Old Growth Wood: What It Is And Why It’s Better Than New Growth Wood

Old growth wood is the best type of wood to use when renovating a door, piece of furniture or anything else made from lumber. You won’t find it on the shelves of your local DIY shop, but it’s out there if you know where to look. Salvage and reclaim yards are your best bet, but should you use it in the first place? In this post, we’ll try to answer this question for you, and tell you why all our reclaimed doors are better quality than modern remakes.

What is Old Growth Wood?

old growth wood
Old growth wood (top) vs new growth wood (bottom)

The image above shows the difference between old growth wood and new growth wood. See how the grains are much tighter together in the old growth timber. Old growth timber comes from natural virgin forests. These forests were allowed to grow naturally

Old growth timber comes from natural virgin forests, not from lumber farms. Unfortunately, most of these forests have been depleted now due to such high demand for wood. This means that newly logged wood you might buy in a DIY shop is all from lumber farms, commonly termed “new growth wood”.

Old growth wood grows slowly, due to natural competition for light and nutrients in virgin forests.¬†This slow growth rate resulted in very tightly packed growth rings. Tightly packed growth rings have many benefits, as you’ll soon find out.

The rise of new growth wood

As virgin forests depleted, lumber farms popped up to meet the increased demand for timber. These farms used fast growth trees like pine, and managed the forests in a way to maximise the growth of individual trees. This means that a tree can mature and be felled just 10-20 years after planting. If you just want a lot of timber this is good news, but there’s a catch. This new growth wood has grown so quickly that the growth rings are spaced far apart. They don’t have heartwood, which only forms after a tree has been around for around 50 years. But why is this a bad thing?

Denser Wood

Tighter packed growth rings = denser wood. More tightly packed growth rings result in denser wood. Denser wood means added security, less chance of splintering or splitting, and also better rot resistance. This is why farm doors from the 18th century are still useful today.

Less Warping

Less warping. The tightly packed rings in old growth wood mean there is less room for the wood to move. Compare this with new growth wood, which has younger and softer wood. This softness means that it warps more easily.

Environmentally friendly

Reusing reclaimed timber is better for the environment than buying new stuff. Wood smoke has some seriously bad stuff in it, so it’s in all of our interests to reduce the amount that gets burnt. Especially since London exceeded nitrogen dioxide emissions for the whole of 2017 in just the first five days. Much of this was blamed on wood-burning stoves, as nitrogen oxides are one of the hundreds of toxic chemicals released. Save the planet and buy reclaimed timber instead.

To conclude

So to conclude, old growth wood is superior to new growth wood, because of its tighter growth rings which lead to denser timber. It’s more durable, less likely to warp and more eco-friendly. On top of that it might be a bit better value, depending on where you shop and how much you need.

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