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What Is Hemlock Lumber?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2014
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Hemlock lumber is produced from trees in the genus Tsuga. It can behave like a hardwood in many applications; this high-quality lumber has an even tone and appearance suitable for use in woodworking projects. Builders can also use it for framing and related activities because it is sturdy and not prone to warping or twisting. Mills typically produce several grades intended for different applications and provide information about the standards for each grade so consumers can decide which will meet their needs.

Healthy trees tend to produce lumber with a tight, even grain, although some hemlocks can be knotty. The lumber tends to be honey to tan and is uniformly colored. It takes readily both to machining and handling with hand tools, allowing people to shape hemlock lumber to meet their needs; it can be used as tongue and groove board for paneling, for example, or it can be rough cut for framing.

This wood tends to take paints, stains, and dyes extremely well because it has minimal resin and will not resist these treatments. Low resin can also be a drawback, as it is not very weather-resistant and also doesn’t handle pest infestation well. If hemlock lumber will be used in an outdoor setting, it needs to be treated to protect it, and periodic re-treatments are advised to keep the wood in good condition. Items like hemlock deck furniture can also be brought indoors in harsh weather to limit damage.

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While working with hemlock lumber, people can use screws or nails, depending on personal preference, and the wood shouldn’t be prone to cracking or splitting if it was processed properly. Woodworkers may want to condition the wood in their shops to give it time to acclimate to temperature and humidity levels before working with it, as this can reduce problems like shrinking or bowing. It is also important to check with the mill on processing techniques to make sure the wood has been handled appropriately; hemlock lumber sometimes requires a slow curing time to be suitable for some projects.

Costs can vary by grade. More expensive lumbers have very even grains and coloring and may also have been processed extensively to condition them for work. Less costly hemlock lumber tends to be rough cut and less processed. It can also be knotty or bowed, which may make it unsuitable for some applications. People ordering large batches may want to get quotes from several mills or yards, and should inspect the lumber on delivery to identify any problems so they can be addressed quickly.

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