Canadian species of visually graded lumber

There are more than a hundred softwood species in North America. To simplify the supply and use of structural softwood lumber, species having similar strength characteristics, and typically grown in the same region, are combined. Having a smaller number of species combinations makes it easier to design and select an appropriate species and for installation and inspection on the job site. In contrast, non-structural wood products are graded solely on the basis of appearance quality and are typically marked and sold under an individual species (e.g., Eastern White Pine, Western Red Cedar).

The Spruce-Pine-Fir (S-P-F) species group grows abundantly throughout Canada and makes up by far the largest proportion of dimension lumber production. The other major commercial species groups for Canadian dimension lumber are Douglas Fir-Larch, Hem-Fir and Northern Species.

The four species groups of Canadian lumber and their characteristics are shown below.

Species Combination: Douglas Fir-Larch
Abbreviation: D.Fir-L or DF-L

Species Included in Combination

Growth Region

Douglas FirDouglas Fir icon   Western LarchWestern Larch icon Map of Canada highlighting region of southern BC and Alberta where Douglas Firs and Western Larchs Grow

Characteristics

Colour Ranges

  • Reddish brown to yellow
  • High degree of hardness
  • Good resistance to decay
close-up view of reddish brown wood

Species Combination: Hem-Fir
Abbreviation: Hem-Fir or H-F

Species Included in Combination

Growth Region

Pacific Coast HemlockPacific Coast Hemlock icon    Amabilis Fir Amabilis Fir icon Map of Canada highlighting BC and Alberta where Pacific Hemlock and Amabilis Fir Grow

Characteristics

Colour Ranges

  • Yellow brown to white
  • Works easily
  • Takes paint well
  • Holds nails well
  • Good gluing characteristics
close-up view of yellow brown to white wood

Species Combination: Spruce-Pine-Fir
Abbreviation: S-P-F

Species Included in Combination

Growth Region

White Spruce White Spruce icon  Engleman Spruce Engleman Spruce icon    Red SpruceRed Spruce icon   Black Spruce Black Spruce icon
Jack PineJack Pine icon   Lodgepole Pine Lodgepole Pine icon  Balsam Fir Balsam Fir icon   Alpine Fir  Alpine Fir icon
 Map of Canada showing that these species grow in all regions.

Characteristics

Colour Ranges

  • White to pale yellow
  • Works easily
  • Takes paint well
  • Holds nails well
  • Good gluing charateristics
 close-up view of white to pale yellow wood board

 Species Combination: Northern Species
Abbreviation: North or Nor

 Species Included in Combination

 Growth Region

 Western Red CedarWestern Red Cedar icon  Map of Canada highlighting BC and Alberta as regions where Western red Cedar grows.

Characteristics

 Colour Ranges

  •  Reddish brown heartwood, light sapwood
  • Exceptional resistance to decay
  • Moderate strength
  • High in appearance qualities
  • Works easily
  • Takes fine finishes
  • Lowest shrinkage
 close-up view of reddish brown wood board

 Also Included in Northern Species

 Species Included in Combination

 Growth Region

 Red Pinered pine icon  Map of Canada highlighting Ontario, Southern Quebec and the Maritimes as regions where Red Pines grow.

  Characteristics

 Colour Ranges

  • Works easily
 close-up view of reddish yellow red pine board

 Also Included in Northern Species

 Species Included in Combination

Growth Region

 Ponderosa PinePonderosa Pine icon  Map of Canada highlighting the Alberta region where Ponderosa Pines grow.

 Characteristics

 Colour Ranges

  •  Takes finishes well
  • Holds nails well
  • Holds screws well
  • Seasons with little checking or cupping
 close-up view of ponderosa pine board

 Also Included in Northern Species

 Species Included in Combination

 Growth Region

 Western White PineWestern White Pine icon  Eastern White Pine Eastern White Pine icon  Map of Canada highlighting BC, Ontario, Quebec and Maritimes as regions of growth for White Pine trees.

 Characteristics

 Colour Ranges

  •  Creamy white to light straw brown heartwood, almost white sapwood
  • Works easily
  • Finishes well
  • Doeasn’t tend to split or splinter
  • Holds nails well
  • Low shrinkage
  • Takes stain, paints & varnishes well
 close-up view of white pine board

 Also Included in Northern Species

 Species Included in Combination

 Growth Region

 Trembling AspenTrembling Aspen icon  Largetooth AspenLargetooth Aspen icon  Balsam Poplar Balsam Poplar icon  Map of Canada highlighting all provinces except BC as regions where Trembling Aspen, Largetooth Aspen and Balsam Poplar grow.

 Characteristics

 Colour Ranges

  • Works easily
  • Finishes well
  • Holds nails well
 Amabilis Fir icon

Below is a map of the forest regions in Canada and the principle tree species that grow in each region.


Click to enlarge the map.
This map appears courtesy of Natural Resources Canada.