DIS-TRAN Steel Blog

Why Glued Laminated Timbers Are Stronger Than Spider-Man's Web

Posted by Brooke Barone on Oct 17, 2013 2:33:00 PM

Even as technology evolves into better, faster, stronger-risk to try new things grows.

Now I’m no guru when it comes to business, but I’d be willing to bet that in order to stay competitive in your market or industry, you must embrace new eras. I’m not saying stray from the values, ideas or morals that your organization was founded on, but things do need to be evaluated in the sense of what’s going to be more economical in this day, or what makes more sense.

Some, when they see or hear about a new product, yeah they get a little intrigued, but nonetheless, become hesitant or even doubtful. As we’re holding on to our old ways that have worked for so long, we need to make sure we are embracing new ideas that can expand ourselves and business.

Glued Laminated Timbers, also known as glulam, have several benefits in their use. Being an engineered wood product, they possess specialized properties based on the performance characteristics and location of individual wood laminations. This results in greater strength and stiffness than comparable dimensional lumber. The individual wood laminations are obtainable from second and third generation forests, or new growth forests. These readily available sources allow a more economical choice and  shorter lead times.

Although delamination issues have risen in the past, adhesive technology has drastically improved. Water-resistant adhesive between laminations allows for exterior use without cause for concern. Life expectancy is equivalent to comparable solid sawn timbers. Individual laminations are still affected by defects like knots and splits, but these are less impactful on the relatively larger final product.

Four Reasons for choosing Laminated Timbers:

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  • shorter lead times, averaging about 3-4 weeks, ideal for tight construction schedule requirements
  • Prep work, like drying and surfacing has been done prior (The drying process alone takes a few weeks because the moisture has been taken out very slowly in order to avoid splitting.)


  • Doesn’t necessarily require leaning more towards old growth timbers to get larger sizes
  • Utilizes more of the timber, providing better use of raw materials in a somewhat “limited” wood basket
  • Outermost layers can be stronger grade while a lesser grade can be used in the middle (Typically, the wider the ring count, the weaker the timber.)

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  • Finger joints remove the strength reducing defects, while developing the full length of the lamination
  • The laminations are face jointed together to form the final depth of the project
  • Ideally, the finger joints are designed to be stronger than the wood itself
  • Daily structural tests on face, edge and end joints

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  • Allows for more unique dimensions in cross sections
  • Ability to buy “odd-ball” size and lengths that some mills cannot cut (The number of mills that can cut longer lengths over 26 ft. material has diminished dramatically.)

So when to use Solid Sawn over Glulam?

Although it may seem like glulam is the way to go, sometimes, depending on the project, solid sawn might still be the more economical choice. Typically, solid sawn would be the better option when dealing with shorter stock for distribution, 12 ft. and under, and in transmission up into the 26-32 ft. range. When cross arms or bracing reaches 32 ft. and over, is when it could be more economical, beneficial and allow for shorter lead times to use glulams.

Another thing to note is the recent buzz about wind farm projects picking up towards the end of this year going into 2014.  So the turbines spin, producing electricity, but that electricity still needs to somehow get from the wind farms to the substation where it can then be distributed. And the way to carry this electricity is through transmission lines. Going with glulam timbers can be the advantage your company needs in order to get the desired lengths, as well as lead times to win the project. 


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Tags: glued laminated timbers, green wood products, laminated wood transmission, wood transmission pole, wind farm projects, glulam

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