Siberian Larch Siding
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Siberian Larch Products
For centuries, mankind has witnessed the unique performance
of structures built out of Siberian Larch. Their experiences
led them to refer to Siberian Larch as “The Tree
of Eternity”. Some homes and churches in Russia
have been estimated to be in existence for over 800 years.
Perhaps the most famous example of its longevity is its
use in the construction of the ancient city of Venice.
Due to proximity, Europeans have been able to take advantage
of this material. Architects in Sweden, Norway, Finland,
Austria, and Japan are specifying the use of larch in
the construction of residential homes and commercial
spaces such as schools, museums, stadiums, and bridges.
Benefits are an impressive dimensional stability, low
cost of installation, low maintenance, high manufacturing
standards, and an aesthetically beautiful timber. However,
the most amazing feature of Siberian Larch is its natural
resistance to decay. The following properties are responsible
for its durability.
- High Density – Siberian Larch
has an average density of 41 lbs/ft3. Higher densities
make it more difficult for decaying organisms to penetrate
the wood. Other than Ipe, Siberian Larch is denser
than all the other most commonly used decking materials.
Southern Yellow Pine
Western Red Cedar
- Grows in a Harsh Climate – The
climate in which Siberian Larch grows is defined as
extreme continental, meaning short hot summers and
long cold winters. The area in Siberia in which our
larch is grown has an average temperature in January
of 5 degrees Fahrenheit and in July it is 64 degrees
Fahrenheit. This results in short growing seasons and
therefore a larger percentage of latewood and a very
tight grain. Latewood is denser and mechanically stronger
than the earlywood. This higher proportion of latewood
equates into a more naturally durable wood.
- Large Content of Heartwood – In
a scientific study on the properties of Siberian Larch,
it was concluded that larch trees are composed of 75-90%
heartwood in their natural existence. Heartwood is
denser, less permeable, and more durable than the surrounding
sapwood. It is not typical for other species to posses
this large of a percentage of heartwood. Even more
impressive, the product we receive from Leitinger is
- Hard Wood – The
hardness of wood, which is highly correlated with density,
is generally defined as resistance to indentation.
Fewer dents and abrasions mean fewer places for water
and fungi to penetrate the wood. Not only will harder
wood have a positive effect on durability, but it will
also help the deck to maintain a better appearance.
Siberian Larch has a hardness of 1,100 lbs/in2 as measured
by the Janka Scale. Once again this outperforms most
of the conventional decking materials.
Southern Yellow Pine
Western Red Cedar
- High Resin and Extractive Content – These
resins and chemical deposits act as a natural antiseptic
which is very unappealing to insects. Although Western
Red Cedar and Redwood are very soft, they have in the
past had a reputation of being good woods for outdoor
applications. This is because they contain extractives
that are toxic to decaying fungi. The chemical composition
of wood can significantly affect its natural durability.
This holds especially true for Siberian Larch. The
resins and extractives in larch are credited the most
for creating this high resistance to decay and rot.
The primary extractive in Siberian Larch is arabinoglactan
which is toxic to fungi. Arabinoglactan content in
larch wood comes in at a high 10-15%.
Siberian Larch is the only sustainable, old growth timber
in the world that is capable of providing the U.S. market
with a premium product for outdoor construction. Larch
species actually account for 38% of the timber in the
2.7 billion acres of forest in Russia. This is significantly
larger than the Amazon Forest which is only 800 million
acres in size! Since Siberian Larch is highly sustainable,
this offers the foundation for a dependable supply.
One question you may be asking yourself is, “If
Siberian Larch can offer this exceptional quality, why
has it not yet established a strong presence in the United
States?” The answer to this question has to do
with its place of origin, Russia!
Prior to the dissolve of the former Soviet Union in 1992,
Russia was not part of the world economy. Russia was
and still is plagued with corruption, bureaucracy, and
a lack of law which makes it difficult for them to function
with the rest of the world. Even 10 years after the declaration
of the statehood of Russia, the country accounted for
less than 2% of the global merchandise trade. While there
is an abundance of raw material, this plays a small role
in insuring a reliable supply. The hurdle is finding
a capable and well capitalized manufacturer. Many large
U.S. corporations have attempted to import Siberian Larch
with little success. The demise of their efforts all
relate to failed alliances as the result of their supplier’s
inability to deliver. A lack of consistency in product,
volatility in price, and an inability to meet schedules
are a few traits that these suppliers have perfected.
To overcome this hurdle, Stein Wood Products had to think
outside of the box. Our focus was to find a supplier
that did not operate in the traditional manner mentioned
above. This took us outside of Russia and landed us in
Austria, the home of Leitinger Holzindustries. Leitinger
was established in 1928 and has become one of the world’s
leading timber processing companies. They are financially
stable and have committed many resources to creating
a presence within Russia. In addition to having purchased
four trains, they have built a processing plant in Madok.
This has given them the means to vertically integrate
much of the process and rely less on others.
Another important consideration is the fact that Siberian
Larch from a manufacturers standpoint is very difficult to mill.
The high resinous content and density of larch make the
kiln-drying process very challenging. The drying process is long and
must follow a detailed schedule. Also, the environment in which it grows
is severe and constant high winds cause the trunks to have an irregular
shape. This creates many issues in sawing the wood. As a result of these
production challenges, there is no substitution for a very specialized
knowledge base and level of expertise when it comes to working with this
specie. Austrians have a long history of working with wood. They are
considered to be exceptional craftsman. This tradition is definitely
reflected in the quality of Leitinger’s
products. You will find boards to be very straight and
precisely milled. Additionally, Leitinger is continually investing in
cutting-edge technology to further perfect their work. This is an area
in which most suppliers of Siberian Larch tend to be behind modern times.
Through our exclusive relationship with Leitinger, Stein Wood Products
has eliminated many of the supply and quality issues that have plagued
so many others.
The environmental implications in using Siberian Larch
are positive. To reiterate, it is a sustainable resource.
The annual growth of Siberian Larch is greater than the
annual felling rate. Annual growth is estimated to be
800 million cubic meters per year, while the allowable
logging threshold to maintain sustainability is projected
to be 500 million cubic meters. Presently, only 100 million
cubic meters are being cut annually! This opportunity
to responsibly use Siberian Larch will allow pressure
to be relieved from other woods that are less sustainable,
many of which come from the Amazon Rain Forest of South
America Ipe. Since larch is a natural material, its effects
on energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and
pollution are far less than that of recently popular
composite decking. Leitinger has always been applauded
for their commitment to environmental awareness. The
Austrian government has continually rewarded them for
their initiatives. Since September 2002, Leitinger has
been certified according to the criteria of the Forest
Stewardship Council (FSC). Leitinger’s plant was
the first operation in the European part of Russia to
be FSC certified.
In recent years, wood products have increasingly lost
market share to alternative decking materials. This is
attributed to a lack of availability and quality. The
demands of clients, designers, and homebuilders have
risen distinctly. They are demanding long lasting, minimal
maintenance, and attractive real wood surfaces without
chemical preservatives. Siberian Larch is leading the
resurgence in the popularity of natural wood decks. Its
unique combination of performance, availability, and
attractive pricing makes it a clear winner. Siberian
Larch is setting a much improved standard for the North
American decking industry just like it has in other parts
of the world.
Stein Wood Products is currently looking to build its
distribution network. For more information, please