Thermory aims to make a big dent in the U.S.’s treated wood products market by focusing on aesthetics, performance, and low maintenance.
One of our favorite stories from the 2019 International Builders’ Show is wood decking and siding manufacturer Thermory’s push into the U.S. market after more than 20 years of popularity in Europe (and in the other 50+ countries where their products are now sold). Included in the lines being brought to the States is Drift, the company’s first prefinished product, and Ignite, a soon-to-be-released siding inspired by shou sugi ban.
Drift was created, at least in part, in response to Thermory’s standard line, its Benchmark series. “It’s a heat-treated product that we sell unfinished,” says Mark Challinor, one of the company’s principals. “Buyers can choose to have the wood oiled, to keep its original color, or they can let it eventually turn to a silvery gray.” It was that gray hue that inspired Drift, although the line includes several additional colors, all going for the “aged” look. “With a growing consumer inclination towards reclaimed materials,” Challinor says, “we decided to make a product with the dependability of treated wood, but the look of age.”
Thermory achieved Drift’s effect by running heat-treated spruce, pine, and ash through a three-step wire brushing and exterior staining process. Like all of its products, Drift is rated to resist rot and decay for more than 20 years, and performs particularly well in markets where untreated wood tends to fail. “It’s why you’ll see Thermory in a lot of ski resorts,” Challinor says. “They want the look of wood but it can’t hold up in the climate. Our modified wood can.”
Ignite was Thermory’s big reveal of the show—a new product set to be released in late April or May, Challinor says. It mimics the look of a Japanese wood-treating technique called shou sugi ban, an increasingly popular trend in the U.S. The process involves charring timber boards which, when done right, effectively seals and protects the wood’s interior. “It strengthens the wood in a way similar to our heat treatment, but without the ease,” Challinor says.
One difference is that shou sugi ban doesn’t work on all woods; traditionalists of the technique strongly suggest that you only use cedar, because its composition reacts uniquely to the burn. Another difference is the char on shou sugi ban wood is real, so it flakes easily. It’s called a “dynamic” wood, because its look is meant to change over time. You can better preserve shou sugi ban’s fresh charring by occasionally applying tung oil, but the risk of char flaking off on skin and clothes, and eventually fading, remains.
“The big difference is we don’t char our wood to get that black, alligator-skin look that homeowners are going to ask their remodeler for,” Challinor says. Instead, Thermory puts its modified wood through an embossing process for texture and then uses a black finish. “You get the benefits of heat treating and the proper char without risk of soot flaking or rubbing off,” he says. “There is no maintenance after install.”