In the past decade or so since J. Gibson McIlvain added softwoods to its impressive inventory of premium hardwood lumber, we’ve grown to realize the distinct characteristics of softwood species. In an attempt to help us provide for the needs of softwoods customers more effectively, we opened a dedicated softwoods distribution yard in southern Pennsylvania. As we continue to learn about and work with these unique species, we’ve found one of the most sought-after species that we carry to be the Douglas Fir.
There are two basic varieties of Douglas Fir trees: coastal and Rocky Mountain. As anyone who has traveled across the Western US could tell you, many of the trees in the coastal region tend to grow larger. This characteristic makes the coastal variety preferable, due to their higher yield of structural timbers; as a result, J. Gibson McIlvain sources Coastal Douglas Fir trees almost exclusively.
Like two of our other popular softwoods species, Alaskan Yellow Cedar and Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir trees are confusingly named. Instead of being an actual Fir tree, the so-called “Douglas Fir” is actually a Hemlock.
As a Hemlock, Douglas Firs boast extremely straight grain and variegated early and latewood rings. The earlywood contains a creamy yellow cast, which blends with the reddish brown latewood lines to give a generally vibrant orange coloring. As you might expect, the differing levels of hardness between earlywood and latewood can be problematic: Tool edges must be constantly sharpened in order to prevent splintering and tear out during milling.
Both timber framing customers and other builders see great value in showcasing the naturally beautiful Douglas Fir. Exposed beam buildings are especially reliant on this uniquely large species that makes large timber sizes highly available. Other applications include interior flooring and paneling and exterior siding, particularly for rustic-themed décor. With timber framing no longer reserved for archaic styling, the wood’s popularity has grown.
With the increased popularity of Douglas Fir lumber, economic issues of recent years have combined with the lower supply to make long-range shipping cost-prohibitive for many. As a convenience to our customers, J. Gibson McIlvain keeps a large selection of timbers in stock on the West Coast, ready to ship to any location closer to the West Coast than the East. Since we also retain a large stock of structural timbers at our Maryland headquarters, we’re fully equipped to serve the needs of all customers, nationwide.
While a few weeks’ lead time is appreciated for large orders or those of particularly large timbers, we can usually get orders to job sites within two weeks’ time. To find out more about our current offerings of Douglas Fir or other softwoods species, contact our lumber experts by visiting mcilvain.com or calling (800) 638-9100.