What Is CLT Flooring?

CLT lumber board

If you haven't already heard of CLT flooring, it's only a matter of time before this building material is everywhere. It's a relatively new material compared to others that are used in home building, but CLT is becoming more popular and gaining more attention all the time.

This sturdy, sustainable material can replace other building materials that do more harm to the environment and arguably don't look as nice as natural timber. After all, who doesn't love a wood floor? What is CLT flooring... and why are you going to want it?

Many builders are starting to become more familiar with CLT flooring, which was first created in Europe. CLT has already been used throughout Europe for several projects, and now, it is becoming more popular with builders and designers all over North America. Why is this material poised to take the construction world by storm?

What Is CLT?

CLT is cross laminated timber. Structurlam Products LP, founded in 1962, was the first company to open a CLT plant in North America. Their proprietary CLT is known as CrossLam, and it can be used for flooring, walls, and roofs. It serves as a replacement for concrete, but it's much lighter, and it's made with wood, a renewable and sustainable resource.

Unlike other construction materials, such as concrete and steel, wood literally grows right out of the round. Planting trees is actually good for the environment. Making steel and concrete, by contrast, is not good for the environment.

More and more, people are noticing the damage the construction industry has done to the planet and continues to do to the planet. Sustainable alternatives like CLT are becoming more attractive all the time.

According to the International Building Code, CLT can be used as a structural support system in construction, so long as it adheres to certain standards and protocols for strength. The material is approved for roofs, walls, and flooring. It is load-bearing, and it can be used to build a strong, supportive structure for any building.

But what is it? How is it made? CLT is a pretty simple design that's capable of supporting complex structures of all kinds. Layered lumber boards, usually three to seven boards, are stacked crosswise at 90-degree angles and glued together. Boards are 5/8 inch to 2 inches thick.

CLT is stacked so that the grain patterns of the boards alternate, which makes each panel stronger. Several layers of boards create several layers of strength to make CLT exceptionally strong and durable.

CLT lumber stacked

Advantages of Using CLT

CLT is naturally fire-resistant. It is more apt to char than to burn. The char actually creates a protective barrier that protects the wood without compromising strength. CLT is not completely fireproof, but it is remarkably fire-resistant. This is a huge feature for homeowners for obvious reasons. Anything that offers safety is definitely worth noticing.

When correctly installed and maintained, CLT will not mold or rot. This is another feature that homeowners appreciate. Any sort of mold or rot resistance also contributes to home safety.

Mold of any kind can cause health issues, and it can be a huge problem to remove. It’s a problem no homeowner wants to deal with. Any material that can resist this problem is clearly valuable for any home construction.

But how strong is CLT, really? How well does it actually compare to more tried-and-true building materials, such as steel and concrete? After all, these materials have been used for centuries to erect powerfully strong, tall, and sturdy buildings that can withstand both the test of time and the weather.

Well, CLT is very much comparable to these other, perhaps more common, building materials. CLT is so strong it's even been used to construct skyscrapers.

And as for the environmental features associated with CLT, the selling points are strong enough to sway anyone who believes in sustainable construction and environmentally-friendly design. For starters, it’s sustainable. Wood grows out of the ground, after all. But that’s not all.

Many companies manufacture CLT panels and flooring using wood grown in sustainably managed forests. When trees are cut down in these forests for construction purposes, new trees are planted. This means that the trees are not being depleted, and there are always new construction materials available for use.

Environmental Advantages

There are lots of reasons why CLT is superior from an environmental safety standpoint to concrete and steel, which are two of the most common structural materials used in building.

Compared to steel and concrete, manufacturing CLT requires a reduced carbon footprint. In other words, it takes less energy to make CLT than it does to create a building using concrete and steel. This is a big selling point for anyone who puts environmental concerns on their list of construction must-haves.

Because CLT is also quick to assemble and arrives on the building site in pre-assembled panels that can be put into place, it takes less time to install CLT floor than some other options. This can also reduce the energy used on the construction site, which is another boost for the Earth.

CLT buildings and building components are also relatively quick to construct. There is no hot work associated with constructing CLT buildings, and it leaves a clean building site behind.

CLT leaves behind a clean construction site, something else that’s good for the environment. In other words, those who lean toward sustainable construction practices will find lots of reasons to love the idea of betting cross laminated timber flooring.

The environmental features of CLT are among the main reasons this material has been gaining so much popularity in recent years in the construction industry.

More and more designers are looking for sustainable solutions in building, and more of them are using CLT as a more eco-friendly alternative to more traditionally, commonly-used materials. Soon, it may be CLT that is more common than other, less environmentally-friendly options.

CLT lumber construction

Why CLT Flooring?

Even if sustainability isn't one of your big construction concerns, there are good reasons to consider CLT flooring. CLT panels are shipped and delivered ready to install, so they can be installed relatively quickly and simply. In this way, CLT is easier to install than traditional hardwood.

But how does CLT compare to real hardwood flooring overall? CLT flooring is stronger than traditional lumber flooring, actually. It wears extremely well, it’s highly supportive, and it can be cut and shaped and made to fit a room of any size.

Cross laminated timber has a yellow-white natural shading, and small knots are visible throughout the wood. Usually, CLT is made from a combination of larch, pine, spruce, and other hardwoods. The grain is fine to medium.

Finished CLT flooring has a very nice look and can be sealed to have a glossy shine. CLT most closely resembles knotty pine, though the color shade is a bit lighter.

Wood flooring never goes out of style. It's always beautiful and has a timeless, high-quality look to it. You just can't go wrong with wood flooring of any kind in any room of the home.

Wood has a high-end look that immediately sets a space apart. People invariably notice wood floors and comment on them because they stand out as something that is high quality. In other words, you can’t make a mistake with CLT from a design standpoint.

CLT vs Glulam

So what's the difference between CLT, cross laminated timber, and glulam, wood that is stacked and glued together? Lile CLT, glulam is assembled from thin wooden planks that are pressed together to form a thicker, solid piece of wood used for flooring and other types of home construction.

But this is where the similarities end. Glulam wooden boards are stacked with the grain facing all in the same direction, whereas CLT is stacked so that the grain runs opposite on each board.

CLT lumber

How Is CLT Made?

Creating CLT flooring begins with harvesting and debarking trees. Hardwoods are used, with spruce being the most common wood type found in cross laminated timber.

Typically, the wood is composed of pine and larch, along with spruce. Bark is removed from trees with large machines that have rollers on them. The discarded bark can be used for compost or in materials for burning.

After the bark is removed, the wood is dried. Moisture not only makes the wood damp and therefore more difficult to work with, but it also causes wood to expand. Wood shrinks as it dries. Kilns are used to dry the wood quickly in hot, insulated chambers so that it can be processed and readied for construction purposes.

The dried and debarked wood is cut and ground into flat panels. Machines are used for this process. The grinding removes cracks, bulges, and other imperfections in the wood after it's been cut. This leaves behind smooth, thin panels that are less than 1/2 inch thick.

Waterproof adhesive is sprayed onto both sides of the wooden panels, then the panels are pressed together in alternating grain patterns. Heat and pressure are used to press all the panels together.

The glue and the pressure and heat create a seal that turns the thin planks into solid pieces of wood. The planks are then cut into the panels, trimmed to size, and the CLT manufacturing process is complete.

CLT lumber boards

What Else Should You Know About CLT?

CLT has a lot of amazing qualities, and it has a nice look to it as well. However, CLT is more expensive than your other options. It costs more than steel or concrete.

And since CLT is still relatively new, at least compared to other materials, there aren't a ton of manufacturers creating it. You have to find a manufacturer who provides CLT and pay to have the CLT shipped to your building site. Depending on how far away these companies are from your site, this could become a big expense.

You may not always have an easy time finding someone to install CLT, either. For those who don't know it, CLT can be difficult to work with.

What Is CLT Flooring?

CLT flooring is a strong blend of hardwoods that have been treated and manufactured to create an incredibly durable, fire-resistant, and safe material that can be used to create very nice-looking floors.

It's eco-friendly, and it's becoming an incredibly popular building material for many different reasons. What is CLT flooring? It might be the hot, trendy flooring that you start to see in all the new homes. Go take a look at some CLT flooring samples. You may find that it's just the right thing for your home.

CLT Flooring FAQ

CLT lumber stacked

Where Can You Find CLT Flooring?

CLT flooring is still not widely available everywhere. Not all manufacturers know how to make it or install it. You may have to do some looking around before you find the right supplier and installer for your CLT flooring. Depending on your geographic location, you may have to do some research to find the right companies to get your CLT floor installed.

Can CLT Floor Be Stained?

CLT floor panels can be treated just like any other type of wood. CLT can be stained, painted or varnished just like any other type of wood. It should be cleaned and maintained just like any other wood.

After all, CLT is wood! It's made with a wood blend, and it's pressed into a specific design, but because it's made with real wood it is still real wood. That means you should clean it, polish it and treat it just as any other wood floor.

Where Can You Have CLT Flooring?

Where in your home can you have CLT flooring placed? CLT can be placed in any room of the home. It can even be used for decking outside. Use it in the kitchen, living areas, bedroom, or anywhere in your home that you'd like to have wood floors.

Further Reading

About Laying Concrete

Basic Wood Floor Care

Building A House With Steel Framing

Hardwood Floor Care Made Easy

How To Waterproof A Wood Floor