Using elm in framing

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Forum topic by grunex posted 08-09-2012 01:39 AM 2175 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 2120 days

08-09-2012 01:39 AM

I run a dairy farm as well as my land clearing business and have recently started to wonder how this would work…...
My idea is to build a new freestall shed for that cattle, but I’m not real interested in the multiple thousands of dollars required for the construction. Currently I have many acres of boxelder and elm that I can choose from for custom sawmilling to get the needed materials, but I really don’t like the idea of using boxelder due to it’s inherent weaknesses. The Elm on the other hand is a stronger wood and my thoughts were to cut the trees, let them dry and season before milling and cut to 2by4’s 6’s and 8’s. Then use them for contruction of the shed in place of some of the purcahsed material.

Now….my questions….has anyone ever used Elm for construction purposes? and is it a stable enough wood not to warp and twist after the shed is constructed?

I will be using commercial rafters and treated 8by8 posts for the main frame. but certain aspects of the shed seem to be a little rediculous to be buying all high dollar lumber. Especially the ribbons, stringers and etc.
As for other aspects of the shed I can justify using home milled lumber for gates, panels and fences as cattle tend to break these portions regularly anyway but I wonder to what extent I can utilize my resources without going in to deep to the bank.

Any thoughts?

-- Grunex Land Clearing .... Maintaining America's Heartland one Acre at a time.

12 replies so far

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182 posts in 2201 days

#1 posted 08-09-2012 01:55 AM

I would think you’ll be ok using it for an ag building. You should research on line for the design properties of elm. Surely they exist somewhere in the public domain. The properties you should look for are modulus of elasticity (MOE), compression rating parallel to grain (as in a stud or post), compression perpendicular to grain (joists, etc.), and fiber bending rating (Fb) or general strength of the lumber. Compare these properties to known properties of normal construction lumber. I would want =/> the properties of #2 SPF. You will need to be careful of drying. You want construction lumber dried to 19% or better.

-- Ron Wilson - maker of fine firewood!

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4 posts in 2642 days

#2 posted 08-09-2012 02:09 AM

White pine is one of the weakest, most unstable trees around and it’s almost exclusively what we use for construction lumber around here. The benefit is it’s cheap. If the Elm is dried, it should be plenty stable for a building. Use whatever wood you can for the shed. Most of these Elm will be dying within our lifetimes from Dutch Elm disease. It’s better to make something semi-permanent of the wood.

Just don’t go using basswood for your shed.

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1417 posts in 2191 days

#3 posted 08-09-2012 02:12 AM

You mean never use balsa for framing… ;D

-- My terrible signature...

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#4 posted 08-09-2012 02:28 AM

Elm is great for framing, timbers, and most all “rough cut wood” applications. The drawbacks come when you start processing it for finished pieces. I can’t count the number of times I have had a beautiful chunk of elm looking great on all sides only to lose it to tear out. Elm has two natural enemies in the shop: the planer and the joiner.

-- Jon Porter's Haiku for the Workin' Man: Coffee, cigarette-Six a.m., Monday Morning-Warm Hug From Jesus

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4 posts in 2120 days

#5 posted 08-09-2012 04:03 AM

I’ve got cottonwood available to use as well…....but I’m not really all that keen on it as it seems to rot fairly quickly in sometimes high moisture situations such as the cattle shed. (moisture from the cattle and condensations) But the elm seemed to me to be like a possible diamond in the rough.
I’ve got a friend in Menomonie Wisc. who does custom sawmilling…....he’s probably the one who will be hired to cut it for me. (He’s really got some nice wood there too for projects. I’d post the link here to his website if the mods/other members will allow it.) but for the custom sawmill rates…..I don’t think I can go wrong on it. just needed another opinion as I don’t now if the stuff will warp once it has had a chance to season.

-- Grunex Land Clearing .... Maintaining America's Heartland one Acre at a time.

View Tomj's profile


204 posts in 2382 days

#6 posted 08-09-2012 04:40 AM

Elm is a tough wood. It’s like a lighter brother to Hickory. Very strong in tension compared to compression. holds up in over strained designs and dries quickly. Douglas Fir and soft woods in general are used allot in building and Elm is much stronger than just about all of them (with the exception of Yew a softwood). If you have any Black Locust trees around that would be even better, stronger and rot resistant but I have never built anything like this so all I can tell you is how strong a wood is. Good luck.

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2155 posts in 3770 days

#7 posted 08-09-2012 04:51 AM

Elm is strong and stable, however you can’t let it dry in log form. Have it milled right away then dry it.

-- Tom D

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8016 posts in 3375 days

#8 posted 08-09-2012 11:10 AM

My experience with elm is limited to furniture (red elm), and I’ve only used it twice, but it struck me as being more prone to movement than other wood varieties I’ve tried. It wasn’t the easiest stuff to work with, but the grain can be spectacular.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

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Don W

18717 posts in 2567 days

#9 posted 08-09-2012 11:32 AM

I’ve used elm for a few applications. I built my bench out of elm. I would think for a cattle barn, if your going to use elm, you’d be better off top build it while its green. I’ve built structures with green lumber, and that what they did centuryies ago.

If you let elm dry you will need to pre-drill to fasten it. Its hard and will split.

I remodeled a house many years ago that was framed with elm. It was straight and strong, but driving a nail into the studs without a nail gum was a lesson in futility.

Depending on how much you have, I would think the elm would be a better choice for the stuff you opted out of like, gates, fencing (horizontal pieces, not in the ground) panels and interior walls.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

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1744 posts in 2476 days

#10 posted 08-09-2012 11:42 AM

I agree with Tom and Don. Mill it green. Don’t try to dry the logs first. It will take forever, and the wood will be like sawing iron. Also, put it up green. Elm has spiral grain and is prone to twist and warp. Locking it down while it is green will keep it straighter and more stable. It is plenty strong enough for framing.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

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4 posts in 2120 days

#11 posted 08-09-2012 01:06 PM

I know Elm can get real hard after it drys as is evident with the wear and tear on my chainsaw chains…. I guess what I was worried about is distortion in the frame of the building as it drys…...which is why I mentioned letting it dry in log form to reduce the likelyhood of warping over longer spans such as an eight foot distance between posts (which is common to run the posts eight foot on center for those that are not familiar with pole sheds and ag buildings) I know you guys are more familiar with the warping characteristics than I so please forgive me for asking so many questions.

So for those that are saying I should put it up green…...... would wider boards tend to warp more or less? I’m thinking using full two inch stringers and etc, and would like to use 6’s for the horizontal ribbons/stringers.

-- Grunex Land Clearing .... Maintaining America's Heartland one Acre at a time.

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Don W

18717 posts in 2567 days

#12 posted 08-09-2012 01:17 PM

I’ve framed a quite a few buildings in my younger days. Even with kiln dried framing lumber, you’ll go back through and replace a few studs because they twist. So its expected.

I’m not sure wider twist more often, but it will twist further. Its also easier to fasten down better. So it really depend on the application.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

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