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  • Writer's pictureDon Magruder

Buy the Right Treated Lumber for Your Next Project

Summer is the time of year that many decks, porches, and docks are restored or built because it is time to enjoy barbecues and the great outdoors. A mistake a lot of consumers and even builders make is they just order treated lumber without understanding there are many different types. Ordering the wrong treated lumber for an application can result in premature failures which are costly due to the material and labor costs.

Here are a few things you should consider when buying treated lumber:

If you go to the store and ask for treated lumber be sure to know whether it is above ground contact or ground contact treated lumber. This is going to get a little confusing, but it is important information.

Above ground contact treated lumber is used for exactly what is says. If you are doing a project and you want it to be weather and bug resistant you should use this item. However, the post and any other lumber that gets in contact or close contact to the ground or over any sitting water should use ground contact. Above ground contact treated lumber is to be used only in high and dry places- no sitting water areas.

The problem is that Florida is a hot, damp climate with continuous afternoon thunderstorms which can create ponding under porches and decks. If you have a situation in which above ground contact treated lumber is used above a damp, moist ground, you can have rot. For that reason, some lumberyards in Florida will only stock ground contact lumber because moist, damp soil is everywhere. This is probably the reason why treated lumber prices may vary from store to store in Florida. In Florida, you should really use ground contact treated lumber.

For docks, it matters if the dock is in fresh water or salt water. There are different treating retention rates for each application and using the wrong product can result in premature failures or extra cost. Most professional dock builders understand what treated lumber to use in your application, but many times when a homeowner buys his own treated wood there are mistakes.

There is also a big issue in using the right kind of fasteners for your treated wood projects. Most treated wood requires the use of a galvanized fastener and hanger due to the corrosive nature of the treatment in the wood. There are cases in which treated wood projects have failed because the fasteners literally rotted and rusted away. Take the time to understand the required fastening requirements for the treated wood you are purchasing so your project won’t get wobbly and fail.

If you have termites in the home, summer is the worst time. The best advice is to use a borate treated wood which is available at many lumber yards. This wood is for interior use only, but the two advantages are that it will deter not only termites, but all bugs and it is not corrosive to fasteners. In most cases you can use a non-galvanized or stainless cheaper screw or nail.

When you have a treated wood done at your home, save some of the tags at the end of your lumber and your sales invoice, because most treated lumber companies have excellent extended warranties. Without the tags and invoice, it is hard to prove where the treated lumber originated from as many lumberyards buy their material from several different vendors.

Anytime I see a failed treated wood project, my first thought is they used the wrong treated wood. Yes, you should protect and maintain your treated wood to keep it looking good, but rot failures are normally one of two problems- wrong treated wood application or a failure in the treating process. If you have kept your tags and receipt of a failed project that was a manufacturing error, there is good chance your will get compensated for the lumber.

Treated lumber providers have great websites but unfortunately, many in the mass retailing side do a poor job training personnel on treated lumber. Know how your treated lumber will be used and buy the products right for your job.

Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc., and he is also the host of the “Around the House” Show which can be seen at AroundtheHouse.TV.

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