Lumber usage touches every aspect of our modern lives; our homes, offices, transportation, manufacturing, transportation and hundreds of other uses you probably didn’t know existed.
Before our ancestors knew how to build houses, while they were still living in caves, they had mastered the power to dominate nature, Trees were a readily available resource that provided myriads of uses, the early cavemen discovered that they could warm themselves, cook their food, shape tools and fashion weapons to defend themselves against predators using lumber.
Millions of years later, in the 21st century, we have created a juggernaut, a self-sustaining industry that revolves around trees. We grow them, cut them, process them, and produce countless products that add comfort to our lives, without which life as we know it would be impossible.
Lumber and the byproducts that come from lumber has a wide range of uses across the entire spectrum of industrial production, there is no facet of life that is not touched directly by lumber or indirectly by its products. Let’s look at 57 most incredible uses of lumber you probably didn’t know about.
Before delving in, it’s important to note that there are two types of lumber, hardwood, and softwood, hardwood lumber comes from deciduous trees like oaks, mahogany, teak, birch, etc., softwood lumber is processed from coniferous trees like cypress, pine, fir trees and the like, regardless of whether it’s soft or hardwood in this article we will explore the general usage of lumber.
Domestic and Industrial Fuel
Let’s start with the not so obvious uses of lumber:
Fire and heat production is the earliest use of uncut lumber, most homes in developing nations, still use firewood as their primary source of fuel. Industries too, use lumber to produce steam that powers engines or lights furnaces and runs steam turbines to generate electricity.
Charcoal is produced from lumber, pyrolysis – slow burning of wood without oxygen produces a carbon-based residue that has a wide range of uses. Charcoal burns easily and can produce extreme heat for household cooking, blacksmiths foundries and metallic craftsmen who use its heat to shape their products.
Charcoal has medicinal properties used as an additive in the pharmaceutical industry. It can also be used as a natural filter to purify water, and as a coloring pigment for dyes.
3. Wood Chips
Raw Lumber, branches, stumps, and roots can be spliced and chopped into small pieces, wood chips can then be used as mulch in the garden, or alternatively can be burnt as fuel to heat up the house. Producing wood chips ensures that nothing goes to waste during the lumber logging process.
Pellets used for heating in power generation, and other industrial heating, are made of compacted sawdust, – a byproduct of lumber production, they are also processed from treetops, branches, and discarded coconut shells. They have a high density that gives them a high combustion rate.
Sawdust is lumber waste, being a waste product it can pollute the environment if disposed of incorrectly. Sawdust, however, is a highly valued raw material used in the production of wood boards used in construction and furniture making industries.
Next, let’s look at the most obvious uses of lumber:
Construction as an industry depends greatly on lumber for building architectural design, structural construction, house aesthetics, and many more uses:
6. Building beams
Building beams, Purlins, kingposts, trusses, columns are vital building components. Good quality lumber is necessary for building durable and long-lasting houses.
7. Building scaffolding
Before metallic scaffolding, and in many parts of the world, temporary platforms used in constructions were made from planks and other types of lumber, these planks are erected from the ground down and used by builders during construction. Without scaffolding, it would be impossible for builders to work on the building’s exterior.
8. Wall Boards Panels
Wallboard panels add exciting aesthetics to home finishes. They are made from plywood mixed with wood pulp and pulp boards, compacted together with adhesives, polished and painted for an exotic finish. Apart from beautifying the house wallboard panels insulate the house.
Chips and lumber shavings when bonded and pressed together with resin become stiff boards
This can be laminated and used in furniture making, and in installing interior fixtures and fittings like shelves and cabinets.
10. Plywood and veneers
Thin slices of lumber, glued and pressed together become veneers which when beaded- are used to manufacture doors, cabinets, and floors and as wall decorations, plywood, on the other hand, is made of three layers of veneer.
11. Wood Floors
Wood floors are artistically beautiful and add a touch of class to a house, wooden floors are cut from one piece of lumber to retain a continuous grain pattern, wooden floors do not wear out easily and have along the maintenance-free life span. They are easily sanded and polished to maintain a new look.
12. Ceiling planks
Ceiling planks when used creatively adorn the focal point of a room. They add contrast to walls and floors, making the room visually appealing. Ceiling planks just like floor planks have a more artistic look when cut from the same lumber.
13. Terraces and Balconies
Backyard open spaces can be turned into beautiful extensions of the house with lumber planks bonded together. Lumber terraces are not only beautiful but relaxing. its like creating an outdoor extension of your house. Balconies too, add a stylish touch to a house when made from lumber planks.
14. Doors and Batten Siding
Doors and batten siding, when made from lumber, have a natural look to the interior of the house, they are not only affordable but popular with many homeowners because of their versatility, you can paint them any color you want and they will still look beautiful.
15. Tree Houses
Children love to play in trees, a treehouse is an ultimate gift for any child, all treehouse is made from lumber and created to blend with the tree. Treehouses are not only for children but can be used by adults too as a hideaway from everyday stresses of life. They can be used as observation points or recreational abodes for the homeowner.
16. Dog houses
A dog is man’s best friend. dog owners always want the best for their dogs, dog houses made out of lumber planks are cool during summer and comfortably warm during winter they keep dogs warm and dry from extreme weather conditions,
17. Rabbit Hutches
In addition to protecting the rabbits, Rabbit hutches are supposed to stimulate and engage the rabbit, they need enough space to run around and toys to keep them busy, lumber builds perfect rabbit hutches.
18. Chicken coops
Chicken need to roost, lay eggs and have a shelter that will protect them from wind, rain, snow and daytime heat, a chicken coop built out of lumber is versatile in all weather conditions. Indoor beams or planks will act as roosting perches for the chicken.
19. She sheds
For years’ men have had man caves, a place that men escape to when they want to drink or watch football in seclusion away from the family. She shed is a woman’s hideaway, built from lumber this detached haven can be furnished with a sofa set, reading the material a small fridge, to give a woman who wants to get away from family stresses an escapade.
20. Outdoor wooden canopies and Gazebos
An outdoor canopy can be added to a building’s back patio, normally made of lumber outdoor canopies protect the house from rain and wind while acting as a shade. Gazebos are garden structures for outdoor relaxation, gazebos can be built of concrete, however, gazebos constructed from lumber are artistic and tasteful for the discerning homeowner.
21. Backhouse Deck
Deck adds a creative aura to the backyard, modern decks are designed to follow the architecture of the house, corner decks can also help fill a house corner and complement the house’s beauty.
22. Fencing poles
Lumber still makes the best fencing poles, strong and durable they are long-lasting. Farm fences, livestock fences, wildlife fences, are some of the fences that lumber fencing poles can be applied used for. They can be used for fencing of residential and commercial properties
23. Building cladding
Cladding protects buildings against the weather while providing insulation, wood blends lumber is a natural insulator, used in combination with wheat or rice straw and cement, it retains heat during winter.
24. Trims and Moldings
Trim and Moldings is made from milled wooden plaster used to seal joints, a molding has two edges, the upper and lower, it can be mounted on two non-parallel surfaces to create symmetry between the two for example wall and floor, or ceiling and wall. A room’s ambiance is beautified by creative trimmings. Window and door trims are the most commonly installed baseboard trimmings used for walls and floors.
Having identified the uses of lumber in construction, let’s see how lumber is used in the most important aspect of our lives, – Furniture:
Every household, office, residential buildings, commercial buildings, whether indoor or outdoor must have some sort of lumber furniture. Furniture making for both Offices and households including fixtures and fittings is the most prevalent use of lumber, it touches everybody’s life.
25. Household and Office Furniture
Tables, chairs, beds, office desks, dressers, wall units, stools coffee tables, etc. are some of the household and office items that every living person, must use at one time or the other. No other material can be shaped and fitted to create durable furniture like lumber. Lumber furniture gets better with age, and that’s why antique furniture is expensive and certain rare pieces become collector’s items.
26. Shelves and storage cabinets
Shelves are made out of lumber planes, shelves are suspended, or mounted on walls held by brackets and used in business to display products and in homes to keep utensils and crockery. Lumber is also used in the making of Wooden Storage cabinets, bookcases, bedside cabinets, kitchen cabinets, and storage shelves,
Lumber uses do not stop with furniture making, Drinks, and food industry benefits greatly from lumber:
If you enjoy drinking well blended mature whiskey, – Lumber makes possible perfect processing of these drinks, if on the other hand you simply love the sweetness of honey, you still have every reason to be grateful to lumber.
27. Casks and Barrels
Casks are used to impart flavors in spirits, they are charred on the inside, the desired flavor is imparted and slowly released into the drink during maturity. no other material can replace lumber in cask making. Barrels are bigger casks that hold between 50 to 53 gallons of whiskey.
28. Bee Hives
Bees play a vital role in pollination and honey-making, but bees need a comfortable hive to make honey and reproduce. Beehives made from lumber and fitted with hexagonal prismatic cells hold honeycombs, eggs, and larvae. Lumber beehives are easy to transport and hasten crop pollination.
Industries use lumber in many ways, Pallets, wooden crates, but the commonest is the distribution of electrical power lines:
29. Power poles
Concrete power poles aren’t as durable as lumber poles. Overhead power lines, fiber optic cables, telephone poles, are all used for routing overhead cables safely. They protect cables against damage and vandalism. Distribution lines are the most common lines hoisted on power
30. Pallets and Wooden crates
Safely Storing processed products or raw materials in factory warehouses wouldn’t be possible without pallets, the most commonly used pallets are lumber pallets. Pallets make it easy to lift, load and unload including shipping of factory products and materials.
Wooden crates were commonly in use before pallets, they are still used today to transport or store large heavy items. Crates are now used for specialized transportation of goods and farm produce.
31. Sheds and Yard storage
What would we do without sheds? these simple structures can be designed for any kind of home storage. – Farm tools, machinery, generators, children’s toys, and many others are stored in sheds.
Constructed with lumber, they can be open sided or completely covered, Industrial and commercial farm sheds are mostly large structures that used as parking for farm machinery – tractors, harvesters, etc. lumber is used to construct all backyard structures regardless of their size.
32. Railroad ties
Railroad crossties are rectangular lumber beams that support rails – they help keep proper spacing. In North America, lumber railroad ties are used on over 90% of the rail tracks.
Fiberglass is fairly modern in boat making. For many years’ strong durable boats have and still are built using lumber. Boat keels are traditionally made from hardwoods like oak, the hull, and spar, are made from softwoods like cedar and pine.
Other types of boats are constructed using marine ply, – a wooden veneer made from hardwoods. (birch and oak being preferred over others) they are glued together with waterproof glue making them water-resistant. The deck is made mostly of hardwood, – teak and iroko being favored.
Old ship decks were mostly built with hardwoods, most modern ships are built of steel, iron, and aluminum. Lumber, however, still plays an important role in interior paneling, bunks, and trimmings.
A good number of Yachts and other high-speed boats are constructed with mahogany.
35. Boat Docks
Boat docks, built to handle boats when docking, should be strong and water-resistant, redwood, white cedar and red cedar including cypress are some of the best lumber used for strong weather and water-resistant docks.
Water-resistant lumber is vital for dock construction, – part of the dock is always submerged. Docks are constructed for various uses, boat anchoring, fishing, diving, storage of boat gear, etc. all these uses demand different types of structural designs.
36. Piers Jetties and wharfs
Wharfs, jetties, and piers are birthing structures built along the shoreline for ships and other boats. They are constructed using caissons, steel sheets, and lumber. The terms jetties and piers refer to the same structures and are used interchangeably. Red and white cedar are some of the best lumber types used in jetty and pier construction.
The difference between A wharf and jetty is that a wharf is built to run along the shoreline, while a pier or jetty extends out into the sea. Quays, on the other hand, are two separate wharfs tied together along the shoreline.
37. Tool handles
Wooden handles on Rakes, shovels, spades, kitchen knives, axes, hammers, and many other tools give them a better grip. Lumber from Hickory and ash wood make the best lumber for handle making.
A sawhorse is a four-legged beam used to support planks while sawing, it’s used not just to saw planks, but logs and boards, it can also be used as a workbench when working with lumber. Some sawhorses are designed with foldable legs for easy storage.
Workbenches are sturdy tables with a flat surface, made of lumber used by different artisans, jewelers, craftsmen, etc. most workbenches are rectangular in shape and must have the right height, some have tool storage spaces, and mountings. Softwood lumber workbenches are mostly preferred by artisans.
Without wood we wouldn’t have paper, lumber plays a vital role in paper production. Raw wood crushed into a pulp and processed either mechanical or chemically produces cellulose, Cellulose is separated from lignin and the remaining fiber processed into paper.
40. White Paper
The white paper is made from bleached wood pulp to a very high degree of brightness.
41. Packaging boxes
Packaging paper, boxes, and cartons are made from pulped wood, processed through acidic sulphite to weaken the fibers and to remove lignin making the final product tougher and more versatile.
42. Newsprint paper
Newspapers all over the world are printed on newsprint paper, newsprint is made from mechanically pulped lumber, which is processed to remove lignin and the extracted fiber made into newsprint paper.
Pencils, or most correctly the wooden part of pencils is made from cedar wood sawn and shaped into pencil sizes.
Lumber strips make strong rust-free clotheslines
45. Synthetic textiles
Synthetic fibers are created from regenerated cellulose fibers, extracted from wood, these cellulose fibers are then processed to produce natural polymers which when chemically broken down become fibers, when spun and woven these fibers become fabric.
We have already looked at Household uses of lumber in furniture making, here are other unique uses of lumber in a home.
46. Household utensils
Many houseware and kitchen utensils are made of lumber; cooking spoons, bowls, ladles, serving spoons, rollers, and cutting boards all come from lumber. Walnut, cherry, maple pear, beech, rosewood and many other types of wood produce quality lumber for manufacturing of household utensils.
Wooden bathtubs may have originated from the east, but are fast catching up as a popular relaxation past time in the west, they are made from hardwoods, oak, cedar, and larch make excellent moisture-resistant bathtubs.
Saunas are made of wood, lumber from spruce, alder, aspen, and hemlock have the best properties acting as good insulators, with antiseptic and antibacterial properties making them hygienic and easy to maintain.
49. Cedar chests
Cedar chests or hope chest, historically made for ladies in anticipation of marriage are still popular, currently used as long term preferred storage since the cedar has insect repelling properties, and keeps fungi at bay.
Though called cedar chest, they do not have to be made from cedar lumber. They can be made from other types of lumber and lined on the inside with cedar
50. Picture frames
Picture frames are decorative works of art; different types of wood have different finishes. Poplar, ash, cherry, fishtail oak, birch, mahogany, maple, etc. have different grain patterns and do not have the same properties. The type of lumber a picture frame is made from will determine its value and price.
51. Wooden sculptures
Sculptor making is an artistic art. Images can be sculpted from stone or wood, wood sculpting uses lumber from different types of trees. A sculptor chooses the type of lumber they would like sculptor and chisels away what they do not want to create a visual representation of the image.
52. Artistic carvings
Every kind of wood can be carved, but Woodcarvers prefer hardwoods, basswood, black walnut, aspen, oak can be shaped easily and have excellent finishes. Machine carving is easier on hardwoods; hand carvers are careful with the type of lumber they choose to work on.
53. Musical instruments
Guitars, violins, clarinets, bassoons, woodwinds, drums, drumsticks, piano, xylophones and a host of other musical instruments are made from lumber, again wood is chosen depending on what type of musical instrument is being fashioned.
54. Wooden toys
Wooden toys have a natural appeal and are environmentally friendly, manhattan’s toys skwish, wooden ABC blocks, walk along with wooden pulley toys, are some of the most favorite lumber made toys that will last a long time and can be handed down from one child to the next.
55. Skateboard ramps
The type of wood a skateboard is made from determines how strong the skateboard will be. Pressure-treated lumber from birch is strong and durable creating amazing skateboard ramps.
56. Cricket Bats and Hockey sticks
Cricket bats and hockey sticks are made from willow lumber shaped and fashionable to withstand the rigors of play, and yet remain light enough to have that perfect swing.
57. Table tennis tables
Ping pong tables and Table tennis tables are made from plywood planks, produced from softwood trees, firs, pines, spruce, they are made to be strong, light and durable.
These are not the only uses for lumber by any means; nail polish, ink making, sunscreens, paints, chewing gum, Doritos and toothpaste, are some of the other countless ways lumber is used in product manufacturing.