Building materials are selected based on a number of factors in addition to durability including, but not limited to, cost, availability, ease of construction, thermal performance, and aesthetics. Wood performs equally or better compared with other building materials in all of these categories. As with all materials, wood is susceptible to deterioration under specific adverse conditions. However, with proper design detailing, good construction techniques and adequate building maintenance, wood structures can be expected to last an exceedingly long time. Wood has been used as a durable building material for thousands of years and the historic wood buildings still standing today are a testament to that. For more information on Wood’s Heritage Click here.
For buildings where longevity is important, many designers don’t consider wood – it is commonly assumed that wood structures have shorter service lives than buildings made of other materials. Our survey data shows that to be incorrect. Click here for a study of demolished buildings showing that structural material isn’t a factor in service life. In fact, the wood buildings in our demolition survey lasted longer than the others.
In addition, there are many specific applications where the natural durability properties of wood make it the material of choice.
Wood is resistant to some of the chemicals destructive to steel and concrete. For example, wood is often the material of choice when exposed to: organic compounds, hot or cold solutions of acids or neutral salts, dilute acids, industrial stack gases, sea air and high relative humidity. Because of its resistance to chemicals wood is often used in the following applications:
Potash storage buildings
Salt storage domes
- Industrial tanks for various types of chemicals
- With thoughtful design and careful workmanship wood bridges prove to be remarkably durable. Throughout the world, there are numerous examples of long lasting wooden bridges – both historic and modern. Modern bridge decks are subjected to relentless attack of de-icing chemicals, and wood is gaining acceptance as a viable option for these applications.
- Pilings that are constantly submerged in fresh water have been known to last for centuries. Foundation piles under structures will not decay if the water table remains higher than the pile tops. Many of the world’s important structures are built on wood piles including much of the city of Venice and the Empire State Building in New York.