What Is Thermally Modified Wood?
There are dozens of different ways to process wood before it gets to your home to be installed as flooring. The most basic option is that wood is cut from a tree and allowed to dry. It’s then shaped into flooring planks and perhaps dried again. This drying could be done by simply allowing the wood to sit in a low-humidity environment as the moisture evaporates. It can be dried in the sun. Alternately, it can be kiln-dried. Kiln drying the wood is the fastest and most easily controlled method.
However, some hardwood flooring companies use some intermediate processes to alter the nature of the wood. If you have been looking through hardwood flooring trends, you’ve likely noticed some instances of thermally-modified woods. However, you might not know what that means.
What It Means
When wood is being processed, it can sometimes go through the intermediate step of being thermally modified. The process can involve dry heat or wet heat. The most important factor is that this occurs in a low or no-oxygen environment. The wood is raised past the burning point of wood; if oxygen were present, the wood would ignite. Instead, it is sometimes surrounded in a nitrogen-rich environment which purges all of the oxygen. It can then be heated. Other processes involve heating it in an oil bath. Either method prevents the wood from catching fire.
The principle is the same one used for fire-hardening wood in early civilizations where metal was not available. High heat hardens the individual cells of the wood, making it harder and less flexible. It also makes the cells less absorbent, so they are more resistant to moisture and decay.
Why You Might Buy One
You might buy a thermally-modified floor for several reasons. Some people buy them to go in their basements, which are often draftier than other parts of the house. Humidity in the basement is often higher and can lead to warping for normal hardwood floors. A thermally-modified floor will resist that warping.
Some people even choose to put thermally-modified hardwood on outdoor or partially-outdoor areas such as patios, porches, and sunrooms. If you want hardwood outdoors or where it might be exposed to the elements, it has to be treated in some manner. Treated wood for decks is often thick and less attractive than hardwood flooring. So, if you want the hardwood flooring look, thermal modification could be the answer.