Tips for Using Pressure Treated Lumber in Your Project

Contractor working with pressure treated lumber

Science is a great thing, leading to many discoveries and developments every year in the construction industry. One of the most commonly-used items in outdoor and on-concrete framing is pressure treated lumber. Created by applying pressure and vacuum to a piece of lumber, the process forces preservatives deep into the wood, protecting it from insect damage and rot. But this process also changes some of the key characteristics of the lumber, making it heavier, more corrosive to some metals and tougher to work. In this piece, we'll discuss some common tips and tricks used by professionals around the world to more effectively make use of this awesome product.

Heavy Subject

Though the exact amount of preservative forced into the wood varies based on recommended use, it does have one effect across the board - increased weight. As the preservative level in the wood increases, so does its weight, requiring additional thought when planning your design. A structure built from standard lumber will weigh less and have lower structural stress than one built of the same dimensional lumber that has been treated. By bearing this in mind, you can prevent potential structural issues in your project.

Safety First

Carrying lumber

Another place where weight comes into play is in wear and tear on your crew. Heavier wood means it takes more trips to move into position, because you can carry fewer pieces per trip. If your crew is used to handling untreated lumber, the difference in weight can lead to overcompensating for the weight difference, causing potential safety hazards. As with any kind of construction project, taking a few minutes to run through your safety plan and think through the task at hand can often save time, energy, money and injuries in the long run.

Corrosive Personality

When chromated copper arsenate (CCA) was phased out a few years ago, it was replaced by solutions that were even more copper-heavy. With the increased copper content, the lumber has become more corrosive, creating a serious problem if you use the wrong kind of fasteners or flashing. You'll especially want to avoid using aluminum due to the corrosive interaction while sticking to stainless steel, hot dipped galvanized fasteners and stick to copper or vinyl flashing where it's needed. Another option to consider, where flashing may otherwise be needed, is to use a rubberized membrane over the treated lumber.


Exposure Avoidance

Though today's preservative compounds aren't quite as nasty as CCA was, they can still cause significant health issues if you're not careful with how you handle the treated lumber. Cut, drill, and sand lumber in a well-ventilated area while wearing safety glasses and a dust mask. Make sure you wear gloves whenever possible to avoid absorbing the compounds through your skin and wash up well before eating or drinking. Avoid burning treated lumber, even the scraps, as this volatilizes the compounds and makes them easier to absorb through your respiratory system.

Tough Customer

Pre Drilling Pressure Treated Lumber

Treated lumber also tends to be tougher than untreated wood, requiring a bit more work to get the job done. Carbide-tipped saw blades will help you cut through the preserved wood faster and more easily. Pre-drilling a pilot hole before driving nails or screws will help prevent splits and make for easier going. If you can't put a pilot hole in ahead of time, try using an impact driver to get the fastener driven faster. If you're using a nail gun, plan on cranking up the pressure a bit to ensure it will sink properly.

Finishing Out

Before you start applying paint or stain, you need to make sure the wood has dried thoroughly first. If you place a drop of water on the surface and it beads up, it's too damp to work. If it absorbs into the surface, it's ready to go. If you don't take any finishing steps, at least put a clear wood preservative on annually to protect your hard work.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can get a lot out of your treated lumber without sacrificing your productivity. If you're a contractor looking to improve your productivity be sure to download our Commercial LEED Credentialing guide below.

A Free Guide To LEED Speciality Product Certification Guide

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Wallboard Supply Company is a third generation, family run business that has been serving New England's building needs since 1970. Bob Filion started the company with a commitment to provide quality drywall and finishing products with unmatched customer service. The company has grown over the years, expanding its' product range, but never wavering from its' core values.