Today, all industries are on the lookout for innovative and sustainable ways to do things – and the wood-based industries aren’t left behind.
While traditional wood comes from naturally renewable resources (trees), it still contributes to deforestation which has devastating effects on the environment even if it’s done in a controlled manner. And this is one of the reasons that led to the development of hemp wood – a revolutionary material meant to compete with wood from trees.
The large-scale production of this raw material is fairly new due to its association with cannabis which has been illegal at the federal level for decades. However, all this was changed by the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized the cultivation of hemp and the production of hemp products.
Here’s everything you need to know about hemp wood.
What is Hemp Wood?
Hemp Wood is a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional hardwoods made from the fibers of the hemp plant. It is a versatile material that can be used for various applications, including furniture, flooring, building materials, and more.
It’s made by compressing hemp fibers with a natural adhesive to create a dense and durable material resembling traditional hardwoods like oak or maple. Unlike traditional hardwoods, however, Hemp Wood can be grown and harvested in as little as six months, making it a highly renewable resource.
In addition to its sustainability, Hemp Wood is also highly resistant to moisture and insects, making it a practical and long-lasting option for a variety of applications. As awareness of the environmental impacts of traditional hardwoods continues to grow, Hemp Wood is becoming an increasingly popular choice for those seeking a more sustainable and eco-friendly alternative.
3 Benefits of Hemp Wood
Consider the following benefits of hemp wood:
Hemp wood is 20% stronger than the standard wood, meaning it’s designed to withstand the test of time. It can, therefore, be used for a range of heavy-duty applications such as construction and flooring.
2. Environmentally Friendly Product
In 2019 alone, the world lost one football pitch of forest every six seconds. Deforestation is a major contributor to carbon emissions which drive global warming.
With hemp wood, no tree is cut down. It promotes the preservation of forests together with the wildlife they provide shelter to. Keep in mind that 70-80% of earth’s land animals depend on forests to survive. Otherwise, they may be endangered and risk extinction.
3. Hemp Wood Cultivation Supports Sustainable Farming
The hemp plant is a hardy rotational crop that can take as little as four months to grow. It isn’t climate-sensitive, meaning it requires very little water to grow. Additionally, the roots of the hemp plants grow deep into the soil to hold its particles firmly together and prevent erosion.
Even better, all parts of the hemp plant can be used for other purposes – from the leaves to the roots. This makes the hemp plant a zero-waste raw material.
Hemp vs. Trees: What’s the Difference?
Over the decades, wooden products have majorly come from hardwood trees such as oaks, maple, and cedar. Besides deforestation, the cultivation of these trees for raw materials comes with several disadvantages that hemp wood is trying to solve. These limitations include:
Hemp can grow 100 times faster than the typical tree grown for wood. For example, the oak tree – a popular raw material for wooden furniture – can take up to 200 years to attain full maturity. On the other hand, hemp plants take between 4-6 months to be ready for harvest. As a result, hemp cultivation offers a larger and more quickly replenishing supply of wood.
A healthy 100-foot hardwood tree has about 200,000 leaves. A tree of this size takes up to 11,000 gallons of water from the soil in a single growing season.
In comparison, one gallon of water is required to produce about 48 pounds of dry hemp fiber.
Did you know that about four acres of trees produce the same amount of fiber as one acre of hemp?
Hemp plants have slender cane-like stalks. Thus, you don’t need a lot of space to harvest a substantial amount of fiber as compared to trees. The average girth of a hardwood tree is 100.1 inches and the average spread is 54.9 feet. They take up hundreds of acres of arable land, which many potential farmers don’t have.
How is Hemp Wood Made?
Hemp Wood is made by compressing hemp fibers with a natural adhesive to create a dense and durable material resembling traditional hardwoods like oak or maple. The process typically involves the following steps:
Harvesting: The hemp plant is harvested, and the fibers are separated from the stalks.
Breaking down the fibers: The hemp fibers are mechanically processed and cleaned to remove impurities and separate them into smaller strands.
Mixing the fibers with an adhesive: The hemp fibers are combined with a natural adhesive, such as a soy-based resin, to bind them together and create a dense material.
Pressing and drying: The hemp fibers and adhesive mixture is then pressed into large blocks or boards and allowed to dry.
Cutting and finishing: Once the blocks have dried, they are cut into the desired size and shape, sanded, and finished with a protective coating.
The specific manufacturing process for Hemp Wood can vary depending on the manufacturer and the desired final product. Some manufacturers may use different types of natural adhesives or incorporate additional treatments to enhance the material’s durability.
Hemp Wood: Frequently Asked Questions
How Durable is Hemp Wood vs. Regular Wood?
Hemp wood not only looks and feels like natural hardwood, but it’s also quite durable. It’s scientifically engineered to be 20% harder than oak. It has a density rating of 50-55 pounds per cubic foot and a hardness of over 2000 N/mm². The stability of this material is similar to that of the Brazilian Cherry. Additionally, the natural adhesives used to bind the hemp fibers together in Hemp Wood can make it more robust than traditional hardwoods, which often rely on synthetic adhesives that can weaken over time.
While Hemp Wood may not have the same aesthetic appeal as some traditional hardwoods, its sustainability, durability, and strength make it an attractive option for those looking for an eco-friendly and practical alternative to traditional wood products.
Is Hemp Wood Waterproof and Moldproof?
Hemp wood is highly waterproof since the hemp fibers are tightly glued together using the binder. Unlike regular wood, it isn’t susceptible to rot and decay. It is also designed to reduce the likelihood of twisting and warping that’s common in other hardwoods.
Additionally, hemp wood is resistant to mold and won’t play host to bacterial growth because the wood doesn’t get damp. This makes it a good alternative to wood, especially in wet areas.
Is Hemp Wood Fireproof?
Hemp Wood is not fireproof, but it does have some fire-resistant properties. Like most woods, Hemp Wood will burn when exposed to fire, but its resistance to fire varies depending on the manufacturing process and the specific product.
The natural adhesives used to bind the hemp fibers together in Hemp Wood can be formulated to include fire-retardant additives, which can increase the material’s resistance to fire. Additionally, the density of the material can also play a role in its fire resistance, as denser materials tend to burn more slowly than less thick materials.
It’s important to note that even with fire-retardant additives or increased density, Hemp Wood will still burn if exposed to a high enough temperature or flame. As with any wood product, it’s essential to take appropriate fire safety precautions and follow local building codes and regulations when using Hemp Wood in construction or other applications.
Is Hemp Wood Termite-Proof?
While Hemp Wood is not completely termite-proof, it is more resistant to termites than many traditional hardwoods. This is partly due to the natural resins in hemp, which can act as a natural insect repellent.
A study conducted by the USDA Forest Products Laboratory found that Hemp Wood had “good resistance” to termite damage when compared to other wood species commonly used in construction.
However, it’s worth noting that the level of termite resistance can vary depending on the specific product and manufacturing process used. While Hemp Wood may be more resistant to termites than traditional hardwoods, it is still essential to take appropriate precautions to protect against termite damage, such as treating the wood with a termite-resistant treatment or using barriers and other preventative measures.
Can I Build a House Made from Hemp Wood?
Hemp wood is available in boards and blocks as flooring. This makes it a good choice for interior building uses including making doors, beams, décor, and furniture. And since it’s organic (made from hemp fiber and soy-based adhesive), the building material is naturally non-toxic and doesn’t contain any volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Can you use hemp oil for wood finishing?
Yes, hemp oil can be used as a wood finish. Hemp wood oil is a natural oil extracted from the hemp plant’s seeds, and it has several beneficial properties that make it an attractive choice for wood finishing.
Hemp oil can be used as a standalone finish or mixed with other oils and waxes to create a custom wood finish. When used as a standalone finish, hemp oil can provide a natural-looking, low-sheen finish highlighting the wood’s natural grain and color. It is also known for penetrating deep into the wood, providing excellent protection against moisture and other environmental factors that can cause wood to deteriorate.
To use hemp oil as a wood finish:
1 . Apply a thin, even coat to the surface of the wood with a clean, lint-free cloth or brush.
2. Allow the oil to penetrate the wood for several minutes, then wipe away any excess oil with a clean cloth.
3. Repeat the process as necessary to achieve the desired level of finish and protection.
It’s important to know that hemp oil is slow-drying, so the finish may take several days to cure fully. Using the oil in a well-ventilated area is also important, as the fumes can be strong. Finally, dispose of any rags or other materials used to apply the oil properly, as they pose a fire hazard if not handled correctly.
Where to Buy Hemp Wood Products
Though this is a relatively new product in the market, hemp wood boards, blocks, and hemp flooring are available from various manufacturers nationwide. Most manufacturers allow you to order online, and they’ll ship to your address.
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