We’re moving along with some of the wrap-up work on our house in Dummerston. One of those projects is installing the porch decking on both the front and rear porches and a handicapped ramp up from the garage to the back porch. (Yes, we plan to live there for a long time!)
For the decking, we used a product I found out about through my work researching green building products at BuildingGreen. It’s actually a product we recognized as a Top-10 Green Building Product last year. Let me tell you about it.
The Viridian story
Viridian Wood Products produces tropical hardwood flooring, decking, or countertop material that comes from salvaged wood sources, including tropical hardwoods. I have long been a firm believer that one should only use wood from tropical rainforests that comes from well-managed forests -- as evidenced by certification based on Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards -- or that is salvaged from other uses and diverted from the waste stream.
Back in 2004, Joe Mitchoff and Pierce Henley of Portland, Oregon, noticed that a lot of wood used for shipping manufactured goods -- especially heavy iron and steel -- was being landfilled at the Port of Portland. As many as thirty 30-yard roll-off dumpsters per ship of mostly four-by-fours were going to the landfill, and they recognized that this was amazingly beautiful tropical hardwood.
Mitchoff and Henley made arrangements with the Port to divert that waste -- saving the Port disposal costs -- and they figured out how to process the wood cost-effectively, milling it into a high-end flooring and countertop material, while recycling the comingled waste. The wood is heat treated to kill any invasive insects that may be living in it (shipping materials have been one of the main routes of entry for invasive insects getting into the United States), scanned for metal fasteners, kiln-dried, and milled into standard dimensions for the various markets they serve.
With the high volume of production and a 40,000-square-foot warehouse space next to the Port, Viridian Wood Products has been able to achieve a dependable supply, which is critically important for nationwide marketing of salvaged wood products. The company has even expanded into other reclaimed wood sources -- such as Douglas fir salvaged from high school bleachers, Douglas fir from structures in the Pacific Northwest, a rustic oak salvaged from truck decks, and old-growth redwood salvaged from wine casks.
Jakarta Market Blend
Because Viridian’s tropical woods are reclaimed rather than being cut from forests, the species vary widely and typically aren’t known. We ordered a mix of wood known as Jakarta Market Blend - Dark Sort that is comprised of probably dozens of actual species. Some are very dark, almost black; others are a deep red; some have beautiful grain figuring. The weight also varies greatly, with some having specific gravity that is significantly greater than that of water -- meaning that that wood doesn’t float.
The great density of these tropical hardwoods also results in tremendous hardness and wear properties. With flooring, hardness is typically measured using the Janca Scale. The Jakarta Market Blend - Dark Sort flooring we got has a hardness ranging from 1100 to 3500, which makes it suitable for high-traffic commercial applications. By comparison, eastern white pine has a hardness of 380, hemlock 500, Douglas fir 660, cherry 995, teak 1155, red oak 1290, and sugar maple 1450.
As we were selecting from the batch of wood received from Viridian, I chose the heavier pieces for the porch flooring -- so I suspect most has a hardness well over 2000.
All Viridian reclaimed wood is certified according to FSC standards. FSC has standards both for virgin wood (relating to forest management practices) and for salvaged wood. All Viridian product carries chain-of-custody certification according to FSC’s 100 percent Post Consumer Reclaimed standard.
While the wood will gray over time, I wanted to treat it with an oil finish that would bring out and retain for at least a while the gorgeous colors in the wood, but I also wanted to use a natural finish that was environmentally responsible. I chose a product called Heritage Natural Finish. I found out about this oil finish at the Timber Framers Guild of North America Annual Meeting this summer, where I was giving a presentation on our house.
Heritage finish (which used to be called Land Ark Natural Wood Finish) is made from naturally processed linseed oil, tung oil, beeswax, pure citrus solvent, and pine rosin. Unlike some oil finishes, there are no heavy metal drying agents or petroleum products. We used Heritage’s Exterior Finish, which include a UV inhibitor and a mildewcide to inhibit mold staining. (The Original Finish does not include the mildewcide.)
Don’t even think about installing Viridian Jakarta Blend flooring without pre-drilling. Eli Gould’s crew started out drilling as they might for standard decking -- with slightly undersized holes, but they were breaking off the stainless steel decking screws! This stuff is hard!
We installed ours on framing made of TimberSIL, a totally nontoxic pressure-treated lumber. With TimberSIL, sodium silicate is infused into the wood under pressure, and the wood is then heated in a kiln, which melts the sodium silicate into an amorphous glass. This glass surrounds the wood cells, protecting the wood from decay and insects and well as imparting fire-resistance.
Viridian is a premium product that sells for a premium price. Pricing is similar to that of redwood decking -- significantly more expensive than pressure-treated (PT) decking. But it should last as long and hold up as well as Ipé, which is more expensive. When I last checked with the company, the price of the Jakarta Market Blend was about $7 per square foot, though shipping will add to the price.
The TimberSIL framing we used is also more expensive than standard PT framing, but we think it will last a lot longer, helping us (and our children and grandchildren) achieve the long life that we are seeking with the house.
Later this week I’ll post photos that you can find with the blog version of this column on BuildingGreen.com. Click on "Blogs" then "Energy Solutions."
Alex Wilson is the founder of BuildingGreen, Inc. and the Resilient Design Institute (www.resilientdesign.org), both based in Brattleboro. Send comments or suggestions for future columns to email@example.com.