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March 8, 2016

Pressure-Treated Wood and Fasteners

Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) used to be used to treat wood products to prevent rot, decay, and termites. However, concerns over its safety led to restrictions, even though scientists found no evidence of serious health problems.

In response to pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency and some environmental groups, the wood treatment industry voluntarily restricted the use of CCA for certain applications. Restrictions were placed on its use for lumber to be used for residential applications. CCA can still be used for non-consumer industrial, commercial, marine, and agricultural applications, including agricultural timber and poles, foundation pilings, highway construction, marine, permanent wood foundations, plywood products, and utility poles.

Because of the restrictions on the use of CCA, alternative treatments began to be used. Today, micronized products, particularly copper azoles, are more widely used. In those products, copper is dispersed in water, rather than dissolved like CCA, so that micronized copper metal particles are injected into the wood.

All wood that meets current standards is labeled with an ICC-ES or American Wood Protection Association approval. It includes information on the chemical used, the standards met, the manufacturer’s name, and the year of manufacture. The wood is labeled “ground contact” or “above ground” so the builder knows where it can be used.

Sometimes builders make mistakes with treated wood. For example, some use CCA for splash plank or splash boards just above post-frame foundations. The National Frame Building Association prohibited the use of CCA in those areas and requires that material labeled “ground contact” be used for splash plank/splash boards.

Another common problem is with wood that has been treated and then cut, drilled, or ripped. Field treating is required to continue preservation of vulnerable areas, but some builders skip that step. AWPA revised the standards because those treatments were often skipped.

After restrictions were placed on the use of CCA, there was some confusion about what types of fasteners to use. Researchers found that hot-dipped galvanized or stainless steel fasteners and connectors that meet the ASTM standards do not corrode. The fastener industry changed quickly to make sure its products were properly coated to be used with wood treated using new chemicals.



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