Urban Lumber: Recycling Felled City Trees

Thursday, February 11, 2010

by Eric Louie, CONTRA COSTA TIMES, February 5, 2010

image Redwood and cedar trees that once stood in front of the Danville Veterans Memorial Building are gone, removed to make way for renovations.

Yet they will be back — not as the dense greenery residents were accustomed to, but as benches visitors can enjoy in the future. Cut down and milled, the trees have become "urban lumber" — timber that is not taken as part of traditional harvesting — to be used for construction and other projects.

"It gives them another life," said Bill Ridings, a sawyer for California Urban Lumber in Martinez, which has been milling the Danville trees into usable lumber since they were taken down last month.

Ridings said the mill started in 2008 and is part of JFC Construction. It gets wood from tree services, timber that would otherwise go to wood chippers or landfills. Many times the wood is free because many are thankful to not have to deal with disposal and possible added fees. A chunk of tree that’s four to five feet in diameter and 10 feet long can weigh 10,000 to 12,000 pounds, he said. A lot of the wood comes from cities, but some comes from residences.

Ridings described his lumber as "boutique" wood. While lumber at traditional retailers is cheaper, his business can offer more variety. Businesses like Home Depot carry standard sizes, but he can provide custom dimensions, such as for a large fireplace mantle. Since such sizes would have to be custom ordered in most places, he said his business can be a cheaper alternative because there are no shipping fees or other middlemen. He also has more than 30 species available, including those not carried by most stores. [Read rest of story]

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