All about wood

The sight of a tree falling can easily trigger something even in the most unlikely environmentalist. Ignoring that visual, wood can be a much greener material choice than many others if you put some thought into selection.

Stairs made from reclaimed barn beams
Stairs made from reclaimed barn beams © Bala Structures

Finding sustainable wood:

We live in a country with over 400 million hectares of forest, so the supply is there; it's simply a case of properly managing it. That also means that when we cut one down, we should plant another.

Wood is a renewable material, requires little processing and can almost always be purchased locally. This makes it a material with low environmental impact, provided it's harvested from a sustainably managed forest. In an effort to combat the devastation caused by destructive forestry practices, certification programs like FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) have emerged to ensure that sustainably harvested wood takes its fair market share.

Where to buy wood:

Wherever you live in Canada, there is without a doubt wood being harvested not too far away. If you want to ensure your wood qualifies in some sense as 'local', you can start first of all by species selection - choose woods that are grown in your region. Don't buy Eastern White Cedar if you live in the west, and don't choose Western Red Cedar if you live in the east. Our climate should leave no mistake that any tropical wood came from very far away. 

Any wood you can get your hands on, that for any reason didn't cause a tree to fall, means one more tree will remain standing. Some sources to look into :

Salvaging sunken timber
Salvaging sunken timber © Divemi

Sunken timbers: Generations of logging has left unfathomable quantities of wood sitting at the bottom of rivers, perfectly preserved, ripe for the picking. On many rivers, salvage companies send divers down to find and retrieve logs that are then turned into some of the most beautiful and highest quality woods available.

Urban logging: Trees removed by city workers have more often than not found themselves ending up as landfill. Entrepreneurs are popping up in different regions and are now turning those trees into usable products.

Portable sawmill
Portable sawmill © Colleen Mahoney

Reclaimed barn boards and timbers: As barns are taken down for any number of reasons, much of the wood is still in exceptional condition and often commands an impressive price on the market. You can find support beams as well as boards.

Mill your own tree: If you must take down a tree and you have space to store a pile of wood, see if you can hire a portable mill and operator in your area.

Demolition stock: there are businesses that specialize in salvaging building materials from demolition projects, then offer them for  resale in varying conditions.

The Hemloft, constructed entirely with used building materials
The Hemloft, constructed entirely with used building materials

Used material websites: More builders all the time are taking advantage of the web to unload materials, often for free, if for no reason other than saving themselves a dumping fee. The Hemloft pictured here received international notoriety, and was made entirely with materials found for free on Kijiji.

Wood that has a history can add character and warmth to your home. That can be saw marks, water marks, nail holes or a barn beam with an old mortise hole in it; these types of reused wood products are fetching impressive prices, if for no other reason than to give the homeowner a reason to tell a story. A quick internet search should tell you if any of the options listed above are available near you.

We hope that our pages on wood will help you make informed decisions so you can get the types of products you are looking for.

Flooring made from salvaged sunken timber
Flooring made from salvaged sunken timber © Logs End