The first step in building anything is choosing the right materials. If your project involves wood, you're going to have to decide between treated and untreated lumber. So what's the difference between the two? And at the end of the day, does it even matter? The short answer is yes, it matters -- especially if you happen to be building a playground set for your kids or a garden bed for your vegetables.
You might be surprised to learn that many forms of treated lumber can be harmful to your health. In the past, the treatment process involved filling wood with dangerous chemicals and chemical compounds like creosote, pentachlorophenol (PCP), and chromated copper arsenate (CCA) [source: Gegner]. None of these chemicals and chemical compounds are safe. In fact, the arsenate in CCA is a form of arsenic, which is a carcinogen known to cause many different types of cancer and even death [source: EPA].
Despite the dangers associated with arsenic, CCA treated lumber was the most common in the United States until manufacturers reached an agreement to stop producing it after 2003 [source: Williams]. Unfortunately, for many years, buildings and products were made using CCA treated lumber and they now pose health risks to those who come in regular contact with them.
While new techniques for treating lumber have been deemed safer, they still require precautionary measures. You'll find labels printed on treated wood warning those who are using it to wear masks and protect their skin [source: Austin]. It's also important not to let any type of treated wood come in contact with drinking water.
So if you want to know when it's better to use untreated lumber, the answer is almost always. The debate is still out on whether or not there are any instances in which using treated lumber can be considered completely safe but many builders still swear by its advantages.
The obvious advantage of using untreated lumber is that there are no health risks involved. It's as close to wood in its natural form as you're going to get without grabbing an axe and chopping down your own tree. If you're building anything that people will regularly be coming in contact with -- such as playground equipment, lawn furniture or benches -- you should always use untreated wood [source: Houlihan and Wiles].
Untreated lumber should also be used when you're dealing with gardening, whether you're building a raised garden bed, a flowerpot, or just making mulch. Some of the chemicals used to treat wood are meant to kill insects, which means they probably won't do wonders for your soil either. They can damage your flowers and make their way into your vegetable gardens -- ruining your prized tomatoes.
An obvious advantage of untreated lumber is its price; it's much cheaper than treated lumber. Since CCA-treated lumber was taken off the market, new treatment techniques use high levels of copper, which is more expensive. As a result, the cost of treated wood has risen considerably [source: Morrison].
When working with untreated wood, you don't have to worry about protecting your skin. You may want to wear a mask to keep from breathing in sawdust, but you can work in short sleeves and/or shorts without any fear of endangering yourself. The same can't be said for treated wood. In fact, when working with treated lumber, you should be adequately covered -- long sleeves, long pants and eye goggles are all a good idea. Afterward, make sure to clean any sawdust from you or your clothing thoroughly. And, of course, you want to avoid breathing in any sawdust particles from treated lumber [source: McClintock]. At a minimum, you should wear a dust mask/facemask while working with treated lumber. And, if you have one, a respirator would be even better.
At the end of the day, the ease of mind that comes with using untreated lumber may be worth it. You don't need to worry about potential health concerns, even if the wood comes in contact with your soil or water supply.
A nonprofit organization known as the Environmental Study Group had people take samples of treated wood found all around Washington, and in the end they found that there was roughly one ounce of arsenic per every 12 feet of treated wood. If ingested, that’s enough to kill 250 people [source: McClintock].
Although there are health hazards to consider, treated wood does have its advantages. Treated wood was designed to defy the effects of natural aging. As wood is exposed to the natural elements, it slowly breaks down. Moisture is especially hard on wood. If treated, wood can last much longer than normal, but to make sure your treated lumber lasts as long as possible you need to match its treatment level with the right use. Lumber that is touching the ground, for instance, requires a higher treatment level than lumber that is not [source: Viance].
Treated lumber does have other advantages. Many types of treated wood are resistant to insects, like termites, that cause huge amounts of damage and cost home owners large sums of money. The chemicals used in the treatment process are toxic to insects, so any bug that tries to eat its way through a treated support beam will expire. On top of repelling bugs, treated lumber can also be fire retardant, taking longer to catch on fire and burning much more slowly when it does [source: WiseGeek].
In instances where treated lumber doesn't touch the ground and isn't exposed, it is relatively safe. You can also use certain oil finishes to protect treated wood and reduce the risk of it leaching dangerous chemicals during contact [source: Natural Handyman].
While treated wood has distinct advantages, you might decide that they aren't worth the added health risk. Yet, if you need something to last a long time and you know people won't come into much contact with it, treated lumber might be the better choice. In general, though, treated lumber shouldn't be used where untreated lumber will suffice.
The next time you're working on a project using wood, consider the advantages and disadvantages of both treated and untreated lumber before making a purchase.
For more information, check out the links on the next page.
Did you know that people in China use about 45 billion pairs of chopsticks every year? That translates to roughly 25 million trees, every year [source: McCabe, Wolfe].
Can anyone tell me if there's a way to distinguish between treated and untreated wood?
I have some wood pallets that I'd like to convert into planting boxes, but I need to avoid treated wood so that nothing bad leaches into the vegetables. Any suggestions?
Pallets are generally made of the lowest grade wood available.
I don't think you have any worries there.
Still, in this day and age of recycling, I suppose it is possible
that treated wood mite find its way into pallet production.
The old CCA treated stuff had a slight green tint to it.
The new ACQ treated stuff has a green tint when new.
After it has weathered a bit it might be hard to see.
If you can test the wood chemically it will show copper content.
Also it will show as alkali on a litmus test.
ACQ = Alkaline Copper Quaternary
I don't know of a way to test wood for these substances.
I would try searching thru science experiments online
that deal with litmus tests and testing for metal content.
I really doubt you have anything to worry about.
Lumber treated with CCA has been off the market for a while now.
Now ACQ is used in the treatment process, and is safe.
The wood has a pH above 7 making it alkaline so bugs won't bother it.
And the copper quantenary molecules protect it from rot.
There is also MCQ, which is the same as ACQ, except the CQ
molecules are much smaller so more of them can infiltrate
the wood fibers. MCQ = (alkaline) Micro Copper Quantenary.
I would be very supprised if you had a pallet made of treated wood.
Especially treated with CCA (copper chromate arsenic).
CCA was banned sometime around year 2000.
Found this with a Google search:
The other method.......was patented by the University of Miami. It is a orange-colored chemical that you can spray on the wood with a spray bottle that will turn bright red in the presence of chromium, which is always present in CCA wood. The product is called PAN Indicator Stain, and was developed in 2003.
Last time I checked it was available from SPECTRUM (800-772-8786). The part number is P-358 and used to cost $21.90 + shipping. Please be sure to read the MSDS on this chemical Â as it has to be handled carefully, as I recall. But, it works well, and I have a small amount on hand and have used it myself to identify CCA wood on my property.
ItÂs easy to use, too. You find an unpainted portion of the wood and spray it on. (Painted wood can test positive, due to trace metals in some paints, so use it only on unpainted wood.) After spraying, wait 2-3 minutes. If the color changes from orange to red or a darker color Â it contains chromium metal and should be disposed of properly (and never burned Â which will release the arsenic in the CCA).
You may could test for copper content by testing electrical
resistance in a sample of wood with a known moisture content.
Electrolosis is used for other substances, mite work for wood.
Swimming pool test kit that tests for copper might could work.
Burning a sample of the wood in a neutral flame would work.
If the flame turns green then the wood contains copper.
These are just brainstormed ideas. No guarantees about any of them.
I'd be interested to know if you find out anything.
Myself, planters have been built for many years using treated
wood. Even with CCA treated wood. I wouldn't worry about it.
Or if I had to worry about it, I would line the planters with plastic.
As a rule, treated wood commonly sold to the public is pine. The treatment recipe turns the wood a bit more green than normal(CCA) and a lot mopre green(ACQ) than normal. The other treatments actually look like the wood has been painted green.
If the wood has aged to a gray color on the exterior, making a fresh cut to expose the interior will show the color. Yellow/white means no treatment.
PT wood is treated so the effects of time/insects/water do not have as much effect---the wood lasts much longer than untreated wood.
There are two basic kinds of pallets---heavy duty and one use. One use pallets are often made of pine. They are used for shipping appliances and small machinery. The wood is thin and can be torn apart easily. Heavy duty pallets are built for repeated use and sometimes have to be cut apart, as the glue/fasteners make tearing them apart very difficult. These types are usually made of white oak. I have never seen white oak treated with the same stuff that is used for pine.
Hi I have the same question. I have a piece of found wood labeled:
TESTED EXPOSURE I
HUD UM 40C
Also it says GRAVEYARD on it.
The wood does not look green, and I cut a piece off to check, and it is not green on the cut either. But, since I plan to use this in my garden I want to know for sure if it is safe to use. Does anyone know what this label and numbers mean?
I was also wondering about the safety of pallets. I know it a few years later but I found several sites and I will attach one. http://www.treehugger.com/
I bought and stained what was marked :P/T Wood at Lowes. It was yellowish/white. I kept saying it was NOT P/T lattice. (even tho the tag on it said "P/T") It soaked up the stain like crazy. Is there anyway I can do some test to see if it is P/T or not?
If it has a tag attached to it and the other pieces of the same lattice also had tags, it's pretty reasonable to assume that it is pressure treated. When wood is "pressure treated" it's put in a large tank, the tank is filled with a solution of chemicals and then pressurized which forces the solution in to the wood. That's why pressure treated lumber often has such a high moisture content. With something like thin lattice, it's going to dry back out pretty quickly. It's also possible that the components of the lattice are treated before assembly, which may give the wood even more time to dry. It's quite possible for it to really soak up stain, especially if the lattice has been sitting around for a while.I suppose you could send a piece off to a lab for analysis but I don't know of a way
Most wood pallets will have an IPPC logo, since they oversee internationally-shipped pallets. Pallets that ship overseas are the ones usually treated or fumigated to prevent the spread of invasive pests. Here are the marks to look out for (they should be near the IPPC logo):
You can also educate yourself to spot pressure treated wood. Head to your local home improvement store and poke around the lumber section. Pressure treated wood looks different from untreated wood, and once you see the difference in color, it should be pretty easy to spot.
In the past, fencing has been a pretty straightforward proposition: How much property do you need to contain and how inexpensively can you do it? Most manufacturers offered fencing made from wood or metal—both questionable for the environment. Some traditionally manufactured wood fencing depletes forests, and lumber sold for fencing is typically treated with toxic chemicals to ward off insects and prevent decay. Nonrecycled metal, albeit durable and low-maintenance, takes a lot of energy to create.
Today, homeowners have many more eco-friendly choices for creating a border that can offer safety, privacy and beauty.
Panels constructed of bamboo and a binding material, such as vinyl or steel, are touted for their durability, ease of installation, attractive appearance and sustainability. Sadly, bamboo’s popularity is causing many to question just how earth-friendly it truly is. The huge demand has led to instances of overharvesting with little or no true oversight. Plus, because most bamboo comes from China, energy-intensive transportation may negate whatever green qualities the material offers. Make sure the bamboo comes from a local source and is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Manufacturers have begun combining natural fiber—one company uses recycled wood, another wheat straw—with recycled plastic to create a product that has the look of wood but requires no preservatives and little to no maintenance. The pickets come in a variety of colors and styles, and most can be nailed, stapled or screwed in place. The one big question about composites is their durability over time, says Marcus Renner, a consultant with Appropriate Building Solutions, a sustainable consulting, design and construction firm in Asheville, North Carolina, and a teacher for the Western North Carolina Green Building Council. “We know how wood and chain-link fences are going to react in 20 years, but we don’t know if a composite material is going to be here. After sitting in the sun for three or four decades, is it going to stay the same shape or color? That’s what I am worried about.”
Perhaps the greenest (and prettiest!) choice is a fence of thick plants. For privacy, a simple hedge may serve the purpose. If you need security from animals, bushes with thorns, such as blackberry or raspberry, may do the trick. “Train them to a frame they will grow within,” Renner says. “It’s natural, food-producing, and supports wildlife. Plus, they grow rapidly.” For the best choices for your region, talk to a local plant expert, and be careful not to choose an invasive plant.
Reclaimed lumber can make a beautiful fence, and the quality of the old wood will likely be better than the quickly grown virgin woods available on the market today. Availability of different types of salvaged wood varies by region. On the West Coast, Douglas fir and redwood are abundant. On the East Coast, pine is more prevalent.
Why is bamboo eco-friendly?
Bamboo Textiles & Clothing
Despite the stripping that occurs to create bamboo fabric, several sources, including The National Geographic’s Green Guide cite that cotton fabric creates at least as many emissions. Considering all options, the benefits of bamboo fabric far outweigh the consequences. Bamboo fibers serve as a natural antibiotic and are completely biodegradable.
The fabric made from bamboo is softer than cotton, and is often likened to the feel of cashmere. Due to its natural water-wicking moisture, it makes for excellent workout gear. You can even find soft, silky bamboo rugs and towels that dry very quickly.
Is bambou werkelijk hard ?
De hardheid van bamboe is geen legende. Bamboe bereikt zijn maximale hardheid tussen de 5de en 7de groeijaar . Voordien is de bamboe « relatief » zacht : het is dus belangrijk om volwassen bamboe te gebruiken Betrouwbare testen, uitgevoerd door nationaal erkende laboratoria, hebben bewezen dat de Brinell hardheid van de bambou hoog is : 9,5 kg/mm – voor een hardheid gaande tot 1200 kg/m³.
Bestaan er verschillende kwaliteiten in de bamboe ?
Gezien de productievereisten verschillen van firma tot firma, wordt de bamboe in 3 klasses verdeeld : A graad, B graad en C graad. Elke graad stemt overeen met de kwaliteit van het product, direct gelinkt aan de leeftijd van de bamboestok op het ogenblik van het kappen. De B en C graden zijn herkenbaar op het zicht : grote kleurverschillen, groeiknoppen heel duidelijk zichtbaar… maar ook minder zekere technische kenmerken : de bamboe die te jong gekapt wordt heeft een te hoge vochtigheidsgraad, wat een factor is van instabiliteit, de hardheid is minder dan voor bamboe die op volwassen leeftijd gekapt wordt (5 tot 7 jaar).
Van waar is de bambou gebruikt voor Bamboo Decking Solutions afkomstig ?
De reuzebamboe « moso » (Phyllostachys Pubescens) gebruikt door BDS is afkomstig uit China waar 3 millioen hectares beschikbaar zijn : het is de grootste reserve van deze soort ter wereld. De eindeloze bossen met reuzebamboe worden daar de ‘bamboezee’ genoemd. De Chinezen waren de eersten om de reuzebamboe moso te verwerken tot parket en panelen voor meubels. Ze blijven momenteel de leaders in deze producten, zowel op vlak van kwaliteit als productiemogelijkheid. Vietnam vervaardigt parketten uit een andere bamboesoort, waarvan de groeiknopen duidelijker zichtbaar zijn, de geproduceerde volumes liggen duidelijk lager dan de chinese productie.