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Green Treated Lumber Goffstown NH

When I go into my local building supply store in Goffstown to buy lumber, the first thing I'm asked is whether I want "white wood" or "green-treated." Over the last few years, my home projects have been a deck, a privacy fence for the back yard and low retaining walls in my garden. For these projects, I want the wood to last a long time, so I've bought green-treated lumber.

Goosebay Sawmill & Lumber
(603) 798-5135
83 Dover Road Route 4
Chichester, NH

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Country 3 Corners True Value
(603) 529-7539
833 S Stark Hwy
Weare, NH
 
Lowe's
(603) 518-9146
707 Huse Road
Manchester, NH
Hours
M-SA 6 am - 10 pm
SU 8 am - 8 pm

Leblanc True Value Hardware
(603) 623-6742
621 Hayward St
Manchester, NH
 
Lowe's
(603) 573-4101
90 Fort Eddy Road
Concord, NH
Hours
M-SA 6 am - 9 pm
SU 8 am - 7 pm

Lowe's
(603) 310-2520
2 Commerce Drive
Hooksett, NH
Hours
M-SA 7 am - 9 pm
SU 8 am - 7 pm

Lowe's
(603) 518-9900
222 South River Road
Bedford, NH
Hours
M-SA 6 am - 10 pm
SU 8 am - 8 pm

Mall Of New Hampshire
(603) 628-5200
1500 S Willow St
Manchester, NH
Store Hours
Sears Stores
Store Type
Sears Stores
Hours
Mon:10-21
Tue:10-21
Wed:10-21
Thu:10-21
Fri:10-21
Sat:8-21
Sun:10.5-18.5
Store Features
Mon:10-21
Tue:10-21
Wed:10-21
Thu:10-21
Fri:10-21
Sat:8-21
Sun:10.5-18.5

Mar-Jam Supply Inc.
(603) 624-4900
257 Mammoth Road
Manchester, NH
 
Steeplegate Mall
(603) 229-0100
270 Loudon Rd
Concord, NH
Store Hours
Sears Stores
Store Type
Sears Stores
Hours
Mon:10-21
Tue:10-21
Wed:10-21
Thu:10-21
Fri:10-21
Sat:8-21
Sun:10-18.5
Store Features
Mon:10-21
Tue:10-21
Wed:10-21
Thu:10-21
Fri:10-21
Sat:8-21
Sun:10-18.5

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Persevering Without Peril

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When I go into my local building supply store to buy lumber, the first thing I'm asked is whether I want "white wood" or "green-treated." Over the last few years, my home projects have been a deck, a privacy fence for the back yard and low retaining walls in my garden. For these projects, I want the wood to last a long time, so I've bought green-treated lumber.

But in recent years, this widely used product - also known as pressure-treated, or PT, lumber - has come under fire. Many people are concerned about its health effects, especially on children. Is the threat real? "Green-treated" usually means the wood has been treated with CCA, short for chromated copper arsenate. As the name implies, this is a mixture of chromium, copper and arsenic compounds. Each of the metals has a function. Copper is the primary preservative. It protects the wood from most decay-causing fungi and insects. Arsenic functions as a second line of defense. It takes care of the fungi and insects that the copper can't handle. Finally, the chromium reacts with the copper, arsenic and wood to "fix" the CCA preservative so it doesn't readily leach out of the wood when it is exposed to rainfall or comes in contact with groundwater. The green color comes from the copper compounds in the CCA-treated wood. As long as it is used properly, CCA is an effective wood preservative with a long history of use.

In fact, CCA was first used in the United States for treating utility poles during the early 1940s. Some of those poles are still standing - a real tribute to its excellent performance. The market for CCA-treated lumber started to grow around 1974, when treated lumber was first promoted to do-it-yourselfers, especially for home decks and patios. Wood treating has grown into a $4 billion industry; about 700 million cubic feet of wood is treated in the United States every year, and about 80 percent of it is treated with CCA. CCA-treated wood seems to be a good thing. We can easily build decks and fences that will last for decades, which are additions that significantly improve the quality of our outdoor life around the home. But there are usually tradeoffs with good things, and CCA is no exception.

The major problem with CCA is its arsenic content. If you live in Florida and read the local newspapers, you may already be familiar with the issue. A number of Florida cities and counties, concerned about the exposure of children to arsenic on the surface of the wood and in the soil surrounding the play structures, have closed playgrounds in which the equipment was built with CCA-treated wood. In addition, a bill has been filed in the state legislature that would prohibit CCA-treated wood in new playground equipment built or bought with any state, county or municipal funds and would require sealing of CCA-treated wood in existing public playground structures. Similar legislation and ordinances are being considered in other parts of the country, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, California and Massachusetts.

There is also activity at the federal level. The EPA is conducting a large-scale investigation into the leaching of arsenic from playground equipment made with CCA-treated wood. Is this a real problem - a significant health hazard to our children? The jury is still out. The EPA is evaluating the potential human and environmental risks of CCA; a preliminary report is due out in early 2002 and may propose restrictions on its use later in the year. Still, many people don't want to take a chance. If you don't want to use CCA-treated wood for your new deck or playground, what else can you use? Besides non-wood products, there are quite a few alternatives - wood treated with other types of wood preservatives, naturally durable wood and wood/plastic composites. The Alternatives The most commonly available CCA alternative is ACQ (alkaline copper quaternary), sold under the trade name Preserve. Like CCA, ACQ uses copper as the primary preservative. But instead of arsenic, a common disinfectant called a quaternary ammonium salt is used to control the pests that the copper can't handle. ACQ-treated wood is available in most parts of the country. A somewhat similar preservative is Tanalith E, again containing copper plus an additional organic fungicide. Both of these preservatives are listed in the American Wood-Preservers' Association (AWPA) standards and have a preservative performance similar to CCA. Wood treated with either preservative can be used directly in place of CCA-treated lumber.

The major advantage is that neither contains arsenic. The major disadvantage is that lumber treated with either preservative is more expensive than CCA-treated wood. In California and some areas of the Southeast, you may come across wood treated with SmartGuard. (In Hawaii, the same preservative is called Hi-Bor.) These preservatives are based on disodium octoborate tetrahydrate (DOT), reputed to be a very safe and effective preservative. DOT is also listed by the AWPA. A very important difference between DOT and the other wood preservatives is that DOT is not fixed. That means it will readily leach out of the treated wood if exposed to rainfall or any other source of liquid water. DOT-treated wood is not suitable for building decks, fences or any other outdoor structure. It is only suitable for interior, protected applications where it won't be exposed to liquid water. For example, there is a severe problem with termites in most cities and towns in Hawaii. Local building ordinances require all interior, structural construction lumber to be treated for termite resistance. Hi-bor is dominating this market because of its low cost, low human toxicity and minimal environmental impact. But its use is only recommended for applications where the treated wood is protected from rainfall by exterior siding and a roof structure.

There are two other wood preservatives you commonly hear about - creosote and pentachlorophenol. These are commonly used for industrial applications like utility poles, railway ties, bridge timbers, commercial docks and highway guardrail posts. Wood treated with these preservatives is not suitable for use around the home. The only exception might be for old railway ties or utility pole sections used as landscaping timbers. Non-Treated Alternatives You can avoid the treating issue altogether, but there are tradeoffs. Lumber cut from the heartwood of redwood and western red cedar is naturally resistant to fungal and insect attack. This is due to the presence of extractives - natural preservatives and coloring agents found in these heartwoods. Unfortunately, using these species is not a guarantee that the lumber will be completely resistant to decay and insects. The degree of resistance varies. The sapwood (the light-colored band of wood just under the bark) and heartwood immediately around the pith (called juvenile wood) have low levels of these extractives. Sapwood and juvenile wood are not very resistant to decay and insects. The best redwood and cedar lumber won't contain any sapwood, should be cut from large, mature trees and shouldn't include any wood from around the pith of the tree.

Another issue to think about is whether you want to use the naturally durable wood cut from large mature trees (typically harvested from old-growth forests) or treated wood typically cut from plantation-grown southern pine. With the latter, you avoid environmental ethics questions - at least about the source of the wood - and also have a performance warranty. Thermoplastic/wood-fiber composites are another group of wood-based exterior building products. You most commonly see these materials formed into decking boards, but railing components are also available. Two of the more common brand names are Trex and WeatherBest, but there are many other products of this type on the market. These materials are relatively new and the long-term durability is untested. They certainly look good when new, but they are expensive, similar in cost to high-grade redwood. Plastic/wood products can dramatically change color when weathered, and they are non-structural. That means you can't use them for joists or deck/railing support posts.

If you are going to use plastic/wood products in your deck, make sure you know what they are going to look like after a year or two, and read the warranty carefully. The Bottom Line If I were building a new deck, I wouldn't hesitate to use CCA-treated pine for support posts, joists and other structural components of the deck. To be on the safe side, I would look at other products for the deckboards and railings. It depends on what is available locally for a fair price. For playground equipment, I would use wood treated with an arsenic-free preservative. For fences and other structures, which my children don't normally touch, CCA would be acceptable to me. n Peter Laks is a professor of wood protection at the School of Forestry and Wood Products at Michigan Technological University.

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