What Type of Wood

TIMBER TECH – Your Guide to Timber Frame Technology

Species Selection

When preparing to build a heavy timber system, one of the first and most important decisions to make is wood species selection. Different species of wood work better in different environments. Selecting the proper timber species is essential to creating the ideal timber solution for your project.Here are a few timber species and their characteristics that are most commonly used in designs by Harmony Timberworks:


Uses: Beams, posts, and porch construction in a Timber frame home.

Appearance: Cypress sapwood is narrow and nearly white. Heartwood colors range from light yellowish brown to dark brownish red, brown, or chocolate.

Strength: Moderately heavy, moderately strong, moderately hard, and highly resistant to heartwood decay.

Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir is used more often than any other timber species at  Harmony Timberworks. Douglas Fir offers a variety of different grade selections and sizes, which fits the needs of many project configurations. Douglas Fir is not recommended for use on exposed exterior applications unless treated with an appropriate weatherproof coating, such as Sikkens. Local building code officials should be consulted prior to selecting Douglas Fir for exterior use.

► Cost effective           ► Machine friendly

► Readily available in many sizes and grades

► Strong         ► Less prone to checking & twisting than other species

Western Red Cedar

Western Red Cedar is recognized for its superior performance in exterior projects. Cedar has natural rot resistance, which allows for a timber system to be used in an exterior application without the use of Pressure Treated lumber. Time to acquire Cedar can be considerable when very large dimensions are required. Cedar has a higher cost than Fir, however this species is just as machine-friendly as Douglas Fir, and will not add shop labor costs, making Cedar a wise choice for exterior use.

► Rot resistant

► Lightweight

► Machine friendly

White Oak

White Oak has comparable strength properties to that of Douglas Fir. However, Oak has a look all its own. Oak timbers are commercially less available and have a slightly higher cost than Fir. Oak is noticeably heavier than most timber species. Added weight and the effects of its tannic acid on our machinery give Oak added shop cost. The tannic acid in Oak also means that careful consideration must be taken regarding steel joinery. Tannic Acid will deteriorate and rust untreated steel. Oak, upon contact with untreated steel will discolor quickly and considerably.

► Distinctive beauty

► Strong

► Some rot resistance

White Pine

White Pine has one of the lowest costs per board foot of all timber species that we cut at Harmony Timberworks. White Pine is also readily available. White pine has less strength and is not as machine friendly as Fir. In addition, the plentiful sap of White Pine will requires a bit more shop time and will result in added costs. White pine is recommended for retrofit timber systems.

► Low Material Cost

► Availability

► Structurally stable (very little checking & twisting)

Yellow Pine

Yellow Pine is extremely strong. In some cases, it is able to resist the same loading as that of Douglas Fir. Yellow Pine timbers typically have high sap content. Structurally, this sap has no impact on the timber system. This sap gums up machinery and tooling leading to additional shop time and cost. In addition, Yellow Pine has a tendency to grow mold if it has not been kiln dried. We suggest kiln drying to minimize this characteristic when working with Yellow Pine.

► Very Strong

Species in Review

The species we have just reviewed are a few of the species we can cut at Harmony Timberworks. Please keep in mind that species selection is one of the most important decisions you will make for your timber project. Each selection should be based on location, application, loading, timeframe, aesthetics and cost. In conclusion, the value of your timber system should not be measured solely by cost, but also as a measure strength, beauty, and longevity.

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