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Explore Various Types Of Structural Engineered Wood: A Guide

Explore Various Types Of Structural Engineered Wood: A Guide

Picture of the owner of Birkes BuildersDavid Birkes
Owner | General Contractor & Builder
Birkes Builders
Published On:
August 15, 2023
Last updated:
August 15, 2023
a row of wooden benches sitting on top of a wooden floor

Introduction to the World of Engineered Wood

Permit me to guide you on a journey through time and timber, beginning with raw logs and culminating in the marvel that is engineered wood. Welcome to a narrative of resilience, innovation, and a testament to human ingenuity.

From humble huts to towering skyscrapers, wood has played an integral role in human history. It has offered us shelter from storms, fuel for our fires and now, in its engineered avatar, continues to revolutionize our built environment.

A curious mind might wonder how we've come from chiseling away at logs for fundamental structures to creating complex forms with layers of processed wood. This transformation didn't happen overnight; it's the product of centuries of incremental advancements in science and construction technologies.

Brief History: Of Logs and Laminates - A Tale Worth Telling

The history of engineered wood traces back as far as Ancient Egypt when glue-coated wooden pieces were used for furniture and burial artifacts. The modern concept started gaining traction during the Industrial Revolution when new manufacturing techniques made mass production possible. Fast forward to 1905; Elliot Norton invented plywood that revolutionized construction industry across the globe.

Over the years, constant innovations led us from plywood to other types such as oriented strand board (OSB), laminated veneer lumber (LVL), cross-laminated timber (CLT) among others. The evolution is ongoing; just when you think we've reached peak innovation in manipulating wood's properties using technology, along comes another invention that leaves us pleasantly surprised!

The Basics: Decoding Engineered Wood - Mysteries Unveiled!

Engineered wood products are composite materials made by binding strands, particles or veneers of wood together using adhesives. What does this mean?

In simpler terms, it's taking small pieces or layers of natural wood ("logs"), adding some glue ("laminates") and pressing them together into various shapes or forms. This process allows manufacturers not only control over strength characteristics but also opens up possibilities for sizes and shapes unachievable by traditional lumber methods.

It's like being given lego blocks instead of having one big piece; you can create whatever your heart desires! Plywood may be the first type that springs to mind at the mention of 'engineered wood', but other variants like Glulam beams or LVL offer distinct advantages depending on their application.

Why Engineered Wood? Pondering Possibilities & Practicalities

So why do we turn these beautiful logs into layers bonded with adhesive? For one thing, engineered woods provide more strength per unit weight than solid woods do which means lighter constructions without compromising stability or durability! No forest has trees tall enough nor straight enough for long-span structures without joints which makes solid timber unfeasible in such scenarios. Meanwhile engineered beams can be manufactured upto 75 feet length!

Last but definitely not least they are environmentally friendly! Using lesser valuable hard-wood resources compared to traditional lumber means less strain on our forests while still letting us enjoy all benefits associated with wooden constructions like aesthetics warmth�quite literally 'having your cake eating too' architectural world! With this introduction let's delve deeper into world each type its fascinating origin story manufacturing process where shines brightest usage wise."

The Big Players in Engineered Wood

Plywood: More than Just Layers

Origin Story: Who Invented Plywood?

Believe it or not, plywood has been around for millennia. The first purported instance of layering wood veneers together dates back to ancient Egypt around 3500 BC. However, the modern permutation of plywood as we know it began in the mid-19th century. The real breakthrough came in 1865 when John K. Mayo of New York received a patent for producing plywood.

Making Process: How It's Made

Creating plywood is an intricate dance between machines and nature. It begins with logs--specifically softwoods like pine and cedar--that are peeled into thin layers known as veneers.

These veneers then go through a drying process, after which they are sorted by quality before being coated with adhesive resin. Then comes the magic--the stacking and pressing of these layers at alternating right angles which gives plywood its characteristic strength.

Types and Uses: From Construction to Crafts

Plywood's versatility is one of its strongest suits--it's essentially everywhere! In the construction domain, you'll find it being used for walls, floors, and roofs, thanks to its durability and ease of use.

Plywood also makes an appearance in furniture design where different grades add beauty to function. But it doesn't stop there--from boats to musical instruments, even art pieces--plywood has made its mark far and wide.

Oriented Strand Board (OSB): The Underdog Hero

Birth of OSB: A Solution to a Problem

OSB emerged as a star player in the engineered wood scene during the 1970s oil crisis. High petroleum prices catapulted the cost of synthetic building materials through the roof (pun intended). Enter oriented strand board--an innovatively engineered solution that was not only economically viable but also ecologically sensible.

Creation Saga: How OSB Comes into Existence

The creation saga begins similarly to plywood--with logs--but instead of peeling them into sheets, they're shredded into strands about 1inch wide and up to 6 inches long (thus 'strand board'). These strands are then mixed with wax and adhesive resin before being formed into large mats by orienting them perpendicular to each other--giving rise to its name--and pressed together under heat till we get our sturdy OSB panel.

Where You'll Find OSB: Common Uses

Today, OSB is arguably one of the most ubiquitous materials used especially within North America's residential construction industry--it's primarily used for wall sheathing, floor sheathing and roof decking due largely to its dimensional stability under varying moisture conditions. But don't let that fool you--this adaptable material isn't just confined within construction boundaries; it has many other uses from DIY projects such as furniture making or craftwork whilst some even use it for their fine art canvases!

The Specialized Squad of Engineered Wood

Step aside, plywood and OSB, allow us to introduce the specialized vanguard of engineered wood. These aren't your everyday building materials.

They're designed for very specific uses with unique properties that make them excel where others falter. Today, we're shining a spotlight on Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) and Glulam Beams.

Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL): Strength in Layers

The Genesis of LVL and Its Unique Properties

Necessity is indeed the mother of invention as can be seen in the genesis of Laminated Veneer Lumber or LVL. As demand for high-strength, defect-free lumber grew in the post-war era, industry innovators came up with a novel solution--peeling logs into thin sheets or veneers and then gluing these layers together to form an unprecedentedly strong piece of timber. This method effectively distributes any naturally occurring defects over a large area, thereby substantially reducing their impact on overall strength.

The result is an incredibly strong structural material that has more uniform properties than solid lumber--it's less prone to warping, splitting and shrinking. Furthermore, its strength-to-weight ratio is notably higher than traditional solid lumber which makes it ideal for robust construction applications without adding additional weight burden.

Production Process: How LVL is Born

The production process for laminated veneer lumber starts with peeling logs into thin veneers--think slicing cheese but instead it's wood--and drying them thoroughly before they're sorted by quality. Next comes the adhesion stage: they're coated with a durable adhesive resin that forms bonds under heat and pressure during pressing. Once pressed firmly together in large billets under high pressure conditions--we're talking thousands of pounds per square inch--the billets are cut into different lengths catering to market demands.

Each layer contributes its share to the overall fortitude of the final product creating an indomitable force field against both physical pressures as well as environmental adversaries like moisture fluctuations.

Where Does LVL Shine? Typical Applications

Laminated Veneer lumber enjoys a stellar reputation in construction applications such as beams, headers and columns where high strength-to-weight ratios are required without compromising on dimensional stability. It's also often found in flooring systems offering sheer potency underneath our feet! Beyond these standard uses, you might find this versatile material gracing scaffolding planks or even serving as crane mats--their ability to bear hefty loads makes them ideal candidates for these applications too!

Glulam Beams : Beauty Meets Strength

The Tale of Glulam's Inception

Moving on from strength layered horizontally (as in laminated veneer), let's now shift our focus towards glued-laminated timber or glulam beams -- another stalwart member from our specialized squad! They entered into spotlight during early 20th century when builders were looking outwards seeking longer spans while architects gazed upwards dreaming loftier heights.

Solving this conundrum was no easy feat until glulam came along! Because glulam beams can be made virtually any size through lamination process--they provided just the right blend between mechanical robustness & visionary architecture!

From Trees to Beams : Glulam Production Process

To shed light on how trees metamorphose into gluelam beams let's walk down its production aisle! It starts when selected timber boards are dried uniformly before being cut into precise dimensions followed by planing their surfaces smooth--a crucial step ensuring intimate contact between each layer during lamination process later helping form stronger bonds! In next stage adhesive resin coats each individual strip prior them being stacked together under hydraulic presses which exert tremendous pressure forging those strips into one unified beam while curing resin hardens up solidifying their union!

Glulam in Action : Where It's Used

Aesthetic appeal coupled with impressive strength gives Glulm a competitive edge over other structural materials making it go-to choice among architects especially when designing large open spaces such sports arenas churches etc where long spans & lofty heights become central design elements! The beauty about gluelum lies not only within its inherent structural competency but also flexibility wherein curved shapes can be easily achieved complementing creative architectural designs! Moreover since glue lam offers better resistance against fire compared solid wood structures thus enhancing safety aspects associated with such constructions!

Venturing into the Niche Realm of Engineered Woods

The Artisanal Aesthetics and Audacious Applications of Specialty Engineered Woods

As we delve deeper into the pantheon of engineered timber, we come across unique, niche creations that are pushing the boundaries of what we thought was possible with wood. These are not your everyday plywood or OSBs, but specialized products designed for specific applications or to solve particular problems.

One such intriguing manifestation in the world of advanced structural components is Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT). This avant-garde entrant has begun to carve out a place for itself in recent years, challenging traditional materials in both strength and sustainability.

Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) : The New Kid on the Block

Revolutionizing Construction with a Twist on Tradition

Cross-laminated timber, or CLT as it's known among those in the know, is a relative newcomer to the engineered wood scene. CLT first made its appearance in Europe in the early 1990s as an innovative solution for long-span applications.

Since then, it's been steadily gaining popularity across architectural sectors worldwide for its unique blend of versatility, durability and environmental perks. This fresh-faced contender is no lightweight when it comes to performance either.

Its high load-bearing capacity and impressive dimensional stability make it a formidable competition against more traditional building materials like concrete and steel. But where CLT really takes center stage is in sustainable construction -- an area that's becoming increasingly important for our blue marble planet.

How CLT is Made : An Overview

A Symphony of Strength: Transforming Timber into Toughened Titans

The creation process behind cross-laminated timber plays out like an orchestrated symphony where each piece plays its part to contribute towards a grand result. In essence, CLT involves stacking layers of kiln-dried lumber boards at right angles and bonding them together under high pressure.

To begin with, straight-grained pieces of softwood lumber are carefully selected based on strength characteristics. These lumber boards are then kiln-dried until they reach an optimal moisture content suitable for adhesion purposes.

Next up comes lamination -- this involves gluing these boards together layer by layer at alternating 90-degree orientations (much like how you would lay bricks). This crosswise configuration gives CLT its eponymous 'cross-lamination', enhancing dimensional stability while reducing shrinkage or swelling tendencies found within natural timber.

The final product? A super-strong engineered wood panel ready to take on almost any construction challenge thrown its way!


An Optimistic Ode to Our Wooden Wonders

In truth, there's something both nostalgic and novel about engineered wood products - from our humble plywood beginnings to sophisticated solutions like Cross-Laminated Timber. They're testament to human ingenuity - our ability to take something as simple as raw timber and engineer it into material that's resilient enough for modern construction yet remains rooted in natural sustainability.

Indeed, our exploration into these wooden wonders presents yet another shining example: even as we face growing ecological challenges ahead - innovation thrives; creativity rises; progress perseveres - all while staying true to Earth's rich tapestry. Here's looking forward with anticipation at what else lies hidden within this marvelous realm of originated trees!

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