumber, plus, it’s also great for...boats?

    That’s right. With its strength, durability, and attractiveness, Douglas fir is not only the choice for flooring and building, it’s also commonly used for furniture, boats and aircraft.

    What makes Douglas-fir such a versatile species? It’s all about the science. The way Douglas fir grows naturally means that this Northwest native also has some characteristics that make it fit for a variety of uses.

    The Douglas-fir tree sheds lower branches as it grows.

    Douglas-fir trees, when you see them growing on the lush mountainsides of the Pacific Northwest, may strike you for their towering expanses of limb-free trunks. Douglas-fir is a shade-intolerant species, which self-prunes its lower limbs. This means fewer knots, and long stretches of straight, consistent fibers. Those fibers also give Douglas-fir a superior strength-to-weight ratio and the highest modulus of elasticity of any North American softwood species.

    In simpler terms, that means it’s tough and durable. It can handle a heavy load without bending or buckling. These are important considerations when you’re building a boat or a home-built aircraft. When you’re taking to the sky or the sea in something made of wood, you better be sure it’s a wood that’s not going to fail on you.

    Let’s also talk about stability. Douglas Fir is known for being very dimensionally stable--that means that when it expands and contracts due to moisture in the environment (as all woods do), it holds its shape better than most species, another important characteristic if you’re building something like a boat or an aircraft, when holding a certain shape is crucial.

    Douglas-fir also has good rot-resistance--important for a craft that will be exposed to the elements.

    Sitka Spruce was traditionally used for both boats and aircraft, but over the years the Sitka Spruce has become increasingly rare and expensive, putting it out of reach for amateur enthusiasts. Douglas Fir, on the other hand, is plentiful and affordable. This custom sailboat, built by Nexus Marine in Everett, Washington, uses clear vertical grain Douglas fir combined with Brazilian marine plywood, all coated with layers of epoxy to make it completely watertight.

    For furniture building, hardwoods like oak, maple and walnut seem to get most of the glory. But Douglas Fir is also available in clear vertical grain lengths that meet the specifications of fine woodworking.

    Remember those long, straight fibers we talked about? Turns out they’re not only strong, they’re also quite attractive. Douglas Fir is hard enough that it can be difficult to work with hand tools, but it responds well to sharp power tools. Vertical grain Douglas Fir, once finished, has an extremely smooth, glossy appearance, with long, clean subtle lines running down its surface.

    Douglas fir also has a light, rosy color that’s unique and different from the more yellowish oak species or dark walnuts. You can simply seal it with a clean finish and leave its natural color exposed. If a different tone is required, Douglas fir is also known for holding all types of stains, finishes, and paints very well.

    This custom bedroom furniture set, by Portland-based Big Branch Woodworking, for example, showcases Douglas fir’s natural color and clean, straight lines.

    So whether you’re going for a sail, taking to the air, or trying to dress up your home, think of Douglas fir. It’s good for more than just finishing your home.

    - Jennifer Rouse



    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, Douglas Fir Trim, History and Interest, Douglas Fir Paneling and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir trim, douglas fir boats, douglas fir planes

  • Douglas Fir Designs: The Latest in Architectural Ingenuity

    Posted on October 26, 2011 by Nicole

    Wood is wood. Right? Well, we beg to differ. Douglas fir has been made over, though you might not recognize the Old Fir from his usual rosy-hued self as flooring, trim, and paneling. But, today’s architects are using this go-to wood in new ways. These design wizards are concocting remarkable residential dwellings (and art) that are not only aesthetically-appealing, fashionably-fresh, and structurally-sound, but also environmentally-conscious.

    We at AltruFir don’t want you to be left out of the loop. We’re excited about how far this tried ‘n’ true timber has come since the days of David Douglas way back in the 1700's. These next five designs bring the best out of Old Fir.

    Design 1 – We’re crossing the Atlantic to London, England where Kyson Design worked wonders on Cadagon Corner. Located in the city’s tough east end, the Modern East-Ender hugs the street corner where Victorian terraced homes once stood but were destroyed in WWII. Today, three well-sheltered homes are banded together by a beautiful black palette of Douglas fir. The wire brushed and vacuum stained planks block out car noise and views of the nearby freeway. The horizontal position of the planks draw attention its natural vertical grain as does its juxtaposition to each unit’s oversized two-storied window facing the neighborhood park. Kyson Design tops each new home off with an atrium on the glass-constructed roofs. The London-based design team used sustainable materials when possible and incorporated a specialized air pump to reduce its home’s carbon emissions. Though not quite the Queen’s residence, we’d fancy a look inside the Modern East-Ender.

    Design 2 – Next, it’s down to Tours, France. This rustic open cubed home had us ooh là là-ing at every turn. Jean-Charles Liddell, from RVL architects, redesigned the original 1960 house that sits on a charming country orchard. Douglas fir dresses the refurbished home inside and out. Untreated exterior planks “float” above steel mesh sliding shutters that protect from the elements when closed and integrate living-space with the outdoors when open. Naturally finished Doug fir partitions and flooring – leftover from the exterior planks – create fluidity between living quarters. The result is an airy space based on a simple construction. We think Liddell’s lofty home looks like a breath of fresh air. And get this, it was delivered on a semi-trailer and assembled in two days…Gasp!

    Design 3 – Let’s bring it on back home to the good ole USA in Kansas City, Kansas. Studio 804 designed the green-building LEED Platinum Prescott Passivhaus. When we took a gander at this contemporary construction we thought it was the Modern East-ender’s twin – the dark Douglas fir clad home is located in an urban area undergoing transition. But, on further inspection, there were some notable differences. Being one of a kind in Kansas, it’s achieved a 90% reduction in the average use of heating and cooling energy, which is well above today’s green-building standards. The single residential home is equipped with multiple slats, super insulation, and high-performing windows. The Prescott Passivhaus is also equipped with thermal mass, which is the home’s ability to absorb heat into its material makeup. The foundation consists of laminated veneer, a key component in Studio 804’s design goal. The Prescott Passivhaus is also teaching the local community a thing or two about sustainable living. We couldn’t ask for a better multi-tasker.

    Design 4 – More and more people are living large by living smaller – literally. The design team at Alchemy Architects out of St. Paul, Minnesota has taken big steps in the micro-housing movement. Welcome the weeHouse, an adorable boxy pre-fab home designed with the environment in mind. Recycled paper and resin countertops, dual-flush toilets, and natural energy components like smart roofs and geothermal heat are just a few of the weeHouse’s earth-friendly features. These micro homes come super small as 435sqft. studios or larger in the two-story double-decker design at 1,335sqft. The original weeHouse, built in 2003, features an all-over Douglas fir interior. Pretty darn good-looking if we say so ourselves.

    Design 5 – We couldn’t help but mention how B&N Industries, INC. in California is bringing high school back and putting it in your home – though you wouldn’t know it at first glance. They’ve taken those dusty old Doug fir gym bleachers and made them into wall art. The B&N Iconic Panels are made by carving intricate designs into the reclaimed wood which are then covered with a protective laminate. Take your pick from paisley or geometric-inspired designs. The finished panels are easy to install and can also be used for shelving. The Douglas fir ones are beautiful and the patina really packs a punch. Besides being pretty cool, they’re really nice for the environment too.

    - Nicole Morales



    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, Douglas Fir Trim, History and Interest, Douglas Fir Paneling and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir design, douglas fir cladding

  • 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

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