In an effort to continue to help close that contentment-robbing “expectation gap,” we’ll continue to look at the many reasons for color variation in lumber. Some of the major influences on lumber color have to do with the origin of lumber. By origin, we’re not only referring to the way that the soil and climate influence a tree’s color, but also the way origin affects the route that lumber has to take before it gets to its final destination.
Origin of Tropical Decking
Tropical decking lumber is a major “culprit” when it comes to color variation, and the origin is a major factor in that variation. Ipe and Cumaru, in particular, grow across a very large region. While most Ipe and Cumaru are harvested from Brazil, the country is quite large, and its soil chemistry and climate varies widely from one end of it to the other. A single shipment of Ipe can include boards from all across the vast growth range. Some regions may produce more mineral streaking than other regions due to variations in soil chemistry. Sometimes, temporary changes in soil chemistry also result from local flooding or fires. (Dark streaks or other significant shifts in color often appear on either side of a significant weather event.)
Like African hardwoods, tropical decking lumber endures quite the wild ride from when it’s first sawn or milled until it arrives at its final destination. Temperature and moisture level fluctuations in the areas through which they travel are only the beginning; consider the effect of riding across the ocean in a metal shipping container: the sun heats the wood up during the day, only to leave it soaking and cold throughout the night. Add to that travel down muddy roads during the rainy season. Dirt, salt, and other debris are likely to get baked onto and into the wood fibers.
Harshly Treated Lumber
Once it’s in port, the boards are moved around by forklifts and often subjected to even more debris. Then it finally arrives at a lumber yard, where it must endure more of the same.
So what’s the moral of this not-so-pleasant story? Much of what initially appears to be color variation in tropical decking might simply be dirt and other effects of your decking lumber’s difficult journey from one continent to another, and a good washing will often make a big difference!
If you’re thinking that color-matching is probably just a pipe dream and you should give up entirely, think again! It’s really not a complete impossibility, once you adjust that pesky “expectation gap” and realize the amazing miracle that even a remotely color-matched deck truly is — and what it takes to get there. We’ll look at a few ways you can approximate color matching in Part 4.
Read the Series
• Why Color-Matching Lumber Is Nearly Impossible, Part 1
• Why Color-Matching Lumber Is Nearly Impossible, Part 2
• Why Color-Matching Lumber Is Nearly Impossible, Part 3
• Why Color-Matching Lumber Is Nearly Impossible, Part 4
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.
Contact a sales representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling toll free (800) 638-9100.
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