Disadvantages of Douglas Fir Wood

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Douglas Fir is undoubtedly a versatile material for woodworking, but like any lumber type, it does come with its share of disadvantages that can potentially impact your woodworking projects.

However, with the right knowledge and approach, you can mitigate these drawbacks and make the most of Douglas Fir wood in your workshop. In this article, let me discuss the disadvantages of Douglas Fir wood and offer insights on how to maximize its value for your woodworking endeavors.

Key Advantages of Douglas Fir Wood

While it’s true that Douglas Fir has its fair share of disadvantages, it’s crucial to note that this material also has many perks to offer. For example, this softwood has a lightweight structure. Not only is it easy to handle, but newbies can also count on its strength-to-weight ratio. 

You may not know, but Douglas Fir is stable enough for different woodworking applications. Despite being under the softwood category, its excellent strength matches well with various tools as long as you know how to utilize it correctly. 

Given its resistance to decay, it’s no surprise many woodworkers use this softwood material for outdoor projects. This feature makes this lumber long-lasting and reliable under harsh conditions. 

Douglas Fir lumber

If you want to maintain its durability and beauty for the longest time, applying a proper finish and protective products on its surface is best.  

One of the reasons Douglas Fir is famous as a wood material is its distinct reddish color. Although this stunning softwood darkens as it ages, its texture can enhance any room’s accents. 

You can make decorative pieces from this material because it absorbs stains and finishes nicely. On top of that, its structural strength gives it an edge for construction projects like beams, planks, etc. 

After the key features of Douglas Fir, it’s time to discuss the drawbacks you may encounter while using it as a woodworking material. These pointers will manage your expectations to avoid risky and uninformed project decisions. 

8 Drawbacks Of Using Douglas Fir

1. Regular Maintenance Is Necessary

Although Douglas Fir is a stable material, it doesn’t have the same density and hardness as hardwoods. Despite excellent decay resistance, it’s unlikely to survive harmful elements like high heat, moisture, infestations, etc. 

Douglas Fir

You can remedy this dilemma by applying protective sealants or finishing products. However, you must know that these procedures can only protect your workpieces for a limited time. 

No matter how premium your finishing products are, constant exposure to external elements and daily usage can fade these sealants. Once the protective layers are gone, apply them again to ensure the workpiece won’t suffer the consequences.  

If you leave a Douglas Fir material out in the open without a good protective finish, expect potential damage from moisture, UV light [1], or even fungi. The changing weather and extreme climate can also threaten this material into ruin. 

It’s easy to mistake maintenance as a menial task. However, checking the material constantly to see if the sealant has faded creates more hassle than you think. You can reapply once yearly, but only if you did the process correctly. 

You can minimize the risk of skipping regular maintenance if you set a specific time frame for the task. 

Douglas Fir wood

You can assign a particular season or yearly date solely for maintenance activities. Once that time comes, you must scrape the old protective film and add the new finishing coats. 

When selecting a sealant or finishing product, buy ones with UV blockers or inhibitors, especially if the material is under direct sunlight.  

Besides proper finishing, you must ensure the wood surface is always clean. Keeping the material free from dust particles and debris helps it to last longer than other softwoods. If you let the dirt settle in Douglas Fir, it can incur damage over time.

2. Douglas Fir Is Not Very Hard

Although softness makes the material easier to manage, it’s also one of the disadvantages of Douglas Fir wood. Because of its structure, the wood will likely crumble under extreme pressure and impact. 

Its Janka hardness scale rating shows that Douglas Fir only ranges around 710 lbf or 3,158 N. Admit it or not, this specification is relatively lower than other wood species like cherry, oak, or birch

cutting Douglas Fir wood with table saw

For those who don’t know, the Janka hardness test determines how strong the material is against regular wear and tear. 

On the upside, being soft makes it easy to manage when using hand tools or power equipment. The only problem is that the surface can start chipping when the blade’s metal starts digging through the material, especially when shaping the edges. 

Considering its poor strength against sudden pressure and excessive impact, I urge you to handle it cautiously during any woodworking process. You must also store it properly or place it in a stable space to transport it safely. 

3. Vulnerable to Dents And Cracks

As you may have already guessed, the material’s poor strength and durability against harsh impact also make it prone to denting and cracking. Unlike other wood types, the potential damage can leave more apparent marks. 

It’s not recommended for beginners to use Douglas Fir because it’s a delicate and sensitive lumber piece. If you don’t have the patience and skill to handle it, you’ll damage the material before you can even create your workpiece. 

wood cracks on Douglas Fir

And since this softwood easily forms scratches and other flaws, it’s not the best wood for floor projects with high foot traffic or pet exposure. If you must use this lumber, apply a protective sealant or finish it before the installation. 

With these products, you can ensure that the surface can tolerate heavy impact and pressure without leaving unsightly scratches. Most woodworkers utilize varnishes or oil finishes to maintain the protection on their Douglas Fir floors or furniture pieces. 

The material’s porous construction and distinct texture make it slightly difficult to stain, paint, or finish. It often results in uneven applications and staining mistakes, leading to ugly blotches. 

It will help to add wood conditioner over the Douglas Fir before doing any staining or painting procedure. By doing it, the surface can form an initial protective film and a more refined look. 

dents and cracks on Douglas Fir table

Given its vulnerabilities, it’s clear that this softwood is unsuitable for hard-wearing applications. While you can still consider them for some projects, you can only maintain their aesthetics and structure with proper maintenance. 

4. It’s Expensive for a Softwood

Most softwoods are cheaper than hardwood selections in today’s market. However, it’s important to note that Douglas Fir isn’t as affordable as other wood options under its category. 

Don’t get fooled by the low-quality ones you’ll see at some local stores. Purchase Douglas Fir lumber that was inspected to craft a durable and aesthetically pleasing workpiece successfully. 

While its price range is one of the disadvantages of Douglas Fir wood, it’s not unreasonable. The material’s versatility and balanced strength-to-weight ratio make it superior to some softwood options. 

Many modern woodworkers prefer its lightweight construction with enough durability within its structure. 

sawing Douglas Fir

Not all DIYers can afford Douglas Fir. So if you want an alternative material with a lower price range or better durability, you can try sourcing poplar, beech, maple, or alder. 

5. It Has Poor Weather Resistance

Unfortunately, Douglas Fir is one of the softwoods that can’t withstand harsh weather conditions. You also can’t entrust this bare wood to survive under fluctuating temperatures. 

When exposed to these climates, the surface will exhibit signs of warping or rotting. Some weather changes, like extensive winter seasons, can shrink wood fibers. The material can also experience thermal expansion under extreme heat.

These temperature fluctuations cause unnatural wood movements on Douglas Fir, destroying its stability. And if you use this material as joints of an outdoor workpiece, chances are it’ll get warped faster than you think.

Wood splitting is also typical for Douglas Fir surfaces under high humidity. This weather condition produces moisture that can penetrate deep into the material and expand the fibers. 

Douglas Fir desk

In places with lower humidity levels, this softwood will experience moisture evaporation. Once that happens, the material will shrink and reduce its lumber life. 

Applying wood finishing products or sealers is the only method to compensate for this drawback. It’ll be a protective coating to block moisture from penetrating the material’s surface. 

Besides the resistance against harsh temperatures and climates, these finishes also enhance Douglas Fir’s aesthetics. 

6. Not as Durable as Other Wood Species

You cannot count on durability as an advantage when using a softwood like Douglas Fir, particularly if you haven’t applied any protective treatment to its surface.

Although this wood has excellent stability, this attribute can fade over time. Why? Because constant exposure to water, infestations, UV rays, mold, and other external elements can weaken its structure. 

Douglas Fir grain pattern

Besides its softness, the material’s lack of density gives it less stability than hardwood selections. It also offers a significantly shorter life span, so some woodworkers prefer harder woods over Douglas Fir. 

As discussed, the only way to extend this softwood’s life is to apply stains or sealers to protect its surface against potential damage from external elements. Check every inch of the wood to ensure you don’t miss a spot. 

This procedure will elevate Douglas Fir’s flexibility and strength. Its wood fibers will also develop stronger bonds. As long as you religiously apply these products to your workpiece, I don’t doubt it can last long. 

7. It Is Susceptible To Insect Attacks

Douglas fir does not produce toxic oil or scent that lures the insects away from its surface. Because of this, this softwood will likely attract infestation and lose its stability over it. 

For example, have you heard of the Douglas Fir beetle? This insect is particularly attracted to this wood specie and eats its surface. On top of that, this bug also lays egg galleries over it. 

Douglas Fir slabs

You’ll also encounter wood-eating larvae on this wood type that penetrates the material underneath its bark. 

These insects use the material’s soft and lower-density levels to destroy it or carve their new habitats. You must be wary of these infestations because they spread quickly and damage your workpiece in weeks. 

You can try different treatments to ward off bugs from your Douglas Fir wood. Products with high chemical content, like lacquers, Danish oil, or linseed oil, can do the job for you. 

Infestations can’t spread or live within the vicinity of harsh chemicals. These products will kill the bugs and any eggs they lay over or underneath their surfaces. These insect attacks are especially turbulent for outdoor wooden workpieces, like garden furniture or patios. 

8. It Can Be Challenging To Find

Although Douglas Fir has a stable tree population and doesn’t belong on the extinct specie list, finding one to buy can be challenging. The main reason for its rarity is the demand for this softwood. 

Douglas Fir furniture

Most woodworkers rely on online e-commerce sites to buy these materials for less hassle. However, we’d like to note that not every available product under this label is high quality, so it pays to be careful. 

Its premium quality makes Douglas Fir a more challenging wood selection in a typical hardware store. 

If you must order online, your best bet is the famous manufacturer websites. Going for a brand with a known name will guarantee the material’s quality and help you avoid getting duped by a substandard lumber piece. 

Douglas Fir’s Rot Resistance

Moving away from the downsides, did you know that Douglas Fir has excellent resistive features against rotting? It won’t rot immediately, but it’s still recommended to apply protective treatments if you want it to withstand extended exposure to water or moisture. 

If you let its bare surface under these conditions, the wood’s moisture levels will surely increase. This development will give rotting an open window to occur. 

Douglas Fir table

You can repel water from penetrating the material by correctly applying stains, finishes, or sealers. These procedures will block moisture and give the wood additional durability. 

Inconsistent maintenance and incorrect sealing procedures can result in water slipping into the Douglas Fir surface. If rotting happens, you can restore the workpiece by removing the affected area and applying wood fillers. 

You must blend the product into the restored area, so applying stain or paint with the same color tone as the surrounding wood is advisable. 

Is It Okay For Douglas Fir Wood To Get Wet?

Yes, it’s okay for Douglas Fir wood to get wet or undergo high moisture exposure. Despite not being weatherproof, this softwood still possesses natural resistance like any other wood specie. 

The only problem with this feature is that it doesn’t protect the material for long. Over time, the wood’s water resistance will crumble amidst extensive and regular exposure to moisture and water. 

Douglas Fir floor

You can only ensure its protection against these external elements if you seal its surface with finishing products. 

Never try to work with Douglas Fir materials if their surface is wet. Besides not getting the best results, using it with sharp and powerful tools can be dangerous. Let it dry naturally to avoid unnecessary hassles. 

How long will Douglas fir last outdoors?

Douglas Fir’s longevity in an outdoor setting depends on the climate and the environment that material is experiencing. The material’s elevation from the ground can also determine the softwood’s overall life span. 

The location is also a factor you can’t ignore when measuring its life. After all, some places will be too hot, humid, or cold. 

Douglas Fir boxes

Under the best conditions, you can expect Douglas Fir to last between 10 to 15 years. Some higher-quality treated materials can even reach up to 35 years if they are properly maintained and receive regular treatments.

What Are The Uses Of Douglas Fir?

Despite the disadvantages of Douglas Fir wood, its perks mostly suit indoor projects. You can even make use of its stunning aesthetics for decorative purposes. 

Its softness may be delicate, but woodworking beginners can take a shot at doing easier workpieces with this material. Here are some examples you can try: 

Is It Possible To Treat Douglas Fir For Outdoor Applications?

Yes, it is possible to improve Douglas Fir’s resistance and durability against outdoor elements by applying appropriate treatments. However, one challenge you may encounter is its difficulty in accepting stains or finishes.

Douglas Fir outdoor table

And given that the softwood has stunning orange to reddish tones, these hues can overlap with most finishes or stains. Considering this dilemma, you should apply a wood conditioner to enhance the material’s adhesion and durability. 

After adding these products, the Douglas Fir workpiece can yield enough protection to resist potential damage from specific inhibitors like insects, UV rays, etc. 

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Conclusion

Indeed, understanding a material’s drawbacks is crucial for woodworkers as it enables them to make informed decisions and optimize their resources effectively. 

While Douglas Fir has its share of disadvantages, it’s essential to acknowledge that it also possesses unique advantages that can enhance the quality of your woodworking projects. 

Therefore, it’s worthwhile to explore various wood alternatives to select the material that aligns with your budget and project requirements.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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