From Branch to Build:
The Journey of a JAG Tree
March 30, 2020
To get to the root of everything we do, start with the tree.
Far from becoming destined for the wood chipper, many trees we clear in preparation for construction have a future in each home we build. The white oaks that once populated a parcel of land? They’re reborn in a great room’s resilient flooring. The black cherry trees taken down to make way for a custom build find new life in richly grained custom kitchen built-ins. Every home we create is, quite literally, rooted in our region’s rich resources – and it doesn’t end with the trees. Area artisans and crafters take those trees and, applying their decades of knowledge and experience, help hone them into homes.
Join us on wood’s winding journey, from the ground up.
Asheville, nestled in the Blue Ridge stretch of the Appalachians, boasts a biodiversity few other U.S. cities can claim. The region is home to 158 different species of tree, more than anywhere else in North America. High up, coniferous spruce fir forests blanket the terrain; at lower elevations, the deciduous oak dominates, along with pockets of pine, cherry and walnut.
Building up with the trees we take down, JAG is at the forefront of environmentally conscious construction. Our homes are founded on sustainability: Weaving the area’s diverse native species into every one of our structures minimizes waste, reduces fuel usage, and keeps our operations local. Curious about the trees we use? Read on.
Eastern White Pine (Pinus Strobus)
This mighty pine – the tallest native conifer in the east and a highly valuable and important native tree to the Eastern U.S. – has played an important role in our country’s history: In colonial days, the best white pines, with their straight, tall, clear trunks, were set apart by the king for masts on British ships. Later, white pine lumber went into building the homes and businesses of the young nation.
Today, the white pine still features prominently in home construction; JAG uses it primarily for tongue and groove wall paneling and shiplap ceilings.
Northern Red Oak (Quercus Rubra, left photo) and White Oak (Quercus Alba, right photo)
Long prized for its legendary strength, longevity and excellent wood properties, the iconic oak stands as the official tree of many states, as well as our nation’s capital. White oak, with its microscopic tyloses that “plug” the vascular cells of the wood to make it water- and rot-resistant, was integral to building the famed USS Constitution, and is the preferred wood for wine and whiskey distillery barrels. Northern red oak, one of the most important oaks for timber production in North America, has a very open wood grain – it’s so porous that smoke can be blown through it from end-grain to end-grain. Because of this, the wood is subject to moisture infiltration and is best used indoors for things like flooring, veneer, interior trim and furniture.
In JAG homes, oak is primarily used in hardwood flooring; we also incorporate it into trim and cabinetry.
Black Cherry (Prunus Serotina)
One of the region’s most sought-after native hardwoods, black cherry boasts a striking reddish-orange hue and beautiful grain that adds to its high price. Black cherry leaves, which release the distinctive cherry-like aroma of cyanide when crushed, are toxic to herbivores, but the bark is used in wild cherry syrup cough medicine, and the edible fruit goes into making things like jelly and wine.
Because black cherry is less abundant and doesn’t grow as large in the Southeast, we use it in high-end trim, custom cabinetry and built-ins.
Eastern Black Walnut (Juglans Nigra)
This species of deciduous tree boasts a dark-colored, straight-grained, true heartwood. It is heavy, strong and shock-resistant, yet can be easily split and worked. An allelopathic species, black walnut releases chemicals from its roots that harm surrounding growth like garden plants and grasses and give the tree a competitive advantage. The fruits, walnuts, are cultivated for their distinctive and desirable taste. The wood can be kiln-dried and holds its shape well after seasoning, which makes it attractive for a variety of applications: Historically, it’s been used for everything from gun stocks and furniture to paddles and coffins.
In our homes, black walnut is incorporated into higher-end finish work and cabinets.
Black Locust (Robinia Pseudoacacia)
Native to the Southeast, black locust is one of the hardest woods in North America. It is very rot-resistant and durable, making it ideal for furniture, flooring, paneling and fence posts. Because of its hard and durable nature, it’s a very important species.
Black locust is approved by building code for use in exterior decking, which is where you’ll find it in JAG homes.
Next up: Hauling Trees That Make the Cut