- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 12 Jan 2018
The birch tree is a hardwood tree that belongs to the Betulaceae family, which includes alders and hazels. It is a thin-leaved tree that has between thirty and sixty different species, however, eleven of them are listed on the Green List of Threatened Species, some of which include the Chichibu birch of Japan, the Megrelian birch of Georgia, and the Murray birch of Ontario, Canada, and Michigan, United States.
Locations of birch
Birch is particularly common in the Northern hemisphere, such as in the United States, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, parts of China, and Japan. Around three-quarters of known birch species are located within Europe and Asia, particularly in China, Japan, Russia, and the former Soviet Republic nations, such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Common features of birch
In the UK, the common species of birch are known for their light pallor, which is why they are known as white and silver birch. Birch is also known as a pioneer species, meaning that they are the first type of tree to colonise an area that has previously been disturbed or damaged due to a natural or manmade event.
Properties of birch wood
Birch wood is fine-grained and pale in colour, which makes it suitable for high-quality furniture. However, because it also features a satin-like sheen, it is a very popular choice for veneer and furniture making. There are some types of birch that feature ripple figuring, which is determined by how the tree grows throughout its life.
However, birch is harder than other hardwoods, such as Honduran mahogany and Red oak, meaning that it has great durability but it is also difficult to work with when using hand tools, such as carving and chipping.
Uses of birch
Even though it is a light wood, birch is strong and durable, meaning that it can be used to create a strong plywood. Birch plywood uses multiple sheets of birch veneer and is one of the strongest and most stable plywoods in the industry. It is typically used to make skateboards, which provide a stable and flexible ride.
Some species of birch, such as silver birch, have a pungent aroma which is used in leather oil and is also used in cosmetics, such as soap and shampoo. Another useful feature of birch, especially its bark, is that it is waterproof, which makes it suitable for lining wooden boats. During the time when Native Americans travelled around the United States, they used birch bark to construct lightweight canoes and bowls.
Due to its strength and lightness, birch is also good at supporting large structures. The most prolific example of this was during the Second World War when the United States built the largest flying boat ever and the aircraft with the largest wingspan in history; the Spruce Goose. Even though it is known as the Spruce Goose, it was constructed using aluminium and birch, as it was a lightweight but strong material to use at the time.
--G&S Specialist Timber 14:08, 12 Apr 2017 (BST)
Find out more
Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- 11 things you didn't know about wood.
- Chip carving.
- Cross-laminated timber.
- Definition of tree for planning purposes.
- Engineered bamboo.
- Laminated veneer lumber LVL.
- Physical Properties of Wood.
- Testing timber.
- The differences between hardwood and softwood.
- Timber preservation.
- Timber vs wood.
- Types of timber.
- Wood ash.
Featured articles and news
When is there a right to light, and what happens if it is obstructed?
What would the nationalisation of economic infrastructure mean for GB?
A new guide to improving value by reducing design error.
We've reached 80,000 page views a day and 10,000 registered users. Why not join them?
A masterplan is a framework within which a location is encouraged to develop or change. Read our introductory article.
New consultation announced on a specialist Housing Court to settle landlord-tenant disputes.
ICE responds to a transport consultation advising the government to make decisions enabling more inclusive cities.
BRE and Loughborough University complete first phase refurbishment of demonstration home.
How the risk of collapse of fibrous plaster ceilings is being addressed in theatres.
If you’re a great writer and have practical experience of the construction industry, it could be you.
Frustrated by long documents or technical jargon? Put off by sign-up forms or costs? Take this 5 min survey to help improve construction knowledge.