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Hemp Wood as a Building Material: Pros, Cons, Guide & Properties

Hemp wood is one of the most innovative flooring materials recently introduced in the wood market. While hemp may have existed for a long time, it wasn’t until recently that hemp wood was made available to consumers. It has since become consumers’ favorite flooring material because of its sustainability, durability, and eco-friendliness, amongst other benefits.

Will hemp wood become the next big trend in the building industry? Perhaps. To get a clearer view, we dissect everything you need to know about hemp wood as a building material. We also determine the pros and cons of building using hemp wood to help you decide whether it’s worthwhile.

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What Is Hemp Wood?

As the name suggests, hemp wood is obtained from the desirable parts of the hemp plant. Like bamboo or cork flooring, hemp flooring is made from the fibers of hemp plants and is held together by an adhesive that makes the final product appear and feel beautiful and smooth. As a matter of fact, if you are familiar with bamboo wood, it’s obvious that you understand more about hemp wood than you thought.

It’s important to note that, unlike other wood products, you can’t use hemp wood to build heavy-load structures such as walls and roofs. Rather, it works perfectly as insulation material and can perform duties such as making hemp floors, furniture, and picture frames.

Since the U.S. Farm Bill 2018 decriminalized the growing and selling of agricultural hemp, the hemp wood industry has experienced a massive uprising in sales. The demand for hemp wood has also increased significantly due to its properties and benefits, which we’ll discuss in the following sections.

How Does It Work?

Hemp Flooring Manufacture Process

The industrial hemp plant has two fibers: the fine bast and the woody hurd. While the fine bast is majorly used to manufacture fabric and paper, woody hurds, which are found inside the inner stem, are often turned into building materials like hemp wood.

The process of turning hemp fiber into wood involves harvesting the hemp from the field, softening the stem, combing the fibers, and treating and aligning them. Afterward, they are compressed and bound together using a strong adhesive substance called a binder. In most instances, a plant-based resin (obtained from soy) is used as a binder to ensure the hemp wood is 100% eco-friendly.

Hemp Flooring Installation

Installing hemp flooring is no different from installing solid hardwood flooring. However, because it’s still the newest and most eco-friendly flooring material in the wood market, hemp flooring assumes only one style: tongue and groove.

Unlike click-together flooring, tongue-and-groove planks aren’t always easy to install. The boards must be individually nailed, glued, or stapled to the subfloor or the foundation of your final floor.

Hemp wood
Image Credit: Olga_Ionina, Shutterstock

Properties of Hemp Wood

1. Thermal Resistance

Thermal resistance refers to the ability of a material to resist heat. Hemp wood has extraordinary thermal characteristics: By approximation, it achieves a solid state R-value of 1.5–2.0 per inch.

Also, hemp wood passes the stringent 75-minute European burn test, meaning its ability to withstand high temperatures is unmatched.


2. Moisture Handling Capabilities

Hemp wood has permeable walls that allow moisture to migrate naturally without condensing and damaging the wood. In other words, it has a vast capacity to store moisture. The permeable skins on either side of the wood play a huge role in reducing moisture-related issues across different climatic phases.

The internal woody parts of a hemp plant have high silicon levels. When mixed with lime, the mineralization process takes longer, thus improving the wood’s moisture-handling capabilities.


3. Compressive Strength

Compressive strength is one of the essential properties that determine how a plank of wood is used. According to a study, hempcrete blocks have a compressive strength that ranges from 14.5 psi to 420 psi (1.02 kg/cm2 – 29.5 kg/cm2).

However, the lightweight density of hemp wood doesn’t allow it to be used in structural roles. Instead, they are designed for flooring uses and supporting or stiffening the lightweight framing materials. Their density typically ranges between 93.5 to 137.2 kg/m3.

Although a hemp plant can be harvested 6 months after planting, the hardness level of hemp wood can be compared to that of mahogany or oak, which take more than 60 years to become harvest-ready.

Uses of Hemp Wood

For the time being, the use of hemp wood spans several interior and non-structural applications. We hope it will help us perform structural roles in the future, considering that experts are constantly researching how to maximize the use of this new premier substitute for wood.

The following are some of the common uses of hemp wood:

Flooring

Hemp wood flooring is perhaps the most prominent application of our wood product. As discussed above, installing hemp wood flooring is cheap, simple, and quick. Besides, it adds the authentic look, feel, and smell of natural wood.

Also, in terms of energy efficiency, hemp wood boasts desirable qualities. If you are considerate about your home’s energy bills, you should go ahead and install hemp wood flooring.

Making Home Furniture and Décor Articles

Hemp wood is also a prominent decorative material, thanks to its appealing look. It is used to design domestic and commercial doors, furniture, and roof decorations. Because of its good thermal resistance, wood is also an effective material for making handles for kitchen appliances such as kettles and pans.

Hemp insulation
Image Credit: Olga_Ionina, Shutterstock

Plastering

The interior and exterior surfaces of a building that are vulnerable to knocking and cracking are often sealed with hempcrete. If the existing plaster requires repairing, plain wood also offers a cheap and suitable solution because it patches onto the wall well.

While spray applications are often employed for this role to reduce labor and formwork, it’s worth noting that hemp wood is a viable alternative.

Producing Particleboards

When hemp hurd and wood particles are mixed, the result can be a strong, low-density particleboard. The 2014 study that revealed the effectiveness of hemp fibers in particleboards proved that hemp is a sustainable building material with optimum qualities.

The Pros and Cons of Hemp Wood

Like any other building material, hemp wood has its downsides and strengths.

Pros
  • It is 20% stronger than wood
  • It is non-toxic
  • Because of their improved stability, it’s unlikely for hardwood flooring to warp or twist over time
  • Hemp wood is 100% recyclable
  • It is resistant to pests
  • Has good thermal resistance
  • Hemp wood production is cheaper than traditional wood
  • Hemp absorbs 4x more carbon than other trees
Cons
  • The retail price of hemp wood is quite high
  • Less waterproofing capabilities than flooring types that use more toxic adhesives

The Future of Hemp Wood

It’s unclear whether hemp wood will become a popular flooring choice as compared to hardwood flooring. However, as consumers, manufacturers, and builders collectively call out for more sustainable alternatives, we can expect hemp wood to step up to the challenge and change the game.

The growing use of hemp wood will also impact the lifestyles of CBD and CBG hemp farmers. Besides focusing on producing more hemp for CBD products, they can double their income streams by selling hemp biomass to hemp wood companies.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Type of Adhesive Is Used With Hemp Wood?

While there could exist more adhesive substances, it is advisable to use soy-based adhesive with a B-level bond on your hemp wood floors and furniture. Other B-level adhesives, including wood glue, also improve the visual grade quality of a surface.

Which One Is Stronger: Hemp Wood or Oak?

In terms of strength and hardiness, hemp wood boasts a rating of about 2,750 whereas red oak clocks 1,290.  On the other hand, a Janka has a rating of 1,360. So, it is safe to say hemp wood is twice as hard as oak.

Is Hemp Wood Flooring Waterproof?

There’s no fully water-proof wood, and hemp is no exception. By comparison, hemp wood has better water-resistance capabilities than some hardwoods, thus making it a better option. You can use hemp wood to furnish your kitchen floor, but you may have to choose between tiling and laminating your wood floor bathroom.

What Is the Cost of Hemp Flooring?

As the Hemp Wood Company continues exploring various stain colors, we can expect their prices to hike in the future. Right now, the proposed prices for unfinished hemp flooring and UV-cured topcoats are $9.99 and $10.99 per square foot, respectively.

wood dividerConclusion

After reading this article, it’s evident that hemp wood is a better option for building materials. It is more sustainable, durable, environmentally viable, and water-resistant when compared to most hardwoods.

To obtain hemp wood, the inner stalk of a hemp plant is converted into fibers and heartwood, molded into a mat, glued, and compressed under extreme temperatures. The result of this process is a strong and durable wood that can be used on floors, plasters, furniture, and interior decor.

Are you contemplating the best wood option to build your house with? Hemp wood is certainly worth it. Good luck!


Featured Image Credit: CREATIVE WONDER, Shutterstock

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