Mountain House & Home: Building green with blue wood |

Mountain House & Home: Building green with blue wood

Carly Wier
Alex MillerBeetle-killed wood's blue color comes from a fungus introduced to the tree by the beetle.

A drive along Interstate 70 is all you need to understand the scope of the beetle-kill epidemic in our region. Reddish brown trees cover our local mountainsides in growing waves. Simply put, our landscape has changed dramatically during the past few years and will continue to evolve into a vastly different one in the future.Instinct tells us we should use the wood from our forests for some beneficial use, particularly when much of it is coming out of our forests as a waste product. Seeing dead and dying wood in our forests, one cant help but wonder: Is there any way to take advantage of this dramatic change in our ecosystem? We can start by using this beautiful, unique wood in our local buildings. Beetle-kill wood is like many other pines. When harvested and dried properly, it has structural integrity and can be graded. As a whole, lodgepole tends to be a very straight but relatively small-diameter wood. However, large lodgepole can be used like any other pine as structural timbers. But what makes beetle kill so unique is the blue stain that comes from a fungus introduced to the tree by the beetle. Most beetle-kill wood has a bluish stain that varies almost like the Northern Lights in its intensity and pattern. Some wood is mostly white, like any other pine, with only hints of blue streaks. Other wood is richly streaked with shades of blue that range from gray to cobalt. Because of these variations, its a beautiful choice for trim and accents. Local beetle-kill wood has been used in a vast array of interior application, from tongue-and-groove boards and fine trim to structural beams and floorboards. Options for railing and aesthetic log applications are almost limitless, particularly when we consider the abundance of small-diameter wood available in our local forests. The wood is particularly pleasing for rustic and handcraft styles fixtures, such as railing and rough-cut interior accents.One cant exclude the world of furniture and cabinetry in the potential of using this local wood, particularly when we consider the decline in our hardwood supply and the environmental costs of forestry in developing nations. From an ecological or green building perspective, the use of locally produced wood is certainly in the top tier. Using local materials greatly reduces the costs, both financial and environmental, of transportation and helps support our local economy.Coupled with the fact that this particular local wood is a growing part of a waste stream and presents unique handling challenges for our local landfills, the use of local beetle-kill wood in building applications is truly one of the greenest and most sustainable choices for building in this region.Beetle-kill wood isnt readily available in large home improvement stores, but it is at Hesters Log and Lumber Mill in Kremmling (970.724.3868). This local mill produces a multitude of lumber products from beetle kill, including railing, siding, trim and structural timbers. Plus, designers or homeowners can specify the use of locally produced beetle-kill with confidence, as there is a reliable and cost-competitive source in our region.Carly Wier is the executive director of the High Country Conservation Center, a Summit County, CO organization dedicated to promoting practical solutions for waste reduction and resource conservation in our local community. She can be reached at 970.668.5703 or

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