In India, wood was a prominent structural material 50-60 years back. On visiting old heritage homes in India one can still see the wooden rafters and pillars that form the main support structure. The most famous of wooden palaces in India is the Tippu Sultan’s summer palace in Srirangapatnam, Karnataka, built in 1778. The palace is known for its aesthetic beauty and grandeur.
Another example is the Padmanabhapuram palace in Tamil Nadu – made of teakwood with granite foundation. The Palace has a maze of 108 rooms which leaves the visitors at awe at the artistic expression and sheer opulence of these magnificent rooms. Even the ceilings have intricately carved floral patterns!
Surfaces Reporter looks at the usage of solid wood in Architecture & Interiors.
The aesthetic value, precise finish and inherent beauty that personified wood-based buildings were lost in the dim and distant past. Growing population and fast depleting natural rain forests made wood scarce and expensive in India giving prominence to steel, concrete and bricks as main building materials. So much so that today’s structures have nil or very little wood component. However, wood remains the preferred materials in the interiors, furniture, doors and windows.
Besides, advent of technologies to improve the wood’s materialistic properties while retaining the aesthetics has made alternatives like Engineered wood, Plywood, MDF etc popular. Engineered wood, experts say, is close to solid wood minus the cons. However, natural solid wood has an exotic appeal which isn’t easy to replicate. It is being used in many of the premium projects. Another trend is the use of reclaimed wood in architecture and interiors.
Back to Natural
The trend towards natural materials is increasing. Solid wood is even taking the climatically difficult environment of the bathroom by storm. As per the trend report, manufacturers, who have been focusing on solid wood furniture for many years, will enjoy a higher level of trust. Together with the bathroom furniture manufacturer, Keuco, the company Team 7 from Austria has developed the Lignatur edition: A bathroom interiors concept comprising of furniture made of natural wood. These pieces of bathroom furniture are unique specimens: each item is manufactured individually. Single or double basin solutions, with sunken or superimposed basins, sideboards, tall cupboards and benches are made out of three high-quality natural woods: Fine walnut, light-coloured oak and Venice oak.
Species and Applications
Wood accounts for nearly 65% of all furniture made in India. This includes several types of indigenous wood, as well as imported wood.
India abounds in several tree species whose wood is used for furniture making. Apart from indigenous material available in India, some types of wood are also imported, in case the domestic supply is inadequate. Popular wood types used in India include Walnut, Sandalwood, Teak, Sheesham, Deodar, Ebony, Redwood, Rosewood, Red Cedar and Sal.
As per a report published by India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) titled ‘Furniture – Market & Opportunities’, “Teak accounts for almost 50% of the total wooden furniture produced, Sal and Deodar account for about 20% and the balance includes Mahogany, Cedar and other tree types.”
The report further noted, “India imports wood from various countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Ivory Coast, etc. MDF boards are imported from Europe, Soft and Hard wood are imported from Russia and other South East Asian countries. Veneered panels are becoming increasingly popular in India and are imported from the European Union and USA.” As far as the species of wood being imported is concerned majority of log imports from Malaysia, Myanmar and New Zealand include hardwood species of teak and meranti and softwood species of pine.
On the sources of wood for Indian furniture OEMs and architects, Kamalesh Hotchandani, Founder of PooraMaal informs that Softwood especially Pine comes from Canada whereas Cedar comes from Northern region of India (Himachal). Indian OEMs also buy Pine as a reclaimed wood. Many import companies use Pine as a packaging material. These packages are disassembled in India and the wood is sold out in retail/wholesale market.
Consumers also have a strong preference for dark tropical woods. Teak is typically seen as a benchmark with respect to grade and prices of other wood species. Major imported wood species are teak, meranti, and mahogany. Domestic farmed and plantation timber includes Teak, Eucalyptus, and Poplar, Spruce, Pine, and Fir. India imports small quantities of temperate hardwoods such as ash, maple, cherry, oak, walnut, and beech for commercial and home interiors and furniture, some of which is made for export.
Hotchandani adds, “In Maharashtra, we have species of teak wood called Maalki. This is a local name given to Maharashtra teak. It is grown on private as well as state government land and then supplied to timber saw mills either through auction or direct purchase.”
As per Lokendra Ranawat, Co-Founder of WoodenStreet, “The most popular & widely used species for crafting furniture is Sheesham wood. Sheesham has a massive increase in demand due to its naturally beautiful grainy texture; it’s high durability when compared to others, better shine when polished and smooth finish. The species of solid wood, which we are using for crafting our furniture, are Sheesham, Mango, Teak and Acacia.”
Doors & Windows
While Aluminium and uPVC are gaining market share in the door and windows space, Wood is still a dominant force. Aesthetics drive the use of wood for doors and windows in commercial, institutional, and residential construction projects.
Regarding door selection of the highest-quality, most expensive choice is a 100% solid wood door with wooden frames. Such doors obtained from a selected manufacturerer are expected to resist major shifting and expanding. However, with time, these need to be sanded & polished to retain the finish & look.
Doors as an ecologically sound choice depends from where the lumber is sourced, the U-factor, or total heat-transfer coefficient of the door assembly.
Although engineered wood is a more viable choice, one interesting option is a newer product, a steel/wood hybrid. Manufactured as a solid wood door on the interior, it can be stained to match the furniture or other furnishings. Chennai-based Artistick’s does
such metal embellishments on wooden doors which
enhances the aesthetics.
Suresh Kumar, Director, Artistick’s shares,“While Steel/ Wood hybrid is possible also with Plywood, Solid wood has an advantage as it can be used in the main doors. Finish-wise Solid wood doors look better as compared to plywood whereas in terms of cost the latter has an advantage.”
However, Heinz Moritzhuber, CEO of Coast-to-Coast Designs Pvt. Ltd. has some concerns with respect to solid wood frames. Except the teak wood, all the other woods will shrink or swell so there is practically no respite. He told Surfaces Reporter in an earlier interaction, “I wouldn’t say that solid wood is a perfect solution except for the Teak wood. If teak is properly seasoned, it has the property not to move too much. So if you are keeping it in the bottom area of the frame then you will be spared from the reworking of doors and frames in the rainy season.”
Wood is also a good option as a flooring material. There is something genuinely incredible about wood flooring that adds a real charm to the look and feel of a room. A visual treat, it adds warmth and a great feeling under your feet, welcoming you every time you get back to the room! Most tropical and cold country timbers such as Burmese Teak, Merbau, Oak, Walnut, and Maple will perform in the hot and humid climate like India.
The down side of choosing Solid Wood flooring is that with the depleting natural forest cover; solid hardwood flooring is becoming more and more expensive as well as their grading levels are falling. Engineered wood is being pushed by the manufacturers as a better alternative. However, the big question is whether engineered wood is slowly edging out Solid wood from the market?
As per some experts, these wooden floors have a sustainable wood content of over 80%. These are more stable and do not expand and contract as much as solid wood flooring. So basically, an engineered floor is all that you would expect from a solid wood floor minus the negatives. Since the top 5mm layer is of natural wood, there is absolutely no compromise on the warmth it exudes to your interiors. Another growing trend is the use of reclaimed and rediscovered wood. Left to age over period of time, these woods are transformed by the natural aging process.
Wood brings many environmental benefits and some notable drawbacks to the construction of buildings, whether for the structural system, building exterior and fenestration, or the interior flooring and finished carpentry.
From an environmental point of view, one of the biggest arguments in favour of wood is that it takes significantly less energy to produce, compared to concrete, steel, or cement. In addition, untreated wood is completely biodegradable and 100% renewable, with strong insulation properties.
On the other hand, wood does have some limitations with regard to structural capacity. The Structural Board Association, Canada, which represents manufacturers of Oriented Strand Board (OSB), notes in a report that wood is stronger than steel because it has more favourable strength-to-weight ratio. However, once a certain load capacity is reached, they simply do not have the strength or structural efficiency of their steel or concrete counterparts.
“Timber remains one of my favourite building materials and I use it extensively for my projects. Timber is considered to be an eco-friendly building material; as long as natural forests have not been cut down to source it. By using timber in the buildings, you are not burning any fossil fuel, but you are locking the carbon. Growing more timber in its place will reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And it is a reusable and renewable building material.
I use recycled timber in spaces where I can get access to it. Buildings with timber roofs are generally thermally comfortable,” mentions Ar. Benny Kuriakose.
Niraj Thakkar, Business Manager, Ritikaa Wood says, “We are very much focused on products for outdoors and wet areas like bathrooms. We use chemically modified softwood – ‘Accoya’, which is imported from Netherlands. This allows us to use solid wood freely without having to worry about damages from external adversities like rain, heat etc. We also offer an unmatched warranty of 50 years on wood when directly exposed to rain and sun.”
For cladding and sheathing applications, wood is available in many forms and can fit into many different building types and styles of design, in addition to being incorporated into high-performance envelope assemblies, such as rainscreens.
Delhi-based Anika Global is offering an extensive variety of European style Pergola, Cabana, Gazebo, Deckwood and Engineered wooden flooring in a dazzling array of natural colours, patterns, textures, lines and grains. On the sources of wood and the wood treatments, Aniruddh Mathur, General Manager, Anika Global informed, “We are importing Pine from the sustainable forests of Finland. The wood is treated with water-based wood preservative Tanalith E to make it waterproof, weather resistant and termite treated.” He further added, “We provide 60 years of warranty for termite treatment and 5 years of warranty for water, weather and UV. However, it requires treatment every 2 years but the treatment is inexpensive and does not take much time.”
Although wood has certain drawbacks, most of its qualities are positive, making it a widely used and loved material, especially for interior. Whether it’s wood’s warmth, aesthetic beauty, ecological friendliness, low energy production, durability, or longevity, the all natural ‘Good Wood’ has been the most friendly natural material known to human beings since the existence of life.