Available, Flexible, Beautiful
Wood was the primary building material in New England in Colonial times, and outside of urban areas, it still is. Part of its appeal today is tradition – people tend to copy local styles or to design variations based on popular designs of the past. But wood has many properties that have always made it popular with builders as well as designers, homeowners, and people growing a business.
New England’s forests have shrunk and regrown several times over the centuries but have never disappeared. Wood is a renewable resources, after all, and today the region supplements its own wood supplies with imports from Canada and other parts of the US. This constant availability has kept wood’s price lower than the common competing materials, such as brick, stone, and concrete block.
Here is a factor that makes life easier for the woodworker and also keeps down the cost of building with wood: A sharp edge and some practice is all you need to cut and shape it. There are still craft builders around who build wood-framed and –sided houses completely with hand tools! Contractors working on a schedule and a budget, however, can choose from a wide selection of small and large power tools to speed the process and ensure precise cuts.
Wood can take on many shapes to fill many uses: posts, beams, planks, boards, clapboards, shingles, shelves, railings, trim, fine moldings, and more. Different species of trees provide wood suited for special purposes, too, due to differences in strength, stiffness, hardness, rot resistance, and fineness of grain.
A properly prepared board is a natural canvas for paint, varnish, or stain. And, with wood’s long history, we have developed a tremendous variety of coatings to seal out moisture while making our living spaces more beautiful. Wood grain itself can be gorgeous when simply left natural (with only a clear sealant to help preserve its color and make it easier to clean). As naturally finished paneling, wainscoting, or trim over painted sheetrock or plaster, it can’t be topped for beauty.
Brick, stone, stucco, and the new plastic materials all have their proper uses, alone or combined with wood, but it’s hard to imagine they could ever surpass it in popularity.