Coconut wood: a viable source of building material

Usage of coconut wood is common in the Asia-Pacific region. It’s used in construction, in furniture-making, and in other applications. Though cheaper in cost, the coconut wood’s properties are comparable to that of hardwood.

The demand for hardwood is always constant. But since many governments have imposed stringent laws on the harvesting of forest trees, the industry has to turn to alternative sources. Following several different studies, it was found that the coconut wood makes a viable source of building material and other applications.

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The coconut wood, or coco lumber

Usage of coconut wood is common in most coconut-growing countries. People in the Asia-Pacific region utilize it in the construction and many other applications, including furniture-making. Coconut wood, also known as coco lumber, is the processed stem fiber from coconut palms.

The coconut tree itself has an erect pole-like branchless trunk. Its body usually grows around 30 to 40 centimeters in diameter. While its base, which is usually bigger, can reach up to a meter. When it’s thoroughly sawn and seasoned, the high-density coconut wood can give its utmost performance.

With its beautiful natural appearance and unique grain, coconut wood makes good parquet floors, decorative interior walls, and furniture. Its performance can be compared to, or even better than the conventional hardwood.

Unlike the conventional hardwood, the wood from the coconut palm does not have annual rings. Instead, it’s classified according to its three degrees of density.

Low-density timber
This is the middle part of the coconut stem. It has a density of soft to medium at 200 to 400 kilograms per cubic meter. You may use this part for non-load structures. It’s a suitable material for panels, internal trim, and ceiling. It’s also good in homewares application.

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Medium-density timber
This is the sub-dermal portion of the coconut stem. It’s found right next to the high-density part. The medium-density timber is classified as medium-hard at 400 to 600 kilograms per cubic meter. This is the ideal material for walls, ceiling joists, and horizontal studs.

High-density timber
Found at the periphery of the coconut stem, the high-density timber is the dermal part. With a density of 600 to 900 kilograms per cubic meter, it’s classified as hard. This part is used in general applications, such as:

  • pillars
  • trusses
  • rafting
  • floor tiles or parquet
  • girts
  • floor joists
  • door jambs
  • purlins
  • balustrades
  • railings
  • decking
  • furniture
  • window frames
  • posts
  • scaffolding
  • and, other load-bearing structures

Sometimes, an entire coconut trunk is utilized as power and telecommunication lines.

Sources of coconut wood

The coconut palms are abundantly available in the Asia-Pacific region. You can particularly find them in Fiji, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Tonga Island, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Interestingly, the locals in these areas consider the coconut as one of the most important crops. They use their fruits in the production of oil and medicine. The coconut is also an important food ingredient for them.

Coconut trees yield fruits up to approximately 70 to 80 years of its life. After that, they become senile and unproductive. They have to be cut down to make way for new trees.

And we are speaking of millions of senile coconuts every year! Aside from this volume, thousands of fruit-yielding varieties are also felled by typhoons and hurricanes. Of course, we all know that the Asia-Pacific region receives around 20 weather conditions each year. So, you could just imagine how many (otherwise) wasted coconut tree by-products go to the landfills.

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Thanks to the stringent laws imposed by governments on forest trees. The coconut wood has finally found a wider market outside the Asia-Pacific region. Turning to coconut wood is an ecologically-sound move. The coconut trees are easy to replace. Its seedlings grow rapidly on a variety of soils. Harvesting it is also cheaper and convenient. You would not need to clear extra space in moving your equipment to and from the logging area. Each tree is planted considerably far apart from the other for productive purposes. The space in between a line of coconut trees is enough for a vehicle to pass through. And the straight and branchless trunk of the coconut would not get in the way of a passing vehicle.

Another advantage of the coconut wood is that its market price is way lower than the conventional hardwood.

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