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 the 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 several 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 out 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.
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1How Many Trees Does it Takes to Build a House? (2021, 29 June). Home Preservation Manual. <https://www.homepreservationmanual.com/how-many-trees-to-build-a-house/#:%7E:text=Hardwood%20floors%2C%20cabinets%2C%20siding%2C,for%20every%202600%20square%20feet>
2Statista. (2022, March 28). Median size of single family house in the U.S. 2000–2020. Retrieved June 14, 2022, from <https://www.statista.com/statistics/456925/median-size-of-single-family-home-usa/#:%7E:text=Median%20size%20of%20single%20family%20house%20in%20the%20U.S.%202000%2D2020&text=The%20average%20single%20family%20house,2%2C261%20square%20feet%20by%202020>
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6Tree planting “has mind-blowing potential” to tackle climate crisis. (2021, 31 August). The Guardian. <https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/04/planting-billions-trees-best-tackle-climate-crisis-scientists-canopy-emissions>
7Idaho Forests Products Commission – Home. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from <https://www.idahoforests.org/>
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14Photo by Sigmund. Unsplash. Retieved from <https://unsplash.com/photos/CwTfKH5edSk>
15Photo by Liam Pozz. Unsplash. Retrieved from <https://unsplash.com/photos/Iwo1GuxCeGg>
16Photo by A n v e s h. Unsplash. Retrieved from <https://unsplash.com/photos/sXT3daxTDGs>
17Photo by Randy Fath. Unsplash. Retrieved from <https://unsplash.com/photos/ymf4_9Y9S_A>