Larch (Larix spp.)

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, north Mongolia, Japan, US and Canadian territory, but particularly valuable is only the larch grown in Siberia (lat. Larix sibirca). Annuals rings for such larch may be even narrower than 0.5 mm.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Larch is famous for its resistance to moisture, to mechanical loads, to pests and rot. Dried (about 20% humidity) 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 500 kg / m3). Even after many other factors, such as flexibility and mechanical strength, larch is equivalent to oak and ash properties.

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.

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.

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,  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. 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.

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