There are few building materials as popular, versatile, and desirable as wood. Its use dates back to the Neolithic era and even today, regardless of alternatives that have popped up, wood remains a solid staple.
From the standpoint of structural construction, wood can be incredibly strong, long-lasting, and is easy to work with. Most buildings, both residential and commercial, rely on wood materials in their framing. From an aesthetic perspective, it's hard to argue against how beautiful wood can be as siding, flooring, decking, furniture and so many other design elements.
However, real wood isn't free of inherent disadvantages, such as a weakness to moisture. Over the last few decades concerns over deforestation have also led consumers to rethink their reliance on wood. These types of issues prompted manufacturers to produce composite and faux wood materials, but many of these products fall short in desirability.
Rather than moving away from the use of wood, other companies decided to instead improve upon real wood through technological advancement. This brought about a new type of real wood products with modified wood.
What makes modified wood different
At its core, modified wood is simply a term used to describe a wood product that is derived from real wood, but has in some way been altered to improve the performance characteristics of it. When you drill down further into what that altering process includes, it gets clearer what makes this a superior wood option.
A high-quality modified wood, like Kebony, will have three main characteristics. Firstly, it retains the natural appearance of the parent wood (although the color may end up a richer, more chocolatey brown). Secondly, the processing of the wood will improve upon the original attributes of the parent wood on a molecular level, resulting in wood cell walls that are 50% thickers and much more durable. Lastly, it should be processed in a manner that results in a safe, non-toxic finished product.
Modified wood looks and feels just like natural wood, because really it is. Kebony uses various sustainable wood species in their modification process leading to two very distinct looks to choose from - Clear and Character. Kebony Clear is soft and knot free in appearance; it looks more like a tropical hardwood such as Ipe. Kebony Character, on the other hand, looks more rustic in appearance with visible knots that help provide a rich, authentic style.
Performance-wise, Kebony modified wood will easily outlast standard softwood species as the increased density equates to a far stronger, more durable product. Comparatively its performance will be more like tropical hardwood. Modified wood can be worked with exactly like any other wood product and requires no special tools. This material can be used indoors or out, for structural designs or purely decorative.
Understanding the technology behind how Kebony creates their modified wood gives insight into how the product is able to perform so impressively.
How Kebony modified wood is created
The technology behind Kebony is a patented process that enhances the natural attributes of softwood in an environmentally-friendly fashion.
Kebony uses sustainable softwood for their product, ensuring that the parent wood is harvested only from responsible woodlots. This important factor ensures that their modified wood produces the lowest harm possible to the environment and doesn't contribute to deforestation issues.
The creation of Kebony involves two primary steps:
Impregnation with a Bio-Based Liquid
Kebony uses a non-toxic bio-based liquid derived from agricultural plant waste. The wood is completely saturated in the furfuryl alcohol before it moves to the next stage, which is where the real magical happens.
Curing and Drying of the Wood
Once the wood is fully immersed in this liquid the boards are removed and transitioned into the curing and drying phase. The wood will be heated, which causes the furfuryl alcohol to polymerize. This process joins together the small molecules (monomers) in the alcohols, turning them into long molecules (polymers). The furfuryl alcohol polymers become permanently locked into the wood cell walls, increasing their thickness by 50%.
Once fully dried the modified wood is ready for use.
Utilizing modified wood as an alternative
(Camber Sands, by Walker & Martin Architects)
Unlike composite or fake wood materials, Kebony modified wood doesn't need to be treated any differently than standard wood. Modified wood can be used as a direct alternative to any type of wood for basically any project. In fact, the advantages of modified wood actually allow you to use it more easily and for a wider variety of purposes than other wood types.
Kebony modified wood is dimensionally-stable and stronger than typical wood. Despite the parent wood being softwood, the modification process Kebony uses results in their wood being on par with tropical hardwoods in terms of density.
Being a low-care real wood product, Kebony wood is a highly valuable material. It is ready to use right away and there are no concerns with post-construction staining, painting, or sealing. Care is limited to very basic cleaning, which is what makes it so popular as siding and decking.
(Port of Rochester Marina, by Edgewater Resources, photo by Walter Colley)
Microorganisms and wood-loving insects aren't attracted to Kebony modified wood either. Not to mention the treatment process makes Kebony intensely moisture-resistant. So much so that you can easily use it for marine dock planking, boardwalks and piers with confidence in its ability to withstand the harsher water elements.
Kebony's specialized process for creating modified wood is quite advanced and proof of how natural products can be improved upon. For more information on how modified wood can be used in your own projects, contact Kebony directly.