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Does Urban Wood Have Different Properties than Regular Wood?

Does Urban Wood Have Different Properties than Regular Wood?

November 07, 2022

When choosing any type of wood for a project, you need to understand the quality of it and whether that quality will be able to withstand the type of pressure and circumstances you plan to put it through. We often hear a lot about hardwoods, and as their name implies, these seem to be a hard, durable wood. Yet, not all wood is the same. Knowing as much as you can about urban hardwood specifically can help you make decisions about what type of furniture pieces you should purchase. There's plenty to consider about urban wood furniture before you make a purchase. 

Understanding the Janka Wood Hardness Scale for Urban Wood

One of the ways to best understand what type of function a wood product can offer is by looking at the hardness scale. Specifically, the Janka wood hardness scale is a tool we can use to determine how a specific type of urban hardwood can be for a project. 

What Is the Janka Wood Hardness Scale?

The Janka wood hardness scale is a range of numbers that compare the hardness of any type of wood with other wood products like it. It also provides us with some information about if the wood will suffer from dings or dents when used or what type of wear we can expect from it once it is put into place. In short, it gives us a better idea of how the wood will withstand the environment and the function it is put into once crafted into the desired look. 

The Janka hardness test helps to measure the resistance of the wood to wear and denting. Specifically, the numbers on the scale represent the force that is necessary to put an 11.28 millimeter diameter steel ball halfway into the piece of wood. Sounds pretty crazy for sure, but this creates a standard to allow other types of wood to be measured. The higher the number is, the more resistant the wood is to wear and dents. 

Urban Wood Characteristics 

Urban wood is beautiful and refined. Numerous types of wood can be incorporated into urban wood furnishings. That means there's no telling the type of characteristics you will find in grain patterns, features, and overall quality. Some things to consider when choosing this type of wood include the following. Keep in mind that often these concerns add character and beauty to the wood.

Wood Coloring and Streaking

Wood coloring and streaking may differ in urban wood compared to natural forested wood of the same species. That may be due to factors such as light exposure, weather exposure, and overall age. This may lead to a darkening or greying of the wood. Mineral stain can also be a factor that often creates an olive to greenish black coloring, sometimes discoloration that seems more blue or brown in color as well. It is often due to bird pecking, some type of root damage, as well as mechanical damage. 

Contaminants

Urban wood comes from a variety of environments. It is possible that there could be some contaminants within that wood, but all wood products can be screened to ensure there is no damage to the strength of integrity. Urban wood is more likely to have some contaminants, like fence wire, nails, or other items within it. 

Naturally Durable Woods

The natural durability of wood will differ from one tree to the next. Most of the time, younger trees are not as durable as older trees. Overall, naturally durable woods tend to last longer and are the preferred option for projects as a result. They may be less likely to decay quickly, and they may also be less at risk for insects. These woods tend to be ideal, then for furniture.

Urban Wood Species in Alabama and Their Janka Hardness 

Take a look at the woods found in Alabama and their hardness scale. A harder wood tends to be best suited for the creation of furniture, but there are a lot of species that could be used nonetheless. 

Urban Wood Species in Alabama and Their Janka Hardness 

Wood Species

Janka Hardness

Cherry

1150

Elm

830

Hackberry

880

Hickory

1820

Magnolia

1020

Pecan

1820

Southern Yellow Pine

690

Poplar

540

Red Oak

1290

Sassafras

630

Sweetgum

850

Sycamore

770

Walnut

1010

White Oak

1360

 

What Makes Urban Trees and Rural Trees Different?

Is wood grown in a natural forest different from that which is grown in the city? There have been various studies that look at these factors, and there's not a huge difference in terms of the wood quality. However, this also depends on the species and the location. Here are some things you may notice.

  • Urban trees seem to grow at a faster rate. While scientists are not sure why it is common that these trees grew at a rate of up to 25 percent faster than those found in rural areas. This could be due to the urban heat island effect. 
  • In some areas, urban trees grow less efficiently because of poor access to soil nutrients needed to grow. An urban tree in a more park-like backyard will grow better than a tree in a cement-filled environment.
  • Urban trees tend to have more characteristics, such as nail holes from when a bird feeder was hung or unique growing patterns due to a chain on the tree pulling it in one direction or the other. 

Environmental Benefits Of Urban Wood In Furniture

Selecting wood furniture for the way it looks is always a good plan, but you can do even more with it. Urban wood furniture is simply the better option for the planet. Just consider some of the key benefits it offers:

  • You keep beautiful wood out of the landfill. Most of these urban hardwood components would otherwise end up in a landfill, just taking up space and not being used for anything.
  • Avoid the cost and tipping fees associated with adding tree biomass to the landfill. Yes, tossing trees into the landfill costs money, and it can be easy enough to avoid this if you have someone who can create urban furniture for you.
  • Using urban wood in furniture enables us to work towards meeting the waste reduction mandates that are set by SB1383. In other words, we're working towards goals that everyone can appreciate.
  • Avoid methane gas production. The wood doesn't have to break down in a landfill where methane gas builds up and instead can be a functional component of a home. 
  • Continue to capture the wood’s carbon. In doing this, we help ensure it does not get added as greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. 
  • Create green jobs. These are valuable jobs that support their families and the planet at the same time.
  • Help to build new local businesses and grow existing ones who are putting their heart into the creation of urban wood furniture and giving back to the planet as they do.
  • Create useful products. Perhaps this seems like an understatement, but the urban hardwoods we use creates furniture that people use day in and day out in their homes. 
  • Prevent fires thanks to getting urban wood out of where it is lying. If simply left in place, it creates a much higher risk of fires occurring. 
  • By using hardwoods like this, we avoid the cost of transporting wood from outside of the region. This often comes at the cost of GHG emissions being fully avoided when we don't have to transport over long distances. 
  • Avoid inadvertent transmission of tree disease from one area to the next because we are keeping wood where it belongs and where it grew. 
  • Create localized energy sources. Why get the energy that you need from a plant far away when there are fantastic wood resources available to you locally?
  • Conserve water. The processes we use are less likely to require as much water production, saving the planet’s resources even further.
  • Build healthier soils thanks both to the removal of material that should not be there and because we can put any waste back into the planet. 

Unique Quality of Urban Wood Furniture

Urban wood furniture is simply beautiful. There are many benefits to choosing urban lumber for your next project. The first is that this wood often comes from old trees that have beautiful grain patterns and colors. Often, they can be woods that are hard to find in lumber form anywhere else.

It's also locally sourced, which means you do not have to worry about the high cost associated with (and often tacked on) the cost of the wood purchase. Also, you're using a heritage material. That means that wood has been a part of the community, likely for a hundred years or longer. That makes it valuable historically. Finally, this is a renewable source, unlike plastics. 

Are You Ready to Explore More?

Take a look at our furniture gallery at Alabama Sawyer. Check out all of the beautiful pieces we offer and pick those to which you hope to give a home to.