In this second installment of our series on color matching lumber (see Part 1), we’re going to take a closer look at the role the elements and several other external factors have to play in lumber’s color variation. Hopefully, this article will give you greater insight into the reasons behind this natural phenomenon in order to save you a little frustration when you get ready to order lumber for your next decking or wood flooring project. Knowing what you can realistically expect could help you when it comes to making your decision about how to properly prepare and budget for your project.
Weathering Makes a Difference
No matter what color your boards were initially, the rain, wind, sun, and other weather conditions are guaranteed to take a toll on them. The sun’s strong ultraviolet rays are sure to cause plenty of fading. Your rich, brown boards will eventually, over time, fade to gray in the sunlight.
Newly milled boards experience significant changes in the days and weeks after they’ve been sawn. Their surfaces will start to give off moisture as they dry out. Exposure to the air will actually cause chemical changes that will also impact their color. These color variations can sometimes look quite shocking to those who aren’t used to seeing them. Some boards can even appear pink or green! After a while, some of the rapid, dramatic changes in color you see in this freshly milled wood will start to even out into a more uniform color as the wood ages.
Regional Climate Impacts Color
When it comes to the tropical woods that are so popular for decking projects, it’s important to understand how regional climate can play a role in determining the color of different boards within a species. Just because you order all Cumaru or all Ipe for your decking project doesn’t guarantee that every board you get will have been milled from trees that grew in the exact same region. Based on which area of the Brazilian forest the trees were growing in, your boards could end up with quite different colors and shades. This lack of uniformity boils down to soil composition, including the amount of mineral content, and changing weather conditions in the various regions of the forests.
Color is Also Affected by Weather Events
Sometimes specific natural weather events, such as forest fires and floods, can impact the color of your wood as well. The tree’s chemistry can react to these phenomena in ways that impact the wood’s color. There can be streaks in your boards that show a change before and after such a weather event. Remember, since trees are living organisms, they’ll respond to their environment in all sorts of ways, some of which can show up in the color of the wood later on down the road.
As you can see, the color of the wood is a complex subject. It can be impacted in multifaceted ways. The next article in this series will focus on how the lumber’s journey from the forest to its final destination on your job site can impact the color of your boards, as well as how the wood grain itself can significantly impact the wood’s color.
Learn More About the Lumber Industry
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has become one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods. As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world. Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.