Beautiful on the Outside:
Q&A With Master Carpenter Geoff Shenk
What are some current trends in the wood used for exterior carpentry?
There is definitely a move toward more exotic woods, like garapa. We are seeing new materials that haven't been harvested before but are accessible because of improved foresting and manufacturing techniques. You really have to know what you're buying, though, because some of these woods are coming from areas with unmanaged forests where demand is driving the industry deeper into the jungles.
How do some of the "trendier" woods compare cost wise?
Like everything else nowadays, all wood is getting more expensive. The industry is moving toward farmed wood that is grown quickly, which should help bring costs down as availability improves.
Is there a quality difference between farmed wood and old-growth?
Honestly, it is a completely different animal. Farmed wood isn't as nice as the older growth wood, so you really have to take more time selecting pieces and using it the right way, incorporate good building details, like channeling water away. Really, though, it is always about using the right woods in the right places.
Have you moved away from using any certain woods?
I shy away from working with ipe because the dust is a major irritant. If you breathe in a lot of dust, you feel the effects. It is an incredible exterior wood though, so I may just need to invest in more masks!
Homeowners don't need to worry about it because it is really only an issue when it is right off the tree or you're cutting into new planks.
What was the design concept behind the exterior stairway Byggmeister completed in Newton?
The family we built it for loves to garden, so we built the staircase down through the sloping garden. It included decks at several levels with
benches that double as storage for gardening tools.
What are the best finishes for wood that will be exposed to the elements?
Messmers deep penetrating sealer is an excellent product that protects wood from UV and water. Mahogany and the teak-like types of woods, like garapa, do not accept stain well, so an oil sealer that protects and enhances the natural color is the way to go.
What wood was used and why?
We used garapa and maya mahogany, to create a contrast between the deck and the framing for the stairs. Both are FSC-certified products that hold up well outdoors.
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