In a country as vast and vegetated as Australia, it might surprise many people with homes and construction projects built during the 1980s, that the timber for your project was shipped in from the other side of the world. Oregon timber was once the most popular type of building material for projects in Australia. Also known as Douglas Fir, this versatile softwood was shipped in from North America in six-inch-thick slabs which could be between 12 and 24 inches wide. The timber was then recut out of these flitches to create large spans and logs as needed.
Oregon timber was particularly popular in Sydney and Adelaide. South Australia had a limited timber production industry and was bringing timber from interstate and overseas to fulfil demand. However, that supply of US timber has become harder to come by as the popularity of Oregon timber overtook its natural sustainability. Luckily there are viable local types of softwood available which have similar properties and can add that natural, tactile touch to your building project.
Why look at alternatives to Oregon Timber?
Timber is, of course, a renewable resource; however, it is only viable as a large-scale building product when farmed sustainably. In the 1970s and 80s, more awareness and attention was given to preserving old-growth forests and their natural inhabitants. For example, in North America, the Spotted Owl was becoming endangered as it lost its only habitat of Douglas Firs.
As Oregon timber began to only be harvested from young regrowth and new plantations, the flexible and wide spans Australia had become accustomed to became unavailable. Builders were then forced to find new methods of construction. This is when the truss and frame method became more popular. It is also when Oregon timber alternatives such as engineered wood products were introduced.
With the loss of the Oregon timber industry from North America, Australian growers seized the opportunity to establish their own softwood plantations. However, it remains an ongoing struggle for Australian plantations to keep up with the demand for timber.
Alternatives to Oregon
The Douglas Fir takes its name from the Scottish botanist David Douglas who examined samples he took with him back to Britain in the 1800s. While Oregon timber was first thought to be a pine, further investigations suggested it might be a spruce, or a false cedar such as the Western Red Cedar. However, the name Douglas Fir had already stuck, even when it was discovered that the timber most closely resembles the botanical properties of hemlock.
This makes hemlock just one of a number of Oregon timber alternatives. Hemlock is also a softwood making it versatile for building projects, construction, shaping and carving. Hemlock has a smooth, straight, fine grain making it a perfect base as cladding, screening or trims. The light colour of hemlock means it can also be customised to your palette with a variety of stains. This is also ideal if you are going to use hemlock outside as it is best treated to achieve the greatest longevity.
How can Cedar Sales help?
As we become more conscious of building construction techniques and materials, manufacturers are forced to become savvier in their procurement. Cedar Sales is dedicated to creating unique projects from striking materials which not only reflect the natural beauty of the Australian landscape but also ensure its survival for many generations to come. Therefore, if you are looking for timber cladding in your next project, contact Cedar Sales now for more information on using softwoods in your designs.