4 Reasons Why Alder Is a Trending Wood
Eco-friendly, easy to work with, and cost-efficient, alder wood is having a moment in the world of building materials.
Abundant and sustainable, alder is grown across the Pacific Northwest—with a range that spans from Southeast British Columbia all the way down to Northern California. This all-around adaptable hardwood has many advantages which have led to its spread in popularity among furniture and cabinetry makers worldwide.
"Alder has changed over the years," explains Jed Miller of the Tacoma, Washington–based supplier Northwest Hardwoods. "Forty years ago, it was most mostly used throughout the Northwest as a substitute for other species. But now it is one of the most sought-after woods on the market. Because of its consistency, versatility, sustainability, it has grown to become a popular choice both in the U.S. and overseas." Below, we list the reasons for its coming into the limelight.
A Greener Choice
Photo: Steven Paul Whitsitt
This kitchen was updated with a rich material palette of wood and stone. The cherry-stained cabinets were made from alder.
Alder is both abundant and sustainable. "Alder can be used by a manufacturer without worry: its growth is well-managed," says Miller.
As opposed to certain exotic timbers from Brazil and Southeast Asia, alder is not endangered, making it a more eco-friendly choice. It is also grown in North America, so if you are building in the U.S. or Canada, the transportation to your job site has less of an impact.
Alder is well-suited to large-scale projects, and supply is not an issue. "Northwest Hardwoods produces quality product in good volume. We are able to turn out large volumes of alder that are consistent and predictable," Miller explains. "When you are trying to determine what wood to use, you need evaluate what is legal, sustainable, aesthetically appealing, and reliable from a supply side," he adds.
Northwest Hardwoods produces alder that is both FSC (Forest Stewardship Council®) and PEFC (Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) certified. Both green certifications mean that the wood is harvested from forests that are responsibly and sustainably managed, and comply with internationally recognized sustainability benchmarks.
A Compliant Material
Photo: Tim Van de Velde
This in-home sauna has been built from alder, which has been stained black for a sleek modern finish.
Alder is carefully manufactured, dried, and inspected to ensure flat, straight, and stable lumber—making it ideal for moldings, millwork, as well as furniture and cabinets. "Alder is an attractive, close-grain species, with a nice uniform color, a fine texture, and uniform density," says Miller. "You can put any stain on it or use it in its natural color. There are no unusual mineral streaks or sap or deposits. It machines well and is excellent for turning and polishing."
Photo: Sun Mountain Custom Doors + Wide Plank Flooring
Alder has been used for both custom doors and wide plank flooring of this home in Genesee, Colorado. Select alder was chosen for its closed grain and its natural beauty—qualities which are highlighted by the factory pre-finish color which was chosen.
Photo: Vance Fox and Craftsmen in Wood
Alder was used for the large-scale barn doors of this home in the Tahoe/Truckee area. The doors were crafted in alder to coordinate with existing cabinetry in the home.
Alder is competitively priced and available in multiple grades depending on the application. The different grades enable manufacturers and end users to obtain a higher yield, which equals better value.
Photo: Northwest Hardwoods
Alder is a perfect choice if you are going for a rustic modern look. The double door of this home in Summit County, Colorado features knotty alder. Sun Mountain Custom Doors + Wide Plank Flooring.
Alder is an extremely versatile product when compared with other North American hardwoods, as its natural characteristics allow it to seamlessly integrate into a variety of building styles. Alder fits the rustic modern look which is prevalent in mountain and ski lodge design, while also growing in popularity within urban design. Ultimately, the wood has come a long way from its very humble beginnings. "Now you see alder in very high-end places," says Miller.