The uses of timber are many. After all, wood is a versatile resource. Furniture, floors, houses, fuel, and paper can all be made of wood. It is one of the most widely used plant product in the world and also one of the most stable substances in the plant kingdom. Now let’s have a look at some of the uses of the world’s most traded raw material.
Here are the 5 most common uses of timber:
1. Housing: Why timber is better than brick
High-quality timber, for example of pine and spruce, is used as lumber. Whole houses can be built from the material. A large proportion of houses mainly built of wood can be found in Canada, Finland, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the USA, and Eurasia. This is mainly because these developed countries have forest-rich regions. In Japan, around 90% of dwelling houses are of wood, in Norway some 60%. Wood is strong, inexpensive, renewable, and in most areas easily available.
In the US, wooden houses are infamous. Wood handles earthquakes better than brick. California is subject to terrible earthquakes, and brick buildings don’t ride out earthquakes very well. When brick buildings collapse, the results can be deadly. In contrast, wood structures are far more flexible, they can move with the quake, which limits the structural damage and they won’t collapse like brick structures.
2. Comfortable and classy furniture
Furniture is perhaps the most well-known product made of wood. It varies from benches, chairs, and tables to beds, desks, and closets. Oak, beech, maple, and plane trees are ideal for the manufacture of furniture, while the wood of cherries, alders, birches, and lime trees is ideal for carving. Even sawdust and woodchips can be used for the production of fiberboards. Eucalyptus has lately gained some attraction, mainly for being tropical hardwood.
Eucalyptus is a particularly dense hardwood; it can withstand weather while keeping its shape and strength. Its density blocks the absorption of rain and dew, which is what causes wood to warp. This tree is also water-resistant and has natural anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. That means it does not easily decay or rot, two qualities that can be fatal to furniture. Moreover, this hardwood is an affordable option for eco-conscious as well as budget-conscious consumers. The eucalyptus’ exceptional fast growth makes it a sustainable resource.
3. This timber is on fire
Heating with wood is becoming increasingly important. Not only because the sound of wood cracking in the fire is soothing, but also because of the economic advantages. If the rate of deforestation is properly determined and growth is not compromised, the resource will never go out. However, fossil fuels such as oil or natural gas will be scarce. As a result, their prices will rise faster than wood prices.
Wood fuels include barbecue briquette, bark briquette, wood chips, and wood pellets. In the case of wood pellets, the release of CO2 is roughly equal to the CO2 uptake of the tree; this is called a neutral ratio.
Contrary to what many may think, burning wood for heat does not add to the carbon footprint, as wood gives off the same amount of carbon whether it is burned up or decays naturally. So, the carbon release cannot be avoided. Wood burning does not release any more carbon dioxide than the eventual biodegradation of the wood if it was not burned. This statement has been discussed and criticized several times; whether we agree with it or disagree, it’s up to you to make up your mind. But again, trees are a renewable resource. The growing trees replace the burned trees and reclaim the carbon from the air. Fun fact; even wood ash can be of use! They’re a great ingredient for soap.
4. Ancient love for paper
Another environmental benefit is that wood hardly causes any waste. We’ve established that by-products such as sawdust and woodchips can be used for furniture and modern heating systems. But they can also be used for the production of paper.
The etymology of the word paper is derived from papyrus, the Ancient Greek for the Cyperus papyrus plant. This thick, paper-like material was used in ancient Egypt and other Mediterranean societies. Later, people of ancient China wrote documents on bone or bamboo. However, these “tablets” were heavy, hard to transport, and awkward – especially the bones.
Chinese court official Cai Lun is credited as the inventor of a method of papermaking using rags and other plant fibers in 105 AD. He is said to have been inspired by wasps and bees. Today, paper is produced in special paper mills. There, barked and crushed wood is first shredded and then processed to pulp. Later, this pulp is chemically treated and pressed into paper machines, dried, and wound into long rolls.
5. And then there was
But wood is also used for much more: Once a wood product has become obsolete, it can be converted into heat or electricity in an environmentally friendly way.
Fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas are non-renewable resources; they take hundreds of millions of years to form. So, once they are used up, there is nothing left. This is when we speak of renewable resources such as wind, water, sunshine, and wood.
The vast majority of the electricity used around the world is produced by machines called generators, most commonly spun with a turbine. Types of turbines include water turbines and wind turbines, also called hydroelectric dams and windmills. Electricity from wood is made with a steam turbine. In a biomass power station, firewood is burned in a boiler, producing high-pressure steam. This steam is then forced through the turbine, spinning the generator to make electricity. The electricity leaves the plant through a substation that is connected to the power grid, which delivers the power to homes, companies, industries, and the like.
Enviva, the United State’s largest exporter of wood pellets annually converts tons of trees and waste wood into tiny pellets and ships them to the U.K. and Europe. European countries are using wood pellets to replace coal for heating and electricity generation. Demand for this form of energy is so robust that wood pellet exports nearly doubled from 2012 to 2013.
Although trees are constantly growing, the growth takes a long time depending on the type of wood. However, eucalyptus trees are fast-growing. They grow 5-7 meters in one year only. TreeCoin has recognized this potential and is using these trees to satisfy the demand for wood. As a result, wood stocks do not shrink so fast.