Oak has always been a favorite material in construction due to its durability and versatility. This is the reason why you can still find ancient oak beams that are hundreds of years old in structures such as cathedrals, old houses, and churches. But in choosing structural oak beams for your home or construction project, what kind should you choose? Should you go for air dried, green, or reclaimed? Here we list down the pros and cons of each so you can decide for yourself on which kind of oak beam is perfect for your needs.
Green Oak Beams No, green structural oak beams do not have a green color to them. This term is often misunderstood by people who are not used in working with oak. Green oak wood comes from oak trees that have been recently cut and felled. They haven't been dried or exposed to the elements for too long, so they still have much of their natural moisture with them. Due to its inherent moisture which makes the wood softer and easier to work with, green oak is usually favored by craftsmen. It shrinks and changes color as time goes by, as the remaining moisture in the wood cells dry out.
This characteristic makes green oak suitable for timber frame construction, since the joints will tighten as the wood shrinks. However, green oak is not recommended for areas that need a lot of stability (such as support beams) since the wood will surely be warped around a lot.
Air Dried Oak Beams As the name suggests, air dried oak beams are oak beams that have been already lost their moisture through natural or man-made means. In the traditional/natural method of drying, oak beams are divided into stacks with gaps in between them (to allow for the circulation of air) and are then placed in a cool, well-ventilated area to dry. This can take anywhere from a few months to even more than a decade, depending on the climate, the kind of oak, and quality of the wood desired. While kiln-drying the wood hastens the process tenfold, fast tracking this process usually results into wood that is poorer in quality than oak that has been left to dry naturally on its own. They also look better since the knots, splits, and cracks will become more defined with age.This kind of oak is harder to work with, but since the shrinking process is already finished, the resulting wood is more durable and sturdier.
Reclaimed Oak Beams If you're into recycling and reusing old things, then reclaimed oak beams might be a perfect fit for you. These are oak beams recycled from old or worn down structures. The best thing about these kinds of oak beams is that they are very affordable and very stable (since they have already shrunk in size). They also have a lot of character in them that some people might find very pleasing to look at. The biggest drawback with reclaimed oak beams is that you're unlikely to find them in standard sizes, making them nearly impossible to use in projects where same-sized beams are a requirement.