Carbonization of wood occurs through heat-treating. The heat literally caramelizes the naturally occurring sugars in the wood, creating a rich caramel brown color. The color of carbonized wood is warmer than the color that results from fuming/smoking. Because the sugar content of individual boards can vary more dramatically than tannin content, carbonization tends to create even more color variation than fuming/smoking. For Monarch Planks’ carbonized products, we sort after carbonization to eliminate extreme variations.
Though controlling the color in carbonized wood is challenging, we believe that these challenges are greatly outweighed by the beauty this process creates. The richness and natural look of carbonized Oak simply can’t be replicated with topical stain techniques.
It’s important to be aware of two characteristics of carbonized wood. First, the heat treatment makes the wood a bit more brittle, which is why you generally only see engineered wood flooring products that are carbonized. In a solid carbonized wood floor, the tongues would break off too easily when nailed. Second, carbonized wood tends to fade more under UV exposure than the same wood that has not been carbonized. While natural (non-carbonized) Oak changes relatively little when exposed to sunlight, carbonized Oak can fade as much as Walnut, a species known for its photosensitivity. Customers who have intense light conditions in their homes (such as floor-to-ceiling, south-facing windows) should be advised of this before finalizing the selection of a carbonized Oak floor, just as they should for Walnut, Brazilian Cherry, and other species that tend to fade when exposed to too much direct light. Both the brittleness and photosensitivity of carbonized wood depend on the degree of carbonization – the higher the heat, the darker the color, and the more brittle and photosensitive the wood will be.
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