Hemp Wood: A Revolutionary Wood Alternative?

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hemp wood
Hemp Wood: A Revolutionary Wood Alternative?

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 made using the hemp fibers which is pressed using adhesives to form planks and blocks. The result is a raw material with better hardness, stability, and density than the traditional wood.

It’s a hardwood alternative for construction, flooring, furniture, and other consumer products like skateboards and cutting boards.

3 Benefits of Hemp Wood

Consider the following benefits of hemp wood:

1. Durable

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:

Growing Period

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.

Water Intake

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.

Space

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?

The cannabis plant used to make hemp wood has a low THC concentration of not more than 0.3%. When hemp is cut from the field, it’s deleafed, softened, combed, and treated to remove woody particles as well as align the hemp fibers.

To form hemp wood, the hemp fibers are compressed and glued together with a binder – usually plant-based resin from soy or any other plant. It’s 100% natural and sustainable.

Hemp Wood: Frequently Asked Questions

How Durable is Hemp Wood vs. Regular Wood?

Hemp wood does not only look and feel like real hardwood, but it’s quite durable as well. In fact, it’s scientifically engineered to be 20% harder than oak. It has a density rating of 50-55 pounds per cubic foot and hardness of over 2000 N/mm². The stability of this material is similar to that of the Brazilian Cherry.

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?

Mixing hemp with the binder creates a non-flammable material with a fire resistance of up to several hours depending on the intensity of the heat. This means it can pass all local building fire codes, hence a suitable construction material.

Is Hemp Wood Termite-Proof?

With a hardness of more than 2000 N/mm², termites and other wood-boring pests cannot bite through hemp wood. You don’t have to worry about treating your hemp wood before building with it. It can comfortably withstand all weather conditions and deter all pests.

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).

Where to Buy Hemp Wood Products

Though this is a fairly new product in the market, hemp wood boards, blocks, and flooring are available from various manufacturers around the country. Most manufacturers allow you to order online and they’ll ship to your address.

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