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What is Pecan Wood?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Pecan wood is wood from the pecan tree, a North American native which belongs to the hickory family. Sometimes pecan wood is labeled as hickory wood, and woods from other hickory species may be mixed with it at some sawmills. Use of this wood is primarily isolated to the United States, with most of the timber produced in North America remaining there. In the United States, pecan is one of the bestselling wood products for finishing such as flooring, counters, and trim.

This wood has a golden to creamy color, with reddish heartwood. It is close grained, dense, and very hard; pecan is one of the hardest woods readily available, making it especially suitable for applications such as flooring, in which soft woods are not ideal because they tend to break down. Pecan's hardness can actually be a problem, as it tends to dull saws and bend nails.

The primary drawback to pecan wood is that it has a high moisture content, and it can shrink dramatically. When using this wood, people should make sure that it is fully cured, or they may run into problems as the wood shrinks. Green pecan wood can also warp as it shrinks, which can create other issues. This wood also tends to take best to screws, rather than nails, and it can help to predrill it to facilitate the process of joinery.

A number of finishes can be used with pecan wood. The wood takes stain well after drying, and it can also be varnished with both dull and matte varnishes. Many people like to simply sand it to smooth it and lightly finish it, allowing the natural grain of the pecan wood to show. Pecan wood can also be painted. In some construction projects, it may be used with other visually interesting woods to create a rich pattern of textures and colors, as seen in pecanwood tables, chairs, and other woodworking projects.

In addition to being used in construction, pecan wood can also be used for smoking and other cooking tasks. Like other members of the hickory family, it can impart a rich, complex flavor to foods smoked over pecan logs or charcoal with pecan chips. It can also be used to make grilling planks for foods such as seafood. Pecan wood chips and grilling planks should be soaked before use so that they will release their scent slowly over time, rather than simply burning.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By bythewell — On Jun 27, 2011

Pecans take a long time to get to the point where you can use them as hardwood flooring, but if you want to give it a try you can console yourself with the delicious nuts for a few decades before you cut it down.

There are a few types that will start to bear nuts around five years after you plant them (as a young tree, it takes much longer if they are grown from seed).

You also need to have at least two different kinds of trees in close proximately for them to cross pollinate or they won't bear good crops.

Get some good advice on how to trim and shape the tree when it is young and it will make some excellent timber one day.

By that point you might be too attached to harm it though.

By umbra21 — On Jun 26, 2011

One of the most environmentally friendly ways you can source pecan lumber is to find a company which clears pecan plantation trees.

The trees need huge amounts of space to grow well, as they need a lot of sunshine and they grow to be big trees over the three hundred or so years that they will produce nuts.

So, often trees in plantations will be thinned out, and sometimes the wood is just burned.

But more often now there are companies which sell the wood of the trees that have to be culled.

Since they are going to be cut anyway, and they aren't really part of a forest ecosystem, you can buy this wood with a clear conscience.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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