Volume XIV, Number 4

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Volume XIV, Number 4

Volume XIV, Number 4 June 2004

    Pressure-Treated Lumber

    Most wood will decompose when it is exposed to the weather, subjected to excessive moisture, or in contact with the ground. The decomposition is caused by decay or insect attack. The solution for years has been to use wood that had been pressure-treated with a preservative like chromated copper arsenate (CCA). The result was that familiar “greenish” colored used for backyard decks, fences, and swing sets. However, as of December 31, 2003, CCA was withdrawn for most residential consumer-use treated-lumber applications. Lumber treated with alternative preservatives has been introduced while CCA-treated lumber continues to be allowed for certain industrial, agricultural, foundation, and marine applications.

    Users of lumber treated with the alternative preservatives must become aware of the changes in material selection that must be made because of the potential for corrosion of fasteners and connectors that either penetrate or contact the treated lumber.

    Presented below is a discussion of pressure treatment alternatives available to consumers and the changes in practice that must be considered when choosing the proper materials.

Pressure Treatment

    Pressure treating wood requires that a preservative chemical penetrate and be retained by the wood. Most wood species require that the surface of the lumber be pierced with a series of small slits to facilitate penetration of the wood by the chemical. Southern pine is one of the few species that does not require this surface-preparation step and, as a result, about 85% of all pressure-treated wood is southern pine.

    There are three broad classes of wood preservatives used in the pressure-treating process: Waterborne preservatives, Creosote and creosote/coal-tar mixtures, and Pentachlorophenol (called “Penta”). The creosote and creosote/coal-tar mixtures are used for railroad ties, pilings,

    and utility poles and Penta is used for industrial applications and utility poles. It is the waterborne preservatives that are used for residential, commercial, marine, agricultural, recreational, and industrial applications.

Waterborne Wood Preservatives

    There currently are five waterborne preservative chemicals being used for pressure treating wood available commercially:

    ? Sodium Borate (SBX) is also called disodium octaborate tetrahydrate (DOT)

    ? Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ-C, ACQ-D, ACQ-D Carbonate)

    ? Copper azole (CA-B, CBA-A)

    ? Sodium silicate borate (SBX with NaSiO) 2

    ? Ammoniacal copper zinc arsenate (ACZA)

These preservatives appear in the market as pressure-treated wood that has various trade names.

    Presented in the following table is a list of these preservatives and some of the trade names used

    for the treated wood.

Preservative Treated wood trade name

    Sodium borate Advance Guard, SillBor, Tim-Bor, Pac-Bor, TimberSaver PT, Smart

    Guard, Hi-Bor, Cal-Bor, DuraBor, DuraSill, Composibor

    Alkaline Copper Preserve, Nature Wood, Preserve Plus


    Copper Azole Natural Select Sodium Silicate Borate Envirosafe Plus Ammoniacal Copper Chemonite Zinc Arsenate

    Source:, March 2004.

New Preservatives Corrode Fasteners & Connectors

The introduction of new preservatives has been accompanied by a new problem corrosion of

    the fasteners and connectors that come in contact with the chemical. The solution recommended

    by the wood preserving industry is to use either stainless steel or hot-dipped galvanized fasteners

    and connectors. The International Residential Code, Section R319.3 states, "Fasteners for

    pressure-preservative treated wood shall be of hot-dipped galvanized steel, stainless steel, silicon

    bronze or copper.” Although this statement sounds straight forward, there are different types of

    stainless steel and different thickness coatings applied by hot-dipping.

In the case of stainless steel, tests conducted by Simpson Strongtie Company, Inc., (see, TECHNICAL BULLETIN: Pressure Treated Wood, January 2004)

    concluded that Type 304 or greater stainless steel products corrode substantially less than other

    alternatives. It should be noted, however, that stainless steel products cost significantly more

    that standard coated products.

The corrosion performance of a galvanized product is directly related to the amount of zinc

    deposited on the surface. There are several methods of applying the zinc coating including

    electrogalvanized, hot-dipped, and hot-tumbling. Galvanized products that are produced by an

    electroplating process are not recommended for use with wood that has been treated with the

    alternative preservatives because the zinc coating is not adequate. Rather, hot-dipped galvanized

    products are recommended with the guideline that the more zinc on the surface of the product the

    better. The third process involves tumbling heated fasteners through zinc powder leaving a thin

    zinc coating. Both the electroplating and the heat tumbling provide protection for the fasteners;

    but that protection is not considered to be adequate for use with the new preservatives used in

    pressure-treated wood.

The amount of galvanized coating is specified as a class or grade such as G60 meaning 0.60

    ounces of zinc per square foot of product has been applied or as G90 which results in 0.90

    ounces of zinc per square foot of product. The Southern Pine Council issued an Advisory in

    June 2004 titled Advisory On Fasteners and Connectors for Treated Wood. The Advisory recommends G185 for fasteners used with the new wood preservatives. (see

Another point to consider is that the fasteners and the connectors should be made of the same

    material. That is, stainless steel fasteners should be used with stainless steel connectors.

    Similarly, galvanized fasteners should be used with galvanized connectors.

    According to the NAHB Research Center, Inc., (see lumber treated with the non-borate preservatives (e.g., ACQ and copper azole) is more corrosive than CCA-treated lumber.

    Lumber treated with borate preservatives is actually considered to be less corrosive.

    Unfortunately, lumber treated with borates is not recommended for any use where it will be

    either in direct contact with the soil or in prolonged or repeated contact with water. The reason

    for this situation is that the preservative chemical will leach out of the wood. Although there is

    no environmental or health risk associated with the leaching, loss of the preservative will

    negatively affect the preservation of the wood.

Additional Information

Additional information on the types and uses of available alternative wood preservatives, the

    introduction of new alternative preservative chemicals or changes in the formulation of the

    current preservatives, and the results of performance testing of fasteners and connectors exposed

    to the alternative preservatives are available from a variety of Internet web sites. Inquisitive

    readers are encouraged to visit the following web sites:

    NAHB Research Center, Inc. American Galvanizers Association American Wood-preservers’ Association US Forest Products Laboratory Southern Pine Council Western Wood Preservers Institute Simpson Strongtie Company, Inc.

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