Towering redwoods inspire awe, and old-growth redwood forests are almost mystical places. Redwoods aren't just majestic trees, however. The lumber produced from the trees is attractive and weather resistant, and its advantages over other woods for outdoor building applications has given rise to a thriving redwood timber industry.
Redwood lumber is made from Sequoia sempervirens, the coast redwood. The tree grows in a limited coastal area in the western United States, from southwestern Oregon to central California. The redwood is one of the tallest trees in the world, reaching a mature height of more than 92 metres (300 feet) and a trunk diameter of up to 4 metres (12 feet). Redwood has a distinctive colour, ranging from a light pinkish brown to a deeper reddish brown.
Redwood has qualities that make it desirable for a variety of applications. The wood is naturally resistant to decay, making it particularly well suited for projects that will be exposed to the elements. Redwood is less likely than other woods to warp or deform as it becomes weathered, and it maintains dimensional stability well. Redwood lumber is often used for decks, fences and other outdoor structures.
The Redwood Inspection Service has established 10 grades to rate the quality of California redwood, and all lumber graded by the RIS carries a stamped grade mark. The ratings are divided between architectural grades and garden grades and range between Clear All Heart, the highest architectural grade, and Merchantable, the lowest garden grade. The grades differentiate between lumber that is comprised of all heart wood and lumber that contains sap wood, which is generally of a less desirable colour than heart wood.
Redwood lumber producers have made efforts to ensure that their timber harvesting is sustainable and environmentally responsible. Redwoods are harvested from private lands, leaving 400,000 acres of public redwood forest land protected from harvest. The industry claims that this essentially protects most old-growth redwoods from harvest. The Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative have certified 90 per cent of commercial redwood forest land as being sustainably managed, and the industry is subject to California environmental protection legislation.
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