When it comes to the color of lumber, there are several different factors to consider (see Part 1). In this article, we’ll go into greater detail about how each of these variables will impact the color of your lumber. Hopefully, this information will help you make the wisest choices when it comes to your next lumber purchase.
Grain Impacts the Color of Lumber
There may be no other element that so greatly affects the color of lumber than the grain of the wood. Sometimes boards of the same species hardly even resemble one another in color. Even boards that all come from one tree can vary dramatically in color based on where in the tree they came from and how they were first cut.
Density is the key to figuring out what color the lumber boards are going to be. The more or less dense the cross-section of the log happens to be, the more or less of the light it is going to reflect. These differences in light reflection greatly impact the board’s color.
Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if every piece of wood looked the same? Due to different weather patterns and growing conditions, however, wood contains all sorts of rich variety and character. Longer or shorter growing seasons based on climatic changes can give boards from different parts of the same tree all sorts of differences in density. Resistance to gravity, wind, and weather can also change the density of the grain.
You can also end up with figured grain. This is the grain that doesn’t follow a straight, normal pattern, but instead forms all sorts of interesting twists, turns, and curves. This figuring can significantly impact board color. Different methods of sawing the grain also produce varied wood color results. Boards taken from logs that are at the tree’s periphery look different from those that are taken from the heart of the tree.
If you’re hoping for a straight, parallel grain pattern for your decking boards, you’ll probably want boards that are Rift or Quartersawn. Even though these boards tend to give you consistent results, they too can be unpredictable in their appearance. That’s because, as an organic material, even these uniform looking boards can have variances in density. Medullary Rays can appear on the face of these boards, causing certain sections to look striped or darker than the rest of the board. Boards that have been Quartersawn also tend to tear during the planning process because of their grain pattern variations.
All of these factors can change the color of your decking boards. In our next article, we’ll take a look at how different local climates, weather events, and transportation elements can factor into the color of your decking boards. Hopefully, by this point, you’ll understand why matching the color of lumber can be a laborious process. After we discuss these other factors, we’ll look at ways you can try to mitigate them to end up with an impressively color-matched finished product.
Continue reading with Part 3.