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Thread: Question about hemlock lumber

  1. #1

    Question about hemlock lumber

    I have a customer that wants me to build a small outdoor shed for her. Several years ago she had a large barn built that is covered on the the outside with board and batten hemlock. Seems to have held up very well and aged to a nice color. It has no finish on it and is about 12 years old now.

    Does anyone have experience using hemlock for barn or shed siding? If so, what's the life expectancy if left untreated. Both hemlock and eastern red cedar are readily available here. She does not want any finish on it at all.......prefers the natural weathered look over time.

    Thanks for any info that you may be able to provide.
    Stephen Edwards
    Hilham, TN 38568

    "Build for the joy of it!"

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Reed City, MI
    Posts
    31
    I built a cabin and shed about 15 years ago using rough sawn hemlock for vertical board on board siding with no finish treatment. It has held up very well to Michigan weather; no rot or mold issues, even in the shade. It turns gray much faster along the bottom of the boards where water contacts it. I thought about occasionally spraying the siding down with a water hose for a more even graying affect, but never did. My grandfathers barn had board and batten siding and stood for over 100 years. The siding was still solid when it finally came down due to a neglected roof.

    Paul

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul M Miller View Post
    I built a cabin and shed about 15 years ago using rough sawn hemlock for vertical board on board siding with no finish treatment. It has held up very well to Michigan weather; no rot or mold issues, even in the shade. It turns gray much faster along the bottom of the boards where water contacts it. I thought about occasionally spraying the siding down with a water hose for a more even graying affect, but never did. My grandfathers barn had board and batten siding and stood for over 100 years. The siding was still solid when it finally came down due to a neglected roof.

    Paul
    Thanks, Paul. I reckon 100 years would be long enough! By that time we'll all be pushing daisies and won't care anyway! I appreciate you sharing you knowledge about your experience with hemlock.
    Stephen Edwards
    Hilham, TN 38568

    "Build for the joy of it!"

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Forest Grove, OR
    Posts
    1,167
    Old growth hemlock is going to last a lot longer than the new stuff, but all in all its not too bad for outdoor wood as long as there aren't any knots. Those rot out faster. Also, make sure it is not subject to any standing water and has the ability to quickly air dry if it gets wet.

    Lots of decks in the Pacific Northwest were built out of hemlock before treated woods and plastic lumber became available. It lasts about 20 years in that application.
    Last edited by Josiah Bartlett; 05-28-2008 at 1:40 PM.

  5. #5
    Many barns around here pushing more than 100 years have hemlock siding. I built a pole barn in my side yard 15 years ago and it is still almost like new other than greying of the wood. The carpenter bees found on area on the north side attractive and the woodpeckers discovered the bee larvae so I have a couple of custom holes in one wall, but it has held up fine to the weather.
    Lee Schierer - McKean, PA

    My advice, comments and suggestions are free, but it costs money to run the site. If you found something of value here please give a little something back by becoming a contributor! Contribute

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Schierer View Post
    Many barns around here pushing more than 100 years have hemlock siding. I built a pole barn in my side yard 15 years ago and it is still almost like new other than greying of the wood. The carpenter bees found on area on the north side attractive and the woodpeckers discovered the bee larvae so I have a couple of custom holes in one wall, but it has held up fine to the weather.
    Nice looking building, Lee. Thanks for the info everyone. I think we'll use the hemlock on my friend/customer's building.

    Out of curiosity, what does hemlock lumber sell for in your area? There's a mill/kiln operation near here that sells it for $1.00 per BF. He also has a planer mill and will plane it, mold the edge, T&G, anything you want....still the same price regardless if it's rough sawn or planed.

    Thanks again for your input.
    Stephen Edwards
    Hilham, TN 38568

    "Build for the joy of it!"

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Kanasas City, MO
    Posts
    1,787
    Stephen,
    I have some relatives living in a home well in excess of 150 years and it has about 90% of the original siding and it's all hemlock lap siding.
    Just in the last few years have a few punky pieces had to be replaced.

    Cheers.
    Greg

  8. #8
    I think I paid about that ($1 / bdft) when I built the barn. My wood was all rough sawn and still green when I put it on the building. The wood shrank about 1/4" per board as it dried out. I cut the 2" battens myself from wider pieces. Be sure to use galvanized nails as the siding will be hanging for a long time and galvanized nails will last longer.
    Lee Schierer - McKean, PA

    My advice, comments and suggestions are free, but it costs money to run the site. If you found something of value here please give a little something back by becoming a contributor! Contribute

  9. #9
    When doing the siding, do yourself a favor and make sure to nail the centers of the boards, not the edges. (Popular Woodworking ran an article on this awhile back "Alien Technology"). The edge nailed boards cannot expand and contract and will crack and bow over time. It's an old timer's trick/knowledge from building lots and lots o' barns.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Godshall View Post
    When doing the siding, do yourself a favor and make sure to nail the centers of the boards, not the edges. (Popular Woodworking ran an article on this awhile back "Alien Technology"). The edge nailed boards cannot expand and contract and will crack and bow over time. It's an old timer's trick/knowledge from building lots and lots o' barns.
    Hey Kevin,

    That's a great idea for nailing, especially if the lumber isn't totally cured. Thanks for the tip.

    However, the last few board and batten jobs that I've done I've screwed the boards to the framing. I pre-drill each hole larger than the shaft of the screw. Yes, it takes a lot longer to do. I do this kind of work part-time and am very picky about accepting a job. Thankfully, I have enough picky customers to keep me as busy as I want to be doing this sort of work. I build garden sheds for master gardeners who want something that they can't find at the normal shed outlets and that are too small of a job for the big contractors to be interested in taking on.

    Again, your tip is excellent advise for people who are nailing the siding. Thanks for sharing.
    Stephen Edwards
    Hilham, TN 38568

    "Build for the joy of it!"

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