Thermally Modified Wood Explained – It’s Basically Just Beef Jerky

Date: March 17, 2023 Category: Tips

I’ve been teaching builders, architects and homeowners about thermally modified wood for over a decade. Time sure does fly when you’re having fun! Despite over 10 years of providing education, there are always new folks to teach, and new potential customers accepting the technology. And it seems as though every day there’s someone new asking, “but what really is thermal modification, anyway?” After all these years of explaining the science, of teaching how the heat modifies the cellular structure of the wood fiber to make it more rot resistant, of reviewing the difference between cellulose and lignin, I overheard one of our best salespeople talking with a customer. If you know Matt Medoff, picture that great New York accent:

Customer: But what does “thermally modified really mean?” Is it like pressure treated?

Medoff: It’s just like beef jerky.

Customer: [looks quizzically; says nothing]

Medoff: You know how if you leave a piece ‘a meat sittin’ on your countah, it rots in just a few days, right? And you gotta throw it away?

Customer, getting somewhere: Yeah….

Medoff: But beef jerky, right? That’s been cured and dried so it don’t rot, and you can take it hiking with you and all that stuff and it never goes bad?

Customer: So thermally modified wood doesn’t rot?

Medoff: It don’t rot, fuhgeddaboutit.

Aaaaand we have a bingo. Just as beef jerky is meat that’s undergone heat to cure the organics away for rot resistance, the same methods make thermal modification such a valuable process for longevity in natural wood products. And while there’s a lot of science to it, and it’s not easy, and not everyone can do it, it’s not hard to explain. Meat on counter = rot. Dried, cured meat = no rot. Wood outside = rot; modified wood = no rot.

And trust me, you don’t want no rot in your wood. Fuhgeddaboutit.

About the Author

Jordan Russin is the 3rd generation Co-Owner and Co-President of Russin. His passion for the lumber industry, custom homeowners and architects, and the Russin team knows no bounds. When he’s not working you can find him skiing with his family, climbing mountains, or with his nose buried in a book.


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