Siberian Larch cladding
Whether for cladding, decking, fencing or joinery project, Siberian Larch is a dynamic, high-performance timber species. Not only that, it also looks the part.
As a leading UK timber merchant, we’ve drawn on our encyclopaedic knowledge of this incredible species: interesting facts, physical properties, benefits, its various uses, costs and any treatments you might wish to consider.
Siberian Larch facts & introduction
There are many types of larch, each belonging to the Larix genus. Siberian Larch (or Russian Larch) is known scientifically as Larix sibirica.
This particular species grows natively as far west as the Finnish border, with distribution eastwards towards central Siberia in Russia — hence the name! The species has also been introduced to Canada, the US, Iceland and Greenland.
Siberian Larch is a ‘frost-hardy’ tree; it’s capable of surviving in freezing, adverse temperatures. When fully grown, it reaches heights between 20 and 50m and has needle-like leaves, with a 1m trunk diameter.
As a result of its extreme native climate, Siberian Larch grows extremely slowly. Interestingly, however, these inhospitable growing conditions imbue the timber with many useful and practical properties, suiting it to many purposes — particularly exterior projects.
Is Siberian Larch a hardwood? Technically, the answer is no — coming from a coniferous tree, it’s officially classified as a softwood. Despite this, Siberian Larch is actually one of the hardest softwoods in the world. As a result of its punishing ‘upbringing’ in sub-zero Siberia, larch has plenty of hardness and natural durability. In fact, it has greater density than many hardwoods!
Once harvested, Siberian Larch starts its life as a golden-yellow wood, but left untreated, will eventually weather to a beautiful silvery-grey
What are Siberian Larch’s properties?
- Colour: Creamy yellow to light brown, weathering to a beautiful silvery-grey without treatment
- Grain: Very straight, dense and fine with tight growth rings
- Texture: Smooth
Because of its slow growth, Siberian Larch has incredibly tight growth rings and a very dense, fine grain. Depending on the grade chosen, this specie can generally contain small tight knots. The application of a high-quality stain can accentuate this beautiful natural tapestry, making the wood a distinguished and sought-after choice in architectural design circles.
It also makes it unique — with such character, no two pieces of Siberian Larch are the same as each other. Underpinning the popularity of Siberian Larch is also its versatility; there’s rarely a setting or space where its Scandi style hues aren’t at home.
Upon close inspection of some Siberian Larch timber, subtle colours can appear, from creamy whites to reddish browns. If left for around two years without any treatment, the wood will attain a natural grey ‘weathered’ look which, depending on your vision, is no bad thing. Monochromatic designs can add a touch of distinguished class!
As a species, larch is a product of its growing environment: the cold, sub-zero forests of Siberia. With a remarkably slow growing time, the wood is heavy and packed full of density.
This timber species is highly resistant to knocks, bumps and scrapes, suiting it ideally to exterior applications such as cladding and decking. With fewer abrasions, there are also fewer areas for moisture to penetrate the wood.
Siberian Larch has a density of 590kg/m³. For comparison, this makes it more dense than Western Red Cedar, which clocks in at 370kg/m³ (still respectable, hasten we add)! Siberian Larch also scores a very impressive 1,100 lbf on the Janka hardness scale, ahead of many other popular commercially available hardwoods.
Rot, insect and moisture resistance
This timber is built to cope with the Siberian climate — meaning it’s more than suited to exterior application in the UK. High in resin, extractives and other chemicals, Siberian Larch boasts some mind blowing natural defences to the outside elements.
Resin is what trees produce naturally to protect themselves from injury, pathogens and insects. Resinous woods like Siberian Larch have natural antiseptics which repel insects.
When woods are exposed to moisture, they can tend to warp and bend. Because of its high density, Siberian Larch doesn’t experience as much moisture penetration, making it far less prone to the issue.
Such is its natural durability, unlike many other species, Siberian Larch can be left without stain or paint treatment. For an exceptional exterior, you can’t go wrong with larch.
With such high levels of density, strength and scratch resistance, you might be forgiven for thinking that Siberian Larch is a very tough timber to work with.
In fact, this is far from the truth. As well as taking stains very well (which can actually accentuate the grain), Siberian Larch also has good drilling properties, takes fixings well and has good machining and gluing qualities.
Quick tip — to avoid staining and corrosion, make sure you use top-quality stainless steel fixings when you work with your Siberian Larch. After all, quality timber deserves quality fixings, right?
It’s also recommended to drill your holes instead of nailing to avoid the possibility of splitting. Because of its high density, ensure that any tools are kept sharp.
What is Siberian Larch used for?
Because of its remarkable natural physical properties and devilish good looks, Siberian Larch is a go-to choice for a wide range of building projects, particularly outdoors. Some of the most popular commercial and household uses for this wood include cladding, decking and fencing.
Such is its strength, density and scratch resistance, Siberian Larch is even used for velodrome track surfaces around the world, so keep an eye out next time you’re watching some track cycling. Some lesser-known uses for the wood include railway sleepers and mine props.
Essentially, wherever a timber will be asked to stand up to the elements or a few knocks and bumps, you can count on Siberian Larch to do the trick.
Siberian Larch treatment: what you need to know
Does Siberian Larch need treating?
Good news — because of the impeccable natural properties that Siberian Larch is blessed with, the species is incredibly low maintenance. It doesn’t strictly need any treatment or sealing before being installed.
However, snow, ice and UV do eventually take some toll on even the hardiest of woods. So, if you’re looking to maximise the longevity of your larch (and stop it oxidising to a silvery-grey), your project might benefit from a protection being applied.
A high-quality protection will not only help the larch to retain its original colour, but can actually help to accentuate its natural beauty by helping the grain to ‘pop’!
How long does Siberian Larch last?
Despite this natural toughness, all materials have a lifespan — Siberian Larch included. With the right treatment, larch can look forward to enjoying a long service life of over 50 years, up to 100 years.
If you’re treating your larch, we’d recommend re-applying the finish every two to three years. Try to do this on a dry, warm day, allowing the timber to air out after treatment.
Is Siberian Larch sustainable?
Because trees can always be replanted, timber is a 100% renewable resource. But this doesn’t mean its use is 100% sustainable, of course; forests need to be harvested in a responsible way to ensure timber supplies aren’t depleted faster than they’re being replenished.
Fortunately, this is the case with Siberian Larch. It is a highly abundant wood species, with larch trees representing 37% of the forests in Russia according to research. Siberian Larch is currently being replanted quicker than it is being harvested, making it a very sustainable choice.
Not only that, but Siberian Larch is actually beneficial to the environment. It naturally stores carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere and releases it back without surplus; this is why wood is known as a carbon sequestering building material.
That’s not to mention that timber has great thermal insulation properties — particularly frost-hardy species like Siberian Larch. Timber-clad buildings require less non-renewable energy use to keep them at a comfortable temperature.
At Duffield Timber, we only source our timber from responsible suppliers.
How much does Siberian Larch cost?
Is Siberian Larch expensive or cheap? Depending on your particular budget and the size of your project, the answer is clearly a subjective one. But, as a rule, Siberian Larch tends to come in at the cheaper end of the spectrum, particularly compared to many other popular commercially available timbers.
This isn’t because it is of inferior quality, but because supplies are very readily available — although due to recent demand, prices are firming.