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Houston Zoo Elephant Walk

Over the years zoos around the world have evolved from cramped, unnatural shelters to more natural, larger enclosures with water features, native plants, and built-in enrichment areas to provide the animals with physical and mental stimulation. In addition to being a more pleasing environment for the animals, it also creates a more beautiful, spacious environment for human visitors.

The Houston Zoo recently upgraded its Asian elephant enclosure and included a stunning Ipé walkway with observation platforms and seating. Forney Construction, based in Houston, was awarded the project as general contractor, and they in turn hired Sparq 1200, a visual environment specialist, as subcontractor. Sparq 1200, relying on previous experience, knew Overseas Hardwoods Company was easy to work with and provided the highest quality product.

 Sparq 1200 had a vision for how to economically complete the walkway and hired House Partners Architecture, an Ipé-installation expert, to install it. OHC came onsite for a consultation and suggested some changes which enabled Sparq 1200 to cut costs and save money. John Bone, President and Owner of Sparq 1200, commented, “Working with OHC was great; they understand dynamics of large commercial jobs and react to stay ahead of the game.” OHC exotic hardwoods are ideal for public spaces thanks to their durability and lifespan; they’re an excellent economical choice considering how long they last, even in high-traffic areas.

The zoo expansion doubled the size of the elephant enclosure, adding a 7,000 square-foot barn for the bull elephants, a 160,000 gallon pond with a state-of-the-art filtration system, and of course, the Ipé walkway. 

The walkway itself meanders around the perimeter of the enclosure, with two elevations, creating an auditorium-like area where visitors can sit or stand to enjoy the elephants. Sparq 1200’s creative design was approved for the shade structure, made of overlapping Ipé squares comprising a pyramid shape, to provide a cooler observation spot on a hot summer day. Additional skirting around the bottom of the walkway was also crafted from Ipé.

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Ipé was chosen both for its long lifespan and its beauty. It can withstand the hot Texas sun with stability and without splitting or splintering, and it naturally resists insect attacks, rot and decay near the water features.

The walkway must stand up against the thousands of visitors it receives each day. To provide traction, OHC machined a 1 3/16” line into every other board to create an anti-skid traction area, keeping everyone safe, from small children to elderly visitors and everyone in between. John Bone again praised OHC, noting that “OHC’s processing capabilities enable us to have precise machining for the traction groove, saving time and creating a very consistent result.”

OHC lumber is a win for the zoo, creating a safe, beautiful and long-lasting habitat for the elephants and humans, and a win for the project’s contractors. In fact, Fortney Construction and Sparq 1200 had such a good experience that they’ll be utilizing OHC hardwoods for several upcoming major public space projects.

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Porch Decking

Homeowners today are looking for ways to maximize outdoor spaces, bringing comfort and functionality to gardens, patios, and decks, and outdoor living rooms and outdoor kitchens have never been more popular than they are today. Many of these outdoor rooms share a common feature: porch decking.

Porch decking, sometimes called porch flooring, differs from regular decking in several ways. First, porch decking is always installed under a roof. This can be in a screened-in porch or an open porch, but it must be covered. 

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Unlike regular decking, porch decking is installed without gaps between boards. Since this decking/flooring is covered, the boards are protected from expansion and contraction caused by UV-rays and precipitation. This is the very reason gaps are necessary in an uncovered deck application. Porch decking is typically sold in a tongue and grooved pattern. Occasionally, some prefer a shiplap pattern.

Porch decking can be installed with the boards either parallel or perpendicular to the house. This can be an aesthetic decision made by the homeowner or designer, but it can also be used for more practical purposes, such as to direct water runoff or to allow the contractor to fit a board into a tight space.

Porch decking is commonly available in treated Pine or several species of exotic hardwoods: Ipé, Garapa, Cumaru, and Tigerwood. For a variety of reasons these exotic hardwoods are a superior choice for porch decking over treated woods like Pine. Treated wood splinters and cracks over time, and requires a much more significant amount of maintenance. Exotic hardwoods are harder and more dense, with closer growth rings, and they naturally resist pests, mold, and rot. The lifespan of treated wood is much shorter than the lifespan of an exotic hardwood.

OHC’s exotic hardwood porch decking will enhance any outdoor project, combining quality and beauty for a porch that’s sure to please any homeowner.

5 Rivers revisited

5 Rivers, Alabama’s Delta Resource Center, is a dream location for an outdoor lover. Named for the five rivers that converge into the Mobile Bay, 5 Rivers was created to protect the extraordinary variety of plant and animal species in the freshwater and marine ecosystems found there, as well as the wetlands, waterways, and woods.

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Visitors to 5 Rivers enjoy kayaking, canoeing, hiking, nature cruising, camping, and bird watching. They also take advantage of the theater, convention center, classrooms, exhibit hall, and gift shop. 

Existing walkways, piers, and shelter platforms were originally made with Pine decking, which required a nearly continuous maintenance. Eventually these structures needed to be replaced. The State of Alabama contracted with Gillis Construction, a well-respected construction company from Bay Minette, Alabama, to replace the old, degrading Pine structures with new ones made from Overseas Hardwoods Company’s Ipé. Since several sites were accessible only by river, Gillis Construction outfitted their crew to get up and down the river using a barge loaded with supplies, adapting well to a rather challenging construction site.

The choice to use Ipé was an easy one, as it can withstand the area’s high temperatures and humidity, as well as contact with water, all without compromising its natural beauty. Because Ipé is so durable, it requires little maintenance and can last for over 25 years. Additionally, unlike Pine, Ipé does not require chemical treatments to enhance durability, so leaching chemicals into the watershed and ecosystem will not occur. These qualities make it an economical and environmentally-friendly choice for a state-owned property.

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This comprehensive project recently reached completion. The projects include an extensive boardwalk, four shelter platforms, kayak launch, eagle and osprey nesting platforms as well as a variety of areas to commune with nature. The shelter platforms provide a covered and enclosed space to sleep or take cover from the elements. The nesting platforms look like a telephone poll with a box at the top, and create a safe place away from power lines, light and cell phone towers for these indigenous birds to nest.

Maintaining an ecosystem requires protecting flora and fauna from humans as well as protect humans interacting with flora and fauna. Included in this project are areas with specially designed fencing to curtail feral hog activity. Feral, or wild, hogs can damage delicate ecosystems, native wildlife, and can be very aggressive towards humans. The new fencing is made of not only durable, but very strong Ipé and a thick gauge of square, wire fencing to restrict access to feral hogs.

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These improvements to 5 Rivers provide a service for the public, making the park safer while providing more access to the incredible wild spaces the Mobile Delta has to offer. This wonderful utilization of state funding, with extended life expectancy, and limited maintenance, while providing excellent ways for citizens to interact with nature, will create a value for several generations of flora, fauna and of course, human beings.

Marine Grade Plywood

There are few materials in shipbuilding that are as versatile as marine-grade plywood. Whether it’s needed for construction or repair, for a craft from an 8-foot skiff to a 65-foot yacht, Overseas Hardwoods Company has the plywood solution for any boating application.

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OHC’s marine-grade plywood is made of Okoume wood with no filler material. In some lower-quality plywood another wood species is used as filler, but that type of plywood simply isn’t high enough quality to meet OHC standards. All of OHC’s Okoume marine-grade plywood is BS-1088  certified, which means this plywood is manufactured to the highest standards approved by Lloyd’s of London, the premium insurance underwriter in the world.

 Okoume is a superb choice for marine-grade plywood not just for its high quality, but also for its good looks. When used in repairs on Mahogany or Meranti boats, the grain pattern blends in, creating a consistent, flawless look.

 OHC carries eight different sizes of marine-grade plywood for everything from high-end custom kayak or canoe to a large yacht. The 4x8’ sheets are available in six different thicknesses, and the 5x10’ sheets are available in two different thicknesses. Small watercraft builders may utilize the 4mm plywood, as it bends and shapes easily without cracking, and increases buoyancy. Yacht and larger watercraft builders might be more interested in the 12-25mm plywood for a durable hull, to withstand larger waves or a treacherous, rocky passage.

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For building, marine-grade plywood can be used over the boat’s ribbing, creating the outer shell of the boat. Choosing plywood over planking means less seams to fill which creates a streamlined and more efficient building process. A plywood hull can also be lighter weight than planking, which is particularly helpful for smaller watercraft, as it increases buoyancy and makes it easier to haul.

 Marine-grade plywood also proves itself useful for repairs. The rotten, moldy, or damaged area can be cut out and a patch can be crafted using the plywood. If constructed and sealed properly, the repair can make the watercraft as good as new.

Besides boating, marine grade plywood can be used for other applications. It can be used for a dock or lake platform, as the plywood can be nailed or screwed together and then properly sealed. Another possible application is kitchen or bathroom walls and subflooring. Marine grade plywood can withstand the occasional splashes, spills, and leaks that are common to these rooms, without rotting or warping like regular plywood. Exterior signs also benefit from being made of marine grade plywood. Marine grade plywood can withstand the elements, from strong winds to rain, sleet and snow, without degrading like traditional plywood.


Whether a big or small project, from boats to homes to docks and more, and whether for new construction or a repair, Overseas Hardwoods Company’s marine-grade plywood is the quality solution for strength and durability.


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Lowboy Trailer Flooring

Lowboy Trailer Flooring

Imagine a truck strong enough to haul two army tanks or excavating equipment for a rock quarry. Now imagine it travelling down the interstate next to your relatively small vehicle. Don’t you want to know that the trailer flooring supporting that machinery is the strongest, best type for the load? Luckily, if it’s made with lowboy trailer flooring from Overseas Hardwoods Company, you know that equipment is safe and secure.

Overseas Hardwoods Company provides Lowboy trailer flooring for the majority of the finest manufacturers of lowboy trailers. These manufacturers, using OHC flooring, craft trailers that haul mammoth wind turbines, cranes, drilling equipment, and heavy-duty equipment made to tunnel through miles-wide mountains.


Lowboy trailers haul anywhere from 35-500 tons (in some cases). Because of this ultra-heavy load, the trailer flooring must be much thicker than flooring for other types of trailers, from 1 ¾” up to 3” thick, compared to 1 ⅛” to 1 ⅜” thick for platform flats and drop decks. It also must be rated high enough to withstand the weight.

Wood is an ideal material for lowboy trailers because it can withstand the impact of bumps and dips in the road, and steel on wood gives the flooring the elasticity necessary to carry such a load. Having the right floor to carry the product and not cause damage is vital.

Lowboy flooring, like all of OHC’s trailer flooring, is made from Apitong/Keruing, a sustainably harvested hardwood proven to last in any weather, under the most rugged conditions, and in heavy-duty use. This high-quality lumber species decreases repairs and maintenance and has a well-earned reputation as the best species for trailer flooring.

The next time you see an oversized piece of equipment barreling down the road, rest easy. It’s probably traveling on the best lowboy flooring, made with OHC’s lumber.

Meranti shutters

Meranti Shutters Hinge on Quality

It’s commonly known that shutters were first used in ancient Greece to provide privacy and protect from light and the elements. From Greece, shutters spread west to Spain and England, which then influenced shutter use in the United States, where they can be seen on historic homes such as Monticello and Mount Vernon. Spanish-style shutters were most popular in the South, now known as Plantation Shutters, while the English-style shutters were most commonly used in New England. Over time, shutters have evolved in design and use, but remain popular to this day.

Centuries ago high-quality lumber species, like Mahogany, were often used for shutters, but with mass production and the post-World War II housing boom, manufacturers began using less expensive woods like Southern Yellow Pine. These soft wood shutters rotted and degraded more rapidly under constant exposure to rain, sun, and elements. Eventually vinyl, plastic, and other synthetic materials were used and while these didn’t rot like Pine, they looked cheap and  incongruous on an otherwise lovely home.

Today’s best millwork shops are returning to high-quality hardwood species like Meranti for shutters that last for decades, making them an excellent economical choice over the life of the shutter.

Nemesu Shutter sample.jpgMeranti is highly sought after for shutters for many reasons, both aesthetic and practical. For the homeowner, this wood species looks rich and warm with a stain, or looks just as beautiful with paint. With proper maintenance, either finish can last for decades.

Some importers selling Meranti market it as “DUC” (Dark Uniform Color) which is a misnomer, as there is a wide variance in appearance and performance. Unfortunately, this results in a product with disparate hues and poor quality. However, in order to deliver the enduring performance and more uniform appeal, Overseas Hardwoods Company offers two distinct, selected species of Meranti in its High Performance Lumber Products line. The first, Nemesu, is a dense/dark species, and the second, Dark Red Seraya, is a medium dense/dark species. Both have a rich, warm color range. By limiting our supply to two specific types, we ensure a consistent, reliable appearance and enduring qualities. Meranti also naturally resists rotting and pests, thanks to naturally-occurring oils in the wood, which is why it works well in exterior applications. Additionally, Meranti machines well, stays flat, and doesn’t warp, if painted or sealed correctly. It cuts well when going through the moulding machine, and doesn’t beat up the machinery.

Meranti is the economical choice for high-quality, long-lasting exterior shutters. They’re beautiful, durable, and have a long life.



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Look at some of the high end tools that can be made from Meranti

Selected species of Meranti wood have long been prized for strength and durability for a variety of applications, like high-end yachts, furniture, millwork, and cabinetry.  However, Sands Level and Tools has found a surprising and beautiful new use for Meranti, also known as Philippine Mahogany, in its high-end tool collection.

Sands Level and Tools, a subsidiary of Kraft Tool Company, the largest level manufacturer in the United States, knew there was a market for beautiful, handmade, heirloom levels. It was no question that those levels would be made from Meranti, highlighted with brass or stainless steel accents.

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Sands Level and Tools makes Meranti levels with a very specific customer in mind: an artisan-craftsman who takes the utmost pride in his or her work. Just imagine a high-end finish carpenter, shipwright, or master cabinet maker pulling out an uncommon and special showpiece tool on a job site. Talk about bragging rights!  http://www.krafttool.com/

Anyone who takes this much pride in their tools must be someone who cares about details and quality work.

Meranti was chosen not just for its beautiful grain pattern that shines with only a simple coat of lacquer, but also because it’s tough and durable. Unlike a level made with a softwood, a tool made of Meranti won’t dent when dropped, and is more likely to withstand dings and scratches.

These tools aren’t for everyone. Only the most skilled, most discerning craftsmen deserve a tool as special as this. These levels are made of the finest material to be used on the finest projects.


Exotic Hardwood Siding in Residential and Commercial Projects

The last several decades have seen a boom in the use of exotic hardwoods for siding in residential and commercial projects. Contractors, architects, and homeowners see the value in the investment of a long lasting hardwood. Their durability far surpasses that of a softer wood or vinyl, which are easily dented or attacked by pests. Exotic hardwood siding is so durable that once an element is up, it’s there to stay.

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One such example is Countryside Montessori School in Northbrook, Illinois. Montessori schools have a unique educational philosophy and many of these philosophical tenets are confirmed in the look of the physical space. Countryside Montessori School values high quality, beautiful materials inside and out. They also foster a calm and peaceful environment, albeit one full of inspiration and passion.

These values are evident in the school’s building, with its beautiful Tigerwood siding.

The school is nestled into a wooded and lushly landscaped site. The building’s architects chose a variety of natural materials for the structure, from earth-red bricks to sleek stone to dark-hued Cedar beams and of course, the impressive multi-hued Tigerwood shiplap siding. Chosen for its strength, durability, and aesthetics, Tigerwood is known for its signature orange, red, and brown streaking, which grows darker in color over time, as it’s exposed to UV rays. Tigerwood is stronger than softwoods like Cedar or Pine, and has a lifespan of above 20 years. Thanks to this refined and welcoming building, the peaceful learning environment begins before students even walk in the door.


Residential projects have also seen an increase in the use of exotic hardwoods as siding. A stunning example of this comes from a private home in Wisconsin near Lake Michigan. Built in 2015, this contemporary home features a rain screen made from Ipe, an exotic, Brazilian hardwood. A rain screen is a system of slats slightly offset from a building, which allows for maximum airflow while giving the building depth and visual interest.

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This particular home, in its lakeside setting, required a wood species that could withstand the marine conditions and the massive snowfall of the area, making Ipe an ideal choice. Ipe boasts over 30-year life expectancy, and is naturally pest- and rot-resistant. For this home, it was an easy choice. The richness and luster of the Ipe is perfectly highlighted against the green tones of the grassy and wooded lot, and the sleekness of the lumber enhances the clean, modern lines of the home.


Finally, the Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago, Illinois, updated its building in 2012 by adding an Ipe facade to its first permanent home. The internationally renowned Black Ensemble Theater was founded in 1976 and has become such a cultural institution that it’s supported by the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois. Combined with modern glass and concrete construction, the Ipe siding adds warmth and texture that would otherwise be lacking. The theater is an innovator in the arts community, and it needed a building that would reflect its innovation. Ipe was again chosen for this project for its beauty, strength, and durability. The Black Ensemble Theater chose to invest in a design element that both lasts for decades and suits the ethos of the theater company.


With these impressive and attractive examples it’s easy to understand the increase in exotic hardwood siding for residential and commercial applications, and when each species’ properties are taken into account, the appeal of these hardwoods is obvious.


In 1986 a Brazilian industrialist had a dream to build a three-masted staysail schooner. Handsome, powerful, and iconic, Peacemaker (originally christened Avany) was built by hand, using traditional methods, on a riverbank in southern Brazil. Built from the finest tropical hardwoods, including the highly desirable Brazilian hardwood Ipe, this ship stood out amongst more modern-looking boats.  



In 2000 a religious group bought Avany and spent the next seven years replacing all of the ship’s mechanical and electrical systems and rigging it as a barquentine, which is essentially a tall ship with three or more masts, with a square rigged foremast and fore-and-aft rigged main.


In the spring of 2007 the refurbished vessel set sail under the new name, Peacemaker. Since that initial voyage in 2007 Peacemaker has been sailing around the world teaching young people valuable seamanship, navigation, sailing and boat maintenance skills. It’s also been used as an event space and a dockside attraction from Ontario, Canada to Brazil.


In 2013, while on a voyage north from Brazil, Peacemaker found itself in need of hull repairs, and based on the word-of-mouth recommendations from seamen in the know, her captain docked in Mobile Bay to avail himself of Overseas Hardwoods Company’s unparalleled selection and service.


OHC invited the captain to select the specific 4”x12”x22’ long Ipe planks needed to make the hull repairs. After a short two weeks Peacemaker was once again seaworthy and as commanding as ever. There’s no doubt that anyone needing an exotic hardwoods supplier will be equally satisfied by the exceptional service, quality, and sheer volume of board feet OHC has available.

Posted in Ipe, Marine | Leave a comment

Nina repairs

Ask any American what he or she learned about Christopher Columbus’ arrival at the Americas and you’ll likely hear two things. First, in the year of 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Second, his three ships were the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.



The names of the ships evoke visions of billowing white sails, towering masts, and salty ocean spray. Textbook illustrators have offered drawings of these ships, but one ambitious and creative team decided to recreate the ships for a more immersive, living experience.


In 1986 the Columbus Foundation formed in the British Virgin Islands with the idea to recreate the vessels that arrived on American shores in 1492. The Niña was built in the fishing village of Valenca, Brazil, by expert shipbuilders using only hand tools such as axes, adzes, hand saws and chisels.


An American engineer and maritime historian joined local shipwrights known for using a traditional 15th-century shipbuilding technique likely used by the Spanish builders of the original ships. The Niña was launched in 1992 and is known to be the most authentic reproduction ever built.


In 2005 the foundation launched their second reproduction, the Pinta. The Pinta is a faithful reproduction of the original, except 15 feet longer and eight feet wider, to accommodate more visitors at one time.


There are currently no plans to build a reproduction Santa Maria as it had a larger draft, making it too large to navigate some of waterways in which the Niña and the Pinta sail.


These two ships currently operate as a touring maritime museum, sailing ten months of the year to different ports from Mobile Bay, AL to Clinton, IA and a multitude of other ports from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast to the Great Lakes and the Midwestern River System.


In 2010 the Niña suffered some damages caused by a cooking fire. Her captain, Morgan Sanger, heard from trusted sources that Overseas Hardwoods Company had Ipe lumber in all the sizes he needed, so he docked the Niña in Mobile Bay. Captain Sanger selected the best material for repairs including 6x6 timbers and a large quantity of 8/4 lumber.


Since 2010 the Niña and the Pinta have sailed to Mobile Bay every two years on their way north via the Midwestern River System. Their captains know that if their vessels require any further repairs, OHC will be able to provide them with the highest quality Ipe for every possible board length required.

Posted in Ipe, Marine | Leave a comment