Green Oak: From forest to front porch

If you’ve ever wondered, “How are oak porches made,” or “How old is green oak?”, then today’s blog is for you! Oak Porches UK, as the experts in beautiful green oak porches, will be taking a look at the journey green oak takes from forest to your front porch, and just how fascinating working with this beautiful lumber can be. 

What is green oak, anyway?

The world of timbers seems pretty simple in concept, but can get very confusing pretty fast if you’re not an aficionado. While there are, indeed, several different types of oak tree whose cut wood can all be referred to as ‘oak’ (French Oak vs English Oak, anyone?), green oak isn’t actually a specific sub-species of wood. Nor does it look green when you use it!

In this case, the word ‘green’ is used as a synonym for ‘fresh’, and you’ll sometimes see green oak referred to as ‘ freshly sawn’ oak, too. It means the wood was cut and prepared anything from 3 to 18 months after the tree was felled. When wood is prepared, it has a moisture count that can be anything up to 80%, and over time it steadily loses this. This means the wood becomes drier and harder, as well as more resistant to the uptake of atmospheric moisture. Timber dries out at a rate of about an inch depth every year, so it can take thick support beams a while to completely season. While they do this, the wood will shrink a little, a natural side-effect of becoming denser and stronger.

Why green oak works for building projects

That dense strength is precisely what has drawn British builders to oak for millennia. There’s beams in some of our Cathedrals that are- quite literally- stronger than steel! Imagine trying to work with something that hard directly, however! It’s near impossible. That’s why many builders prefer to use green oak- it’s still more malleable and easier to cut and shape, because of the higher moisture content. When properly used by a skilled builder, that slight shrinkage will also work in your favour, as the timbers will draw closer together over time, marrying themselves into a seamless, beautiful structure that’s impervious to rain and bugs. Shrinkage in wooden structures is only a negative in the hands of underskilled builders who don’t know how to plan and create with the future in mind. The use of younger green oak is also often a cost-saving exercise for homeowners who want the beauty of oak without having to stress over the budget.

The hidden advantages of green oak

There’s another, less considered, plus to using green oak. Oak trees in the UK harbour more life than any other tree species. Green oak in the UK is typically sourced from managed forests planted specifically for future harvest. Oak doesn’t grow with the speed of softer woods like pine, so well-managed forestry is key to ensuring the longevity of Britain’s forests and wildlife. Unmanaged harvest of trees like oak has become a noted ecological issue- if we’re cutting trees planted by our ancestors, and not managing or replacing them, all we are doing is destroying the natural world around us. Working with managed forests, we preserve our green heritage and use woods sensibly grown specifically for use instead of felling history. It’s a win-win… builders and homeowners get better pieces perfectly suited to their needs, we boost biodiversity and ‘green’ our surroundings, and we preserve our ecological heritage too. 

From timber yard to woodshop

These managed forests also allow for ‘fast grown’ oak, with fewer knots and complications than a ‘natural’ oak growth. Trees are grown to be straight and tall, perfect for use in the lumber industry. Once the tree is ready for felling, it will be shipped to a timber yard, where some rough preparation is done. Here it will also be stored until a builder or company comes seeking the perfect piece for their next project. It may need to be reshaped for a specific purpose by a sawmill or woodshop at this point, as with most green oak structural beams. At this point, you can say the oak has moved from a mere ‘log’ to a future part of your spectacular green oak porch.

Shaping any wood isn’t as simple as attacking it with a plane or saw.  There will be careful consideration given to the specific log, how best to shape it for strength (especially as load-bearing beams) and to play to its specific features, how it will dry in the future, and whether each piece of lumber is up to the task at hand. This is why working with experienced wood shops who know how to handle this unique type of wood is key, as bad selections here can result in future issues with the finished project if a piece prone to warping slips through quality control. 

Only once selected, shaped and carefully scrutinized for maximum quality will a piece be added to one of our timber-framed porch kits or bespoke creations. While the journey from tree to log to finished piece is a relatively quick one for green oak, it’s one that calls upon high standards throughout the process to achieve only the very best results.

Here at Oak Porches UK, we’re proud to stand by the quality of our green oak porches from forest to front porch, and we only use suppliers who hold to the same values too. That’s why you’ll always be able to rest assured that the green oak used in your projects is only the very best.