Compare Deck Wood – Siberian Larch

Compare Deck Wood – Siberian Larch

Siberian Larch wood is starting to make its way into the commercial market of the United States.  Prior to the dissolution of the former Soviet Union in 1992 this wood was not readily available on the world market.  Even in the decade after Russia’s declaration of statehood this wood was only practically available in the European countries with a close proximity to Russia.  In those areas where the lumber was readily available it was quickly embraced by architects and designers.  Today, top designers and architects in Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden prize this wood for use in the construction of schools, commercial developments and residential homes.

In recent years Siberian Larch has begun to gain popularity among
deck builders in the United States.

With companies like Austria’s Leitinger developing the supply line, Siberian Larch is now readily available worldwide.  The origin of this wood also lends to it’s acceptance among builders and architects.  Siberian Larch accounts for nearly 40% of Russia’s 2.7 billion acres of forest!  By comparison the Amazon forest covers only 800 million acres of land.

This wood is coming from a highly sustainable source.  The natural growth rate of the forest is five (5) times higher than the rate at which it is being harvested.  That gets to the very heart of wood preservation.

Siberian Larch is a coniferous tree with some rather unique characteristics.  One of these unique features is the fact that it sheds its needles in the winter.  From a technical standpoint, only hardwoods are supposed to loose their foliage in the winter months.  For this reason, natives call Larch the “conifer that thinks it’s a hardwood”.

Hardly new to it’s native regions, Larch was originally use in the building of ships and mine supports.  This wood has a strong track record of being extremely resistant to decay and rot.  Ancient Europeans referred to Larch as “the tree of eternity”.  As an example of the durability of this wood one can look to the ancient city of Venice.  Larch was used to build the piers columns and posts that suspend this city.  In the early 1800s, after several centuries of exposure to the salt water many of these supports were examined for structural integrity.  It was found that the wood had become almost petrified and were too hard to chop with an ax and nearly impossible to saw.

The Softwood That Thinks it’s a Hardwood
Siberian Larch is a great choice for Wood Decking

Deck Wood Hardness testPHOTO CREDIT WIKIPEDIA COMMONS

The impressive natural durability of Siberian Larch can be attributed to several of its natural properties.  The following factors each contribute to the resistance of decay, rot and insect infestation:

  1. High Density – Siberian Larch has an average density of 41 lbs/ft3.  This makes it more dens than all of the other commonly used decking materials with the exception of Ipe.  The higher the density of a wood, the more difficult it is for organisms to penetrate the wood and cause decay.
  1. Native to a harsh climate – Larch grows in a region that has very short summers and very long winters.  This results in a very short growing season.  A short growing season leads to a higher percentage of latewood and a very tight grain pattern.  Latewood is much denser and mechanically stable than earlywood which is formed during the short growing season.  The higher proportion of latewood equates to a much harder and more durable wood.
  1. Large content of Heartwood – Siberian Larch consists of 75%-90% heartwood. f This is unlike native pine that will contain a much higher percentage of the softer sapwood.  This makes the wood very hard.  Larch has a hardness of 1,150 lbs/in2 when measure on the Janka scale.  Yellow pine is in the 600 – 800 lb range, western cedar is in the 300 – 500 range.
  1. Extractive Content is Toxic to Fungi – Western Red Cedar and Redwood are known for their natural resistance to decaying fungi. This is because of certain chemicals in their extractives.  Siberian Larch benefits from a particular chemical (arabinoglactan) that is toxic to fungi.  Arabinoglactan is the primary extractive of Siberian Larch frequently occurring as high as 10% – 15%

When comparing deck wood all of these characteristics make Siberian Larch an option to keep an eye on, when choosing wood for a deck.  Of course market conditions, acceptance and long term performance will all go a long way in determining the popularity of this species.

The Deck Guide

The Deck Guide

The Deck Guide Pro's have over 20 years experience designing, building, and maintaining wood decks.

When not working on decks, we love to relax outside on our beautiful decks with friends and family.
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The Deck Guide

The Deck Guide

The Deck Guide Pro's have over 20 years experience designing, building, and maintaining wood decks.

When not working on decks, we love to relax outside on our beautiful decks with friends and family.
The Deck Guide

Latest posts by The Deck Guide (see all)

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