December 27, 2022
Redwood has the scientific name Sequoioideae, a subfamily of Cupressaceae. Its scientific name seems complicated to pronounce, yet that’s how horticulturists and botanists create scientific names using Latin. This subfamily of Cupressaceae includes the tallest and largest living beings on Earth.
Redwood has three subfamily genera that include the following: Sequoia of Oregon and Coastal California; Sequoiadendron Sierra Nevada, California; and Metasequoia in China. Redwood species boasts of the tallest trees on Earth. These trees have existed for several millennia. However, these trees got threatened by illegal logging, climate change, burl poaching, and fire suppression.
Two genera of Redwoods—the Sequoiadendron and Sequoia—have massive trees. However, the Metasequoia trees are smaller, and only one species is extant, namely, Metasequoia glyptostroboides.
The old-growth Redwood lumber belongs to the most highly valued lumber because of its longevity and age. Several old-growth trees in the Redwood reservation might be thousands of years old, and some of them got cut before cutting Redwood was banned.
Old-growth Redwood lumber, of course, is dense and very strong. This high density and strength are due to the extreme size and age of the tree. Besides, because of its excessive length, you can make colossal lumber cuts on a Redwood
Old-growth lumber, cut from Redwood, was previously utilized for longer beams where long and solid timber is needed. Contractors also used it for making colossal redwood panels.
Redwood’s Characteristics, Properties, Texture & Colors
Redwood is an excellent softwood that you can use for both outdoor and indoor applications. The reason is that it is naturally weather-resistant. Its heartwood exhibits a range of colors from deep reddish brown to a bit of pinkish brown. Its sapwood, however, sports a pale yellow or white color. You will also sometimes see lace or burl on it.
Redwood showcases straight grain, though you may also find irregularities and wavy grain in it. It finishes nicely because of its straight grain and accepts stains and paint well.
Although very soft, it has the distinction of being the strongest softwood on Earth. Besides, it exhibits high resistance to splitting and warping.
Redwood is also highly workable. So, if you’re a beginner, you can work well with Redwood using your manual or power tools.
Redwood, of course, is well-recommended for outdoor projects. It also carries tannin, a substance that wards off insects and bugs. As such, it is highly resistant to pests. So, if you use Redwood for furniture making, you can expect your furniture to be pest and bug-resistant.
Furthermore, Redwood also exhibits high resistance to fire. Thus, you can position your Redwood furniture anywhere without any qualms. Redwood is also sustainable, with new Redwood trees farmed for use.
Significant Facts About Redwood
Redwood distinguishes itself from other wood because it is the tallest and largest tree species on Earth. If you want to use Redwood, it will be best to be familiar with the other significant qualities of Redwood:
- It has natural extracts that provide it with a reddish-purple hue.
- Because of its natural extracts, it is quite resistant to insect and fungal attacks.
- It is a softwood, making it less dense than most hardwoods.
- It is softer and lighter.
- As a softwood, Redwood doesn’t shed its leaves during Autumn.
- Redwood has good bending strength, but it has poor shear strength.
- You can saw this wood along its rough and soft texture. You can also cut along its cross-section or emphasize its marbled pattern.
- It turns silver-gray when exposed to sunlight. It turns blackish, however, when exposed to damp conditions.
- Redwood also dries out slowly compared to other wood types, letting it retain its finish longer.
- Redwood also retains carbon, and its fiber consists primarily of 50 percent carbon. Thus, it significantly helps in maintaining ecological balance.
Is Redwood A Hardwood?
You might think that Redwood is a hardwood because it is the tallest living thing on Earth. Yet, Redwood is not a hardwood but a softwood and a coniferous tree. Of course, classifying trees into softwood or hardwood doesn’t depend on how tall a tree is. Besides, there are several factors to consider when classifying wood, like whether it comes from a deciduous tree (hardwood) or coniferous tree (softwood), wood density, and dicotyledon angiosperm, or monocotyledon gymnosperm, and how water gets transported throughout the tree branches.
Despite being the tallest tree in the world, Redwood exhibits all the necessary characteristics of softwood, like being a coniferous tree, having less density, and the structure of its seeds. Thus, it gets classified as softwood. But it doesn’t mean that it is not good lumber.
What is the Hardness Level of Redwood?
You can’t expect Redwood to be as hard as the Brazilian Cherry or Mesquite, for it is a softwood. The redwood tree is a gymnosperm tree that does not shed its leaves during fall. Besides, you can’t find any visible pore structure in this wood.
Redwood, as a softwood, has a Janka Hardness rating of 420 lbf, which is way below the Janka Hardness ratings of hardwoods and many softwoods. Nevertheless, even with a low Janka rating, it’s harder than Aspen and Basswood. Besides, Redwood exhibits resistance against splitting and warping. Hence, regarding durability, Redwood rates high.
Moreover, even if Redwood is a softwood, it is still suitable for outdoor usage because of its good decay and weather resistance. Its softness also makes it easy to work with.
Should You Use Redwood Lumber?
You might think that Redwood is not good lumber because it is a softwood which, to you, means it is not durable and long-lasting. Yet, as mentioned above, horticulturists and botanists have peculiar ways of classifying wood types. But it doesn’t mean that if Redwood is a softwood, it isn’t suitable for most woodworking projects.
Redwood, being a softwood, has nothing to do with its hardness properties and grain structure. It is more on the categories used by horticulturists and botanists in classifying wood. So, if you’re hesitant to use Redwood, don’t think twice about using it because it is good lumber for many woodworking projects.
Advantages of Using Redwood
If you intend to use Redwood for your house flooring, it will help if you are familiar with the pros and cons of its use. Below are the apparent advantages of using Redwood for house flooring:
- Redwood belongs to the strongest materials you will find in nature. It is warp and split-resistant.
- It is not an expensive wood and belongs to affordable lumber. It is an economical alternative to other wood of the same quality and properties.
- It is also stylish with its natural reddish hue and marbled grain, producing a pleasing finish for your floor projects.
- It is not difficult to work with. You can cut it easily and nails satisfactorily. Besides, it receives stains and finishes nicely.
- It is also sustainable because it grows fast. This means you can plant Redwood trees and harvest them sooner than other wood types. Hence, using them will not tip off the ecological balance.
- Its durability is remarkable. Furniture made of Redwood is known to last longer.
- It exhibits high resistance to insect attack and decay. You can also use its heartwood for outdoor projects, provided it doesn’t contact the ground.
- It also accepts stains with ease. So, it does well with paints and varnish.
Disadvantages of Using Redwood
After knowing the pros of using Redwood, you’re now better informed whether Redwood is the perfect wood for your projects. Yet, it will also help if you know the following disadvantages of using Redwood:
- Redwood is vulnerable to wear and tear over time. If you place it in high traffic, it will soon exhibit scratches and wear. The reason is that it is softwood which is less dense than other wood.
- Wild Redwood trees have been continuously harvested, taking their toll on the environment. So, the number of wild Redwood is still dwindling.
- It is not fire-resistant. So, you need to fire-treat the wood before you use it. If you don’t want to deal with this risk, you can opt for non-flammable materials for your flooring.
- It is also not weather resistant which means it will succumb to the vicissitudes of the weather and other outdoor elements if you don’t treat it. It will also turn darker and deteriorate.
Uses & Applications of Redwood Lumber
Redwood is a highly desirable wood for different applications. It has excellent properties and characteristics that endear it to many woodworkers and furniture makers. Below is a rundown of various indoor and outdoor applications of Redwood:
Redwood gets used for structural beams like porch enclosures, open beam ceilings, and support columns (interior). Redwood beams are known to resist shrinkage and are resistant to warping and twisting. However, it is relatively light and easy to work with. Besides, it necessitates little maintenance.
Redwood furniture is excellent and exhibit remarkable durability. Hence, this wood is a good choice, even for outdoor furniture.
Redwood is excellent for wall trims. It is also perfect for feature walls. Moreover, its rich color exudes and adds warmth to interior space. Besides, it is easy to work with and install. You can easily install it without worrying about cracks, splits, and knots.
Redwood is commonly used for decking. It exhibits natural strength and stability. Besides, it is durable for use in decking and stays comfortable when you walk on it barefoot. Moreover, its deep red color makes your decks look valuable.
You can use Redwood for building pergolas, fences, patios, and gates. Its durability and longevity make it a favorite wood for these applications. You can also use this wood for many other purposes, like woodturning and making other tiny specialty items.
Redwood flooring is durable and tough enough to stand the roughest usage without the necessary interval maintenance or refinishing. The cinnamon rich-red colored tone of the redwood flooring project the classical antique and warm feel.
Is Redwood Ideal for Furniture?
Since Redwood is easy to work with and is structurally sound, it is a good wood for furniture making. Nevertheless, it is not commonly used for making furniture.
Instead, it gets utilized for the abovementioned purposes and applications. However, it will surely be beautiful and great looking if used in interior furniture.
Is Redwood Sustainable?
The use of Redwood is sustainable because the Redwood tree quickly grows. Most Redwood lumber used in different applications come from managed forest and meet the sustainability laws of the state. Redwood, for example, gets harvested from forestlands owned by families along the coasts of California, where trees grow slowly and gain strength.
You may think Redwood is hard to find because of the strict laws against cutting old Redwood trees. Old-growth Redwood, of course, is protected. Commercial Redwood lumber, however, is younger and smaller and mostly grown on privately owned commercial forests.
Does Redwood Belong to Endangered Species of Trees?
The old-growth Redwoods are currently considered endangered; thus, they get relegated to the protected status. Nevertheless, the new Redwoods need some protection because we need to preserve this tree species so that future generations can appreciate this majestic wood species.
In California, Redwood belongs to the protected species. Harvesting pulp trees for paper might be sustainable. But this sustainability is not possible for the Redwoods because cutting any of these ancient trees would be a significant loss to the world. Besides, younger Redwoods are still hundreds of years old, while old-growth Redwoods are close to two millennia in age.
In 1890, for example, around 2 million acres of Redwood forests existed. But now, only 5% of that old-growth Redwood forests exist. Besides, old-growth trees take in five times more carbon dioxide. Thus, old-growth Redwood trees got included in the protected species.
When milling Redwood, you will notice a significant difference between the grain of old-growth Redwood and urban-grown Redwood. The rings of old-growth trees are tighter, while the urban-grown Redwood has larger spaces between rings.
The implication is that the closer its ring arrangement, the more it becomes durable, stronger, and resistant to decay and insects. Young Redwood timber is not much stable and resistant to decay and insects. So, its value as an outdoor timber is negligible.
Liam is a 37-year-old woodworker and interior designer who loves to make every furniture project an art piece. He is very experienced in furniture design and woodworking project planning.