Larch, Siberian, European, Japanese. Whatever the genus, it’s long overdue for a bit of TLC.
This tough hard pine really helps us fill the gap that good old Pitch Pine left behind.
Larch timber is a fantastic surfaces finish for cladding, flooring and decking. It’s wholly sustainable with great supply routes from properly managed forests.
It seems that along with Douglas Fir, Larch is growing in popularity and being specified more and more by architects and furniture designers. Perhaps there’s a pine renaissance on the way!
What’s in a name?
When we (timber people) talk about Larch we’re generalising about a few related timber species with some subtle variations.
Siberian Larix sibirica really does originate in Siberia but is grown in northern Europe, Canada and North America too
European Larix decidua or Larix europaea generall originating from northern and eastern europe – alpine region, carpathian mountains, moravian heights – but was extensively planted across europe including in the UK in 17th century.
Japanese Larix kaempferi originated in Japan but planted extensively throughout Europe including in the UK.
The details below give an general overview incorporating qualities from all three larch timber species types.
Heart wood is reddish brown when dry (although quite rich bricky red when fresh sawn) with a contrasting band of narrow white sap and really sharp definition on the grain. This can give very nice firgure and grain pattern as well as a striking Pine appearance. Larch is a very resinous timber with sticky bubbles popping up here and there althoug UK trees are less so than and are probably faster growing.
It saws, machines & finishes fairly well but loose knots can cause trouble. It dries out quite fast once cut, with the potential to warp if not cared for during this process. Knots can split and loosen/fall out and that rumour you heard about Larch splitting is true if you try and nail it. Pre drill and you’re fine.
Technical Info about Larch from TRADA
Mechanical Strength: Generally tough and hard with good stength properties
(Jap 30% softer than Eu/Sib) and know to be 50% harder than Scots Pine
Durability: Homegrown = slightly durable, Imported = moderately durable
Treatability: Extremely difficult although sapwood easier (maybe UK will be easier re: less resin?)
Moisture movement: Small, across the board
Density: 530 (Jap = soft) to 590 t Kg/m3 (dry)
Fresh sawn: (Homegrown) Custom cut & commonly available in widths or sections up to 250mm and 6m long. Larger sizes are always possible if there’s a tree to get it from. Larch does grow long and straight so getting above 6m isn’t so much of a problem depending on your widths. Widths are trickier. If you need it don’t be afraid to ask… and then we’ll ask the foresters!!
Dry: (Imported) Usually available ex 25, 50, 65, 80 & 100mm thick. Boards are not terribly wide but decent lengths with max 5ish metres similar to Douglas Fir & Western Red Cedar
Fresh sawn, this species is good for heavy structural work, cladding & decking
Dry, it’s a like Douglas Fir, a good all rounder really but it probably doesn’t reach teh dizzy grading heights the Douglas can. It’s still good for joinery or furniture work. Super for flooring and excellent as air dried external cladding, looks great with a machined profile because it has a nice machined surface as the grain is nice and fine.
We also supply bias cut shingles (sawn like the barrel making timber) for cladding (beautiful!) and sawn laths for plastering.
Imported Larch tends to be air dried, even if it was fresh sawn at the time of shipping. Kiln dried is also available.
British Larch is easily available fresh sawn and can be dried to order for use as machined cladding or for interior use.
We keep kiln dried stock for furniture & joinery and we supply a lot of fresh sawn homegrown as custom orders for cladding projects.
As with our dear old Douglas Fir, the homegrown Larch is becoming so popular that we’re planning to lay down stock for drying ( UK stock.. unheard of!) so that we can machine cladding, decking, for flooring in long lengths, wide widths… exciting stuff!