In Search of Better Wood

A Guide To Finding Sustainable, High Character Wood for Your Next Building Project

When considering wood flooring, paneling or beams in a design application, the two most obvious things to consider are: (1) does the material meet my technical or structural needs and (2) does it meet the aesthetic goals for my project.  But if you want to exceed expectations, here are a few tips for choosing the best possible materials.

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1. Let Wood be Wood.

Unlike other building materials, such as concrete or steel, wood is unashamedly natural: both to the eye and to the touch. It is one of the oldest building materials and one of the most familiar to us.  When milled properly, quality lumber has a distinct materiality that comes through in the wood’s grain, character, tones, and finish. So, when choosing a wood surface, look for products that have a sense of both high quality and high character. In other words, let wood be wood – it should look and feel solid, strong, and organic – just like the trees it was sourced from.

2. Consider the Source

Speaking of lumber sourcing, all wood materials have an origin story and an environmental impact. Wood materials either come from a local source (produced, say, somewhere in the Hudson River Valley) or from somewhere further away (produced, say, in Europe or China for example). Because wood is a renewable resource, it can be (when properly managed) both a sustainable agricultural product and a viable architectural material. Unfortunately, much of the building materials available in the US today come from overseas, where the quality control and environmental impact are difficult to monitor. This results in a glut of cheap (see low quality) imported material flooding the US materials market. So, for your next project, take some time to consider where your building materials are coming from, how they were produced, and what kind of impact their creation is having on the planet (if you want some help understanding the environmental impact of the materials you are considering, look for wood produced by an FSC certified mill). Another idea is to consider using reclaimed wood, which is a unique way to ‘recycle’ historic building materials that still have plenty of good years left to live.

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3. Go Custom

Every building project is unique, so why not consider working with a mill who can fully customize the material you need? This may seem like an intimidating (and expensive!) prospect, but, in truth, working with a custom wood mill from start to finish can actually help you be more efficient and stay on budget. If you have a vision for the kinds of materials you’d like to use and the details of the installation you’re designing, a quality wood mill can help you (1) find the right flooring / paneling product, (2) customize the proper finish for your specific application, and (3) work with contractors to ensure the material is installed properly and efficiently. All of this customization starts with choosing an experienced supplier who is willing to work together with you to bring your vision to life.

4. Finish Strong

As we mentioned above, an expert wood supplier will be willing to work together with architects, designers, contractors, and clients to help reach your project goals on time, on budget, and with an eye for the details. This expertise is not limited to how wood is sourced, milled, and installed – but also includes how wood should be finished in a variety application types: indoor vs. outdoor, paneling vs. flooring, parquet vs. herringbone patterns, high traffic areas vs. low traffic areas, high humidity vs. low humidity climates. Once these important design and environmental factors have been considered, you can decide how you would like your stunning new wood flooring or paneling to be finished. Of course, there are a lot of options when it comes to how wood materials are installed and finished – which means a lot of room to be creative with colors, textures, and sheen.

Keep in mind that wood flooring can be delivered to a job site as either prefinished or unfinished material, and both have their advantages. A prefinished floor means that the installer won’t need to sand and finish the wood on site; instead the prefinished materials can be installed right away (after proper acclimation) without the need of additional sanding.  An unfinished wood floor, by contrast, will be installed and then sanded and finished on site by one or more flooring specialists. Depending on the details of your next project, prefinished or unfinished could be the right choice for you and these are important details to consider on the front end of your project.   

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About The Hudson Company:

Founded in 1995, The Hudson Company is a FSC-certified custom mill specializing in wood flooring, paneling, and beams. Along with a wide range of responsibly crafted architectural products, The Hudson Company provides a comprehensive range of hands-on professional services for every size design and building project. Our dedicated team of craftspeople includes carpenters, installers, finishers, millworkers, and tooling specialists with decades of specialized experience. For further reading, take on this article with founder and owner Jamie Hammel.

As a vertically integrated small business, we are agile enough to provide clients with a personalized collaborative experience. Learn more at www.thehudsonco.com or write to us regarding your next project at info@thehudsonco.com.

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