Magazine article Sunset

Stretching Our Timber Resources

Magazine article Sunset

Stretching Our Timber Resources

Article excerpt

The saying "They don't build in 'em like they used to" is particularly true of today's new housing. a major reason: timber products are changing. The change starts with the trees themselves.

The vast timberlands of the West, logged for over a century, are becoming more and more second growth. Increasingly, trees now being cut are smaller-diameter specimens grown in managed forecasts. And costs have climbed, forcing the lumber industry to use wood fiber more efficiently.

In housing, new wood products and lumber-efficient design are the result. This shows in the quantity of lumber going into a new house: In 1950, it averged about 10,800 board feet. Today, the average house is almost twice as large (about 1,700 square feet), but it uses nearly the same amount--about 11,200 board feet.

Look at beams an trusses. Since there aren't many large-diameter trees left to make into big beams, glue-laminated ones--made of lumber glued together under pressure--have been developed. Similar in function are lightweight woven I-beams, which have a slender center section of plywood and outer edges of narrow, laminated veneers. "Each tree goes 2-1/2 times further as an I-beam than as a 2 by 10," says one spokesman. And today's ready-made wood roof trusses, employed in about 95 percent of new housing, use small-dimension wood (2 by 4's or 2 by 6's) joined with metal plates to create an engineered roof support.

This truss technology is extending to floor trusses and even to truss-framed houses, in which roof, floor, and wall sections are connected into modules that arrive at the building site stacked on a truck. …

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