Today we're joined by Andy Kehl—Kebony’s North American sales manager—who's here to help us break down the basics of Kebony wood—and what makes Kebony decking a great choice for structures in the Pacific Northwest. Take it away, Andy!
Tropical hardwoods are revered for their durability, stability, and hardness. And while a tropical hardwood like ipe is a great choice for a project like a new deck, it’s also a choice that requires more of an investment in both maintenance and money. That’s where a product like Kebony comes in. Kebony is one of the few sustainable alternatives to tropical hardwood. Made of modified pine, Kebony has the characteristics of premium hardwood, with the additional benefits of a lower price tag and environmentally friendly production.
What is a modified wood?
A modified wood is a wood that’s been scientifically altered; changed at a molecular level. There are three categories of modified wood: thermally modified, acetylated, and furfurylated.
Kebony starts as a FSC-certified sustainably grown pine, which is then modified through a two-step process called furfurylization. First, the sapwood is impregnated with a product called furfuryl alcohol, a plant-based waste. Then the wood is heated, polymerizing the furfural alcohol and the sapwood and creating a permanent bond that transforms the wood into a product with similar attributes to those of a tropical hardwood.
The point of modifying wood is to protect it from rot, decay, and insect attack. If you can keep wood at 19 percent or less moisture content, it’s not a food source for rot, decay and insects—three things that can quickly ruin a deck. The only way to keep wood at 19 percent or less moisture content is to ensure it’s kept dry or to modify it. Other types of wood, like pressure-treated lumber, are chemically preserved to repel rot, decay and insect attack, but chemical preservation doesn't change the behavior of the wood—it merely repels rot, decay, and insect attack.
There are two different types of Kebony modified wood: Kebony Clear, which is made from Pinus Radiata, and Kebony Character, which is made from Pinus Sylvestris. Kebony Clear is more of a contemporary look, and Kebony Character is more of a rustic look.
What are the key attributes of a modified wood like Kebony?
There are many reasons to choose Kebony over a tropical hardwood like ipe, the first of which is that it’s environmentally friendly. Our process involves taking a sustainably grown pine that’s matured over 30 years, modifying it in three days and ending with a piece of wood that has the same attributes as a tropical hardwood like ipe, which takes 80 or 100 years to grow.
Kebony also outranks other types of wood from a standpoint of stability and durability. On the Janka surface hardness test, the softwood we use is around 800 PSI. After the modification, it’s 1,600 PSI. In comparison, Western red cedar is 350 PSI and ipe is 3,800 PSI. Kebony is very hard, but not so hard that it’s difficult to work with.
It’s also more cost-effective than its competitors upfront, and easier to maintain. It’ll fade to gray under the sun, just like ipe or any other type of wood, but you can also maintain the color using something like Penofin. Other than a general cleaning, Kebony is easy to care for, but if anything ever happens, it does come with a 30-year warranty.
Ultimately, Kebony is a great choice in the Pacific Northwest because it stands up to wet winters, it’s affordable and it’s easy to care for. Plus, it weathers beautifully for an outdoor living space that'll look good and last for years to come.
Visit one of your local Dunn Lumber locations to learn more.