How many trees to build a house
How Many Trees Does it Take to Build a House? (Every Home Type)
How many trees does it take to build a house?The number may surprise you because it depends on the type of house being built and the types of materials being used.
The number of trees required to construct a house is determined by the structure’s size, style, and finish, which fluctuates a great deal.
But, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to estimate them…
A typical 2000-square-foot apartment house consumes 26,700 board feet, according to the Idaho Forest Products Commission.7 A “typical” tree with a 20-inch thickness and 42 linear feet of useful wood produces about 260 board feet.
So, according to the math, that house should have utilized around 102 trees.
Other timber industry associations use other statistics, with some claiming as few as 30 trees for a 1500-square-foot home and others claiming as many as sixty trees for just a 2000-square-foot home.1
It’s important to not that the ‘trees’ used to build a home come in the form of lumber that has been processed and milled.
Some of the lumber is used for framing (in standard homes), and some of the lumber is used for other things, such as the forming of concrete for a driveway.
Examining Every Home Type for the Number of Trees It Takes to Build Them
People live in an array of residences. Apartment buildings that are new construction often used metal ‘studs’ instead of lumber for framing, with reduces the trees used.
A single family home will have a higher eco-cost (when build from lumber) than a multiple family structure, like a condo. But, if the single family home is constructed of other materials, such as natural stone or concrete, there can be a reduction in the amount of lumber employed.
It all depends on some common factors.
Board Foot Calculation (How To Determine the Board Feet of Lumber in Any Tree)
The area of the tree’s diameter can be calculated using a tape measure8 and the formula for Diameter=Circumference/3.14. When a person knows the volume, they must multiply it by 12 to arrive at the board feet. 4
An easier way is to use this simple board foot calculator.
Single-family homes are self-contained residential structures. These homes have no shared walls with other structures. The homeowner often owns both the structure and the land it stands on.
Single-family homes in the U.S averaged 2,491 sq ft in size in 2020. This size requires between 117-127 trees to construct.2
A semi-detached house is a solitary home with one shared wall. Unlike townhouses, which may have neighbors on both sides, these homes have only one shared wall, and the floor plan is often a replica of each other.
In the United States, the typical size of a semi-detached home is 2,301 square feet. Such a house generally uses between 102-117 trees.
Townhouses are multi-story dwellings with separate entrances, bathrooms, and kitchenettes. Unless the house is at the extremity of a complex, it shares two walls with its neighbors. Most townhouses are between 1,500 and 1,700 square feet in size, though the range is 750 to 2,000 square feet.
Therefore, between 38-102 trees are needed for this house.
An apartment is a component within a building that is made up of similar-looking separate apartments. Because a tenant rents a flat from a renter, they do not accumulate any ownership while making payments. Even though lease agreements differ, most landlords are accountable for repairs and renovations to the leased unit.
Apartments, on average, are 882 square feet in size, thus needing between 40- 45 trees to construct.3
By Taking Care of Your Home, You May Help Conserve Trees
Today’s wood comes in pre-cut, treated and ready-to-use lumber pieces that bear little resemblance to the trees it was sourced. That wasn’t always the case, though. Originally, houses were erected by hardy individuals who had to pick the trees themselves.
Because felling trees and then sawing them up was difficult and expensive, many log houses were constructed with raw lumber. It was crucial to know how much and what size to cut. It’s too easy these days to forget that many trees are needed to construct these contemporary homes.
|Square Foot of the Home||Type of Home||How Many Trees It Takes to Build (Estimates)|
|500||Single Structure||10-25 Trees|
|1000||Single Structure||30-50 Trees|
|1500||Single Structure||30-75 Trees|
|2000||Single Structure||60-102 Trees|
|2500||Single Structure||80-130 Trees|
Related Reading: How many trees cut down each year?
What is Board Footage?
Board footage is the term used for amount of wood that can be extracted from a tree. As a resource, the calculations used for board footage are designed to get every usable millimeter from a tree being transformed into lumber.
Board footage refers to the amount of wood in a tree. For example, 1″x12″x12″ is the size of a board foot (144 square inches of wood). Because every cubic foot contains 12 board feet, determining the volume of a tree is all that is required to establish its usable wood production. Because most coniferous trees are cylindrical in shape, this can be done by measuring the tree’s height and multiplying by its averaged cross-sectional area.
Two methods are commonly used to estimate board foot amounts, the Doyle method and the International.
A tape measure and simple trigonometry can be used to compute the height of a tree from the ground, or shadows can be measured more roughly. For simplicity, the average height of recently cut trees, which is approximately eighty feet, can be used to calculate board footage.4
After that, the individual must determine the tree’s diameter. Foresters measure the diameter at the chest of the tree, or roughly 4.5 ft off the ground, as a benchmark.
Related Reading: How many trees are in the world?
Tree Volume Estimation
The board foot, described as a bit of wood holding 144 cubic inches, is perhaps the most common metric of lumber volume in the United States.
A board foot is any block of wood with 144 cubic inches total. That means the board can be six inches wide, and two inches thick and 12 inches long and still be a single board foot. Any board’s board-foot content can be determined by multiplying the width, thickness, and length and dividing by 144 cubic inches.
The board foot is still the most commonly used volume measurement for logs and trees used in the production of timber and veneer. The volume of board feet of timber that can be cut from a tree or log is expressed by the board-foot content of that tree or wood.
The amount of lumber that can be produced from a tree or a log is determined by a number of factors, including how;
- The tree is chopped into logs
- The measurements of the lumber
- The amount of log lost in waste and sawdust
- The workers and sawmill’s efficiency
The board-foot volume of a tree or log cannot be measured precisely due to various variables; hence it must be calculated. 4
|Table 1. Standing Tree Board Foot Volumes—Doyle Rule|
|Number of 16-Foot Logs|
|From: Ashley, Burl S. 1980. A reference handbook for foresters. USDA NA-FR-15. 35 pp.|
Measuring Tree Diameter
The diameter of a tree trunk is measured at breast height, DBH. Each trunk of a tree that forks below breast height is classified as a separate tree and measured as an individual tree.4
Related Reading: How many trees are planted each year?
A fabric measuring tape, or a tree diameter tape can be used to determine DBH. Simply measure around the trunk of the tree, up from the ground four and half feet. Then, to figure the diameter, simply multiply the circumference of the trunk by 3.14. If you need to convert this measurement to feet, simply divide it by 12.
|Table 2. Standing Tree Board Foot Volumes—International 1/4-Inch Rule|
|Number of 16-Foot Logs|
|From: Ashley, Burl S. 1980. A reference handbook for foresters. USDA NA-FR-15. 35 pp.|
These two volume tables are not similar, as they can be compared. The International 1/4-Inch rule9 is often regarded as the most accurate estimate of how much lumber may be sectioned from a tree or log under ideal conditions. The Doyle rule10 significantly understates the volume of trees in the lesser diameter classes.
When the most exact yield estimate is critical, such as when deciding how many trees to chop to obtain a specific number of timbers, the International 1/4-Inch rule should be utilized. However, the volume rule is far less important when selling lumber stumpage. As long as both the buyer and the seller know which rule is being used to calculate volumes, there should be no confusion about quantity.
Using the Tables to Estimate Merchantable Tree Volume
Tables 1 and 2 can be used to determine a tree’s volume in board feet once the girth, mercantile, and breast height have been determined. For instance, the 260 board feet Doyle rule10 or 350 board feet International 1/4-Inch rule9 can be found in a 20-inch DBH oak tree with 212 logs in merchantable height.
How Many Mature Trees Needed Per Home
How many trees does it take to build a house? The exact amount of lumber needed to construct a wood-framed house varies slightly across the country, but 6.3 board feet of structural framing materials per square foot is a decent average. According to the Census Bureau,11 the average American home in 2013 was 2,600 square feet, requiring 16,380 board feet of lumber to construct.
Related Reading: How many pieces of paper in a tree?
So, how many trees does it take to build a house? Assume an average mature pine or fir tree with a reach of 80′ and a thickness of 2 inches for this discussion. By using the formula outlined above, the lumber yield is estimated to be around 754 board feet. And if the average home requires 16,380 board feet of framing, nearly 22 mature firs will be required.
For the rest of the house and its finishes, another 22-24 trees will be required. Siding, cabinets, hardwood floors, roofing, paneling, and other finishing touches might more than treble the number of trees required to finish the house. Building a home now requires the removal of forty-four mature trees in every 2600 square feet.
Framing Lumber Choices for Building Homes
The quality wood used for home framing is structural wood or framing lumber. When broad spans are required, its technical properties make it ideal. Here are the numbers and types of wood used as framing material for house construction and wooden frames for family construction in the United States and Canada.
Standard SPF (Spruce-Pine-Fir) Lumber
- Light structural lumber is mostly utilized in constructing single-family dwellings in the United States. Softwood trees such as pine, spruce, and fir are cut and planned to conventional dimensions to produce this lumber (2×4″, 2×6″, 2×8″, etc. ). Wood is beneficial as a framing material since it undergoes less alteration during processing, has a minimal energy input, is a renewable material, and stores carbon.
- Heavy timber is defined as any dimensional lumber with a thickness greater than 4.5 inches and is commonly used in post-and-beam or wood structure construction. Wood with large dimensions can carry enormous loads and allow for extended spans and be remarkably fire-resistant.
- Short, dry pieces of wood are milled on each end and connected with waterproof structural glue to make finger-jointed timber. This technique is environmentally friendly because it uses relatively brief planks of wood to develop a final product that is significantly bigger, more sustainable, and relatively easy to align. It is frequently integrated with Glulam and CLT-type products to create tremendous wood-based structural components for “Plyscrapers” and other similar structures
The True Measurements of Light Structural Lumber and Timber Used in Home Construction
Lumber sizes,12 such as commercially available 2x4s, are a continual cause of confusion among DIY home builders “A 2×4 is 1. 5″ x 3.5″, while a 2×6 is 1.5″ x 5.5”. The basic rule is that any width reported as 2″ is 1.5″ and any depth labeled as.5″ is actually.5″ “fewer The explanation for all this is planing; at wood stores, some true measurements can be obtained, known as “rough” lumber or “rough sawn” because they are unplanned wood.4
|Dimensional Lumber: Nominal Size vs. Actual Size|
|Nominal Size||Actual Size|
|Two-by-four or 2 x 4||1 ½ inch x 3 ½ inch|
|Two-by-six or 2 x 6||1 ½ inch x 5 ½ inch|
|Two-by-eight or 2 x 8||1 ½ inch x 7 ¼ inch|
|Two-by-ten or 2 x 10||1 ½ inch x 9 ¼ inch|
|One-by-two or 1 x 2||3/4-inch x 1 ½ inch|
|One-by-three or 1 x 3||3/4-inch x 2 ½ inch|
|One-by-four or 1 x 4||3/4-inch x 3 ½ inch|
Trees Take Time to Grow
The issue with trees is that they take a long time to grow. To bring the ecological worth into perspective, it takes around six decades for an 80′ tall fir tree to reach that size. There are 44 of these lovely trees, equating to 2,640 trees/years of growth. All of this is for a single typical American home. These trees must have started growing shortly after World War II to be available now.
Related Reading: How many types of palm trees are there?
The loss of trees represents a significant environmental commitment in one’s home. Mainly when they are utilized to construct a structure that may only endure 50 years due to a mix of fashion change, fickleness, and inadequate maintenance. Every year, from the perspective of a tree, a building can be extended, counting–times 44.5
Trees and Climate
Trees actively benefit the environment by giving oxygen, cleaning the air, reducing climate change, conserving water, maintaining soil, and providing habitat for wildlife. Photosynthesis is how trees absorb carbon dioxide and generate oxygen for people to breathe. 6
According to the United States Department of Agriculture,13 an acre of woodland consumes 6 tons of CO2 and emits 4 tons of oxygen, which is enough to supply the needs of 18 men for an entire year. Trees, turf, and shrubs, also purify the air by taking toxic emissions of monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide, as well as eliminating dust. Rain washes harmful particles to the ground after they are intercepted by trees.
So, How Many Trees Does It Take to Build a House?
How Many Trees Does It Take to Build a House? Each of the forty-four trees required for today’s average home took at least sixty years to grow. Post-harvest replanting is on the rise though, and many carbon offset tree planting strategies offered by carbon offset providers are helping replace the trees needed for building homes.
Anyone interested in building their own home can also lower their carbon footprint by choosing sustainable materials in the construction, and incorporating more sustainable building practices into the mix.
Knowing how many trees does it take to build a house can help to maximize their use so that the home itself can be built from sustainable resources.
How Many Trees Does It Take to Build a House?
The first step to putting up the frame of a house is typically a trip to a lumberyard to pick up ready-cut pieces of wood, but that wasn't always the case. Back in the old days, when houses were usually built by the soon-to-be homeowners, people had to harvest trees themselves. Knowing how many and of what size to fell was a must, because it saved time and meant that shelters could be built much more quickly—definitely important for homesteaders.
Modern convenience has made many of us oblivious to the amount of timber that goes into our homes. If you’ve ever wondered how many trees went into your home, here are some simple calculations that foresters use to determine the lumber yield of trees.
When you’re looking for a way to describe the amount of wood in a tree, you refer to board footage. Since there are 12 board feet in every cubic foot, you just need to determine the volume of a tree to put its wood yield into terms that are a bit more useful for us to understand.
The first step is to determine the height of a given tree, which can be achieved with the use of a clinometer. Using basic trigonometry with the known distance from the tree—a forestry standard of 66’, or one chain length, from the days when chains were used to drag timber out of forests—and the angles from your eye level to the base and the top of the tree, a clinometer will figure out the height, in feet, for you. Next is to determine the diameter of the tree at chest height, or about 4.5 feet from the ground, using a caliper or diameter tape. Alternatively, use Diameter=Circumference/3.14 to figure out diameter using a regular tape measure. Either way, you’ll need to divide the diameter by 2 to get the radius for the rest of the calculations, and you’ll want to divide this radius by 12 put it in feet rather than inches, unless you’re working with a huge tree and it was in feet in the first place!
These two measurements are all you need. Find the area of the imaginary cross-section you took of the tree at chest height using Area=3.14 x Radius2, because we’re assuming that the tree is circular here. From this area we can figure out cubic feet using Cubic Feet=(Area x Height)/4, where 4 is used to account for the taper of the tree from the base to the top. With this volume known, all you have to do is multiply it by 12 to get board feet!
If this seems like a lot of work, just remember that foresters do this all the time to keep track of how forests mature and to help make sustainable harvesting possible!
At 2,601 square feet, The Wilkeshire house plan from the Affordable House Plan Collection is the size of America's average new home.
Now that you know what board feet are, you can try to figure out how many trees it takes to build a house. Of course, the exact amount required to build every wood-framed house varies, and estimates vary slightly across the construction industry as well. To keep it simple and stick to a good average, say that 6.3 board feet are required for every square foot of house. So, a 1,000 square foot home would need 6,300 board feet to complete, while 12,600 board feet would be necessary for a 2,000 square foot home. According to the Census Bureau, the average American home built in 2013 was 2,600 square feet, and it would have required 16,380 board feet to build!
So what does that mean in trees? For the sake of discussion, consider a mature pine with a height of 80’ and a diameter of 2’. Using the method detailed above, you will find that its lumber yield is about 754 board feet. And if you require 16,380 board feet to build the average home nowadays, that would mean almost 22 mature pines are needed to fill that demand.
As you consider this information, remember that it pertains only to the trees required for the framing of a house—not any of the extras. Hardwood floors, cabinets, etc. could easily double the number of trees needed to complete a home. It takes decades to produce that amount of lumber sustainably, so make sure you build your home to last and make the most out of the trees that go into it.
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Which wood is better to build a house from
- Types of wood for building a house
- Softwood houses
Wooden houses have been built in Russia since ancient times. There has always been a lot of this material, and over the centuries the technologies for processing it have been so improved that its popularity has not been lost. And today in rural areas, many houses are built from wood. Urban residents gradually also began to reach closer to nature and take a break from the bustle of the city in buildings made of natural materials. So, country houses and country cottages are increasingly being made of wood.
Wood for building a house
In Russia, coniferous trees predominate: pine, spruce, fir, cedar, larch. In areas where there are no coniferous forests, hardwoods such as birch, aspen, poplar and oak are used for construction of frame houses . These types of wood require special treatment against insects, as well as to prevent the rotting process. If this treatment is not carried out, the life of deciduous trees is many times inferior to the life of conifers.
Now the building materials market in any area is saturated with offers for the sale of various types of wood. For this reason, people do not have difficulty with which tree to build a house from.
Coniferous wood is most often used for construction because it:
- does not rot;
- has a high degree of strength;
- practically does not conduct heat;
- is open and breathable;
- has antiseptic properties.
However, the characteristics of different coniferous species differ significantly from each other. Therefore, the question of which tree to choose for building a house is quite difficult. If we talk about the price and the level of demand, then pine and spruce are in the lead. Pine is very resistant to decay. According to the Russian durability scale, spruce wood has a score of 3.6, and pine has a score of 4.6. Of course, in Ancient Russia I had such a scale, but the first crowns of houses were always made from pine.
Spruce walls allow air to pass through well, allowing you to create the most comfortable microclimate in all rooms. This is probably why the old Russian proverb “at least a spruce hut, but the heart is healthy” arose. As a rule, poor people built houses from spruce. In addition to low cost, spruce wood has other advantages, for example, it has healing properties - it emits phytoncides into the atmosphere, which contribute to the healing of the entire human body. The structure of spruce is loose, not as dense as that of pine, and therefore its thermal conductivity is lower. A spruce house is warmer than a pine house.
Also one of the best types of wood for construction is larch. High resin content provides reliable protection against decay. Also, this tree has a high density and strength. Larch houses are often built in Siberia. In this region, there are buildings that are 200 years old or more. In the United States of America, larch flooring is still practiced in buildings with high traffic. Supermarkets and other shopping areas are a prime example. Such a floor lasts longer than synthetic. But larch also has a drawback - the complexity of processing due to its high density, strength and resinousness. In addition, it is not cheap.
Cedar is a soft and easy-to-work wood species. It has a very interesting structure and beautiful, unusual shades.
Also, cedar has medicinal properties similar to those of spruce. However, cedar wood is rarely used for construction, most often it is used as a finishing material and raw material for furniture production.
In Russia, they did not always choose one type of wood for building houses. It was common practice to use several options at once:
- made piles, door and window openings from oak;
- floors and rafters were made of spruce;
- walls were erected from pine;
- from larch - the lower crowns of the log house;
- baths were built from linden and maple, furniture was made.
Today, when choosing wood for construction, many people are guided by its cost. Quite often, preference is given to pine for construction, and spruce is used for decoration. The reason for this is the minimum number of knots and a smooth, light texture.
For the construction of the house choose high-quality, dry wood. If it retains its natural moisture, the house will shrink for several years. Therefore, our ancestors framed doors and windows with oak wood, which easily withstands this process.
For construction, a rounded debarked log with a preserved protective layer is used. Such a house is naturally protected from decay, but it is still better to treat it with a special impregnation. Rounded logs are deprived of a protective layer, their processing is not preferable, but mandatory. Outwardly, houses made of such a log are more attractive than buildings made of round logs, but they are not as practical.
Timber is quite popular in the construction of private housing. Technologically, it is easier to work with it, no additional finishing is required from the inside and outside. Such wood in itself serves as a wonderful decoration.
What kind of wood to build a log house - what to choose?
When choosing a wooden house, the customer first of all pays attention to the material of the walls - timber or logs. Each of these types is subdivided into subspecies: beam - into edged, profiled and glued (as well as mini-, thermo- and other modern types), log - into chopped and rounded. Next comes the classification by size (section or diameter) and degree of humidity.
Construction wood is usually the most common - pine or spruce.
Why these particular materials? And why do cedar and larch belong to the elite, and is it worth overpaying for them?
Let's figure it out.
Why softwood and not hardwood? The answer to this question is simple - hardwood log cabins, exposed to changing climatic conditions, serve several times less than coniferous log cabins.
In accordance with the classification of wood by resistance (GOST 20022. 2-80 Wood protection. Classification (with Amendments No. 1, 2)) coniferous species have high or medium resistance to decay, deciduous species have low resistance. Consider the wood species by durability classes in more detail:
|Resistant||Scotch pine, ash||Siberian pine (cedar), larch, Scotch pine, oak, ash|
|Medium resistant||Spruce, Siberian pine (cedar), larch, fir||Spruce, fir, beech|
|Low resistance||Birch, beech, elm, hornbeam, oak, maple||Elm, Maple|
|Non-resistant||Linden, alder, aspen||Birch, linden, aspen, alder|
So, we are considering construction from softwood.
With resistance to decay, everything is clear: the most resistant - larch, pine, cedar pine, less resistant - spruce.
But there are a few more parameters - ease of processing, moisture capacity, trunk geometry, number and size of knots.
Dense wood, resistant to decay, resistant to insects. Accordingly, the wood will not turn blue, the service life of a larch house will last for several generations of residents. Larch has a high natural fire resistance. Plus, it also looks aesthetically pleasing, the wood has a pleasant shade.
High density also has the other side of the coin: larch is difficult to process, it is colder than, for example, pine due to its high thermal conductivity. And when drying in a chamber, due to the high density, there is a greater risk of deformation - drying is uneven. Larch is the heaviest wood. Bulk weight at 12% humidity - 650-800 kg/m3.
Larch wood contains essential oils (pinene), has a rather strong pleasant smell and includes bioflavonoids and phytoncides - microscopic volatile substances that evaporate during the entire period of operation and have a positive effect on health, preventing colds and viral diseases.
Larch is a fairly expensive material in the European part of the Russian Federation and can be more than 50% more expensive than pine. In Siberia, where larch mainly grows, the cost of larch houses is comparable to pine.
Spruce has two main drawbacks - it is moderately resistant to decay (the resistance index is lower than that of pine and larch), and it has a lot of small knots that tend to fall out. In addition, spruce is more susceptible to insect infestation. But on the other hand, spruce is quite soft and plastic, it is easier to process it than pine. True, the complexity is created by knots, the hardness of which is higher compared to the main volume of wood. At the same time, spruce is resistant to deformation and is only slightly subject to volume changes with the change of seasons, since wood is less susceptible to moisture accumulation. Spruce - the most "warm" wall material, has the lowest thermal conductivity.
The lightest of the softwoods suitable for construction - volumetric weight at 12% moisture - about 450 kg/m3.
The main advantages of pine, which make it widely used in the construction of residential buildings, are its high resistance to decay, smooth trunks with fewer knots (compared to spruce) and these knots are larger in size and are not prone to falling out . In addition, pine wood, including after drying, is well processed and impregnated with antiseptics. And thanks to breathability, the walls of pine houses will “breathe” perfectly. At the same time, the thermal conductivity of pine wood is higher than spruce, so the walls of the house will be slightly colder (estimated at 10%).
Bulk density at 12% moisture content from 460 to 620 kg/m3.
Cedar (Siberian) pine
There is almost always an inaccuracy in the use of the term "cedar". On the territory of Russia, the biological genus Cedar (Cedrus) grows pointwise only in the Crimea. The tree has a spreading crown, not a ship's trunk at all, and it does not have cedar cones in our understanding (the cones are small and inedible for humans). And what is considered to be cedar is actually Siberian cedar pine, other biological genus.
Siberian pine (cedar) pine wood is the leader in all respects, except for the price. Cedar pine wood is a leader in plasticity, it is soft, easy to work with, but strong at the same time. High resistance to decay, not subject to infection by insects. Wood is slightly deformed, there are much fewer cracks on it than in pine, it is resistant to temperature and humidity changes. Cedar pine has low thermal conductivity and excellent thermal insulation properties. A healthy microclimate is provided in the cedar house: cedar pine is a natural antiseptic.
Bulk weight at 12% humidity approx. 580 kg/m3 - the wood is lighter than larch, comparable or slightly heavier than pine.
The only significant disadvantage of cedar is its high cost.
Fir is practically not used in housing construction for a number of reasons: low density and very high moisture absorption, "water content" of wood. Plus, a large number of branches along the entire length of the trunk.
A separate parameter is the aesthetics of wood. The most “faceless” is spruce. It does not have a pronounced texture, the wood is white with a yellowish tint.
Pine has a more pronounced texture and a pleasant amber color. It has clearly visible annual layers with a clear boundary between early and late wood.
The larch has a very beautiful texture, the annual layers stand out well in all cuts. It is valued for its reddish-brown hue.
Cedar also has a very nice texture. The shade of wood is an unusual and eye-pleasing pinkish.
What else is important to pay attention to:
It is important to understand that the quality of wood is determined not only by the type of wood, but also by the region of its growth and the time of its harvesting (the best time is winter, when sap flow in the tree is reduced and natural humidity wood is lower than when harvesting in the warm season).