The bark of trees was a waste material of the forest industry. Over thirty years ago, company co-founder and product designer Marty McCurry saw the new potential for the bark material in crafting wall finishes. McCurry created a new product that would not only perform functionally in construction, it’s raw form would connect people to the forest and support a re-valuation of the system of Forestry.
Step One was identifying the structural qualities necessary for the bark to be up-cycled into a viable product that would last.
Without Stringent Grading, Bark Finishes Will Not Last
Bark is a wood product that is not recognized by the National Hardwoods Lumber Association and therefore, it has no grading standards. NHLA rules help determine the value of products and what specific wood products can be used for in construction. The standards also support consistent communication across all industry sectors and to customers. For example, when talking about flooring, the Grades include “clear” and “select”. Clear flooring has little variation in color, with no knots or other defects in the wood, and comes in long lengths. Select Grade usually contains a small amount of color, minimal character markings, and an average overall length. When talking about lumber, #1 Grade contains smaller, fewer, sound, tight knots, and has less wane than found in #2 Grade. The differences in the Grades may relate to visual impacts or they may relate to structural performance.
There are no industry standards for the grading of bark. No degree programs exist that educate makers about the characteristics, how it is expected to perform or how it will last. Without proper grading, the material integrity can be compromised and wall finishes made of bark will not last.
Proper Bark Grading Is Based On Science
Proper grading of bark is a complex process based on science. With educational preparation in Pulp and Paper and Chemical Engineering from NC State University as well as Architecture from UNCC, McCurry established the proprietary standards used exclusively at Bark House in the making of beautiful and lasting bark wall finishes and introduced this product to the marketplace. Because we understand the importance of properly grading a non-standard material, we are the only company that has always performed 100% of grading and manufacturing in-house.
The proper grading and culling of the bark material is an important first step that determines the viability of the bark and leads to product longevity. The variables center around the cellular structure and growth pattern of the bark and show up on the surface when you know what to look for. Elevation, latitude, location of the tree in hollows or ridges, wet or dry locations, the sun’s exposure from one side of the trunk to the other, how close the bark is to the ground or the canopy, and invasions by pests are all variables that have specific impacts that affect the structure and performance of the bark in a building application.
The bark grows in different thicknesses along the span of a single tree. The thickness of the material is one aspect that determines adequate integrity for the rigors of exterior applications and any finish manipulations for interiors. Bark House Thickness Standards are strictly adhered to during the intake process. An interior grade bark does not have the structural integrity to hold up the rigor of changes in moisture and temperature or the proper fastening of exterior installations.
Besides varying bark thickness on a tree, the bark can also have a widely varying physical structure. In some cases, sections of bark on a tree can become scaly or can have a grain pattern that will cause it to lose structural stability if applied to a wall. Knot or limb scars. while beautiful to look at, have to be carefully evaluated to determine if their contour and location on a shingle are acceptable for performance. Any raw bark that has checks and cracks is quickly discarded in the initial intake grading. The length of time between harvesting and processing is narrow and if exceeded can result in the bark fermenting and breaking down.
The experts at Bark House have been properly trained in identifying these structural patterns. They have learned the material that must be culled and the bark that makes the grade. Bark House® Proprietary Standards of Manufacturing have a proven track record of over thirty years.
Ensuring Quality Standards Throughout Manufacturing
Manufacturing does not occur without a supply chain, and there was not one for bark. Marty educated loggers who care for forest health about the proper procurement of quality bark materials – establishing quality standards for supply and chain-of-custody verification and documentation. This is a major function that our team carries out today and means that your purchase protects personal and public property and ensures the best management forestry practices.
Air-tight construction amplified the necessity for all building materials to be properly treated and dried. In the wood industry, kilns were designed for the drying of wood, which has a different cellular structure than bark. The porous bark has a different function than wood as it allows nutrients and air to flow to the tree while also protecting the wood beneath. To stabilize the bark material without a chemical process, McCurry engineered kilns specially designed for the task. His kilns received the NC Governor’s Innovation Award. The monitoring system verifies the moisture level is optimal for every pallet made.
Good builders fret over the quality of materials that go into their projects. They know that materials that are warped, splintered, and out of square cost time on the job which translates to increased building costs and poorly built structures. The skilled team at Bark House has established quality control standards and specially designed equipment to address issues that affect builders. The result is products that can be installed quicker, don’t have irregular gaps for water to seep into, and are free of issues that compromise longevity.
Proper installation finishes the project and is the last step in ensuring that products perform and lasts as intended. Installing non-standard products that are organic in form can be a new experience for builders. We’ve removed the guesswork. Every product that we sell is accompanied by specific installation guides. Because there is no way to address every nuance at the job site, technical support is provided by two licensed contractors to your on-site professionals when requested.
Client Approved, Third Party Verified
Nothing substitutes for third-party verification of product claims. The manufacturing process at Bark House is so rigorous that it benefits people and nature with impacts on carbon, water, and soil having been verified by third-party certifications. Our poplar wall finishes hold more carbon than all the carbon that is produced in their manufacturing, use no water in their direct manufacturing, and biodegrade to build clean soil at end-of-life. These factors combined with meeting material health requirements of the Cradle to Cradle certification strategy earned Bark House the world’s first PLATINUM level product certification. This is a verification of quality that you can rely on. See Bark House World Class Certifications and Awards Here.