Wood is, historically speaking, the most popular building material ever used. Plus it’s one of the most beautiful, imparting a rustic charm everywhere it's used. But with ever more modern synthetic materials and new metal alternatives, should you still use this foundational material in your home? We’re here to set the record straight on three types of wood: solid lumber, glued laminate timber, and moulded plywood. Each of these wood materials has their own pros and cons, and one might be just what you need for your home. Then again, maybe your home is better off without any kind of wood? Let’s explore your options to find out.
As we can see from the lovely home above you really can’t beat solid lumber’s charm and natural feel. In Canada, we have several amazing wood types that can be sustainably sourced close to home, especially if you’re lucky enough to live on the West Coast. One of the finest is Douglas Fir and a home clad in this wood creates an atmosphere of natural magnificence. More specific home atmopshere can be achieve too, it really depends on what other decor you have going on in the home. Solid lumber will flexibly adapt to most styles, including modern such has this gorgeous wood-clad home.
Besides beauty and environmental friendliness, wood has a few more pros going for it. It is a great insulator with a high load capacity and needs comparatively little processing and construction time. You don’t have to wait for masonry to dry, for steel to ship, or for for more composite wood types to be produced.
Wood is a stable material, but it does bend to the pressures of time and temperature. It’s movement can be accounted for in the design of the home, but it is still a limiting factor. After years wood can crack, it can be eaten by termites or rot, and it can burn. These problems lead to the main drawback: treating your lumber. Frequent staining and sealing is required for wood to keep it from all of these disastrous forces. If you're worried about fire, consider these methods of fireproofing a wooden house.
You may have heard of glued laminated timber under its short form: glulam. It’s created by layering boards of wood together through the use of incredible glue and lamination. This makes for a stronger wood that moves and cracks less often than solid lumber, while improving on its insulation properties as well. Occasionally, a home made out of solid timber will be reinforced with glued laminated timber at key load-bearing areas. If safety is a concern for you, you may prefer it if your architect use only glulam.
As far as cost goes glulam is certainly less efficient than solid lumber. You won’t want to buy the least expensive glulam either, as the strength of the material can vary if the board was improperly glued or the grains were not laid at proper right angles.
A second drawback of glulam is it’s lack of solid lumber’s breath-ability. You won’t walk into a home made of glulam and feel the woody atmosphere and ideal humidity of a log cabin.
Moulded plywood is the strongest and lightest wood type yet. It’s made from thin slices of wood called veneers that are glued together at right angles and then heat and pressure treated to give the boards shapes. This wood is more common for interiors, like specially crafted railings or furniture. Occasionally especially long ceilings or arched windows are made out of moulded plywood to ensure their stability. One great example of the use of moulded plywood can be found in this home's oval office.
Moulded plywood is very rarely used for exteriors as it is as vulnerable as solid lumber is to pests and moisture, at a much higher cost. The cost is prohibitive, so usually unless a structure or a piece of furniture needs the extra strength or shape of moulded plywood then glulam is used instead. There are finishes that can be used to protect and add colour to moulded plywood, but they also increase the cost.
Look at this beautiful wooden home for inspiration on interior and exterior wood.