The redwood tree is an elusive mystery that has fascinated the minds of many over the years. The tallest tree in the world, named Hyperion, reaches 379.7 feet tall. Redwoods in general can achieve a diameter of 24 feet and 1.6 million pounds. So how do we reconcile our awe of one of the natural wonders of the world with using redwood materials for our building projects?
Myth #1: Redwood Materials are Not Available to the Masses
Between the 1800s and 1970s, many of California’s old-growth redwoods along the coast were cut down to be used for decking, siding, fence pickets and railroad ties. Many of these forests were decimated, leaving a nationwide redwood shortage for the building materials industry. But given the new environmental laws in place and a commitment to protecting the legacy of the redwood with the creation of public parks, there is now a steady supply to support the natural forest and the building materials industry. Today, nearly all redwood lumber sold in stores is from second-and-third growth younger trees. Only about 5 percent of the original old-growth acreage remains, and nearly all of that is preserved in parks. Strategic logging operations in areas such as Humboldt and Del Norte counties “aligns the public and private sectors to take the next big steps towards restoring these cherished public landscapes. It is a great investment in our future,” said Steve Mietz, superintendent of Redwood National Park. These forestlands used for commercial logging are managed in accordance with the California Forest Practices Act, which is one of the most comprehensive timber management regulations in North America. The redwood is FSC certified, which means there will be plenty of forestlands to support the native wildlife and provide lumber, clean air and water for generations to come.
Myth #2: Redwood Materials are not a Sustainable Building Material
Many people believe the false narrative that all logging operations are detrimental to the environment and we are better off with man-made materials instead of natural lumber. Nothing could be further from the truth. While in the past, greedy corporations have decimated the forest for profits, most of the lumber that is produced these days is done so with the most stringent environmental protections in place. Forest management and thinning of the forest is actually a necessary thing to protect the forest and keep it in check. Redwood trees are also able to take carbon out of the air and store it in wood fiber, which helps lessen your environmental footprint. There’s no necessary power source to grow these redwood trees, just the good old sun will do the trick. Plastic and man-made building material options rely on chemical resins and fossil fuels that release carbon and increase emissions, which is not good for the environment.
Myth #3: Redwood is too Expensive for my Budget!
Many people wrongly think that redwood is a luxury item, just reserved for the elite and those with a large budget. But redwood is actually reasonably priced when compared to other building materials on the market. It sits in the mid-range of materials and is far less expensive than options such as composite decking or exotic hardwood decking, like Ipe. As of the writing of this blog, we are selling 2×6 redwood decking @ $1.95/LF, whereas 5/4×6 cedar decking is also $1.95/LF. When compared to Trex or other composite materials, you can expect to pay anywhere from $2-$4 per linear foot and anywhere from $3-$5 per linear foot for exotic hardwoods. As you can see, it’s not a luxury building material that is far out of reach for the average homeowner.
Myth #4: Redwood Won’t Last or Stand Up to Fire
It may surprise you to learn that wood can resist fire, but redwood is an exception. It also doesn’t need any chemical additives to protect it from fire, decay, or pests. How else do you think the giant redwoods trees could survive as long as they do and grow as tall as they are? They have a natural protection against fire and pests that helps them survive what other species may succumb to. The natural tannins that give redwood its color help it remain strong against its natural enemies. According to Forest Schools, “Redwood trees have very thick bark which has a lot of water inside it. They also do not have any pitch inside the trunks which is a very flammable substance found in many other trees. Another factor that helps to make the redwood trees fireproof is the fact that they do not have any of the resins that other trees like pine and the sap that the tree contains is made up of a majority of water also adding to the fireproofing ability.”
Building with redwood doesn’t have to be an unapproachable subject. Hopefully we’ve dispelled some of the myths surrounding redwood and you now know that redwood is readily available, environmentally friendly, price friendly and is a great material to stand up against insects, rot, decay and fire. If you would like to use redwood for your decking, fencing, or siding, give us a call! Our experienced staff would be happy to walk you through the process or answer any questions you might have!