By Steve Graham, Hometalk
Whether framing a new addition, building a deck or making a piece of furniture, wood is often the go-to material. Lumber, plywood and other products made with sustainably harvested wood are widely available and relatively inexpensive. However, there are environmental costs and structural drawbacks to many traditional wood products. Plenty of creative alternatives to wood are available. Here is a sampling of wood alternatives, most with some environmental advantages, for home construction and remodeling projects.
Hemp is a fast-growing and sustainable crop that generates more construction-grade fiber per acre than most trees and other crops. It can be used in place of lumber and a wide range of other materials. For example, Washington State University researchers found hemp-based medium density fibreboard to be twice as strong as wood.
Bamboo is often considered a wood, but this grass is really a wood alternative. It has been called the world’s most useful plant (though hemp advocates might argue otherwise). Bamboo is fast-growing but at least as strong as some slow-growth woods. It is a very trendy (and somewhat controversial) flooring option. It is also used in furniture and a wide variety of other construction materials.
3. Wood composites
As the name suggests, composite materials combine wood with recycled plastics or other components. As compared to lumber, composites are a more sustainable way to use trees. For example, composite deck boards can be made with scrap wood fiber leftover from cutting solid hardwood deck boards. Composite decks and other products also have other advantages over hardwood. They require virtually no finishing, staining or maintenance, and are very durable.
4. Plastic wood
Another growing segment of the deck market is basically the plastic — recycled or not — of composites without any wood fibers. Like composite decking, plastic wood requires no maintenance. Of course, it’s hard to make plastic look exactly like wood, so it’s not a perfect aesthetic substitute. However, in many other ways, composites and plastic wood are good hardwood alternatives.