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  • Douglas Fir in Your Great Outdoors

    Posted on March 21, 2012 by Jennifer

    You may know that Douglas fir makes beautiful floors that will last for decades inside your home--but did you know that Douglas fir can make the outside of your home look great too?

    Turns out Douglas fir is more than just a good-looking wood. Its durability and resistance to rot and insects make it a favorite choice for outdoor projects like porch decking as well.

    In fact, vertical-grain Douglas fir has been a traditional choice for porches on historic homes for more than 100 years. Builders chose it back then for its widespread availability and its durability--the same reasons builders continue to use it today.

    What makes Douglas fir so good for the outdoors? For one thing, it’s a very dimensionally stable wood, with few knots. When it expands and contracts in response to moisture--as all wood products do--it does so evenly. It’s unlikely to warp and buckle, especially if you select clear vertical-grain products.

    It’s also naturally resistant to rot, decay, and insects. According to research done by the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, completely untreated Douglas fir will last 10-15 years in outdoor uses.

    It’s generally recommended that if you’re using wood for an outdoor purpose, you’ll want to treat it with something that will extend its life even further. According to the University of California’s research, Douglas fir that was treated with ACQ (a water-based fungicide and insecticide made of copper oxide and an ammonium compound) will last for 30 years or more. Paints, stains, and finishes designed for outdoor use will also help your Douglas fir stand the test of time.

    So now that you’re convinced Douglas fir can stand up to the elements, let’s talk about what you can do with it. Or, how about a more accurate question: what can’t you do with it?

    One typical use for Douglas fir is siding. Real wood siding is not only a historically accurate choice if you have an older home -- it also provides more aesthetic appeal than aluminum or vinyl siding. Whether you’re restoring an old home or building a new one, with periodic care Douglas fir siding will outlast its synthetic competitors.

    Douglas fir is also good for an often-overlooked part of your home’s exterior: soffits. What’s a soffit, you may ask? It’s the underside of the eaves of your house. Still not sure what we mean? Go outside. Look up at the piece of the roof that extends out above your head. The wood on the underside of that overhang is called soffit. Perhaps you’ve never given much thought at all to what wood is used in the soffit of your house. Perhaps that’s because you’ve never used Douglas fir. Using attractive solid wood for a soffit can turn it from an unnoticed architectural necessity, to a subtle design feature that adds to your outdoor living space.

    Speaking of outdoor living, we’ve already talked about porches, but when you think about the areas for outdoor entertaining, don’t limit yourself to the front of the house. With the right Douglas fir, you can also build beautiful decks, patios, and pergolas, perfect for summer entertaining. In an article by syndicated home and garden columnists Bill and Kevin Burnett, they recommend using Douglas fir for a backyard deck, choosing it over redwood for its extra durability. “If you select vertical grain fir, cure it properly and prime and paint it thoroughly, it will perform...and will resist heavy foot traffic and dings a bit better,” they wrote.

    Once you’ve got a nice Douglas fir deck, don’t stop there. The current trend in landscape design is to view the entire back yard as an extension of the house, creating an “outdoor living room.”

    Because Douglas fir is widely available, more-cost effective than redwood or cedar, but doesn’t skimp on durability and appearance, it makes adding an outdoor living room a real possibility. A Douglas fir gazebo for relaxing outside, a covered fire pit for roasting marshmallows, a trellis for climbing plants--whatever feature you can dream up, your builder can create a Douglas fir structure that will fit your needs. Especially in the Pacific Northwest, having a covered pavilion outdoors means the party can go on no matter what the weather.

    And--because you know that Douglas fir will stand the test of time--you can keep on planning those parties for years to come.

    - Jennifer Rouse



    This post was posted in Care & Maintenance, Douglas Fir Paneling and was tagged with douglas fir paneling, douglas fir porch decking, douglas fir soffits, douglas fir siding, outdoor living room

  • 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

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