Birch trees are widely dispersed in the deciduous forests of Northeastern North America. White birch, yellow birch and silver birch have all been used for multiple purposes for hundreds of years. Birch trees are opportunistic and can commonly be seen growing in meadows that are being overtaken by forests.
Panelling and Flooring
Birch lumber is characterised by a straight, tight grain that is very durable and takes a finish well. Birch trees that have grown straight with few branches will yield long knot-free boards. Lumber of this type is ideal for interior panelling and flooring. Birch can be treated with a clear finish or stained to give it a darker, more formal look that brings out the texture of the grain. Because birch trees are common and fast growing, panelling and flooring made of birch is less expensive than oak, walnut or cherry.
Birch is widely used in the furniture industry. Its stability makes it ideal for casework, drawer parts and frames. Birch is also used for making plywood, which is frequently used for interior parts of kitchen cabinets and other case goods. Antique furniture that is made of solid birch can still be found at auctions and antique shops, a testament to the history of birch's use in furniture building for hundreds of years. Flame birch is a particularly attractive type of birch that can be stained and finished to create a dramatic veneer for fine furniture.
Wood turning requires wood species that are tight grained and not susceptible to chipping and cracking. Birch fits these needs and makes excellent turned objects such as finials, rolling pins, chair parts, bedposts and lamp stands. Birch can be turned green or after kiln drying, which decreases its moisture content to 6 or 7 per cent and makes it less susceptible to warping or cracking after the turning is finished. Birch is strong enough to be used for thin and delicate turned chair parts that can still support the weight of a person without breaking.
Although it may seem unreasonable to burn such a useful wood, birch is widely used for firewood. Because of its heavy, close-grained character, birch releases a large amount of heat per cubic foot in comparison to lighter woods such as pine or spruce. Some species of birch, such as white birch, are straight grained and easy to split for firewood. Other species, such as yellow birch, sometimes have a twisted grain and can be a challenge to split.