Balsam fir is a native tree species to approximately two-thirds of the eastern Boreal Forest across Canada. Balsam fir is a small-to medium-sized tree, 12 to 18 metres tall and 30 to 45 cm in diameter. In Alberta, balsam fir accounts for a small percentage of the province’s softwood inventory – approximately 3%.
Balsam fir’s light colour, straight grain and small tight knots contribute to the species’ suitability for use as dimension lumber. Balsam fir is used extensively as pulpwood. Its chief advantage as a pulpwood material is its long tracheids (3 to 4 mm) and relatively uniform texture. Balsam fir is also other used for cooperage for sugar and butter tubs (suitable because of the absence of objectionable taste and resinous materials that might taint), container veneer, boxes and crates, pallets, particleboard, and plywood.
Balsam fir is produced predominantly as SPF* in structural grades according to National Lumber Grades Authority (NLGA) rules for dimension lumber. Select Structural, #2 and better, and stud grades are the most common grades produced. Specialty in-house grades, lamstock and export grades are also available. Subalpine fir is the most treatable of the SPF mix. Appearance grades can also be produced according to NLGA rules.
* Marketed as structural lumber in the SPF (spruce-pine-fir) species mix. SPF includes lodgepole pine, white spruce, Engelmann spruce, red spruce, black spruce, jack pine, balsam fir, and subalpine fir.