Using And Specifying Wood in Design: What you need know, and a few extras bits…
Being a natural material, wood has so many different beautiful tones, textures and variations that can really add something special to your design. It is extremely versatile and has been used for centuries in our homes and buildings across the world. But there are many things that should be considered when specifying wood. When thinking about incorporating wood as a material in your design, whether it be hardwood flooring, commissioning bespoke pieces or even when thinking about the delivery of products that are in wood there is a lot to think about.
Hard and Soft Wood
One common misconception is the idea hardwood and softwood. Many people wrongly identify hard and soft wood from their physical properties, the fact that the wood feels more or less dense. Although this is true for many hard and soft woods, the term is actually given in regards to whether the seeds of the tree have an outer casing. For example, Ochroma, the tree that gives us bolster wood, the second softest wood in the world, is actually classified as a hardwood. Whereas, the Yew tree, which is actually harder than oak to touch, and know for its strong presence in graveyards to supposedly draw away the evil spirits, is a softwood. Now, although this might be rather dry, it is important to know what kind and the properties of the wood you need when you're specifying for a design.
What Is Engineered Wood?
Many people also get confused when the term ‘engineered wood’ gets batted around. Many people are under the impression that engineered wood is fake wood, or some kind of plastic/acrylic. Again, this is not the case at all. Engineered wood is basically a section of wood that is backed in order to make it more stable, as wood of course being natural product, is susceptible to expanding, contracting and contorting.
There are a number of ways that a tree is cut in order to get different types of plank or board from it. Before engineered wood, the tree was cut in a number of different ways in order to get the most stable and less likely to warp section.
Plain Sawn: Is what most people would recognise when looking at planks of wood, and is the standard and cheapest option. However, this is the most unstable way of sawing planks and is most likely to warp, expand and contract.
Rift Sawn: This creates a plank that has a very even appearance with fewer knots. But is a little more expensive as it wastes more material.
Quarter Sawn: Quarter sawn timber produce the most stable and even looking planks. But is also one of the most expensive ways of cutting timber due to the wastage.
Engineered wood can, however, be cut any way and be as stable as the latter Quarter Sawn timber. This is because the wood is processed so that its moisture content reduces from the normal 60% to a mere 9%. This is then used as a top layer and stuck onto a number of plywood layers to stabilise it further. This means that although a certain amount of shrinkage and expansion is inevitable, it is minimised. So you still get that beautiful real oak flooring, but a more stable and hardwearing version.
Hope this has cleared up a few common misconceptions, and stay tuned for some more details on other materials and things you need to know when specifying them for your design.