a story about living small

Beetle Kill Pine Siding: A Local, Sustainable Option.

Siding Stacked Up

Today, I picked up the siding for the tiny house.

At the beginning of this project, we decided to use reclaimed and other environmentally friendly materials as much as possible. One of my reasons for building the house in the first place was to live closer to the Western landscape that I love. Since this house was inspired by my appreciation for the land, I want to do everything that I can to help preserve it, by building in a sustainable way. Hopefully, this project will help to show how inexpensive and easy it can be to build a house sustainably.

When choosing siding, we decided to go with Beetle Kill Pine (also known as “blue-stain pine tongue and groove”). It’s called “Blue Stain” because of the blue-ish tint of the wood, which is milled from Lodge Pole Pine trees that have been killed by the bark beetles plaguing forests in this part of the country.

Grain Detail

The wood is beautiful, naturally tinted a blue-grey that will offset our red trim. It’s environmentally friendly, since it’s harvested from already-dead trees that would need to be cut down anyway. And significantly cheaper than traditional Cedar siding.

Blue Stain wood is an eco choice because it’s taken locally (you’d be surprised at how much energy and fuel goes into shipping trees and wood from across the world), from trees that have died a (somewhat) natural death.

Mountian Pine Bark Beetle

Bark Beetles are actually indigenous to the Rocky Mountain region and are a natural part of the ecosystem here. But the slightly warmer temperatures of recent years, which many attribute to global warming, have provided the right conditions for their population to grow out of control. The trees are killed by a fungus that lives on the beetles, which they carry deep into the wood of the tree.

Beetle Kill Forest

Because winters are no longer as harsh in the mountains outside of Denver, Bark Beetles, which are not supposed to survive during the long deep freezes of winter, are now living until spring where they continue to bread. Millions of trees in the Rocky Mountains have succumbed to the Beetles, and the vast forests of once vibrant Lodge Pole Pines are now dry tinderboxes waiting to ignite. Since these trees must be thinned to prevent forest fires anyway, some companies have begun to harvest the trees and use them for building materials.

Grain Detail

This afternoon, when I was loading the wood at the lumber yard, Rocky Mountain Forest Products

Rocky Mountain Forest Products
, I was astonished by how truly beautiful this wood is. While it is horrible that millions of pine trees are dying as a result of the Bark Beetles, there is at least this one silver-lining. Merete and I are excited to begin siding the house, and we are even more excited by how good it will look when it is done!

~ written by Christopher Smith, 9/22/11



(Here is an example of how we want the finish to look.)

Example of the Finish


And a Behind-the-Scenes shot, filming a dead Lodge Pole Pine tree in the mountains outside of Boulder, Colorado:

12 Responses

  1. Mark

    Hey Christopher… I applaud you for pursuing this project and the sustainable approach you are taking to construction. I live in Boulder and would love to stop by and see your house in process sometime.

    September 22, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    • TinyHouse

      Hey Mark. Thanks for your interest. Feel free to shoot me an email via the contact page so we can discuss more. Cheers.

      September 23, 2011 at 12:57 am

  2. Mike Schantz

    I am getting ready to put up MPB T&G for an interior finish application. Looking for for a recommendation on a finish. Thinking some type to clear finish to enhance the beauty of this material is the way to go. Thoughts appreciated.

    November 21, 2011 at 2:47 am

  3. Randall Nelson

    How is this “sustainable”? Since the beetles are killing the trees and, there is a finite number of trees and some of the regions have “succumbed” to the beetle already, eventually there will be no trees left. The beetle will then die off due to environmental condidions. But, since the trees wii all be gone, there can be no recovery. I have no issue with using the trees that have already been killed by the beetle. I just don’t think a resourse that will eventually be depleted and cannot be renewed should be calles “sustainable”. That is like calling fossil fuels a sustainable resource. If more regious of this tree succumb to the beetle, how can it be sustainable?

    July 7, 2012 at 10:38 am

    • Hi Randall, thanks for pointing this out. When I titled the post “A Local, Sustainable Option,” I was referring to the fact that beetle kill pine is *more* sustainable than other types of new wood, since it is harvested from trees that are already dead from natural causes and than need to be thinned out anyway to prevent forest fires. Using this already dead wood prevent more healthy, living trees from being harvested.

      But you’re right. The term “sustainable” refers to a resource that is self-replenishing or renewable. And beetle kill pine is not. My apologies for the slip! I’m still searching for the correct word to use. Perhaps “eco-responsible,” though that sounds kind of nerdy?

      July 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm

  4. Robin Brennan

    Thank you for your pictures. I haven’t even thought of this as an option. My husband and I are building a small cabin and have been planning to use cedar siding. Would you happen to know the cost difference of using cedar as apposed to beetle kill pine? Is the upkeep of the pine any different than cedar? Thanks a lot for your time.

    July 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    • Hi Robin, Cedar is generally more durable than pine, and also more expensive. Because of its durability, many people opt for cedar siding on exteriors, but pine is fine to use as long as it’s properly stained and protected. We didn’t use any cedar in our house, so we can’t really speak to the upkeep or how it differs to working with pine, but I’m sure that the folks at your local lumber yard or hardware store can give you some good info.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:05 pm

  5. Nanna Meyer


    I am remodeling my house and will use beetle kill siding. Any recommendation on stains? We are struggling to find a stain that brings out the natural shine of the wood but maintains it blueish, greyish and does not turn it yellow.

    Any suggestions for outside staining?


    September 16, 2012 at 6:39 pm

  6. Joe Boileau

    Hi I am in the middle of a build and came across the link and was wondering where you can buy the pine siding you used . I am finishing atack room and would be cool to use something like that.

    April 1, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    • Hi Joe, we bought ours at Rocky Mountain Lumber and Boulder Lumber right outside of Boulder…not sure where you are located. It seems to be pretty widely available, at least in the rocky mountain region. Just ask for “blue stain pine”

      April 1, 2013 at 10:03 pm

  7. I am looking for small amounts of Blue Pine as I use the lumber to make pictures out of wood called Intarsia. I am looking for VERY DARK blue pine. If you do ship would ship, say, just a couple of boards. It is very important to me that they be VERY BLUE. The reason is I do not paint or stain my work.
    If you would like to see some of my work just let me know. Looking for 3/4″
    Fred from Galesburg Ill

    February 26, 2014 at 10:34 pm

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