The Quality of Old-Growth Wood

The quality of old-growth wood cannot be matched. I took this photo in 2007 at Wilderstein, a remarkable Queen Anne style museum house in New York, while exterior restoration was underway. Check out their website here: http://wilderstein.org/.

As you can see, the house went many decades without being painted until nearly all the paint was gone. The elaborate house was left exposed to rain, snow, wind, and the damaging effects of UV light from the sun. At left, the effects of exposure are clearly visible. At right, the original wood has been repainted in its historic color scheme and looks nearly as good as the day it was built. This would not be possible with new wood.

The wood used in historic houses grew slowly in thick forests and consequently is resinous and has a dense cell structure. It is naturally tough and resistant to rot. Today’s wood is grown in managed forests, where trees are spaced apart to allow maximum sunlight for fast growth. This growing condition results in wood with little resin and an open, light cell structure. It is not tough and is prone to rot. Fast growth equals faster profit to the lumber company but poor quality for the consumer. This is why the preservation of old-growth wood is a priority in historic preservation.

Learn more about the “why” of historic preservation as well as the “how” in Restoring Your Historic House, The Comprehensive Guide for Homeowners.

The 720-page award-winning and best-selling hardcover book is available in bookstores and from online retailers (it is currently 34% off on Amazon! http://ow.ly/Uumq50zRjJ5).

Signed and personalized copies are available directly from the author on this site, click here: https://yourhistorichouse.com/shop/.

Bookstores can order copies from W.W. Norton.

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