I have been asked a lot about pressure treated treated wood, where it should be used and is it safe. If your building a outdoor structure and are going to be using a wood foundation you will need to use pressure treated wood for any framing components that will be on the ground and subject to a lot of moisture.
Following the manufactures instruction and wearing the proper protection gear will keep you safe from any of the chemicals used when treating the wood.
The pressure treatment process is important for outdoor projects, such as decks, fences, and retaining walls, as it helps prevent the wood from deteriorating due to exposure to moisture, insects, and other environmental factors. In addition, pressure treated wood is often used for ground contact applications, such as posts and framing, to help prevent rot and decay.
Pressure treated wood is a type of lumber that has been treated with chemicals to increase its durability and resistance to rot, insects, and decay. This process involves placing the wood in a vacuum chamber and then applying a solution of water and chemicals, such as copper, to the wood.
There are different types of pressure treated wood available, including those that are treated with alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ) or copper azole (CA) chemicals. ACQ-treated wood is typically green or brown in color, while CA-treated wood is often a light green color. Check out the section The Chemicals Commonly Used in Pressure Treating Wood for more information.
It is important to note that while pressure treated wood is resistant to decay and insects, it is not completely immune to these factors. Proper installation, maintenance, and care are necessary to ensure the longevity of pressure treated wood. Additionally, it is important to handle pressure treated wood safely and to dispose of it properly to avoid harm to the environment.
Check out these sections if you have safety concerns with using pressure treated wood:
How to Cut Pressure Treated Wood Safely
Is it Safe to Use Pressure Treated Wood On Kids Play Areas
Is Pressure Treated Wood Safe for Pets
Can I Use Pressure Treated Wood for Raised Beds
How to Tell if Wood is Pressure Treated
Pressure treated wood is treated with chemicals that make it more resistant to rot and decay, which makes it a popular choice for outdoor projects like decks and fences. Here are some ways to tell if wood is pressure treated:
Look for a Stamp or Tag… Pressure treated wood should have a stamp or tag indicating that it has been treated. The stamp may include information such as the type of treatment, the level of treatment, and the manufacturer’s name.
Check the Color… Pressure treated wood is often a greenish-brown color when it’s first treated. Over time, the color may fade to a grayish brown, but it should still have a slightly greenish tint.
Look for Signs of Treatment… If you look closely at the end grain of the wood, you may be able to see signs of treatment. Pressure treated wood often has small indentations or holes where the treatment chemicals have been absorbed.
Test the Wood… You can also use a chemical test to determine if wood has been pressure treated. One common test involves applying a solution of copper sulfate to the wood. If the wood has been treated, it will turn a greenish color.
Remember, pressure treated wood can still be dangerous to work with if it’s not handled properly. Always wear gloves and a mask when cutting or sanding pressure treated wood and dispose of scraps and sawdust appropriately.
Is Pressure Treated Plywood the Same as Pressure Treated Wood?
Pressure-treated plywood and pressure-treated wood are similar in that they both undergo a process of treating the wood with chemicals to make it more resistant to decay, rot, and insect infestation. However, they are not the same.
Pressure-treated wood is typically lumber that has been treated with a chemical preservative under pressure. This is done to help protect the wood from rot and decay caused by exposure to moisture and insects. Pressure-treated wood can be used for a wide range of applications, including outdoor decking, fencing, and landscaping.
Pressure-treated plywood, on the other hand, is made from thin layers of wood that are glued together under pressure. The plywood is then treated with a preservative to help protect it from rot and decay. Pressure-treated plywood is commonly used in applications where water resistance is important, such as for subflooring, sheathing, and roofing.
While pressure-treated plywood and pressure-treated wood are both treated with preservatives, they are different materials with different uses. Pressure-treated wood is typically used for lumber applications, while pressure-treated plywood is used for applications where water resistance is important. Get more information in my article Is Pressure Treated Plywood Best for a Shed Floor?
When Should You Use Pressure Treated Wood?
Pressure-treated wood is typically used for outdoor projects such as decks, fences, retaining walls, and outdoor furniture. It is treated with chemicals that make it resistant to decay, rot, and insect damage, which makes it ideal for projects that will be exposed to moisture, weather, and pests.
Here are some scenarios where you should use pressure-treated wood:
Outdoor Construction… If you’re building anything that will be exposed to the elements, such as a deck, pergola, or retaining wall, you should use pressure-treated wood. It will hold up better against moisture, rot, and decay.
Ground Contact… If any part of your project will be in contact with the ground, such as fence posts, you should use pressure-treated wood. This will help prevent rot and decay caused by soil moisture.
Insect-Prone Areas… If you live in an area with a lot of insects, particularly termites, using pressure-treated wood can help prevent damage.
High Humidity Areas… If you live in a humid climate, using pressure-treated wood can help prevent moisture damage and decay.
How is Pressure Treated Wood Made [The Process]
Pressure treating wood is a process used to enhance its durability and resistance to decay, insects, and other forms of damage. Here is an overview of the process and the chemicals commonly used:
Select Wood Type… The first step in pressure treating wood is selecting the appropriate type of wood. The most commonly used woods for pressure treatment include southern yellow pine, hemlock, and Douglas fir.
Chemical Treatment… Once the wood is selected, it is placed in a pressure chamber where it is treated with a preservative chemical. The wood is first placed in a vacuum to remove the air and then flooded with the preservative chemical under high pressure to ensure deep penetration into the wood.
Pressure Chamber… The pressure chamber used in the process is a sealed container that is filled with the preservative chemical. The chamber is pressurized, causing the preservative chemical to be driven deep into the wood fibers.
Chemical Retention… After the wood has been treated, it is removed from the pressure chamber, and any excess preservative chemical is drained off. The wood is then allowed to dry, which allows the chemical to be absorbed into the wood fibers and forms a chemical bond with the wood.
Quality Control… After the wood has been treated and allowed to dry, it undergoes quality control to ensure that it has been treated to the appropriate standards. This may include testing the wood for chemical retention, strength, and durability.
1] Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA)… This is one of the oldest and most widely used preservative chemicals for pressure treating wood. It contains copper, chromium, and arsenic, which provide protection against decay, insects, and fungi.
2] Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ)… This is a newer preservative chemical that is considered to be more environmentally friendly than CCA. It contains copper and quaternary ammonium compounds, which provide protection against decay, insects, and fungi.
3] Copper Azole (CA)… This is another newer preservative chemical that is considered to be more environmentally friendly than CCA. It contains copper and an organic azole compound, which provide protection against decay, insects, and fungi.
4] Creosote… This is a preservative chemical that is made from the distillation of coal tar. It provides protection against decay, insects, and fungi, but it is not approved for use in residential applications due to its toxicity.
It’s important to note that the use of some of these chemicals has been restricted or banned in certain countries due to their potential health and environmental risks. It’s always best to consult with a professional to ensure that the wood you are using has been treated with a safe and appropriate preservative chemical.
Does Pressure Treated Wood Need to Be Sealed?
Pressure-treated wood is wood that has undergone a treatment process to increase its resistance to decay, insects, and other forms of damage. The treatment involves impregnating the wood with preservatives using a high-pressure process, which makes it more durable and longer-lasting than untreated wood.
While pressure-treated wood is more resistant to damage than untreated wood, it is still vulnerable to weathering and fading over time. Therefore, it is recommended that pressure-treated wood be sealed to provide an additional layer of protection against the elements.
Sealing pressure-treated wood can help to prevent water damage, reduce fading caused by UV rays, and protect the wood from mold and mildew growth. It can also help to maintain the wood’s appearance over time and prolong its lifespan.
There are a variety of sealants available for pressure-treated wood, including clear sealers, semi-transparent stains, and solid-color stains. The type of sealant you choose will depend on the look you want to achieve and the level of protection you need.
While pressure-treated wood is more resistant to damage than untreated wood, it is still recommended that it be sealed to provide additional protection against the elements and maintain its appearance over time.
Can You Burn Pressure Treated Wood?
It is not recommended to burn pressure-treated wood. Pressure-treated wood is typically treated with chemicals, such as chromated copper arsenate (CCA), to protect against rot, decay, and insects. Burning pressure-treated wood can release toxic fumes, such as arsenic, chromium, and copper, which can be harmful to human health and the environment.
In addition, burning pressure-treated wood can release large amounts of smoke and other pollutants, which can contribute to air pollution and may be a nuisance to neighbors.
If you need to dispose of pressure-treated wood, it is best to contact your local waste disposal facility or a hazardous waste collection service to ensure that it is disposed of safely and in accordance with local regulations.
5 Tips for Installing Pressure Treated Wood
When installing pressure-treated wood, there are several things to keep in mind to ensure a safe and long-lasting installation:
1] Wear Protective Gear… As mentioned earlier, pressure-treated wood contains chemicals that can be harmful if ingested or inhaled. Be sure to wear gloves, eye protection, and a mask when cutting, sanding, or handling the wood.
2] Choose the Right Fasteners… Pressure-treated wood can be corrosive to certain types of fasteners, so it’s important to use the right ones. Stainless steel, aluminum, and hot-dipped galvanized fasteners are all good choices.
3] Use Proper Installation Techniques… Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installing pressure-treated wood. This may include leaving a gap between boards to allow for expansion, using flashing to prevent water damage, and using a moisture barrier between the wood and the ground.
4] Maintain the Wood… Pressure-treated wood will last longer if it’s properly maintained. This includes cleaning it regularly and applying a protective coating every few years.
5] Dispose of Scraps Properly… Any scraps or sawdust from pressure-treated wood should be disposed of properly, as they may contain toxic chemicals. Don’t burn pressure-treated wood, as this can release harmful chemicals into the air. Instead, dispose of it at a hazardous waste facility or through your local waste disposal service.
What Fasteners Do You Use With Pressure Treated Wood?
When working with pressure treated wood, it’s important to use fasteners (nails, screws, bolts, etc.) that are specifically designed for use with this type of wood. This is because the chemicals used to treat the wood can cause corrosion and premature degradation of certain types of fasteners.
Here are some fasteners that are commonly recommended for use with pressure treated wood:
Hot-Dipped Galvanized Nails… These are nails that have been coated with zinc to provide protection against corrosion. They are a good choice for most applications and are widely available.
Stainless Steel Screws… Stainless steel is highly resistant to corrosion and is an excellent choice for use with pressure treated wood. However, stainless steel fasteners can be more expensive than other options.
Coated Screws… Some screw manufacturers offer coated screws that are specifically designed for use with pressure treated wood. These screws have a coating that provides extra protection against corrosion.
Bolts and Lag Screws… If you’re working with large pieces of pressure treated wood, such as posts or beams, you may need to use bolts or lag screws. These fasteners should also be hot-dipped galvanized or made of stainless steel.
Hidden Fastener Systems… Some manufacturers offer hidden fastener systems that are specifically designed for use with pressure treated wood. These systems can be a good option if you want a clean, seamless look without visible fasteners.
It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing fasteners with pressure treated wood, and to make sure you’re using the right size and type of fastener for the job.
Top 5 Ways to Cut Pressure Treated Wood
1] Circular Saw… A circular saw is a popular choice for cutting pressure treated wood because it’s efficient, powerful, and relatively easy to use. When using a circular saw, make sure the blade is sharp and adjusted to the correct depth to ensure accurate and smooth cuts.
2] Miter Saw… A miter saw is also a good option for cutting pressure treated wood, especially when making angled cuts. This tool can make precision cuts quickly and easily, and is especially useful for cutting long pieces of lumber to size.
3] Table Saw… A table saw is another powerful tool that can be used to cut pressure treated wood. This tool is especially useful when making rip cuts or cutting boards to specific widths. Be sure to use a carbide-tipped blade designed for cutting pressure-treated wood to get the best results.
4] Jigsaw… A jigsaw is a versatile tool that can make both straight and curved cuts in pressure treated wood. It’s ideal for cutting curves and irregular shapes and is also useful for cutting notches and holes.
5] Hand Saw… For smaller projects or when you need to make a quick cut, a hand saw can be a good option. A crosscut saw is ideal for cutting across the grain, while a rip saw is better for cutting with the grain. When using a hand saw, make sure the blade is sharp and use steady, even strokes to avoid splintering the wood.
When cutting pressure treated wood it can release chemicals that are harmful to your health.
Here are some tips on how to cut pressure-treated wood safely:
Wear Protective Gear… Before cutting pressure treated wood, put on a respirator, safety glasses, and gloves to protect yourself from the sawdust and chemicals.
Choose the Right Tool… Use a circular saw or a miter saw with a carbide-tipped blade. A carbide blade will make cleaner cuts and last longer than a regular blade.
Mark the Cut… Use a pencil to mark where you want to cut. This will help ensure that your cut is straight and accurate.
Clamp the Wood… Use clamps to hold the wood securely in place before cutting. This will prevent the wood from moving and causing a dangerous kickback.
Cut Outside… Cut the wood outside if possible. If you must cut indoors, make sure the room is well-ventilated.
Clean Up Properly… After cutting pressure-treated wood, clean up the sawdust and dispose of it properly. Do not burn pressure-treated wood, as it can release toxic fumes.
Wash Your Hands… Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling pressure-treated wood.
Do You Have to Spot Treat Cuts in Pressure Treated Wood?
Pressure treated wood has been chemically treated to resist rot, decay, and insect damage. While this treatment can prolong the life of the wood, it does not make it completely immune to damage or decay over time.
If you have cuts or holes in pressure treated wood, it is recommended to apply a protective coating or sealant to the cut surfaces to help prevent moisture from penetrating the wood. Moisture can lead to decay and damage over time, especially in areas with high humidity or frequent exposure to water.
There are several products available that are specifically designed for treating cut ends of pressure treated wood, such as copper naphthenate or zinc-based coatings. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application, and to wear protective gloves and a mask while handling these products.
Overall, while treating cuts in pressure treated wood is not strictly necessary, it can help to extend the lifespan of the wood and prevent future damage.
Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood?
Yes, you can paint pressure-treated wood, but it’s important to prepare the wood properly before painting to ensure that the paint adheres well and lasts a long time. Pressure-treated wood has been treated with chemicals to resist rot and insect damage, and these chemicals can prevent paint from sticking to the surface.
Here are the steps you should follow to paint pressure-treated wood:
Wait for the Wood to Dry… Pressure-treated wood is often wet when it’s first installed, so it’s important to wait for it to dry completely before painting. This can take several weeks, depending on the weather and the amount of sun exposure the wood receives.
Clean the Wood… Use a stiff brush and a solution of water and detergent to clean the wood and remove any dirt or debris. Rinse the wood thoroughly with clean water and allow it to dry completely.
Sand the Wood… Sand the wood with a medium-grit sandpaper to remove any rough spots or splinters and to create a smooth surface for painting. Wipe away any dust with a clean cloth.
Apply a Primer… Apply a high-quality primer that is specifically designed for pressure-treated wood. This will help the paint adhere to the wood and provide a more even finish. Allow the primer to dry completely before painting.
Paint the Wood… Once the primer has dried, you can paint the wood with a high-quality paint that is designed for use on outdoor surfaces. Apply the paint in thin, even coats, and allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next one. If your considering painting pressure treated wood, check out my article Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood for the full details.
Can You Stain Pressure Treated Wood?
Yes, pressure-treated wood can be stained. However, it is important to note that pressure-treated wood is typically treated with chemicals to help protect it from rot, decay, and insect infestations. These chemicals can make it more difficult for the wood to absorb stain evenly.
To ensure the best results when staining pressure-treated wood, it is important to prepare the surface properly. This may involve cleaning the wood thoroughly, sanding it to remove any rough spots or splinters, and allowing it to dry completely before applying any stain.
It is also important to choose the right type of stain for pressure-treated wood. Look for a stain that is specifically formulated for use on pressure-treated wood, as these products are designed to penetrate the surface and provide a long-lasting finish.
Additionally, it is recommended to apply a sealer or protective coating after staining pressure-treated wood to help protect it from the elements and extend its lifespan.
Can you Sand Pressure Treated Wood?
Yes, pressure treated wood can be sanded. However, it’s important to take proper precautions when sanding pressure treated wood, as it can contain chemicals that can be harmful if inhaled.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Wear Protective Gear… When sanding pressure treated wood, wear a dust mask, safety glasses, and gloves to protect yourself from dust and chemicals.
Use a Fine-Grit Sandpaper… A sandpaper grit, such as 120 or 150 grit, to avoid removing too much of the protective coating on the wood.
Use a Well-Ventilated Area… Sand the wood in a well-ventilated area, such as outdoors or in a garage with the door open, to minimize your exposure to any harmful chemicals.
Clean up Thoroughly… After sanding, clean up all the dust and debris with a broom or vacuum to avoid any accidental ingestion.
Dispose of Sawdust Properly… Do not burn sawdust from pressure treated wood as it can release harmful chemicals into the air. Instead, dispose of it according to your local regulations.
Pressure-treated wood contains chemicals that are used to protect the wood from decay and insects. These chemicals can potentially pose a risk to human health, especially if they are ingested, inhaled, or come into contact with skin over a prolonged period of time.
In the past, pressure-treated wood was treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA), which was found to be toxic and was phased out for residential use in 2003. The newer formulations of pressure-treated wood use alternative chemicals, such as alkaline copper quat (ACQ) or copper azole (CA), which are considered safer but may still pose some risks.
If you are planning to use pressure-treated wood in a kids’ play area, it is important to make sure that it meets the standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for residential use. Look for wood that is labeled as “micronized copper azole” (MCA) or “copper azole” (CA), as these formulations are considered safe for use around children.
It is also a good idea to seal the wood with a water-based sealant to reduce the risk of exposure to the chemicals. Additionally, you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for handling and disposal of the wood.
Ultimately, while the risks associated with pressure-treated wood are low, it is important to take precautions to minimize any potential exposure to the chemicals.
Pressure-treated wood can be harmful to pets if they chew or ingest it. Pressure-treated wood is treated with chemicals such as copper, arsenic, and chromium to prevent rotting and insect infestations, and these chemicals can be toxic to pets if ingested in large amounts.
If you plan to use pressure-treated wood for a pet-related project, such as building a dog house or outdoor enclosure, it is important to take precautions to ensure your pet’s safety.
Here are some tips:
Use Non-Toxic Sealants… Use a non-toxic sealant to cover the pressure-treated wood to prevent your pet from coming into contact with the chemicals. Be sure to let the sealant dry completely before allowing your pet to come into contact with the wood.
Use Alternative Materials… Consider using alternative materials such as untreated wood, composite decking, or plastic lumber that do not contain harmful chemicals. These materials can be just as durable and long-lasting as pressure-treated wood.
Monitor Your Pet… Keep an eye on your pet closely when they are around pressure-treated wood to ensure they are not chewing on or ingesting it. Provide them with plenty of toys and chews to redirect their attention.
Pressure-treated lumber can be used for raised beds, but there are some considerations to keep in mind.
Pressure-treated lumber is treated with chemicals to resist decay, insect infestation, and other forms of damage. The chemicals used in pressure-treated lumber can potentially leach into the soil and be absorbed by plants.
In the past, the chemicals used in pressure-treated lumber were more toxic and contained arsenic. However, newer pressure-treated lumber uses safer chemicals such as copper-based compounds. These chemicals are considered safe for use in raised beds, but it is still important to take precautions.
Here are some guidelines to follow when using pressure-treated lumber for raised beds:
1] Use newer pressure-treated lumber that is labeled as safe for use in raised beds.
2] Line the inside of the bed with plastic sheeting to prevent the soil from coming into contact with the lumber.
3] Avoid using pressure-treated lumber for any part of the bed that will be in direct contact with the soil, such as the bottom of the bed.
4]Consider using untreated lumber or alternative materials such as cedar or composite lumber for the sides of the bed.
How Long Does Pressure Treated Wood Last?
Pressure treated wood is treated with chemicals to make it resistant to rot, decay, and insect damage. The lifespan of pressure treated wood can vary depending on factors such as the type of wood, the amount and type of chemicals used in the treatment, and the conditions in which the wood is used.
In general, pressure treated wood can last anywhere from 20 to 50 years or more, depending on these factors. For example, wood treated with higher levels of preservatives will generally last longer than wood treated with lower levels.
It’s also important to note that proper installation and maintenance can play a significant role in the lifespan of pressure treated wood. Regular cleaning and sealing can help extend the life of the wood by preventing water damage and other types of wear and tear.
Overall, the lifespan of pressure treated wood is not a precise science, but it can be influenced by various factors, and it is important to follow recommended installation and maintenance practices to maximize its lifespan.
Pressure Treated Wood vs Treated Wood
Pressure treated wood and treated wood are both types of wood that have been chemically treated to improve their resistance to decay and insect damage. However, there are some important differences between the two.
Pressure treated wood is wood that has been treated with a preservative under high pressure. The preservative is forced deep into the wood fibers, which makes it more resistant to rot, decay, and insect damage. Pressure treated wood is commonly used for outdoor applications such as decks, fences, and posts.
Treated wood, on the other hand, refers to any wood that has been treated with a preservative to protect it from decay and insect damage. This can include wood that has been treated with a preservative by brushing or spraying, as well as wood that has been pressure treated.
In general, pressure treated wood is considered to be more durable and long-lasting than other types of treated wood. This is because the pressure treatment process forces the preservative deeper into the wood, which provides better protection against decay and insect damage.
However, it’s important to note that pressure treated wood can still be vulnerable to weathering and may need to be treated with a sealant or other protective coating to maintain its appearance and structural integrity over time. Additionally, pressure treated wood may contain chemicals that can be harmful if ingested or inhaled, so it should be handled and disposed of properly.
Cost of Pressure Treated Wood vs Treated Wood
In general, pressure-treated wood is more expensive than treated wood because it undergoes a more intensive treatment process. The pressure treatment process involves treating the wood with chemicals under high pressure to ensure that the preservatives penetrate deep into the wood fibers, resulting in a more durable and long-lasting product.
However, the cost of pressure-treated wood vs treated wood can also vary depending on factors such as the type of wood, the size and grade of the lumber, and the supplier. It’s always a good idea to compare prices from different suppliers to ensure that you’re getting the best deal.
Cost of Pressure Treated Wood vs Untreated Wood
Pressure-treated wood is typically more expensive than untreated wood because of the additional treatment process it undergoes. The pressure treatment process involves treating the wood with chemicals to make it more resistant to decay, rot, and insect damage, which increases its durability and lifespan. This process can add to the cost of the wood.
Untreated wood, on the other hand, has not been treated with any chemicals and is susceptible to decay, rot, and insect damage over time. While untreated wood is less expensive upfront, it may require more frequent maintenance and replacement in the long run, which can ultimately add to its cost over time.
The exact cost difference between pressure-treated wood and untreated wood can vary depending on factors such as the type of wood, the size and grade of the lumber, and the supplier. In general, pressure-treated wood will cost more than untreated wood, but it may be a worthwhile investment in the long run if you want a durable, long-lasting product.
Here’s a handy table you can use to compare Pressure Treated Wood, Treated Wood and Untreated Wood:
|Category||Pressure-Treated Wood||Treated Wood||Untreated Wood|
Wood that has been treated with chemicals and placed in a pressure chamber to force the chemicals deep into the wood fibers
|Wood that has been treated with chemicals but not placed in a pressure chamber||Wood that has not been treated with any chemicals or preservatives|
|Protection||Highly resistant to rot, decay, and insect infestations||Resistant to rot, decay, and insect infestations but not as durable as pressure-treated wood||Susceptible to rot, decay, and insect infestations|
|Cost||Typically more expensive than untreated wood||Typically less expensive than pressure-treated wood but more expensive than untreated wood||Typically the least expensive option|
|Maintenance||Requires very little maintenance||Requires some maintenance, such as regular cleaning and application of sealant or stain||Requires regular maintenance, such as cleaning, sanding, and application of sealant or stain|
|Environmental Impact||The chemicals used in pressure-treated wood can be harmful to the environment and must be disposed of properly||The chemicals used in treated wood can also be harmful to the environment and must be disposed of properly||Untreated wood is generally considered the most environmentally friendly option|
|Uses||Best suited for outdoor projects such as decks, fences, and retaining walls||Suitable for outdoor projects but not as durable as pressure-treated wood||Suitable for indoor and outdoor projects where the wood will not be exposed to moisture or insects for extended periods of time|
As you can see pressure treated wood has many positive applications and if used correctly following the safe practices I have gone over in this article you will get many years of life from any structure you build using pressure treated wood.