Siberian larch (Larix sibirica)
Siberian larch is very resistant and durable wood. It is the only representative of conifers, which is added to the hardwood category and in hardness is comparable to oak.
Larch is common in almost all over the territory of Russia, as well as in most of Europe, Japan, US and Canadian territory, but particularly valuable is only the larch grown in Siberia (lat. Larix sibirca). Since the climate in Europe, Japan and North America are much milder, the European, Japanese and North American larch wood is more loose and at best is comparable to a simple pine. Annuals rings for such larch is about 3-5 mm wide, while the Siberian larch, they may be even narrower than 0.5 mm.
Siberian Larch is common mainly in taiga forests of the Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk regions and also less in mountainous Altai region and the Far East. As these regions have very blunt and rather dry climate (average 65%) with extreme temperature changes (in summer up to + 40 ° C, and in winter down to - 60 ° C), larch grows very slowly and grows very dense.
Larch species' dendrological particularities in combination with the harsh climate also creates this high-quality wood, which is comparable to the precious wood and hardwood. The most valuable types of Siberian larch wood is considered to be from Krasnoyarsk area of central and southern parts, or from Irkutsk area, because in theess areas has a long growing larch, little branchy, dense and relatively easy to be supplied from the felling areas to saw mills.
Siberian larch's stems (logs) are quite smooth, and with a very low shrinkage factor, branch crown has a conical form. It's height reaches 45-60 meters and a stem's diameter may reach about 1.5 to 2.5 meters. It reaches its maturity when is about 300-400 years old. Larch average life expectancy is 500-700 years. But in some regions there are found even 1000 years old trees. Thanks to its majestic appearance, excellent properties and resistance to the harsh Siberian climate, in Siberia it is seen as a symbol of eternity and majesty.
Siberian larch is famous worldwide for its unique biological and physico-mechanical properties. Therefore, it can be classified as one of the most valuable building materials. Larch wood up to 90% consists of heartwood, which is very hard, and sapwood is only 10-20 mm.
Since it has grown in unaffected Siberian taiga forests, it practically has not faced with manmade pollution. It is not only ecologically clean wood, but it even has medicinal properties. Larch wood has special substances - phytoncides. They are released from wood throughout the whole life cycle of larch wood, regardless of whether the tree is in taiga, or in your home.
Phytoncides spreads in the air and purify it from harmful microbes. Thus, in the space around the larch wood there are very few viruses and microbes. Siberian larch has a high fire resistance and low thermal conductivity.
According to the studies of Moscow State's Forest University (МГУЛ), larch resistance to fire is twice as high as pine or spruce. While, low thermal conductivity, for houses of larch wood, provides a slow heat drain in winter and inflow in summer. So in homes built of larch, winter is warm, but summer - pleasantly cool.
But larch's resistance to rot and pests should be specifically highlighted, it is thanks to its special resin, which has a variety of chemicals, which fulfills the functions of natural antisepsis. Hence, the larch is very resistant to rot and pests.
Larch will serve you 2-3 times longer than other species of conifers, besides without additional chemical treatment, while for other tree species such treatment would be extremely necessary. So larch material not necessarily has to be treated with impregnates, as well as the factor that because of larch's density, the wood absorbs impregnant very poorly, should be taken into account. Equally, the fact, that in the construction, no chemically saturated material is used, is a very important moment from the fire protection point of view. In the case of fire it reduces the risk that a person could get poisoned with chemical (antiseptic, impregnants) vapors or carbon monoxide and lose consciousness and actability.
Siberian larch is famous for its resistance to moisture, to mechanical loads, to pests and rot. Dried (about 20% humidity) Siberian larch sawn timber density is about 730 kg / m3, which is the same as oak and ash density. And almost twice denser than European spruce or pine wood (400 to 480 kg / m3). Even after many other factors, such as flexibility and mechanical strength, larch is equivalent to oak and ash properties.
Until the middle of XIX century in Russia selling of Siberian larch and use for civil purposes was prohibited by law. The pretext being that it is necessary for military buildings' construction, shipbuilding, railway construction and building of infrastructure. Exceptions, that were granted with larch material was the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, a few churches and the Kremlin. Export was practically banned or very limited, so the Siberian larch wood was relatively unfamiliar to the outside world.
Historically, larch was used in structures and items, intended for long-term exploitation at significant loads. For many centuries larch was used for construction of bridges and port berths, telegraph poles, mine props, wooden structures in shipbuilding were made from it.
As a classic example construction of the city of Venice in the V-IX century should be mentioned, which was based on larch piles. Ten to fourteen centuries later (1827 year) part of the piles were surveyed - larch wood looked fossilized and with difficulties obeyed mechanical tooling.
Siberian larch, as particularly resistant material, has high potential in window and door frame, as well as stairs and furniture production. Because of high resistance to abrasion, this timber is widely used for the floor boards, but because of the persistence of external conditions, for garden furniture, cladding and patio plank production.
Information on the use of larch in construction and farm can be found here.
In te range of colors larch can be attributed to at least 12-tone hues, and in this respect it is superior to the precious wood such as oak, beech, ash and maple. Colouring range is from almost white with a slight touch of yellow up to dark reddish - brown shades. But the basic tone is amber. The surface has a silky luster.
Such tonal difference is explained by a particular tree growing location, soil chemical elements' composition and geology.
As an example, it is believed that red tint larch grows with iron rich soil, and serves as an indication of the geological clue for potential existence of minerals in the soil. It should be noted also that the red tint larch wood is also heavier than the lightest shades of larch woods.
Undoubtedly, Siberian larch has a beautiful texture and coloration of the wood does not require additional finishing or treatment. Untreated larch wood used in outdoor works with time (sun, rain, snow and wind) remains silvery gray shaded that gives the building a romantic and antique appearance.
The complex processing cycle is considered to be the largest imperfection of this wood. Siberian larch drying, processing and treatment requires knowledge and experience. Because the timber is very capricious, resinous and dense. Consequently, it is different in all woodworking cycles compared to other conifers, as an example - drying and spraying, - necessary power and sharpness of equipment differs (saws, planes, etc.), and sharpening angles of saws and planers knives is different, and end processing - assembly, painting, lubrication and so on.
By contrast, the biggest benefit is that larch material is the optimal option from a cost point of view compared to other precious wood and hardwood, taking into account sustainability, quality, ecology and visual appearance.