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Understanding the Different Types of Wood Preservatives

Thanks to its aesthetics and overall durability, wood has become a favorite home construction material through the years. It’s not surprising that various products have been created to preserve and care for it, such as wood preservers.

There are three major threats to timber – termites, fungi and wood-boring insects. Fortunately, protection is possible through various types of natural and synthetic wood preservatives and treatments today.

Types of Wood Preservatives

Chromate Copper Arsenate

Chromium copper arsenate is a product that fights wood erosion due to an infestation of termites, fungi and other pests. It has been used as a wood-preserving pesticide since way back the 1940s. One concern raised by the United States’ Environment Protection Agency, however, is that arsenic may leak out over time and endanger the health of those who are exposed to it.

To control risks linked to wood treatment in general, the American Wood Protection Association recommends that treated wood be sold with a Consumer Information Sheet, where instructions on safe handling and disposal are provided. Several manufacturers though opt to provide Material Safety Data Sheets rather than CIS. 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 Preservatives

Creosote and pentachlorophenol are two of the mos common types of oil-borne preservatives. Creosote has been a common figure in the history of protecting outdoor wood structures like bridges and railroad ties. This technique calls for timber being placed in a sealed chamber, where air and moisture is removed from it through a vacuum. The creosote is then applied through a pressurized method. Acting like a pesticide and a disinfectant in one is pentachlorophenol, an organochlorine compound. The substance can be applied through pressure or brushed into the wood, or the wood may be soaked or dipped in it.

Water-Borne Wood Preservatives

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. Ammoniacal copper zinc arsenate and copper citrate are two very popular types of water-based wood preservers that you can find n the market these days.

A remarkable trend in the modern wood preservative industry is the production of more environment-friendly options like 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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