Palm trees (Arecaceae) may not look like any other evergreen tree, such as the pine, cedar, or fir. Nevertheless, the tall, woody palm tree stem keeps its crown of foliage year-round, classifying it as an evergreen. The palm tree may be more recognizable for the fruit it grows, like the coconut, but its woody trunk is also useful. Drying and treatment processes are making palm timber a possible structural and nonstructural construction option, and the wood can also be used for fuel and insulation.
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Palm tree wood isn't good for firewood, but after drying treatment, palm wood has ideal characteristics for construction, insulation, and charcoal energy.
Palm Wood in Construction
To this day, people in the Maldives use palm wood for house building and boat construction, but palm tree timber has not traditionally been used in the larger construction industry in the United States.
However, as timber resources become more scarce around the world, palm tree wood is becoming a viable construction option. Wood from the outer perimeter of the palm tree is high density and can be used in load-bearing structures. However, wood in the center of the palm trunk is lower density and should only be used in nonstructural construction, like non-load-bearing walls and window frames.
If you have palm wood on hand, there are some characteristics of which you should be aware before using it in any home renovation project. For example, palm wood has a high moisture content, making it susceptible to fungus and mold if it has not been properly treated through a drying process. This makes palm wood a poor choice for outdoor decks or any underground structure where exposure to moisture will impact the integrity of the structure.
Palm Timber for Insulation
Not only can palm timber be a viable option for home construction but its characteristics actually make it a superior material for rooms, particularly its thermal conductivity and insulation qualities. A study published in March 2022 in Results in Engineering indicates that palm panels are effective at sound absorption and have quality thermal resistance, or R-value, making this type of wood a desirable and eco-friendly option for homebuilders. Because of its comparative light weight, palm wood is also ideal for door construction. Palm timber doors are easy to open but also keep sounds contained within the room.
Once your walls are up and doors are hinged, treated palm tree wood is a suitable and even beautiful material for the construction of chairs, flooring, and bed frames.
Palm Tree Trunk as Fuel
Another of the many palm tree trunk uses includes fuel. Palm tree trunks are not suitable for firewood because they burn fast and don't produce a lot of heat. However, palm tree trunks can be processed into charcoal briquettes, as one plant in the Philippines produces. The palm tree charcoal briquettes have quality heating properties and produce less smoke than wood burning.
As palm wood uses expand into home construction, heating, and even furniture, consumers are likely to see this versatile wood resource become a household staple around the world.
- Food and Agriculture Organization: Uses of Coconut Wood and Markets
- Food and Agriculture Organization: Palm Trees
- Wood Based Panels International: Oil Palm Wood — An Untapped Resource
- Science Direct: An Investigation of Thermal Conductivity and Sound Absorption From Binderless Panels Made of Oil Palm Wood as Bio-Insulation Materials