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What is Redwood Lumber?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Redwood lumber is lumber cut from redwood — trees in the cypress family primarily found in the Pacific Northwest. Redwood has a number of characteristics that make it popular with builders and furniture makers. Lumber products made with redwood are typically available at lumber yards and home improvement stores, and can be ordered by special request if products of a particular type or quality are needed.

As the name implies, redwood lumber has a naturally reddish color, which can be very bright when fresh. Over time, it will darken to a rich brown. Redwood tends to be close grained, and while it is a soft timber, it is also highly resistant to insects, mold, and mildew. The distinctive color and pest resistance make redwood lumber a popular construction material for decks, trim, and furniture. It can also be used to make structural supports and other components of a structure.

Like other wood products, redwood lumber is graded by quality before sale. The very best redwood has a close, even grain and no flaws like knots and holes. Lesser grades may have small flaws, proceeding to very large knots in wood of the worst quality. Redwood lumber can also be salvaged, both from existing redwood structures and from trees damaged by storms and fires. Trees struck by lightening, felled in poor weather, or partially burned in a fire can still yield usable lumber.

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Some of the most prized redwood lumber is old growth redwood, known as such because its extreme age. In some cases, old growth can be hundreds of years old and it is felled in areas where logging has not previously occurred. The wood tends to be very strong and dense because of the age of the tree and in addition, because the trees are extremely large, it is possible to make very big cuts of lumber. Old growth is commonly used for beams, where solid pieces of timber are desirable, and it can also be used to make large redwood panels.

When selecting redwood lumber, people should look for straight boards without any signs of warping or twisting. If they are buying green lumber, it needs to be cured before use, and it may need to be weighted to prevent warping. The lumber should have an even grain, and depending on the grade being purchased, people should look for flaws. This lumber product is often sold untreated because of the natural pest resistance. For people who intend to varnish or stain, using a test patch before covering the lumber is advisable, to confirm that that treatment works as desired.

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Emilski
Post 4

@jmc88 - The last I knew, all of the remaining old growth redwood forests in California were already protected. Any of the forests that are being cut down have already been harvested in the past. That's not to mention that redwoods are one of the fastest growing conifer species on the planet and can grow to 100 feet in a matter of decades. That's not to say there isn't a high demand for redwood, but it won't be disappearing anytime soon.

I really like using redwood lumber for various woodworking projects. It has a really unique color that isn't the same as anything else. It really gives a good contrast to western red cedar lumber, too. Plus, when you use redwood and cedar lumber together in a project, it smells great.

jmc88
Post 3

I think it is horrible that people cut down old growth redwood trees just so that they can make beams and stuff from them. I have been to California to see the redwood forests, and they are much too beautiful to be cutting down for lumber. I don't care what the wood looks like.

I don't know if it is right to cut down again the forests that have been cut in the past, but at least those places don't have the giant trees like some of the other areas. Also, those forests have a lot of rare and endangered plants and animals that can't be found elsewhere.

I think if people want redwood for things, they should

work harder at finding wood that can be salvaged. I live in an area where a lot of people used to have redwood shingles or siding on their houses. If people would look around, I think they would be able to find what they are looking for.
Izzy78
Post 2

@jcraig - Those are all very good questions given the potential cost of a project like that. I guess in the end, I would have to say it all comes down to your budget and what will work best for you.

From my own experience, I would say that redwood is well worth it if you can afford it. I didn't build a deck necessarily, but it was kind of a small patio area in the backyard of our house. I would say the wood is comparable to pine as far as workability is concerned. I built our patio about ten years ago, and I've not noticed any problems with warping or anything, and I live in a pretty humid

climate.

Just for safety measures, I did spray a clear rain coating on it, but a lot of people have told me what the article says that it's not necessary. Like I said, it all comes down to your preference and budget, but I'd say go for it.

jcraig
Post 1

Has anyone ever used redwood lumber for anything? I am looking into building a new deck in the coming months, and I'm wondering what type of wood might be the best. A lot of people around me just use regular pine, but I want something a little bit different.

I guess what I am really wondering is whether the extra cost is worth it. Redwood lumber prices are quite a bit more than pine when you start looking at all the lumber you would need for a deck, especially since I will need 12 or 14 foot boards.

Are the boards really rot and termite resistant? How well do they hold nails, and do the boards warp at all over time?

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