The Rise of Urban Logging

Felled trees in residential areas have most often been either burned as waste, or taken to landfills. With the help of portable mills and tree salvage companies, better use is being made of this valuable resource.

Cutting a 110 year old dying pine tree.
Cutting a 110 year old dying pine tree. © Brian Blak

It's always a bit sad to watch an old and seemingly healthy tree come down. But if it must, it's great to do something useful with it. This 110 year old pine tree in Chelsea, Quebec that was looming over two homes started to show signs of rot. With a new building project slated to go right underneath it, it was time to take it down.

Urban logging
Urban logging © Colleen Mahoney

Where an old garage stood was soon to be the location of a studio / workshop, so rather than dispose of the wood from this tree and go buy more, Brian Blak and Colleen Mahoney had a portable mill come and turn the tree into usable materials for their future building project.

Despite being in a wooded neighbourhood on a large lot, allowed to fall on its own this tree could have landed on any one of 3 homes.

To take it down safely took an entire day with 2 people on the ground, one climber and a crane. The first section removed (the crown) weighed in impressively at just over 8 thousand pounds.

When it was safely down and cut into manageable sizes, the tree was milled into 8x8's for the main support structure and boards for flooring and trim. After being left to air dry for two years, much of the lumber was taken to a local mill to be turned into tongue and groove flooring. The rest was milled and finished by the owners (in their new workshop) as the materials for baseboards and trims.

Urban logging
Urban logging © Brian Blak

Some of the wood was used for benches and end tables, while bark covered slabs were turned into outdoor easy chairs. Even neighbours made use of some pieces, using stumps as footstools and tables, and  turning hollow rotted limb sections into planters.

Along with the tree, materials from the old garage were also salvaged for the new project. Plywood from the floor was cut into strips and used as strapping, while rafters became shelving in the workshop.

reclaimed exterior siding
Reclaimed exterior siding © Ecohome

Exterior clapboard from the garage became the interior finish for one of the walls. That along with exterior styled lighting gives you the feeling of sitting outside, which can be a helpful delusion during a long Canadian winter.

A project like this takes a lot of foresight, planning and patience. Materials were collected and stored in their yard while the wood dried and plans were finalized. All said and done, a good portion of the materials for this project were not only local, they came from within 5 feet of the building site.

The whole process of building this backyard studio (which Brian and Colleen have dubbed the treehouse) has drawn in many curious and inspired neighbours who have walked away with bits of this locally infamous tree for their own projects.

Boards stacked for air drying
Boards stacked for air drying © Brian Blak

Reclaiming materials not only saves money and natural resources, it inspires others to do the same. So build green, and show it off.  

If you have a tree that has to come down but you have no room to mill, there are tree salvage companies that will ensure it ends up as building materials rather than landfill. It won't necessarily save or make you money, but you can at least know your tree went to good use.

Brian and Chairman Meow
Brian and Chairman Meow © Colleen Mahoney

Finished studio using reclaimed materials and tree milled on site
Finished studio using reclaimed materials and tree milled on site © Colleen Mahoney