May 9, 2013

Is FSC wood more expensive?


Is FSC wood more expensive?

We get this question a lot.  All the time.  And the short answer is: Not always.

In fact, oftentimes our FSC, local wood products are less expensive than the same product, non-certified, sourced from who-knows-where, at nearby Big Box stores.

Case in point: Folks are always surprised at how cost-effective our plywood options are.  All of our plywood is FSC certified, locally manufactured, and contains no added urea formaldehyde.  We can trace it right back to the mill that makes it and the forest that provides the wood.  And because the supply chain is so short, our plywood is often less expensive that the non-certified, mystery-origin plywood at other retailers in the Portland area.

Now with some products, FSC certification will add a bit onto the cost.  Most rough estimates generally say between 10% and 20%. This is because the mills that provide FSC dimensional lumber (commodity products like 2x4s and 2x6s) add a certain percentage to cover the costs of the auditing and additional paperwork required to maintain the chain of custody. 

So with 2x4s, 2x6s, and other framing lumber, in general most projects should budget a little more to be able to use FSC wood.  These products can be combined with less expensive FSC products (such as plywood) to help spread the additional costs out over the budget and minimize or negate any extra costs.

Other FSC items that do not necessarily cost more are our FSC cedar and hardwoods.  Because we work directly with local mills, we eliminate the middle men, which works out better for our customers (and helps ensure that our mills are operating in ways that meet our Triple Bottom Line goals).

Ways that builders and homeowners can minimize the added costs of FSC lumber are:

  • Order in advance.  Any time material has to be rushed to a jobsite to meet a tight deadline, there will be added costs for shipping.  Especially if it's an unusual item (24' beams or 2x14 lumber).  By getting orders in well ahead of time, shipping can be minimized.
  • Design the project to use standard materials.  While we are able to offer highly customized dimensions and specialty items for projects, these are going to cost more whether or not they're FSC certified. By designing around standard sizes and planning your project to make use of in-stock items, you can help keep the costs down.  Ask for a copy of our price list to see what standard sizes are.
  • Explore alternatives.  Sometimes using unconventional materials can help reduce overall project costs considerably.  For instance, maple is a very beautiful hardwood that is often used for cabinetry, furniture, and other interior finishes -- but alder is a less expensive option with a nearly identical look. 
Mar 5, 2013

How do I find FSC certified wood products or lumber?


How do I find FSC certified wood products or lumber?

As more people learn about the benefits of FSC certified wood and seek to use it in their projects, we field questions from around the country about where to find these products. 

Whether you're a homeowner in central Florida or a cabinet maker in Queens, it can sometimes be a challenge to source the FSC wood you want -- or need -- to use in your project.

Rest assured, FSC certified alternatives do exist and can be found.  Here are some ways you can track them down in your area:

FSC provides a handy tool to help you search for certified products in your area.  Called the Marketplace, this handy tool is still in development, so if you can't find what you're looking for on this website, don't despair, it my still be available.  Here's the link:

The best tool might be right at your finger tips: A great way to find FSC products is to perform a Google search with area- or product-specific targeted keywords, i.e. "FSC lumber Orlando" or "FSC hardwood plywood."

The DIY set can inquire at their local Home Depot, which has been working with FSC certified products since the 90's. In most stores, their FSC offering is somewhat limited, so be sure to look for the trademark FSC logo.

Shoppers in the Bay Area can refer to the local Sierra Club chapter's handy FSC shopping guide.

Many locally-owned, independent lumber yards also can procure FSC wood, even if they don't stock it. So be sure to ask the sales staff for FSC, and be persistent in your queries. The more that folks like you demand FSC, the more it will be available across the country!

Feb 28, 2013

What is the best wood to use for raised garden beds?


What is the best wood to use for raised garden beds?

Families across America are reintegrating home gardens into their lives, working to increase the amounts of health-giving homegrown fruits and vegetables in their diets. Because of this, folks frequently ask us about the best type of wood to use for their planter boxes and raised garden beds. 

Raised beds are a great idea because they protect growing plants from the scuffs and kicks of passersby while allowing the soil to warm faster in the springtime, generating an earlier crop.  They're also quite decorative and can add significant charm to vegetable gardens.

By building the boxes out of a beautiful, durable, and chemical-free material, you'll take an important step toward guaranteeing that your yard bears many decades of abundant and nourishing crops. (Here are step-by-step instructions for building juniper raised beds, but you can use them for other species too!)

Here are the types of wood that are commonly used for this purpose, and the pros and cons of each:

Species Pros Cons How to source sustainably
  • Beautiful, smooth, elegant appearance
  • Easily takes stains or paint
  • Fairly long lifespan - 20+ years for Western Red Cedar
  • Chemical-free
  • Possible to buy sustainably-grown
  • Often untraceable sourcing
  • Much cedar is imported


  • Buy FSC Certified only
  • Try to source products that are harvested and milled in America
  • Choose Select Tight Knot instead of Clear grade to minimize waste and reduce demand for Old Growth
  • Very long lifespan - 50+ years
  • Great for gardens where a wabi sabi look is preferred
  • Chemical-free
  • Inexpensive
  • Rustic look doesn't appeal to everyone
  • Juniper is more prone to movement than other species, which can be a challenge for vertical installations
Pressure-treated wood
  • Easy to find
  • Fairly long lifespan - 20+ years
  • Inexpensive
  • Buy FSC Certified wood
  • Buy wood that is treated with an alternative to CCA (chromated copper arsenate, which contains arsenic), such as borate, ACQ, or CA (copper azole)
  • Choose an alternative that uses no chemicals
Recycled or reclaimed wood
  • Keeps material out of the waste stream
  • Can be rustic and charming
  • Usually inexpensive
  • May be challenging to find the right sizes
  • Wood may contain unknown chemical additives
  • Surface paint may chip off into soil
  • Unknown species may not offer much durability
  • Try to find cedar, redwood, or another naturally durable species
  • Try to find wood that is untreated and unpainted

  • Beautiful color
  • Elegant
  • Fairly long lifespan - 20+ years
  • Chemical-free
  • Can be expensive

The lifespan data above is derived in part from an ongoing study at OSU that tracks the durability of treated and untreated posts in ground-contact applications. Click here for full results.



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