The old saying, “You just can’t beat wood,” is as true today as it ever has been. The homebuilding, remodeling and home interior furnishings industries have advanced the use of wood in all of its natural and engineered forms.
Unfortunately, the term “engineered hardwood” sometimes carries a
negative connotation—as if it were something of lesser quality and desirability.
On the contrary, custom window treatment dealers and consumers alike should not
be deceived. Manufacturers often refer to engineer hardwood as wood “in
an advanced form” because it is highly resistant to warping, cracking and
splitting. It also can be made in large, seamless pieces that will retain its
final shape over time.
DECADES OF DEVELOPMENT
Engineered hardwood was first developed in the 1940s in an effort to design a
structurally superior wood product. It was marketed under the name Masonite.
Wood fibers are made up of cellulose and lignin. Cellulose makes up about half
of wood by weight and gives wood its strength and structure. Lignin holds the
fibers of wood together. In the development of engineered hardwood, extractives
in the natural wood such as fats, gums, oils and colorants are removed. The cellulose
fibers are spun, released and elongated and are made stronger because all the
contaminates are removed. The fibers then rebind with the natural lignins. Excessive
moisture is removed during this process and high-strength adhesive resin is added.
This combination is fused under intense heat and pressure. The resulting product
has tremendous strength, yet it remains lightweight. Other hardwoods such as
oak, walnut and cherry are much heavier.
Machine stress rate (MSR) tests are done on lumber for the interior shutter industry.
These tests measure a wood’s “modules of elasticity” or stiffness.
This information is carefully tabulated.
As tight spirals grow inside wood fibers, computer analysis of this growth at
certain angles—micro fibril angles (or MFA)—will measure hardness,
durability and surface quality. With this analysis done, the wood then is engineered
and load tested. Developing these tests was the beginnings of creating what today
is a superb high-density fiberboard (HDF) product.
As products are engineered for their maximum MSR, the actual wood fibers are
engineered to perform far beyond their natural abilities. In engineered hardwood,
the MFA is in the highest range, the same as the ultimate in hardwoods: oak,
cherry or walnut. In engineered hardwood, the moisture content is zero. This
wood used in the shutter, window and components industries is often known as “the
wood of the 21st century.” It weighs less than most traditional hardwoods.
The molding industry has endorsed this product as its “molding of the future.”
In the mid-1980s, Stanfield Shutter Co. chose to run extensive tests on this
product for the shutter industry. In all areas including milling, gluing, construction
and painting, it performed exceptionally well. Those who choose to ignore this
product probably are not informed adequately as to the full measure of its value.
There is one aspect of engineered wood that must be attended to, however. It
is costly to tool up for. Usually, and especially in a competitive market, it
is easier to not sell a product than to gain the technology, tool up for its
production, construct it and then finally sell it as a truly beautiful product.
But those companies that have done it, find consumers are not disappointed. Engineered
hardwood is of the highest quality and a great value for the shutter industry.
Because it is such a fine product, engineered hardwood carries a lifetime manufacturers
PRODUCT FOR THE GENERATIONS
Studies by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service have shown
that on average about 63 percent of a harvested tree can be used to make solid
lumber. When engineered hardwood and other products are made from the remaining
wood, more than 95 percent of the tree can be used. Not only has engineered wood
made more of each tree usable, it has replaced solid hardwood in many applications,
reducing the amount of solid wood needed.
Wood is one of our most renewable resources. Vast forests throughout the United
States and Canada are planted and managed effectively. More trees are planted
than harvested each year. The trees planted today will be used by our grandchildren
tomorrow. All this makes wood is an exceptional product for stability, long life,
structural integrity and beautiful appearance.
Stanfield Shutter Co., is based in Salt Lake City, UT; (801) 467-8823; www.stanfieldshutter.com.