But there are so many options for choosing what wood to use for retaining walls. You know you want something durable, affordable, and non-toxic. But what?
Wood retaining walls must be:
- Chemical free, not soaked in creosote or pressure-treatment chemicals
- Extra durable in ground-contact settings
- Non-toxic alternative to carcinogenic railroad ties
- More affordable and longer lasting than cedar or redwood ties
- Responsibly sourced
Luckily, we have the perfect solution that fulfills all these criteria: our Restoration Juniper landscaping timbers.
Chemical-free: These untreated, completely natural timbers are ideal replacements for creosote-laden railroad ties and pressure-treated wood.
Extra durable: Juniper gets its remarkable durability from a high content of aromatic compounds that make the wood resistant to microbial decay for many decades. Juniper can last up to 30+ years in ground contact settings, according to studies from Oregon State University.
Affordable: Our juniper landscaping timbers are also far more affordable than using cedar or redwood, other long-lasting species that come with a high price tag. In fact, juniper lasts far longer than these species -- providing a lot more bang for your landscaping buck.
Responsibly sourced: Restoration Juniper landscaping timbers are sourced from grassland restoration projects in the high deserts of the West. Juniper is a native species, but decades of fire suppression and the unintended consequences of livestock grazing have allowed this species to grow unchecked, claiming millions of acres of sagebrush steppe and turning it into dense woodlands. These juniper woodlands suck up groundwater and are contributing to the decline of several key species, including the sage grouse. A collaborative group involving ranchers, loggers, environmentalists, and state government agencies is working together to harvest juniper trees, restore the grassland ecosystem and water supplies, and build a market for the wood. Your purchase of juniper lumber supports this effort.
Beautiful: Juniper also provides a rustic, organic look that is perfect for modern gardens and landscape design.
Please contact us to learn more about Restoration Juniper for retaining walls and other exterior uses.
Photos, from top: A recently-constructed residential retaining wall built with 6x6 juniper landscaping timbers shows juniper's rich colors and grain patterns; steps and a small retaining wall built out of 5x5 juniper timbers show off the silver patina that will develop over the years if the wood is left unstained; a large retaining wall built with 6x6 timbers stands at the University of Washington-Tacoma (photo credit Place Studio).
When most people think of Indow, they think of energy-efficient thermal window inserts, not lumber. But Indow uses a lot of wood to carefully crate their window panels for shipment across the country.
Indow is a Portland-born manufacturer of lightweight, attractive acrylic window inserts that homeowners can self-install to add energy efficiency and noise insulation in their homes. Indow's mission is helping people achieve environmental and financial harmony, reducing carbon emissions while reducing expenses. So they totally understand the benefits of FSC forestry.
The wood that Indow was previously using was low-quality, splitting at the ends and generating a lot of useless waste. It was of dubious origin and had no environmental certifications. Dissatisfied, Indow decided to find a better solution that more closely aligned with their mission and values. They reached out to us to see how we could help.
We partnered with our friends at Collins to find a higher-quality wood product with FSC certification. We now supply Indow with FSC certified Sugar Pine, sourced from a regional forest, in a higher grade, at an even better cost.
Indow now uses wood that matches their values of local manufacturing and environmental stewardship, and they're saving money doing it. We can call this a win-win-win.
Plank-style surfaces are another way to add warmth and texture, but show off more of the unique grain patterns and figuring that make each type of wood special. The plank-style tops are made with much wider pieces of wood, up to 8" wide; butcher block is traditionally made of thinner staves, smaller than 1 1/2" wide.
Plank-style tops really highlight the beauty, color, and grain patterns of our local wood species. Check out the options below, shown clockwise from top left: FSC Douglas Fir, Pacific Madrone, Tanoak, and our Willamette Valley Walnut.
We can craft these surfaces in any of our local wood species, and in any custom size to fit countertops, table tops, island tops, or other creative applications. Please contact us for pricing information.
Butcher block and wood solid surface countertops are a popular choice for kitchens and bathrooms these days. And for good reason: The wood adds warmth, texture, and natural beauty to the space in a way that other materials just can't.
But wood needs to be well protected to keep water and wine from staining or damaging it. There are, of course, many products available to help complete this task. So many products. Too many products!
We break down the pros and cons of some of the most common choices.
Poly Vs. Oil
Polyurethane is a liquid coating that dries into a plastic film. This is great for sealing the countertop, but then there's a layer of plastic between you and your pretty new wood. Also, poly finishes generally have to be removed entirely before any scratches or worn spots can be repaired. Yes, the countertop will need to be sanded entirely clean before any new finish can be reapplied. Ugh!
Oil finishes penetrate down into the wood, bringing out the color and luster of the wood, and allow you direct contact with the warmth and distinctive texture of the wood. Oil finishes can also be spot-repaired without sanding the entire surface -- a huge benefit -- but they will likely require more frequent maintenance than poly finishes, especially in high-impact areas like around sinks or in food prep zones.
We generally recommend a natural oil finish for the butcher block tops we sell to homeowners due to the ease of application and maintenance. We sell the full line of Rubio Monocoat products and can include them with your butcher block order. Contact us to get pricing for your butcher block project, and check out the full line of standard and custom butcher block options that we offer, all made with locally sourced, sustainably harvested Northwest wood species.
What product to choose?
We've used lots of products over the years on our samples and displays, and we've polled our woodworker clients on their top choices. We generally recommend modified natural oil finishes for our solid surface and butcher block products because of the ease of application and maintenance. Here are some of the common choices, and the pros and cons of each:
In Portland, we hear a lot about nose-to-tail cooking, a movement which strives to use every edible part of the animal, not just the prime cuts. We're interested in expanding this concept to lumber products: finding uses for less-than-premium cuts of wood as a way to minimize waste and maximize the yield of the logs.
We've recently helped facilitate projects that make use of juniper jacket boards, which are generally considered waste and are most often relegated to the firewood pile. These are the outer slices of the log that are the first to get cut off when the log goes through the mill. The jacket boards still have the bark attached and show the curve of the tree trunk, with only one flat side.
Check out this fence that uses the jacket boards for the horizontal barriers. We love the rustic look, evocative of a split-rail fence but with more structure.
Our clients have also used jacket boards as siding for chicken coops, sheds, even for retail displays.
What kind of creative projects could you use these boards for?
Portland firm PATH Architecture recently completed an unusual residential structure in North Portland: a tiny house that spins on a central axis. This special home, built for visiting international students and other guests, rotates 359 degrees in order to follow -- or escape -- the sunlight.
The 144-square foot home's mechanicals are concealed in its crawlspace and are designed to be fully functional no matter the direction the building is facing.
But what gets us really excited is the custom Restoration Juniper siding on the fascia. We partnered with the design team to mill a tongue-and-groove profile onto 2" thick kiln-dried juniper lumber, turning it into multi-dimensional siding in varying widths and thicknesses. The siding was then finished with a charcoal-gray TimberPro stain.
We also love the juniper flooring featured inside the home. Our 5" solid juniper flooring was used throughout the main floor, even in the bathroom, and received a sturdy coat of polyurethane to ensure durability and water-proofing. Be sure to look up, too -- the juniper was also installed across the ceiling for added warmth and texture in the otherwise minimal white interior.
Click here for more information about this cool project.
Click here to watch a video of the rotating home in action.
Photo at top: A close-up of the custom juniper T&G siding detail with its dark gray stain.
Photos below: The house in its North Portland setting; the 5" juniper flooring paired with glossy white furniture and fixtures.
We don't often give plywood much credit. It's usually covered up with other wood, bearing loads and building boxes but not really getting much attention. Local carpenter Paul Johnson changes that dynamic and crafts amazing things with this otherwise basic material. Paul posseses the uncommon ability to make plywood sexy.
Paul is a dedicated patron of our FSC-certified plywood products. He uses our AC-grade and maple plywoods for his custom cabinetry and built-in projects, each of which demonstrate his keen attention to detail and the fine quality of his craftsmanship.
Oftentimes the plywood receives a sleek coat of paint, but Paul also likes to use our pre-finished maple plywood for the cabinet boxes and interiors. Recently he also used our Willamette Valley Walnut architectural plywood for a built-in media unit, highlighting its exquisite book-matched patterns, framing it with solid walnut lumber, and finishing it with OSMO PolyxOil.
Paul excels at collaborating with clients to tuck custom cabinetry into a home's nooks and crannies, turning otherwise awkward void spaces into functional and beautiful storage areas. He says, "I want to make everything fit exactly and make sure no space is wasted."
Paul is unusual among general contractors in that he builds and installs most of the cabinetry and finish work himself. "I want to be here by myself doing all this stuff, paying attention through the entire process," he says. This hands-on ownership and close attention to detail is evident in Paul's work, as seen in the photos below.
You can view more of Paul's work here: www.pauljohnsoncarpentry.com.
All photos credit Nina Lee Johnson.
It’s one thing to specify a type of wood for a design project. It’s quite another to get to know that wood, to put a chunk of it up to a sawblade and learn how it behaves, how it feels in your hands, and what it has to say about finishes. The design team at Fieldwork Design love this process of getting familiar with the woods they use for their design projects.
Fieldwork approaches each project individually, designing and building unique fixtures with materials that are carefully selected for each space. The design team conceptualizes the space and then works with their in-house woodshop to build one-of-a-kind furniture pieces, light fixtures, and architectural features for it.
One of Fieldwork's designers, Tim Fouch, goes through phases with the woods he selects for his projects. He recently went through an oak phase, incorporating our Oregon white oak architectural plywood and solid lumber into several residential and commercial projects. In each of these projects, he paired the oak with different materials, giving each space a completely different look even though the same wood was used. At Upper Left Roasters in SE Portland, large surfaces covered in wide planks of oak join copper-stained concrete and glossy white objects for a crisp, modern feel. For a tech office build-out in Portland, oak was stained deep black or arranged in elaborately angled windowframes for a hip, young aesthetic to match the company's branding – the same wood in both projects, but expressed in vastly different ways.
Right now Tim’s team is exploring juniper, using it for a massive outdoor bench at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and potentially for footbridges throughout Forest Park. Tim chose juniper for these projects because of its legendary durability, but when he got a piece of the wood into his hands and under a sander he was surprised by the beauty of the grain and the colors of the wood.
We’re eager to see the beautiful and trend-setting ways Fieldwork expresses juniper and our other exceptional wood products in their future projects.
You can view more of Fieldwork's work here.
Photo at top: The detail of the custom solid oak tables made for Upper Left Roasters.
Photos below: Evidence of Tim's Oregon white oak phase. Upper Left Roasters showcases wide planks of Oregon white oak on its service counter and the soffits above; the BeFunky office in NE Portland features black-stained white oak and custom architectural features made by Fieldwork's fabrication shop.
All photos by Brian Walker Lee Photography.
Juniper lumber is an ideal wood for building raised garden beds. It is long-lasting, chemical-free, eco-friendly, and naturally beautiful. Here are our Top 2 ways to build fast and easy raised beds using this wood.
1. The Economy Box: This simple design for a 4' x 2' raised bed uses 4 pieces of 2"x6"x8' juniper lumber, screwed together at the corners with exterior-grade screws. This box can be built with our surfaced juniper lumber for a more polished look (see photo at left) or with our rough landscaping lumber for a more rustic look (photo in middle). This design is lightweight and easy to handle. It is also well-suited for small garden spaces. The design can be adjusted to make different dimensions of beds or can be built with 4"x4" posts at the corners instead of the 2"x6" dimension (see photo at right).
2. The Hardware-Free Box: Our hefty 5x5 and 6x6 juniper landscaping timbers can be stacked in an overlapping pattern at the corners and filled with dirt for raised beds. The large timbers generally provide enough weight that screws or additional hardware are not necessary (see photos below). This design is best for low-impact areas where children or pets will not be climbing on them. (For additional support, holes can be drilled vertically into the corners of the posts so metal rods can be inserted to prevent movement).
We're all familiar with pine paneling on the walls. It's a well-known rustic look, evocative of mountain lodges and the Wild West. But what else can we do with it? In what new and interesting ways can pine be expressed?
Our Campground Blue Pine is known for its exceptional color patterns. It earns its name: Because of the mountain pine beetle, the wood has incredible blue striping that pops against the vanilla tones of the pine. It looks fantastic in modern spaces, especially when paired with concrete, white tile, or stainless steel.
Here are three of our favorite ways to show off this gorgeous wood:
1. Countertops: Our Campground Blue Pine makes gorgeous countertops and butcher block surfaces! We love this lightweight, easy-to-mill surface when used in modern, sleek spaces like the ADU shown below. This ADU was designed by Polyphon and built by JRA and uses our Campground Blue Pine for its countertops, flooring, and trim.
2. Floors: Campground Blue Pine is a lightweight, inexpensive option for solid wood flooring that adds color and interest. It is available in standard widths and wide plank styles, too!
3. Architectural panels: Blue pine is a sleek and modern choice for retail spaces and reception desks. We love the Torzo panels that were milled into ultra-durable, ultra-modern, and very memorable doors and accent walls that are shown in the commercial space below. Torzo infuses our Campground Blue Pine with acrylic at their factory in Woodburn, OR. The resulting panels are suitable for high-impact commercial installations including flooring, table tops, and wall cladding (check out more photos here).