Understanding the Different Types of Wood Preservatives

Wood has been a favorite material for home building projects through the years, owing to its beauty and general durability. No wonder everything is being done to care for it and prolong its life, such as wood preservers

Termites, fungi and wood-boring insects are timber’s three worst enemies. Fortunately, there are various types of natural wood preservatives and synthetic wood treatments available today.

Types of Wood Preservatives

Chromate Copper Arsenate

Chromium copper arsenate is a pesticide that strengthens wood against fungi, termites and other pests. It has been a popular wood-preserving pesticide since the 1940s. However, according to the United States’ Environment Protection Agency, there is a chance that arsenic will leak out and put the health of those exposed at risk.

As a way to control risks associated with wood treatment in general, the American Wood Protection Association recommends that all treated wood come with a Consumer Information Sheet that provides guidelines on safe handling and disposal. However, a lot of manufacturers choose to provide Material Safety Data Sheets instead. While there is an ongoing debate about the practice of distributing information about treated wood, what’s important is that the consumer is aware.

Oil-Borne Wood Preservers

Two very common oil-borne preservatives today are creosote and pentachlorophenol. Creosote has a whole history of being used to prevent rot for outdoor applications, such as in railroad ties and bridges. In this method, the timber is placed in a sealed chamber, and a vacuum sucks out the air and moisture out of the wood. The creosote is then applied through a pressurized method. Acting like a pesticide and a disinfectant in one is pentachlorophenol, an organochlorine compound. It can be applied to wood by spraying, dipping or brushing, by soaking the wood in the liquid, or by pressure.

Water-Borne Wood Preservers

Water-based preservatives are typically the least expensive, but their disadvantage is that they tend to cause swelling or warping because of the water that they contain. Two examples of water-based wood preservatives are alkaline copper quaternary compounds and copper.

A popular trend in the wood preservation industry today is the development of more environment-friendly alternatives, such as heat treatments and acetylation. Heating timber to extreme temperatures without oxygen changes its chemical composition and renders it useless to microbes and insects.

Acetylation does not involve pressurized treatments but instead protects wood by reducing moisture in the cell wall until nothing is left for fungi to thrive. This makes the wood not just stronger but termite-resistant too, being harder and drier than its unmodified counterpart.

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