Wood Timbers and Beams – Cracks and Checking

Nothing beats the look and feel of real wood products.  They bring warmth, beauty and charm that just can’t be duplicated with synthetic building materials.  As natural wood lovers, when larger timbers and beams crack and “check” (as they always do), we believe it only adds to the special character and appeal that only natural wood can provide.

When a tree is harvested, about half of its weight is water.  Soon after, it then begins dry and shrink about twice as fast along the growth rings than across them.

Western Red Cedar Timbers and Beams

After it is milled, smaller lumber pieces will dry faster than wood manufactured into larger timbers, beams or heavier boards.  As the outer layers of the bigger pieces dry and shrink, the center of the timbers will stay moist longer.  All these changes cause the lumber to move, check and crack.  The larger the timber or beam, the larger the cracks, as well.

This is NOT a bad thing!

Checking normally begin on the exterior surface of a timber and are not a structural concern.  In fact, because it releases the tension that has built up, it actually makes the wood stronger.

Western Red Cedar Timber Checks

All wood species will check differently.  Denser exotic woods check more readily than softer woods, such as Douglas Fir and Cedar, however, checks in harder woods are generally smaller.

Ways to help minimize checking:

  • Generally speaking, higher grades of materials will have more stability. Especially when choosing “free of heart center” instead of “boxed heart” grade (as applicable)
  • When building with Douglas Fir, and some other hardwood species, some larger timbers and beams can be kiln dried
  • Use proper acclimation techniques. Store your wood off the ground, out of direct sunlight and allow the ends to breathe prior to installation
  • Seal cut ends of hardwood timbers immediately after cutting

Please note all wood timbers and beams will continue to move; take on moisture and shrink, especially those installed in exterior applications.  Checking on large timbers and beams, in many cases, does not occur until well after it is installed.  On a loose rule of thumb, softwood timbers (such as Cedar and Doug Fir) dry about 1” per year.  This means it can take 6 years for a 12×12” beam to reach equilibrium to its surroundings, and there will be movement and change throughout the whole process.

Custom milled Cedar and Doug Fir Timbers and Beams for sale

Our team of Wood Building Material Specialists are happy to discuss options on timbers and beams with you that are grown in the Pacific Northwest including Western Red Cedar, Alaska Yellow Cedar and Douglas Fir.

We ship nationwide!

360.757.6343

950 B Fountain Street, Burlington WA

www.CedarCountryLumber.com

 

 

Taliesin West by Frank Lloyd Wright

While we have not had the pleasure of supplying materials to this Frank Lloyd Wright historic property, we have supplied both Western Red Cedar and Alaskan Yellow Cedar building materials including full dimension lumber and beams, as well as decking, to other Frank Lloyd Wright properties for historic restoration.

Built in 1937 by Frank Lloyd Wright, his wife and students of his architecture school outside Scottsdale, Arizona, Wright constructed Taliesin West largely of “desert masonry” which consisted of local rock and stone set in wood forms and bound by a mixture of cement and desert sand.

Taliesin West Courtyard

Over the years, Taliesin West was continually worked on an improved and many other buildings were built including a drafting studio, dining facilities, three theaters, a workshop, Wright’s office and private living quarters, and residences for apprentices and staff. Each building is connected through a series of walkways, terraces, pools and gardens.

picture view at Taliesin West

Full Dimension Wood Beams at Taliesin West

Originally constructed from redwood, the exterior beams have been replaced by full dimension Douglas Fir beams and timbers with steel supports.

Originally constructed from Redwood, the exterior wood beams at Taliesin West were replaced with Doug Fir Beams

fully dimensional Douglas Fir beams used for historic renovation at Taliesin West

Today, Taliesin West is the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin.  Taliesin West is open to the public and offers a broad range of tours.  We hope you have enjoyed our photos of our recent trip there.

Specializing in high quality building materials including dimensional lumber, siding, exterior cladding, shingles, shakes, timbers and more, including custom sawing and patterns, we can help with historical restorations, as well as other unique custom building projects.  Because we are located in the heart of Cedar Country, the only place in the world where Western Red Cedar and Alaska Yellow Cedar is grown, we are able to offer superior quality with exceptional pricing. Whatever you are looking for we can find a mill that manufactures it or have it custom milled.

Before you next project, be sure to visit us!  We ship nationwide!

www.CedarCountryLumber.com

360.757.6343

950 B Fountain Street, Burlington, WA  98233