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Old Growth vs. New Growth Lumber – Which Is Better?

Old Growth vs New Growth Lumber

If you’re planning to buy reclaimed wood furniture or are doing a renovation at your home, old growth lumber would be an ideal material. Though it’s not easy to find old growth lumber, it the most sought-after and robust option. You can use old growth lumber for a wide range of repair and renovation jobs.

First things first – What is old growth wood?

Old growth lumber is wood that was grown naturally in massive virgin timberlands. Across the globe, there are several forests that are still left untouched, and no efforts have been made to harvest the trees for commercial use. The trees have been untouched by weather extremes, fire, windstorms, etc., for almost 120 years. These unharvested trees age gradually due to partial sunlight and competition from surrounding trees. The gradual growth rate leads to the formation of tightly crammed growth rings which are highly beneficial.

The only way we get our hands on these incredible materials today is by harvesting timbers from pre-1920 structures.

The entry of new growth wood

The birth of new growth wood is marked by a decline in the availability of old growth lumber. As more and more people started using old growth wood, the virgin timberlands almost reached extinction. That’s when the farmers began harvesting pine trees and other trees that grow fast to maximize productivity. New growth lumber trees reach full growth is almost 15-20 years. However, there’s one drawback. The growth rings are not tightly packed, and the space between them is more. Therefore, old growth wood is more useful.

However; we occasionally come across deconstruction projects from the 1920-1940 era that have predominantly new growth timbers. Because this material has spent nearly a century within a structure, it will have stabilized and many times taken on a beautiful patina.

Why old growth lumber is an ideal choice?

Now that you understand the difference between old growth lumber and new growth lumber, let’s look at 4 reasons why the former is a better option.

  • Old growth lumber is sturdier

The high density of old growth lumber makes it sturdy and durable. It can bear heavy loads for extended periods. New growth lumber is comparatively softer and weaker.

  • Old growth lumber is more resistant to rotting

Yes, that’s true. The slow growth rate of old growth wood leads to a higher proportion of latewood (fall/summer growth) that provides the wood with anti-rot properties. Moreover, old growth lumber trees witness the appearance of heartwood in the middle which is robust and rot-resistant.

  • Old growth lumber is more firm

In case you do not know, wood moves. It expands when it’s wet and shrinks when it’s dry. Wood movement can lead to the opening of the joints, chipping of the finishing, and several other quality issues. Nevertheless, old growth lumber does not move as the growth rings are tightly packed. This is a significant property of old growth wood which makes it the best choice for constructing doors and window frames.

In conclusion, Old growth wood has better stability, durability and longevity. New growth wood and the windows they’re made of, begin to rot and warp after only twenty years. “Virgin Wood” refers to first -cut wood, or wood harvested for the first time.

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