Opportunities are expanding for alternative environmentally friendly wood materials being used in the construction marketplace both in the United States and Canada and one such wood technology called “thermal modification” is gaining it’s fair share of attention. Recently at the AIA (American Institute of Architects) convention and trade show in Minneapolis thermally modified wood made from local North American Ash trees was displayed by a large U.S. based building materials distributor called Cedar Creek Lumber.
The Emerald Ash Borer which migrated to the United States and Canada several years ago has destroyed most of the living Ash trees. Emerald ash borers were first detected in Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, Canada back in 2002, but they had been in North America under the radar since the early 1990’s. Local wood manufacturers from these infected areas have been putting the dead Ash trees to good use by creating useful wood products, but until just recently, most went into the standard outlet such as solid furniture, flooring and shipping pallet material. Now with the arrival of new wood technology such as “thermal modification” a much more value added process has taken place allowing for the wood’s suitability in a host of new product lines such as exterior decking and siding.
“Architects are starting to take notice on the value added benefits along with the sustainability and durability of the wood after ” thermal modification” has taken place”, stated Kurt Kuechle, of Cedar Creek Lumber. “They are looking for ecological wood alternatives that have lots of upside when it comes to the environment and the extended life expectancy”. “We felt this was the perfect venue to get the feedback of the professional specifier”, Kuechle went on to explain, “it starts with professional specifiers having the confidence in the product and a basic understanding of its key benefits over standard exterior wood products which then provides an opportunity for the product to get specified onto larger residential and commercial projects”.
CFPWoods located in Guelph, Ontario, Canada manufactures White Ash lumber along with several other local hardwood species prevalent to the Great Lake region. The Ash tree is harvested and then milled and kiln dried in lumber form. Its then graded and sorted for various uses such as pallet, flooring, furniture. Selected high grade material is destined for thermal modification which is then made into molder blank, decking and siding products. At each critical point in the process the raw material goes through several quality control checks. Thermal modification requires a high degree of expertise at all stages but particularly during the modification process itself. Poor quality control practices can lead to material not being suitable for its intended finished applications or worse your thermally modified wood chamber has the possibility of burning down. But with the right raw material and quality control practices in place the end result will be a naturally durable wood product that will meet the highest performance standards in both durability and stability.