Trees and infill building

Infill building often involves a lot of tree removal. The lots we have found to build on in town have usually been vacant for many years and have had some large trees.  As these lots are usually small, from .08 of an acre to ½ an acre it is hard to preserve most of the trees. The demands of driveways, utility ditches, house excavation and the harm done during excavation  on a small lot often demands that most of its larger trees have to be cleared.

Often these trees are of varieties we use in our cabinets and trim. It has always been a great satisfaction to use what we had to clear in the houses we build.  Around Asheville there are several portable sawmills as well as kilns and mills to turn the dried wood into finished lumber. We have used yellow pine, poplar, cherry, walnut, red oak and we will soon be using  sycamore.  We had to cut down a 36-inch diameter sycamore that was the only place to fit a driveway access on a .08-acre lot. From counting the rings and talking to neighbors who had grown up with it, the age was around 50 years old. It made a dramatic difference and will be most missed this summer for its shade.  Sycamore is a fast growing hard wood and one of the oldest species of tree on the planet ( ) . It was a hard decision to cut it down though I read that it should not be planted under power lines or on small lots. It was both.  It would also block our solar access for a Photovoltaic system on the roof.

Image (walnut)

The retail value of the woods we have processed varies a lot though we pay the same board foot price for the processing regardless of the species. The yellow pine is the least economically beneficial to process for us and the cherry and walnut has the most financial benefit. We choose to mill almost whatever trees we clear and the satisfaction isn’t diluted by the economics. We have found the yellow pine to be attractive and useful in vanities, stair treads and trim. It’s light color and strong grain pattern are a great fit at times.  My wife, Claudia Cady often uses the walnut and cherry in building our cabinets and the Poplar typically becomes trim.

Image (walnut cabinets)

We have been able to process the saw logs into dried finished lumber for between $1.00 a board foot to $2.50. This does not include the expense of taking down the trees, as that would have to happen regardless. The wide variance is due to how much of the handling we do and how much we leave to others. There can be a lot of trailer loads from lot to mill to kiln to mill to shop.

We end up putting a lot of trees into building a house. “A 2,000-square-foot, wood-framed, single-family house uses upwards of 16,000 board feet of framing, and about 11,000 square feet of other wood materials, such as sheathing.” (  ) .  Sourcing some from our own clearing is one small step.