Wood has become a basic essential in every household nowadays. Different objects are made of wood not only to gain an aesthetic look but to experience the unique features that plastics or other materials cannot provide.
However, it is always important to choose the right kind of wood to gain the right outcome. It is because there is not one but several types of wood that have expertise in different grounds. But to understand them in a general sense, there are two basic divisions. One is the hardwood type, and the other is the softwood type. In this post, we will discuss a particular kind of wood that belongs to the hardwood family, i.e., elm wood.
Elm wood is usually a very soft hardwood, originally found in western Europe and North American regions. There are around 15 different species of elm wood, and they are specifically known for their versatile properties.
Elm Wood Properties
1. Elm wood is a soft hardwood: Elm wood belongs to the hardwood family. That means it is extracted from deciduous and semi-deciduous elm trees. But being a hardwood does not necessarily mean that they are very hard or dense. In fact, elm wood is classified under the soft hardwood category with a Janka rating of 830. But although they are soft in nature, they are still strong and tough like most hardwood woods.
2. Color and appearance: Elm wood is a beautiful and versatile wood whose color can vary substantially. But usually, the heartwood of elm woods has a warm hue. They can range from light to medium brown color with a reddish tone to it. And its sapwood has a lighter tone. They can be lighter tan color to off-white or greyish-white color. Also, the sapwood of elm woods is very well defined and distinct.
3. Grain and texture: Elm wood has a prominent growth ring pattern. They have an interlocking grain pattern and with open, coarse, and uneven texture. That gives a very unique and aesthetic appearance to the wood, and the coarse texture makes the wood very conveniently stainable and adaptable to any kind of dyes. However, sometimes the grain pattern can make the wood very resistant to splitting.
4. Rot-Resistance: Elm wood is not considered very rot resistant. They are marked as non-durable, and most species are very susceptible to pest attacks. That means they easily get damaged by decay and are prone to rotting. Also, it is reportedly seen that most living elm trees are vulnerable to the Dutch elm disease.
5. Odor: Elm woods are known to have an unpleasant smell or odor. It is especially when the wood is green. They can produce a very strong nasty smell, but once dried, it reduces.
6. Workability: Elm wood’s workability is a little less than most hardwoods. It is mainly because of its interlocked grain patterns. Such a grain pattern makes the wood very resistant to splitting, so one has to use power tools only while dealing with elm wood. Also, the planing of elm wood can result in poor fuzzy surfaces, and it has poor dimension stability. However, due to its texture, it takes stains and finishes very well. It also bends and holds nails and screws well.
7. Cost: Elm wood is usually moderately priced. They are not too expensive nor too cheap. However, due to the Dutch elm disease, their availability has been greatly decreased. But in European states, the price still remains average and not very high.
Elm Wood Uses
Due to its versatile and productive features, elm wood is used for various purposes. They are;
1. Furniture: Elm wood has a very attractive appearance with interlocked grain patterns. Above that, they have a versatile nature that makes them adaptable to various types of designs. Therefore, they are popularly used for making furniture. And since they are also soft but strong, they are easy to work with and can provide different types of quality furniture, windows, doors, etc.
2. Boxes and baskets: Boxes and basket factories widely use elm wood for their production. It is mainly because elm wood is amongst soft kinds of hardwood but also strong and tough. Above that, they can hold heavy weight very easily. Thus, they are the best choice when it comes to making boxes or baskets. They can be easily made, and the outcome is always productive.
3. Hilt: Elm wood is known for being highly shock resistant. Thus, they are highly used for making hilts. They do not damage easily and can withstand heavy shocks easily.
4. Wood pulp: Another important use of elm wood is for making wood pulps to produce paper. It is one of the most common uses of elm wood, and almost around 16% of the total wood population is used for pulpwood, and paper making.
Elm Wood Advantages and Disadvantages
However, elm wood is not perfect. Although it is a popularly used wood, like any other wood, elm wood also has its own pros and cons.
Advantages of elm wood
1. Moderately priced: The first and foremost advantage of elm wood is that they are not too expensive nor too cheap. That provides a kind of affordability along with an assurance of quality. Also, most wood of the same quality and category are costlier than elm wood. And even though elm has a minimum availability, it is still priced at an average rate.
2. Versatile nature: One of the best qualities of elm wood is that they are very versatile. It is because they have a coarse texture and a light complexion. That makes them take stains very easily and any dyes with fine definition. Moreover, elm wood also finishes well. So, they become a good choice for making different objects and products with various and unique styles.
3. Soft and lightweight: Elm wood is lightweight than most wood despite being hardwood. That is one of the main advantages of elm wood. Since they are light and soft in nature, they are very easy to work with, and their bending qualities also provide workers the convenience to form different and unique objects with them.
4. Appearance: Although elm wood is known for its versatile nature, it is also popular for its appearance. It has a prominent interlocked grain pattern that makes the wood naturally good-looking and aesthetic. This is also the reason why many prefer elm wood for making furniture. They provide a pleasant and unique outlook to the product. And not to mention, the price always adds along with it.
Disadvantages of elm wood
1. Non-durable: Although elm wood is a commonly used wood, it has a major disadvantage. That is, it is non-durable. That simply means that elm wood is not resistant to rot and decay. They are very susceptible to insect and pest attacks, and the products can damage very soon and easily.
Moreover, the susceptibility to the Dutch elm disease has always played a huge negative role in the working of the elm wood. Therefore, elm wood furniture or any other products are not considered long-lasting products, and most people often tend to choose other wood over elm wood.
2. Unpleasant odor: Elm wood tend to produce a very strong and unpleasant odor when fresh and green. That makes it uncomfortable for the workers to work with. Therefore, many try to avoid the usage of elm wood and choose some other alternative.
However, it does not seem that much of a problem for most. It is because once it is dried, the odor reduces, and there remains no prominent smell.
3. Resistant to splitting: Elm wood is highly preferred because of its lightweight and soft nature. But since its grains have an interlocked pattern, they cannot split easily. Since splitting is not easy, they are not a good option when it concerns the usage of the wood as firewood or as a smoking prop. Workers find it very hard and time-consuming.
Elm wood vs Pine wood
Elm wood is a hardwood that is extracted from elm trees that are classified as deciduous trees. It is soft in nature, meaning they are softer than most hardwoods, with a Janka rating of 830. On the other hand, pine wood is a softwood by nature. It comes from coniferous trees that are evergreen and do not shed trees, unlike deciduous trees. Pine is a softwood with a Janka rating of around 540.
Elm wood vs Teak wood
Elm wood is hardwood that comes from elm trees which are a type of deciduous and semi-deciduous trees. These trees are a species in the plant family Ulmaceae. On the other hand, teak wood is also a hardwood, but it is a tropical hardwood species that belongs to the plant family Lamiaceae. Further, teak wood is excellent rot-resistant wood and does not damage easily because of decay. But elm wood does not have such high rot-resisting properties.
Elm wood vs Beech wood
Elm wood is a hardwood that has a Janka hardness rating of 830. It is considered softer than other hardwood, thus known as soft hardwood. On the other hand, beech wood is also hardwood but has a Janka hardness rating of 1300. So, it is considered harder and tougher than elm. However, elm wood has a coarse texture and takes stains and dyes well, while beech wood does not take stains evenly. They cause a major problem of botching.
Elm wood vs Mango wood
Mango wood and elm wood are both a type of hardwood that comes from deciduous trees. However, some elm woods do come from semi-deciduous trees that have a faster growth rate than usual. Mango woods are especially known for their durability and resistance to wear. They are also easy to cut and re-shaped, making them easy to work with. But on the other hand, elm woods are not very resistant to decay and rot, making them easily damageable within a few years. Also, elm wood has lower workability compared to mango wood.
Elm wood vs Acacia Wood
Elm wood and acacia wood both belong to the family of deciduous trees, meaning they are different types of hardwood. However, acacia wood is specifically known for its insect-resistant quality. They naturally repel any kind of bacteria and fungi, and that makes them better than most woods. On the other hand, elm woods do not have much resistance quality. They are also very susceptible to the Dutch elm disease that makes the wood rot and decay within a few years.
Elm Wood – Frequently Asked Questions
Is elm wood expensive?
Elm wood is usually moderately priced. But sometimes, the price is hiked due to the damage done by Dutch Elm Disease, which affects its availability. However, it belongs to a fast-growing tree. That compensates to some extent and keeps the price at a moderate level in comparison to other wood.
Is elm wood good for furniture?
Elm wood is a tough wood that usually lasts for a reasonable time without much wear and tear. Further, elm wood bends easily and is extensively used to make supportive furniture like seats and backrests. It also glues well and holds screws and nails tightly. So, these reasons indicate that elm wood is ideal for making good furniture.
Can elm wood be used outside?
Elm wood is commonly used for furniture making, especially in its native areas. However, elm wood is not suitable for outdoor use. Although it is strong and tough, it is not decay-resistant. That makes it a bad choice for using outside. Using it outside will only lead to more frequent pest attacks and cause early damage to the property.
What is elm wood used for?
Elm is a soft but strong hardwood. So, it is very popularly used for making pulpwood, boxes, baskets, veneers, furniture, etc. But softness is not the only factor. It is also a lightweight hardwood along with unique interlocked grain patterns, which gives elm woods a very pleasant and aesthetic look. This is the very reason why elm woods are popular in the furniture world.
Can you burn elm wood in a fireplace?
Elm wood is an average choice when it comes to using it in a fireplace. Elm wood as firewoods produce moderate smoke, and it has lower heat values than other wood. But its good burning qualities make it somewhat a good option when it concerns an indoor fireplace. However, elm wood is not easy to split, and it has a specific odor. That can make it a little hard and uncomfortable for the user.
Can you stain elm wood?
Yes, elm woods can be stained. Elm woods have an open, coarse, and uneven texture which makes them easily stainable. They can take any type of stain or dye and provide a clean touch. Furthermore, elm wood also finishes well. Thus, they are known to be versatile and flexible.
Can you carve elm wood?
Although elm wood is known as soft hardwood, it is very tough. So, it is safe to state that elm woods can be carved, but it is convenient only through modern power tools. Elm woods need power tools mainly because of their interlocked grain patterns. The twisted pattern makes the elm wood hold its shape and is resistant to splitting.
Can you use elm wood for smoking?
Elm wood is not the best but an average choice when it comes to smoking. While it has good burning and smoking qualities, it is very hard to split. Splitting an elm wood will require a lot of time if one considers using hand tools.
Furthermore, it has been reported that elm wood produces an unpleasant smell and can add bad flavor to the food. So, it is more of a no than a yes when it comes to smoking with elm wood.
Is elm wood valuable?
Elm wood is a moderately priced wood. Even after the prevalence of the Dutch Elm Disease, elm wood is quite valuable for the price and its productive properties. It is also because they grow easily and are abundant. But its interlocking and twisted grain patterns and texture mainly add to its value and worth.
Is elm wood good for woodworking?
Elm woods are tough and strong woods. That makes them a good choice for woodworking. They also have good bending qualities, and since they have interlocked patterns, they can bend without cracking or breaking. Further, elm wood nails and screws well without any trouble. However, the interlocking patterns can become a problem when it comes to splitting and drying. If the drying is not proper, warp becomes likely.
Is elm wood good for outdoor furniture?
Well, elm wood is very popular in the furniture-making world, and they are a good choice when it concerns outdoor furniture, fence panels, and housing shingles as the wood is weather resistant. However, it is not the best choice. It is mainly because elm wood is not very rot and decay-resistant. They are very susceptible to pest attacks and can damage easily if used outdoors.
Is elm a hardwood?
Yes, elm wood belongs to the hardwood family. They come from elm trees that are a type of deciduous tree. However, elm has a hardness Janka rating of 830 lbf and is classified as a soft hardwood. That means it is softer than usual hardwoods. But it has interlocked grain patterns that make it very tough and strong.