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the douglas fir tree

Douglas Fir: A Comprehensive Guide to Nature’s Iconic Tree

Towering over the coasts of British Columbia stands the Douglas Fir forests. Though the name implies differently, this tree is not a true fir. The name comes from how similar it looks to other species like fir and hemlock. But where it stands out amongst other timber choices is in building and construction. 

Want to learn more about the Douglas Fir and how it became one of the most coveted types of timber? Here’s an in-depth guide on this iconic tree and how people use it to improve and beautify their lives.


Douglas Fir History

The Douglas Fir got its name in the 1790s from a Scottish botanist, David Douglas, who was the first to describe the tree. Despite its similar appearance to other firs, it technically doesn’t fit into this category, leading botanists to create its own genus called Pseudotsuga.

Douglas Fir trees are commonly found in Western North America, but there are two distinct varieties: coastal and interior. Trees growing on BC’s coast can get more than twice the size of the interior variety and grow up to 250 feet tall. It grows surprisingly well in diverse habitats but flourishes amongst other large trees like Western Red Cedar and hemlock on the coasts.

Distinctive Characteristics

douglas fir as a wood species

Douglas Firs are extremely large trees, yielding a lot of usable lumber and making it extremely valuable commercially. These trees often live a long time, with some reported to be around 1500 years old. 

The tree’s bark is usually gray-brown and smooth. The older the tree is, the thicker the bark becomes. Older trees will also develop large grooves and take on a dark red hue. The tree’s needles are flat and stick directly out from the twig. It also produces varying-sized cones that start off green and turn gray as they age.

Timber Characteristics

The grain is usually straight but may sometimes have a light wave. It has a medium to coarse texture and can vary in color depending on how old the tree is and where it comes from. But it’s almost always a light brown hue with touches of red and yellow and darker growth rings. 

Fortunately, this wood is highly rot-resistant thanks to its tighter grain structure. The grain can change depending on how you cut the lumber. Quartersawn pieces will have a straighter grain, while flatsawn pieces can have grain patterns that are all over the place.

Harvesting and Processing

A stand is considered ready for harvest when it reaches around 60 to 90 years old. Douglas Fir gets high marks for being easy to process and work with. It often machines well during sawmilling but may have a slight blunting effect on cutters. Douglas Fir lumber is often kiln-dried to help increase its resilience to mold and insect damage. It’s also an excellent candidate for stains, glues, or finishes.


Douglas Fir is generally considered to be a sustainable wood. It does not appear in the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) appendices, which detail specific wood with different protection levels. It also falls into the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) category of “least concern.” So despite its popularity, Douglas Fir is in a good spot regarding sustainability

Common Douglas Fir Timber Uses

Douglas Fir is immensely popular thanks to its durability and strength. It’s often used in constructing large commercial buildings. But it’s equally useful for other projects where resilience is essential, like bridges or wharves. One of the most common uses of Douglas Fir timber is for glulam beam and roof trusses.

The durability lends itself nicely to virtually all wood projects, not just structurally significant ones like buildings. People frequently use this timber to make flooring, cabinets, doors, windows, and furniture. Its wide availability and affordable pricing only add to its universal appeal.

Fake Fir Makes Real Stunning Lumber

The Douglas Fir cements itself in the eyes of the building world as one of the best trees for virtually any interior or exterior woodworking project requiring hardy, beautiful lumber. And hopefully, with this background on the forest dwelling faux fir, you’ll have some context for how and where you can best use it in any upcoming building projects.