Why Old Growth Wood Is Better
If you're repairing an old house, there is no better wood than old-growth wood. It's hard to come by, but it is worth looking for it because it is the best performing and most appropriate option for such a usage--especially if you're using it for exterior repairs on wood.
What is it?
Old-growth wood is lumber that was naturally grown in a large virgin forests. This means it was slow growing and allowed to grow for many years, compared to lumber coming from harvested forests which are cut down and replanted every few years.
Old growth lumber comes from forests that are natural and abundant and aren't being used for harvesting. The trees grow much slower due to limited light and because of natural competition from other trees. This slow growth rate packs in the growth rings, which gives the wood huge benefits.
These virgin forests began to be seriously depleted beginning in the 1900s, and by the 1940s, the majority of them had disappeared completely. That's when lumber prices shot up and Americans began searching for substitutes, including new-growth and second-growth wood like we use today.
Today, most wood comes from tree farms that are able to quickly produce lumber to meet the demands. They mostly grow the fast growing species, such as pine. With no competition for the sun and grown in open areas, these trees grow fast. They can be harvested in a matter of 10-20 years.
Old growth wood, on the other hand, may be as old as 200-300 years before it's harvested.
Why It's Better
There are various reasons why old-growth wood is better. Here's a brief look:
It's more resistant to rot because the slow growth creates a greater proportion of summer/fall growth ("late wood") in comparison to spring growth ("early wood"). Late wood is what adds the rot resistance to the lumber.
It's more stable. Wood naturally expands when wet and contracts when dry, causing joints to open up. That leads to finishes and paint failing prematurely. Old-growth wood, however, has tight growth rings and doesn't move as much as new growth wood.
It's stronger. Old-growth wood has a higher density, which makes it a much stronger lumber. Old-growth wood is able to carry much heavier loads for longer spans without buckling or breaking. As years pass, the woods we are harvesting from tree farms is becoming softer and weaker. Old-growth is the way to go.
It's more resistant to termites. Termites simply don't like hard woods because they are harder for them to eat through. They're prefer soft and moist wood that's easy to chew. With old-growth being harder and drier, it's more termite resistant Old-growth wood is especially beneficial around siding and doors where wood contracting and expanding can lead to aesthetic and functional issues. During a home inspection your home inspector should pay close attention to outside elements coming in contact with new wood especially if the new wood does not have any protective treatment. A thorough home inspection by a reputable home inspector will help reveal wood rot, mold and or wood destroying organisms that may have compromised the lumbers integrity.
So, before you knock an older home due to the age consider what the bones are made out of!
The Author Adam Clark is the owner and operator of Shield Guard Home Inspections. Adam Clark is a local Home Inspector located in Albany NY that has performed over 6000 Inspections
Phone: (518) 720-7152