Milling Backyard Lumber

Author: Margot McMahon, Yale Class of ‘84
Location: Anywhere

Personal Action

When three of our pines died, the thought of them decomposing and releasing the carbon they stored for decades was daunting. To use the wood would sequester the carbon and save the escalated cost of lumber for a shelter from the seasonal insects. Milling local wood reduces the carbon emissions of shipping. I searched my rolodex for a carpenter. A favorite carpenter’s cousin was looking for work. I liked Enrique right away and we started imagining the screened or windowed gazebo. The local sawmill scheduled milling the tree trunks.

In September of 2019 we scheduled removing three pine trees from our backyard. Chuck at Russell Mill suggested the lumberjack who would cut the trunks to a reasonable length to send through the saws. The trunks were moved to the mill to cure for the winter. While the sap cured, plans were finalized.

Chuck milled the cured trunks, then stacked the milled wood for further drying. By May the dried wood was moved to the site where the wood was sealed. Australian Oil preserved the soft pine from moisture and insects. A concrete pad was poured. Permits were pulled and village inspections were scheduled.

Environmental Impact

Wood may be the most environmentally friendly material available for building homes or businesses. Here’s why:

  • Wood products are produced from trees, a naturally renewable resource. More wood is grown each year in the United States than is harvested.
  • It takes far less energy and fossil fuel to produce wood products than to manufacture concrete and steel.
  • The durability of wood products contributes to the long life of a home. Wood products also store carbon, reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
  • At the end of their initial service life, wood products are easily recycled for other uses. Wood contributes fewer greenhouse gas emissions than non-renewable steel and concrete.
  • Study after study in Europe, North America and elsewhere has shown that wood outperforms other products when considered over its complete life cycle. One study, conducted by the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials (CORRIM) compared the environmental impacts of homes framed with wood and steel in Minneapolis and with wood and concrete in Atlanta – the framing types most common to each city. According to the report, the homes framed in steel and concrete would require 17 and 16 percent more energy respectively (from extraction through maintenance) than their wood-framed counterparts.

How to Get Involved: Learn More

Learn to build your own gazebo!

Learn more about milling your own lumber!