There are tons of building materials to choose from when it comes to constructing your client’s deck, fence, pergola or other outdoor living features.
If your client wants a sustainable material that will last for many years, suggest the increasingly popular California redwood.
For close to a decade now, this material has grown in popularity thanks to its resistance to decay, light weight and overall durability.
“A lot of it has to do with people using plastic products for decking,” said Charlie Jourdain, president of the California Redwood Association. “There’s been a pushback against the plastic recently. We’ve conducted some focus groups and people want to be around nature and natural materials.”
Another desired feature, Jourdain says, is how redwood is capable of storing carbon. An average deck can hold 1,000 pounds of carbon.
While plastic decking can get extremely hot during the summer, redwood remains cool. Plus, the wood’s rich natural colors are unique, though often imitated. As for costs, plastic and composite materials can end up being quite expensive since they require more support structures.
“Redwood has a really good strength to weight ratio,” Jourdain said. “Redwood beams can be used for pergolas, shade structures – basically anything in the outdoor living environment, it can be used.”
The lifespan of redwood is generally 25 years with proper care, but it can be extended even further with refinishing and maintenance. Like all materials, redwood does require some care. It should be cleaned every year and a new finish applied every two years.
Compared to another popular durable product, ipe, redwood wins out in the sustainability argument. California redwood is harvested from forests that are certified by one of the two sustainable forestry programs, the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
These programs require companies that own commercial forests to conduct sustainable forestry practices. Ipe comes from tropical forests in other countries, where it is much harder to ensure that sustainable harvesting practices are being followed.
“We can go into a well-managed forest and harvest and know that there is a new generation of forest coming up behind it,” Jourdain said.
Contrary to popular belief, redwoods are fast growers. In ideal conditions, they can grow 2-3 feet annually, according to the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Redwoods are usually about 60 years old before they are harvested.
Unlike other trees that are suffering during the current drought, redwoods grow in a narrow strip up the Pacific coastline that provides them with the moisture they need.
“In drought years, the coast is not as affected,” Jourdain said. “Even if it’s not raining, you always have fog, which hits the crowns of the trees and trickles down.”
The affordability of redwood varies. In California, it is obviously plentiful and therefore one of the more reasonably priced building materials there. In other Western states, such as Colorado and Oregon, redwood prices are competitive.
Jourdain acknowledges, however, that the availability of redwood drops once you’re east of the Mississippi River, so prices are considerably higher there.
A particular bonus redwood offers to those who live in wildfire country is its fire resistance, which is owing to its lack of resin. It even meets California’s stringent fire code, allowing redwood to be used without restriction.