Posted: April 20, 2022
Brought to you by Marvin.
A lifelong wood expert reveals what you should know about wood for windows and doors.
You might think you know wood—but do you know wood for windows and doors? The same properties that make certain woods ideal for other construction projects might make them a complicated choice for window and door components.
This is why wood scientists exist, and why Marvin relies on in-house, advanced degree-holding wood scientists to inform their research and manufacturing processes. If you’re advising customers on what type of wood might be best for windows and doors, you’ll want to know why Marvin’s Wood Scientist, Ben Wallace, thinks Pine is extremely underrated, Oak is a bit high-maintenance, and why you shouldn’t just take a supplier’s word for it when they say they’re selling you Honduran Mahogany.
Marvin offers three types of wood for the exterior: Pine, Douglas Fir, and Honduran Mahogany, with additional options in our clad wood offerings.
Pine is the go-to choice and all our windows are designed with pine.
Sometimes a different look is desired, and Douglas Fir shows more vertical grain, even through the finish. It is also a slightly more durable option than pine because it contains more heartwood, but keep in mind that a lot of the durability comes from the design of a window and if it’s designed to resist water well.
Honduran Mahogany is the most stable and durable wood option and will perform well for a long time. The one place to avoid using Honduran Mahogany is in a condensing environment, such as a pool or hot tub room.
Here, Wallace shares five things you probably don’t know about wood and windows.
1. Pine isn’t just less expensive, it’s actually an ideal window material.
According to Wallace, pine might be one of the most underrated choices for wood windows. It’s inexpensive, and though it might not be ideal for flooring, it has exactly the properties a window or door product needs.
“You don’t buy pine flooring because it’s not an ideal choice—it dents and dings too easily,” Wallace said. “But, you won’t be walking on a window. You need it to not shrink or swell too much and for it to be structurally strong but not overly rigid. Pine exhibits all of the best characteristics, and it takes paint and stain incredibly well.”
2. Choosing wood for a window isn’t just about strength.
You can share data all day long about which wood species might be stronger than another, but Wallace insists strength isn’t what’s important about designing a durable window or door—it’s about working with a manufacturer who understands the “personalities” of different types of wood.
“Materials attributes are important, but if you really understand a material, you learn to design for its limitations, accept those, and work within them,” Wallace said. “A bad window design with Douglas Fir, even though it might be one of the strongest woods out there, will not last as long as a good design with Pine.”
3. Not all expensive window and door woods are rare, they might just be difficult to work with.
Speaking of woods with personality, how easy or hard it is to design for various wood species can factor in to how expensive they are. Wallace notes that premium wood pricing is a combination of availability, perception, and ease of use. Honduran Mahogany isn’t easy to get, hence the premium pricing. White Oak, on the other hand, isn’t expensive because it’s difficult to obtain, but because it’s more difficult to design for.
“Oak is a hard wood, it shrinks and swells more than other species, and it’s more difficult to dry. It requires more handling and more specialized design, so there’s cost that comes with using it in a window or door,” Wallace said. “It’s popular from an aesthetic standpoint, so we use our wood expertise to prepare it to perform well in a different application.”
4. Honduran Mahogany is a term some manufacturers use loosely. The real thing is worth the price, and it’s not easy to get.
Though the term is often used, not all Mahogany is created equal. True Honduran Mahogany is the Honduran Swietenia Macrophylla species, which must be responsibly sourced from managed forests and is the only type of Mahogany that will exhibit the desirable characteristics that make this wood so special.
“All of the Honduran Mahogany we buy is Forestry Steward Council certified,” Wallace said. “We know exactly where it’s coming from so we can ensure we are enhancing forestation and helping this species thrive. It’s harder to obtain, but well worth it.”
5. When it comes to preserving wood, it’s all about exposed surfaces.
As with any organic material, wood needs to be treated to resist rot and pests, and some processes leave untreated areas that could become weak points. Asking about the treatment process can go a long way in protecting your customers’ investment in windows and doors.
“We use submersion treatment to get a high loading of not just one, but three active and targeted fungicides, plus an insecticide and water repellant,” Wallace said. “If any wood component is cut after treatment, we re-submerge to ensure all surface areas are covered, which is where it is needed most.”
For any window project, the best type of wood will depend on several factors, including the climate, the house type, the amount of overhang, and the desired look. Pine will work well in most environments and all Marvin windows are designed with pine. If a different look is desired, you can opt for Douglas Fir or Honduran Mahogany, which is the most durable, will perform well for a long time, and is decay resistant.
The same wood options that are best for windows also apply to patio doors. For entry doors, Honduran Mahogany is the best option in terms of stability, durability, and performance. African Mahogany is not quite as stable, doesn’t finish as well and is not as decay resistant. With Mahogany, be sure to use a good stain blocking primer with paint.
If you live in a moderate climate and have the required overhang, feel free to pick whatever wood you like the look of.
Selecting wood for door frames follows the same guidance as above. But it’s important to make sure the door frame is treated. All Marvin and exterior TruStile door frames are treated, but not all manufacturers treat their frames, and it helps to make doors last longer. Or use an exceptionally durable species like Honduran mahogany.
This article originally appeared on the Inspired by Marvin blog.
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