2008 October Lumber Talk.com: Professional-Level information and how-to-build articles for wood, timber, and lumber professionals and users. 2008 October » Lumber Talk
By Chris | October 23, 2008 - 12:25 pm - Posted in Marine Structures, Structural Components

Sites & Pages Dedicated to Covered Bridges (by State)

These sites and pages about covered bridges relate perfectly to the last LumberTalk post about wood bridges.

Wood bridges in New York.

Vermont’s covered bridges by county.

Covered bridges in Oregon by county.

covered wood bridge Harrisburg, TN Covered Wood Bridge

This covered bridge in Harrisburg, TN has an interesting history and the story explains a little about how covered wood bridges were built back in the day. The townspeople contributed money (willfully, not through taxes) and the town gave the rest.

By Chris | October 21, 2008 - 7:51 am - Posted in Big Timbers, Plans, Structural Components, Treated Wood

Wood bridges offer ways of crossing natural settings with structures that fit the surroundings.? Although wood bridges are not practical for every application they are perfect for many – affordable, simple, durable, and beautiful.

Affordable:? Depending on the design, wood bridges can be built for as little as 1/3 the cost of steel and concrete bridges and have lower maintenance costs as well. Building wood bridges over crossings might be a great way for landowners and small municipalities to save money as well as add aesthetic value to their byways.

Simple:? Many practical wood bridge designs require less skilled labor (no welders or concrete workers and smaller equipment) to assemble and less time than steel and concrete bridges.? Simplicity equates to a savings of time and money.

Durable:? Effectively designed and constructed wood bridges should easily last 50 years and there are many that have been in services for much longer than that. Wood treatments and coatings available today should protect the foundational structure of a bridge so it will last virtually forever.

Materials for Wood Bridges

Like any project, wood bridges will last longer when built with three major components in mind.

  • Quality Design
  • Quality Materials
  • Quality Construction

We will focus on quality materials for wood bridges here.? You can buy bridge plans or have yours custom engineered and you can hire a bridge building company, local contractor, or build the bridge yourself with the proper design and instructions.

Use properly treated wood for your bridge components, especially for the pilings and other foundation materials.? .60 pcf treated wood should be sufficient for most locations but if you are building around saltwater, you should probably use a stronger treatment for the foundation components – especially if the bridge will actually be in contact with saltwater.

To add longevity to your bridge use poly coated wood like the stuff from American Pole And Timber (they also have a full line of bridge timbers and bridge decking) for all of the ground contact components.? It is sprayed onto treated wood before installation and provides an extra layer of protection that should easily add another 25 years to the wood (at least). It actually bonds to the wood but you can still cut, nail, or drill into it.? It is really good stuff – initially designed for use on saltwater marine pilings (where is has a 25 year warranty).

Your wood bridge’s hardware should all be stainless steel, galvanized, or zinc coated.? There are other special hardware coatings out there but stainless, galvanized, and zinc are proven and affordable.

Plans for Wood Bridges

Buy Wood Bridge Plans Online:? There are numerous places to buy wood bridge plans online – so many, that I will not even link to them here.

Bridge Plans from Competition:? Here are some great bridge designs and plans I found recently. It is a wood bridge building competition for University-level engineering students. “The? National Timber Bridge Design Competition? is open to student chapters of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and Forest Products Society (FPS) in the United States and Canada. Joint or cooperative entries (ASCE and FPS working together) are eligible and even encouraged. A chapter may also submit multiple entries.”

The young folks in this competition come up with some creative, effective, and practical designs for wood bridges.? You might be able to apply a few of them to your wood bridges. Note:? That is not a suggestion to copy the designs or use them directly as reliable and tested plans but there are some great ideas there.

Book about How to Build Wood Bridges:? This is a really nice book that has some designs and plans for building wood bridges as well as plans for building other wood projects.

Wood bridges can certainly be built as a diy project. Please make sure you have your bridge professionally designed, though, or at least hire a professional contractor to help you. Using the right materials will not only improve the safety of your structure but will ensure that your bridge will be long-lasting as well. Wood bridges should be built to last – they should stand as legacies to be used for generations to come. That might sound nostalgic or something but, well, I guess it is.

By Chris | October 16, 2008 - 3:22 pm - Posted in Alternative Materials, Decks & Fences

Ipe (aka Brazilian hardwood, ironwood, and others) has become exceptionally popular as deck lumber in recent years – so much so that I have seen ipe deck lumber prices as high as $10 per board foot during short term ipe shortages.

ipe deck lumber makes beautiful long-lasting decksThe advantages of ipe deck lumber are clear and include:

  • Excellent fire-resistance rating (A1, the same as concrete)
  • Naturally high decay and insect resistance (basically, it’s a non-issue)
  • Beautiful dark wood
  • Hardness rating is about 3 times red oak
  • Easily lasts 25 years as decking

When exposed to sun over time, Ipe deck lumber develops a silver-gray tone but its original dark color can be renewed with a pressure washer.

Working with Ipe Deck Lumber

Because of its hardness, ipe decking requires a few extra drill bits, saw blades, and time. Pre-drill all holes and keep your saw blades sharp to avoid damaging the wood while cutting. Prepare to kill a few drill bits and blades.

There are a few deck clip options you can use if you buy ipe deck lumber with grooves cut on the edges.? This allows you to build your ipe deck without having visible screws on top.

Ipe does not easily accept stains or protective treatments but most people buy largely for the color and its natural resistance is so excellent it usually does not need protection anyway.

Ipe Deck Lumber is NOT for Hippies

Ipe wood comes mostly from forests ranging from Mexico to Northern Argentina and many of the trees logged for ipe lumber are probably taken illegally.? Fortunately, most of the ipe lumber now used comes from cultivated trees.? If you are concerned about the social and environmental issues around using imported wood, check that your ipe deck lumber is FSC certified.? Although, FSC certifications have been forged before, you can generally rest assured that FSC certified ipe deck lumber comes from legitimate forests, conscientious timber companies, and responsible lumber dealers. Of course, responsibility might cost more.

By Chris | October 7, 2008 - 8:48 am - Posted in Events

A lumber yard fire broke out at a lumber yard in South Los Angeles (Lynwood) on the morning of October 7, 2008. As of this writing, on one knows the cause of the fire.

Update: Fire’s out. Just smoke now. There were no evacuations and no one was hurt.

Wood pallets are the main source of the fire in the lumber yard right now. Wood pallets often have plenty of time to dry out since they are used, reused, and then used again. Pallets intended for overseas shipments are often “heat-treated” which means they are heated and dried thoroughly enough to kill any bugs and/or parasites that might be residing on or in them.

And they get hot.

I don’t know if there is any treated wood around but if so you can probably expect some evacuations. You know how the tag on treated lumber says “do not burn”? Treated wood usually has heavy metals which are not good to inhale.

Other Lumber Yard Fires

Norcross Supply Co Lumber Yard Fire

Salisbury Lumber Yard Fire Kills Two Firefighters

By Chris | October 6, 2008 - 9:11 pm - Posted in Specs & Data

Actual lumber sizes are a pain to keep up with. I find myself having to refer to charts from time time and I deal with lumber all the time. I get asked about actual versus nominal lumber sizes on a regular basis. Most people know that a 2×4 is actually 1.5″x3.5″ but the measurements are different for the large boards like 2×8’s and 2×12’s.

Actually, the more common term is “lumber dimensions“, which I have written about before, but people often ask about “lumber sizes” so that is how I am explaining it here. Your choice of search terms is probably why you found this article.

Lumber Sizes

Here is a chart to clear up the confusion about 1x, 2x, and 4x nominal lumber sizes versus actual lumber sizes including the equivalent metric lumber sizes. This lumber sizes chart applies to treated and untreated pine construction grade lumber.

lumber sizes chart - actual dimensions versus nominal dimensions

This chart applies to the lumber sizes of “quarter” measurements. The nominal lumber sizes are said as “five-quarter by four” or “six-quarter by six” etc. These are not all that common but you can usually find “five-quarter” decking whose actual dimension is 1″x5.5″. You might hear the 1/4 sizes used more commonly among more mature – no, more experienced – builders and lumbermen.

five quarter lumber sizes - lumber dimensions

Timber Sizes

Lumber cut 5 inches or thicker is generally classified as timbers. Timbers are usually “rough cut” to actual sizes. In other words, what you see is what you get. A 6×6 is 6″x6″, a 10×10 is 10″x10″ and so forth. When you buy timbers in smooth, or S4S (Smooth 4 Sides) the sizes are usually 1/2″ smaller. In this case, a 6×6 would be 5.5″x5.5″.

Post Sizes

Round stock sizes can get a little complicated but we will keep it as simple as possible here. A thorough discussion including large poles requires getting into the differences between poles and pilings and classes of utility poles and what you are using them for and it goes on and on so…so for the purpose of this article, I will stick to small post sizes.

Small posts are usually measured by the top size (the little end). So, if you want a 4″ top x 8′ long fence post, you would ask for a “four inch – eight” post. The line between post sizes and poles is a fuzzy one but after about ten or twelve feet long, whatever it is that you want usually becomes a pole. If you are using it in water to support a structure it is probably a piling, which is used upside down and measured by the butt (the big end)… and see how it easy it is to get complicated when discussing poles?

If you want square posts make sure you are clear about that when you ask for “posts” as “posts” are usually considered to be round.

Lumber Sizes Questions?

If you have any questions about lumber sizes, let me know with a comment.