American white oak helps to achieve seamless spatial flow in Zaha Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Center
Why American hardwoods?
Variety of species: Hardwoods from America offer specifiers, manufacturers and end-users around the world a great variety of colour, grain and character; from the warm, darker tones of walnut, red alder, elm, cherry and red oak to the lighter hues of white oak, maple and ash. There are over 20 commercial species alone in the AHEC's Species guide and the real advantage for the manufacturer is that both veneers and solids are available in most species ensuring a good fit for any project.
Standard Grading: American hardwoods are traded under a Standard set of Grading Rules that have been accepted throughout the hardwood industry. These Rules were established over 100 years ago by the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) and provide consistency and a common language that both buyer and seller can work with to produce successful transactions over and over again.
Sustainability: No other country can boast the success the Americans have had in the sustainability of its hardwood forests. Due to the intensive application of Best Management Practices (BMP), the hardwood forests in America not only support a vibrant healthy stand of timber, but also huge populations of wildlife, clean rivers and streams, and a host of recreational activities. The net volume of hardwood growing stock in the USA increased from 184,090 million cubic feet in 1953 to just under 400,000 million cubic feet in 2007.
Hardwoods can be used for a wide range of applications. Some of the most important application categories for hardwoods are listed below.
Hardwoods are commonly used for all aspects of interior joinery including; ceiling and wall cladding, doors, partitions, stairs, handrails, internal window frames, fitted cabinets, skirting’s, frames, mouldings and veneered panels. Prior to selecting a species it is important to ascertain that the gluing, finishing and machining properties are suited to the application. It is also important to note that some species are more stable than others in conditions where the ambient moisture may be changeable. Most commercially available American hardwood species machine and finish to a high standard and can be sourced in a range of specifications to suit most interior joinery applications. There is also a spread of colours from the light clean look of the maples and ash, the red hues of cherry, red alder and red birch, the distinctive grain of red and white oak, through to the dark rich brown of black walnut.
Hardwoods are often the material of choice for high quality performance furniture of all shapes and styles. The wide range of natural colours and grains available provides a great choice of look and fashion to suit most environments. Many species can also be stained to alter their surface appearance. Prior to selecting a species it is important to ascertain that the gluing, finishing and machining properties are suited to the application. American hardwoods are ideal for most furniture applications and can be found in products worldwide, from mass produced tables and chairs to custom design hand crafted furniture made to last a life time.
Wooden flooring is becoming increasingly fashionable not just for it warm feel and look but also for its practical and long lasting performance. Wooden floors are seen as an investment and really can add value to a property. Of course the quality, performance and price of products can vary enormously so it is important to source the right product for any given application. Hardwood species are very widely used in flooring as many of them have natural hardwearing properties. Many American hardwoods are known as prime flooring species; such as red oak. White oak, ash, hickory and of course the hardest wearing of all, hard maple – perfect for gymnasiums and sports halls. Even slighter softer species such as cherry and walnut can be used very effectively for high traffic uses with the help of high performance coatings and finishes.
For exterior applications it is important to ensure that the wood species selected has the necessary protection to withstand decay and weathering. Establishing the potential hazard application will determine what protection is required. For example joinery that is south facing and very exposed will be more at risk of deterioration. Ground contact or marine use would be the most hazardous conditions. It should be noted that the sapwood (often lighter coloured outer edge of the tree) of all species is non durable and will decay and rot in the right moisture conditions. If sapwood is present it should be treated with suitable preservative. The heartwood of some hardwoods can offer natural protection against decay and these species are classed as durable. (The degree of durability may vary). However, non durable hardwood species can also be used externally providing they are treated. Treated hardwoods will usually need a coating or finish to ensure the maximum performance of the preservative, but naturally durable species, such as oak, can be left to weather naturally.
Hardwood Species Guide
Please select a species to view all related case studies, data and images
- American alder
- American ash
- American aspen
- American basswood
- American beech
- American yellow birch
- American cherry
- American cottonwood
- American elm
- American gum
- American hackberry
- American hickory & pecan
- American hard maple
- American soft maple
- American red oak
- American white oak
- American sycamore
- American tulipwood
- American walnut
- American willow
Case StudiesView all List of Suppliers
Research & Development
Commercial thermal modification of timber was developed and introduced in the 1990s, and is...
American hardwood industry becomes the first sector to provide environmental life cycle data with...
“I thought of steel, but then considered oak. But I wondered if it would be strong enough. I now have 1,5m of risers and steps in laminated oak, attached to each other with hidden steel dowels and it is so beautiful! Consequently I have learned to appreciate and understand this species.”
- Frits van Dongen on American red oak in the Amsterdam School of Music
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