Why choose Siberian Larch? Leave a comment

For centuries, mankind has witnessed the unique performance of structures built out of Siberian Larch. Their experiences led them to refer to Siberian Larch as “The Tree of Eternity”. Some homes and churches in Siberia (Russia) have been estimated to be in existence for over 800 years. Perhaps the most famous example of its longevity is its use in the construction of the ancient city of Venice. Due to proximity, Europeans have been able to take advantage of this material. Architects in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Austria, and Japan are specifying the use of larch in the construction of residential homes and commercial spaces such as schools, museums, stadiums, and bridges. So why choose Siberian Larch timber?

Benefits are an impressive dimensional stability, low cost of installation, low maintenance, high manufacturing standards, and an aesthetically beautiful timber. However, the most amazing feature of Siberian Larch is its natural resistance to decay. The following properties are responsible for its durability.

• High Density – Siberian Larch has an average density of 41 lbs/ft3. Higher densities make it more difficult for decaying organisms to penetrate the wood. Other than Ipe, Siberian Larch is denser than all the other most commonly used decking materials.

• Grows in a Harsh Climate – The climate in which Siberian Larch grows is defined as extreme continental, meaning short hot summers and long cold winters. The area in Siberia in which our larch is grown has an average temperature in January of 5 degrees Fahrenheit and in July it is 64 degrees Fahrenheit. This results in short growing seasons and therefore a larger percentage of latewood and a very tight grain. Latewood is denser and mechanically stronger than the earlywood. This higher proportion of latewood equates into a more naturally durable wood.

• Large Content of Heartwood – In a scientific study on the properties of Siberian Larch, it was concluded that larch trees are composed of 75-90% heartwood in their natural existence. Heartwood is denser, less permeable, and more durable than the surrounding sapwood. It is not typical for other species to posses this large of a percentage of heartwood. Even more impressive, the product we receive from Leitinger is 97% heartwood.

Timber Materials Density (lbs/ft3)
Ipe 62
Siberian Larch 41
Southern Yellow Pine 35
Redwood 25
Western Red Cedar 23
Timber Materials Hardness (lbs/in2)
Ipe 3,680
Siberian Larch 1,100
Southern Yellow Pine 690-870
Redwood 480
Western Red Cedar 350-580

• Hard Wood – The hardness of wood, which is highly correlated with density, is generally defined as resistance to indentation. Fewer dents and abrasions mean fewer places for water and fungi to penetrate the wood. Not only will harder wood have a positive effect on durability, but it will also help the deck to maintain a better appearance. Siberian Larch has a hardness of 1,100 lbs/in2 as measured by the Janka Scale. Once again this outperforms most of the conventional decking materials.

• High Resin and Extractive Content – These resins and chemical deposits act as a natural antiseptic which is very unappealing to insects. Although Western Red Cedar and Redwood are very soft, they have in the past had a reputation of being good woods for outdoor applications. This is because they contain extractives that are toxic to decaying fungi. The chemical composition of wood can significantly affect its natural durability. This holds especially true for Siberian Larch. The resins and extractives in larch are credited the most for creating this high resistance to decay and rot. The primary extractive in Siberian Larch is arabinoglactan which is toxic to fungi. Arabinoglactan content in larch wood comes in at a high 10-15%.

Why Siberian Larch - Nord Wood TimberSiberian Larch is the only sustainable, old growth timber in the world that is capable of providing the U.S. market with a premium product for outdoor construction. Larch species actually account for 38% of the timber in the 2.7 billion acres of forest in Russia. This is significantly larger than the Amazon Forest which is only 800 million acres in size! Since Siberian Larch is highly sustainable, this offers the foundation for a dependable supply.

One question you may be asking yourself is, “If Siberian Larch can offer this exceptional quality, why has it not yet established a strong presence in the United Kingdom?” The answer to this question has to do with its place of origin, Russia!

Very important consideration is the fact that Siberian Larch from a manufacturers standpoint is very difficult to mill. The high resinous content and density of larch make the kiln-drying process very challenging. The drying process is long and must follow a detailed schedule. Also, the environment in which it grows is severe and constant high winds cause the trunks to have an irregular shape. This creates many issues in sawing the wood. As a result of these production challenges, there is no substitution for a very specialized knowledge base and level of expertise when it comes to working with this specie.

The environmental implications in using Siberian Larch are positive. To reiterate, it is a sustainable resource. The annual growth of Siberian Larch is greater than the annual felling rate. Annual growth is estimated to be 800 million cubic meters per year, while the allowable logging threshold to maintain sustainability is projected to be 500 million cubic meters. Presently, only 100 million cubic meters are being cut annually! This opportunity to responsibly use Siberian Larch will allow pressure to be relieved from other woods that are less sustainable, many of which come from the Amazon Rain Forest of South America Ipe. Since larch is a natural material, its effects on energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and pollution are far less than that of recently popular composite decking.

In recent years, wood products have increasingly lost market share to alternative decking materials. This is attributed to a lack of availability and quality. The demands of clients, designers, and home-builders have risen distinctly. They are demanding long lasting, minimal maintenance, and attractive real wood surfaces without chemical preservatives. Siberian Larch is leading the resurgence in the popularity of natural wood decks. Its unique combination of performance, availability, and attractive pricing makes it a clear winner. Siberian Larch is setting a much improved standard for the North American decking industry just like it has in other parts of the world.

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