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Technologies for Wood Preservation in Historic Preservation
JOSEPH R. LOFERSKI
Departmet of Wood Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, USA
Abstract. Because of the abundant forests of the world, wood is one of the most common materials found in historic buildings. Wood is relatively easy to fabricate into beams, columns, and roof systems using simple hand tools. However, because of its biological origin, wood is one of the most complex constructions materials. It is produced by thousands of different species of trees, and each type of wood has unique properties. Wood has an afﬁnity for moisture and this can lead to biological deterioration caused by insects and decay fungi. This chapter presents information on understanding and preventing the mechanisms of wood deterioration in historic buildings. The chapter includes a discussion of wood preservation and technology, including wood ﬁnishes and wood preservative treatments, diffusible preservatives, and naturally durable wood species. A brief discussion about the repair of deteriorated timbers in buildings is also included.
Introduction Wood was widely used to construct structures and artifacts that today are considered historic. Since colonial times, buildings in North America have been largely or completely built of wood. Even masonry buildings contain many wood components such as moldings, doors, windows and cabinets. Wood is abundant, easy to work, and if properly used, wood is long-lasting. However, because of its biological origin, wood is susceptible to deterioration from a variety of causes. Understanding why wood deteriorates is fundamental to establishing a preservation, restoration, or stabilization program. This chapter introduces a variety of technologies developed to preserve or restore wood and wood products in structures. The four objectives of the chapter are: (1) to deﬁne the agents of wood deterioration, especially in structures, (2) to introduce the variety of ﬁnishes to protect wood in exterior environments, (3) to provide an understanding of wood durability including naturally resistant species and modern wood preservatives, particularly those that can be applied in-situ in buildings, and (4) to examine methods for restoring deteriorated wood. Wood utilization is a ﬁeld of active research in the United States and abroad. Each year in the United States more wood is used in construction of new buildings and restoring existing buildings than all other construction materials combined, measured on either a weight or volume basis. Researchers at govern-
was established in 1910 to conduct general research on wood and its utilization. makes up 30 to 35% of the weight of wood. Local Extension agents can often answer a speciﬁc question or assist in ﬁnding an expert on wood at a local or state university.274 JOSEPH R. The chemical bonds in cellulose are extremely stable and most organisms do not possess the enzymes needed to break cellulose down into digestible glucose. Furthermore. Lignin. alcohol. university and industrial laboratories throughout the United States and the world have developed a wide variety of techniques to foster the efﬁcient and effective utilization of this tremendous amount of wood. the Land Grant Universities. particularly. Although most of this information is intended for the modern forest products industry.e. Extractives occur only in the heartwood and can be dissolved and removed (i. Since that time. an amorphous polymer. may be less useful to conservators with general wood related problems. or other solvents. LOFERSKI ment. the Cooperative Extension Service is also a valuable resource. extracted) from wood with water. These polymers make up the cell wall and are remarkably similar in all timber species. therefore. the FPL has developed and accumulated a vast resource of information and knowledge on construction problems and practices. The heartwood of some wood species contain extractives that provide resistance to deterioration.000 to 30. When facing an unknown situation with wood products in buildings. Wood Deterioration Wood consists of three primary organic polymers: cellulose. Another important resource for conservators of historic structures is the wood science/wood technology departments located at universities throughout the United States.000 glucose molecules bonded end-to-end. Similar to the FPL. some information is directly applicable to preserving historic structures. the primary constituent. Cellulose. Lignin’s role in wood is to bond bundles of cellulose together to form the rigid cell wall. These three primary chemicals provide wood’s characteristic strength and stiffness. the university wood science departments employ scientists who specialize in understanding the performance of wood in all its applications including in buildings. The secondary chemicals in wood include the broad category of chemicals called extractives and inorganics called ash. Industrial laboratories often conduct proprietary research and. Wisconsin. They can assist with selecting chemical controls for speciﬁc applications in historic structures. but not limited to. represents approximately 50% of the weight of wood and is a linear polymer of 10. . lignin. Hemicelluloses are a group of ﬁve and six carbon sugars that assist the bond formation in the growing cell between the cellulose and lignin. The US Forest Service’s Forest Products Research Laboratory (FPL) in Madison. The FPL has scientists who specialize in virtually every aspect of wood utilization. and hemicellulose. entomologists and plant pathologists are experts at identifying and controlling insects and fungi respectively.
the most effective way to control formosian termites. Whole-building fumigation is. (3) chemical. Anobiids attack both hardwoods and softwoods. and mildew. Both lyctids and the old house borer can be inadvertently introduced into buildings by infested wood used in reconstruction or renovation. Because of their small size. Powder post beetles produce-inch diameter holes and slowly remove the wood cell wall by tunneling. Termites tunnel in wood and are capable of digesting it. called frass. powder-post beetles. They forage for food outside of the nest sites. They excavate the interior of wood elements and. and are often found in older buildings. the old house borer prefers new softwoods and produces oval-shaped tunnels. Despite its name. produce an extreme strength loss. (2) weathering and photo degradation. and exterior millwork are common symptoms of biological deterioration in buildings. The wood boring insects lay their eggs in wood. molds. in advanced stages. This organism was accidentally introduced into the United States from Asia and is difﬁcult to control in buildings because soil treatments that work well for subterranean termites are ineffective on formosian termites because of their above-ground mode of entry into the building. Severely deteriorated joists. however. because they do not ingest the wood. most insect damage is done by subterranean termites which require direct soil contact and an abundant moisture source. and (4) ﬁre. attacks dry or wet wood above or below ground line. powder post beetles. and often progresses for years before the problem is discovered by the buildings owner. and the “old house” borers. INSECTS The main insects of concern in buildings are termites. The larvae hatch and feed inside the wood. usually slow. perhaps. it takes many generations of insects to signiﬁcantly affect the strength of wood.TECHNOLOGIES FOR WOOD PRESERVATION IN HISTORIC PRESERVATION 275 The primary causes of wood deterioration are (1) biological. and non-decay fungi including stains. they can live inside wood which has been treated with some of the chemicals that are toxic to termites. beams. out of the tunnel holes. carpenter ants. In the United States. columns. Some wood boring beetles. and old house borers. Both subterranean termites and carpenter ants prefer to colonize moist or wet wood. Deterioration caused by biological organisms is the biggest and most serious problem faced by architectural conservators and building owners. approximately 1/4-inch in diameter. decay fungi. are capable of infesting new and old dry wood in service. The three primary biological agents of deterioration are insects. thereby producing tunnels. Carpenter ants use wood for nesting by tunneling into it and ejecting the groundup wood dust. The recently introduced formosian termite however. Some insect species feed for periods from 4 months to 12 years before they transform into adults and . Powder post beetles (lyctids and anobiids) and the old house borer are notable examples. Lyctids prefer new hardwoods and often attack recently-processed lumber. Biological deterioration is quiet. sill plates. Therefore.
Brown rotting fungi prefer softwoods and attack the cellulose component of the cell wall. spongy. which is dark brown in color. Determining whether or not exit holes in wood were produced by a recent active infestation or by insects that left the wood long ago is an important step before selecting a prevention/control program. decay fungi cannot attack wood. The white rotting fungi prefer hardwoods and attack both the lignin and cellulose components of the cell wall. Two broad classes of decay fungi are recognized by the way they attack wood and the residue they leave behind: brown and white rotting fungi. and shrinks in an unusual manner as if it imploded. Decay fungi cause a severe and rapid strength loss in wood. Upon drying. the wood ever becomes wet. further damage to the wood is stopped. . structural elements that are decayed should be evaluated carefully to maintain structural safety. Furthermore. decay fungi cause far more damage to wood in buildings than do insects. drying wood that has been attacked by decay causes the fungi to become dormant. which are readily digestible. LOFERSKI emerge through exit holes on the wood surface. the partially decayed wood may be serviceable and may have acceptable performance indeﬁnitely. many insects only attack recently-felled/killed trees and do not infest wood in-service. They are capable of cleaving the cellulose molecule into glucose molecules. therefore. light in color. Furthermore. The surface of wood attacked by brown rots is easily identiﬁed by its brown color and cross grain cracks. Architectural wood processed from such trees contains the gallery holes from insects that left the wood long ago and. Williams (1988) provides a valuable table for diagnosing and identifying insect damage in wood based on the size and shape of the exit holes. Therefore. DECAY FUNGI Decay fungi are primitive plants that lack chlorophyll and derive their metabolic energy by decomposing the wood cell wall chemicals into their constituent molecules. the fungi will reactivate and will continue to destroy the wood. This means that by simply keeping wood dry. moisture content (greater than 25% but less than complete saturation) to colonize wood. Therefore. and if sufﬁcient strength remains. hence the name of brown rots. In advanced white rot decay. Both the brown and white rot decay fungi require liquid water and high. which are easily digested. Chemical controls for insects are discussed later in this chapter. The affected wood appears whitish in color. they leave behind the lignin component of the cell wall. the wood is very soft. If. however. often with black streaks that delineate the zone of decay. giving the wood a charred appearance.276 JOSEPH R. From an economic viewpoint. are not a threat to the building.
cupping.TECHNOLOGIES FOR WOOD PRESERVATION IN HISTORIC PRESERVATION 277 NON . dew. polar chemicals such as water. exposure to chemicals.BIOLOGICAL DETERIORATION Non-biological agents of deterioration include photodegradation and weathering. Although they are of concern primarily from a cosmetic viewpoint. Furthermore. They discolor the sapwood. mechanical damage to the wood surface is caused by repeated shrinking and swelling associated with the cyclic drying and wetting of the wood from exposure to rain. Warping. This effect is often seen as split panels in antique furniture. Changes in the wood chemical components and the presence of non-decay staining fungi cause a color change from yellow or brown to light gray on unprotected wood surfaces. wood will split apart and crack. and potentially a perfect environment for attack by insects. Fiest (1988) provides and excellent discussion on the causes of weathering and methods of control. and solid color stains which screen out ultraviolet light are effective at preventing weathering of wood. swell the cell wall network. First. and mildew are examples of non-decay fungi that feed on starches and sugars in the wood cells rather than on the cell wall material itself. CHEMICAL DETERIORATION Wood is affected by chemicals in two general ways. The cyclic shrinking and swelling produces microscopic cracks in the cell walls which eventually develop into macroscopic cracks and checks in the wood surface. alcohols. Details on wood ﬁnishes for exterior environments are presented later in this chapter. to blue-green. However. the wood shrinks to nearly its original dimensions. The second way chemicals affect wood is by permanently modifying and breaking down the wood cell wall chemical substances. and relative humidity. Upon removal of the swelling liquid. This shrinking/swelling phenomenon is almost completely reversible if the wood is free and unconstrained from moving. and the surface of infected wood with a wide range of colors from bright yellow. and nail loosening also result from the effect of cyclic moisture content changes in unprotected exterior wood products. stains. NON . or both. decay fungi. grain raising. This weathering of wood.DECAY FUNGI Molds. Nondecay fungi require less water than do the decay fungi and can live in wood with 20% moisture content. producing serious loss . in the absence of decay fungi. Water repellents and water repellent preservatives slow down the effects of weathering and opaque ﬁnishes such as paints. heartwood. if constrained from moving by the construction. their presence in wood structures indicates excessive moisture. removes approximately 1/4inch of wood surface per century (Fiest. and ﬁre. 1988). to black. and polar solvents that penetrate dry wood. The surface of wood that is exposed to the exterior environment slowly erodes from the combined action of sunlight and water.
However. wooden Egyptian artifacts have survived. Therefore. 1986).0 or higher. Salt is an example of a chemical that can reduce the fastener cross section. in the temperate climate of the northern hemisphere. but it does not attack the cell wall chemicals. rain. Basic solutions react with hemicelluloses and dissolve lignin. screws). including Baker (1982) and Meyer and Kellogg (1982). Technology for Preservation The ﬁrst and most important line of defense for protecting architectural wood from deterioration is to keep wood dry (below 15% moisture content). and properly maintained gutters and down spouts that drain away from the building. In general. bolts. but entirely preventable. this simple goal is often very difﬁcult to achieve. wood should not be in direct contact with basic solutions of pH of 9. Recent advances in electronics have resulted in inexpensive. cause of wood deterioration in buildings. 1978). The building envelope should protect wood from contact with precipitation. Since wood structures are often held together by metal fasteners (nails. Slow leaks that keep adjacent wood continuously moist can produce the ideal conditions for decay of wood ﬂooring subﬂoors. Lack of moisture is the main reason so many ancient. and condensation (Verral and Amburgey. plumbing leaks. insulation. Because the primary biological agents of deterioration require liquid water. chemicals that react with the fasteners can destroy the structural integrity of a building even though the wood itself was not attacked. These meters provide an instantaneous measurement of moisture in wood and are accurate in the range of 6% to 30% MC. accurate hand-held electrical resistance moisture meters. and any other wood products. wood is surprisingly resistant to acid rain (Williams. These meters are very useful for detecting and monitoring moisture in architectural wood products. improper ﬂashing and leaking roofs are three ways wood is exposed to water from rain. simply keeping wood dry provides centuries of protection. Finally. Controlling moisture in wood structures involves a systematic approach that provides protection against inﬁltration from groundwater. Major plumbing leaks are often quickly repaired and the wood has time to dry before insects or decay fungi get established. joists. An associated problem with exposure to chemicals is metal fastener corrosion. and moderate instead of excessive air cooling in warm humid climates (Tenwolde and Mei.278 JOSEPH R. Water trapping joints. Therefore. Architectural conservators who regularly deal with wood buildings should purchase and become familiar with the proper procedures for using such . wetting by piped water is a common. Condensation control includes vapor barriers. as severe and rapid strength loss will occur. wood is resistant to mild acids (pH above 3. 1987). Several excellent references are available on the topic of chemical deterioration of wood. ventilation.0) at room temperatures and is prone to deterioration if exposed to acids at higher temperatures (50 ◦ C) or acids with low pH (2 or less). Ground water in foundations and crawl spaces is controlled by site drainage away from the foundation. LOFERSKI of strength.
and semi-transparent penetrating stains. The effectiveness of several types of generic ﬁnishes in excluding water vapor inﬁltration into wood are shown in Table I. oils. porous paints permit entry of liquid water. The table is based on three coats of ﬁnish applied to wood and subsequently exposed to 90% relative humidity for 14 days. If water penetrates cracks or voids in the paint. retards drying and . The moisture excluding effectiveness of a wood ﬁnish is based on a variety of factors including coating ﬁlm thickness. 1991). (2) naturally resistant species for low to moderate deterioration situations. This section provides information on (1) ﬁnishes for extending the service life of wood that is not in ground contact but is exposed to the exterior environment. the ﬁlm traps moisture. The amount of protection also depends on the type of exposure. In other words. Stopping absorption of liquid water is somewhat easier than stopping water vapor absorption because the small size of water molecules in vapor form allows them to penetrate any micro-voids in the ﬁnish. The cause of excessive moisture should be determined and corrected and is usually related to one of four methods of inﬁltration listed above. Wood Preservation If wood cannot be kept dry. including latex and most oil-based paints and the “natural” penetrating ﬁnishes usually provide little or no protection against water vapor penetration. no coating is completely moisture proof. then wood preservation techniques must be used to provide long-term protection. However. “there is no way to completely eliminate the changing moisture content of wood in response to changing relative humidity. WOOD FINISHES The main reasons for ﬁnishing wood in exterior environments are (1) to reduce the effect of weathering by protecting against degradation from ultraviolet light and minimizing absorption of water in liquid and vapor forms and (2) to enhance the appearance of the wood surface. 1991). Porous paints. chemical composition of the solvent. Wood ﬁnishes are divided into two general categories: (1) opaque coatings (paints and solid color stains) and (2) “natural” ﬁnishes such as water repellents (WR) water repellent preservatives (WRP). type of pigment. A systematic moisture monitoring program will provide an accurate record of the woods moisture content and will detect excessive levels of moisture which are warning signs of potential decay and insect damage.TECHNOLOGIES FOR WOOD PRESERVATION IN HISTORIC PRESERVATION 279 meters. Furthermore. and (3) preservative treated wood products including pressure treatment and diffusible preservatives. vapor pressure gradient. and length of exposure (Cassens and Fiest.” regardless of the number of ﬁnish coats used (Cassens and Fiest. A brief discussion on ﬁre retardant treatments is also included. because wood is a hygroscopic material. The role of a ﬁnish is to slow down the rate of moisture content changes in wood.
however. Apply a band-aid to the surface. and window sash. and then quickly tear off the band-aid. is only at the surface and therefore WRPs are effective for controlling mildew but are not effective at stopping decay or insect damage. The water repellent component reduces the absorption of liquid water into the wood. Therefore. In the past 10 years. Let each coat dry completely according to manufacturer’s instructions. and a small amount of water repellent material such as wax or glycol. Their preservative function. a solvent such as mineral spirits or turpentine.280 Table I. 1991) Finish Effectiveness rating 91 87 84 82 80 JOSEPH R. corners. primer. paints are not preservatives. If any ﬁnish comes off with the band-aid. Recent research has shown the effectiveness of a three-step ﬁnish system involving a paintable water repellent preservative applied to bare new or existing wood before priming and painting. A simple way to test the compatibility of the ﬁnishing products is to apply the products to a small test area in the same sequence that will be used on the entire surface (i. The life of paint is extended because the ﬁlm is not subjected to extensive movement of the substrate. several manufacturers have developed water repellents (WP) and water repellent preservatives (WRP) for use on wood. paint). promotes conditions favorable for decay fungi growth. Read the label carefully to be sure that the water repellent preservative is paintable because paint may not adhere properly on some formulations.e. . LOFERSKI Epoxy ﬁnish – clear Epoxy paint – gloss Aluminum ﬂake-pigmented urethane varnish (oil-modiﬁed) Aluminum paint (linseed-phenolic-menhaden) Enamel paint – satin (soya-tung) ∗ Porous paints such as latex and low-luster or breather-type oil- based paints usually afford little protection against water vapor. This is especially effective on butt-joints. water-repellent. a drying oil. The three-step treatment keeps water from penetrating the wood and therefore minimizes swelling/shrinking of the wood. Then use the “band-aid test” to verify that the ﬁnishes are compatible. Moisture excluding effectiveness of ﬁnishes based on three coats and 14 days exposure to 90% RH (from Cassens and ﬁest. wait 1 minute. Water repellents and WRPs are very useful for extending the life of wood products exposed to the exterior environment by reducing the amount of absorbed water. These materials typically contain a fungicide (WRP only). the ﬁnishes are incompatible and you should try another combination.
The ﬁre resistant coating. Many ﬁre retardant ﬁnishes are intended for interior use because they are often water soluble and leach out of wood that is exposed to ﬂowing water such as roof shingles. thereby. for exterior applications and for environments that regularly exceed 80% relative humidity only leach resistant exterior ﬁre-retardant coatings should be used (Holmes and Knispel. kaolin. The ﬁre retardant charcoal producing coatings include ammonium phosphate and sodium borate. WOOD DURABILITY Durable wood is naturally produced by some tree species. Table II shows groupings of some common domestic North American tree species according to the decay resistance . The durability is caused by toxic chemicals. particularly to children. The wood of certain other species can be treated with chemicals to provide artiﬁcial durability and resistance to decay and insects. Oil based ﬁre retardant alkyd and pigmented paints often use chlorinated parafﬁns and antimony trioxide ﬁre retardant chemicals and inert materials including zinc borate. and (2) pressure impregnation with ﬁre resistant chemicals. Conservators should be aware of the health hazards associated with lead paint exposure. urea resins. This method is of limited use in historic structures because the structure must be dismantled to gain access to the wood.TECHNOLOGIES FOR WOOD PRESERVATION IN HISTORIC PRESERVATION 281 CAUTION Lead-based paints were widely used in historic and modern structures until the late 1970s. which are produced by the living tree and deposited in the cell wall of the heartwood. may be more useful in existing structures. FIRE RETARDANT COATINGS Two methods are available for modifying the combustibility of wood (1) ﬁre retardant coatings. mica. If lead paint must be removed from surfaces. Water soluble ﬁre retardant coatings are often based on silicates. as the resulting sanding dust or smoke is toxic. Many coatings are available to protect wood from ﬁre. 1981). Never sand or burn lead paint off the surface. 1987). The coatings protect wood in one of two ways. and inorganic pigments (Wood Handbook. Other coatings are formulated to promote rapid decomposition of the wood surface (producing charcoal) instead of forming volatile combustible gases. Therefore. Naturally durable wood is found in the heartwood of some tree species. This section contains information on natural and artiﬁcially treated wood products. however. Lead paint removal will be an area of concern in the 1990s and beyond. insulating the wood from high temperatures. professionals should be contacted to do the job. Intumescent coatings are low density ﬁlms that expand away from the wood surface upon exposure to ﬁre. The latter method is an industrial process that involves inserting wood into a treating cylinder and using high pressure to force chemicals into the wood. or polyvinyl emulsions.
and clapboards from new growth wood to replace the original members which may have lasted a century or more with little deterioration. Furthermore.e. of their heartwood. Oregon white) Osage. good rain run-off. Premature failure from decay is evident on some historic restorations which used shingles. care should be taken to specify and use heartwood only. The table is based on wood that came from large. Arizona Junipers Locust. black Chestnut Cypress. western Oak. Paciﬁc1 Moderately resistant Bald cypress (young growth) Douglas-ﬁr Honeylocust Larch. select one of the species in the resistant . Chestnut. Bur. no water trapping joints. LOFERSKI Table II. old growth trees with a high proportion of heartwood. black1 Mesquite Mulberry. black Yew. swamp. shakes. Baldcypress and southern pines are notable examples of species whose decay resistance has changed markedly from old growth to second growth trees. The wood from second growth trees of even the most resistant species contains a higher percentage of sapwood and therefore their resistance may not equal that of old growth trees.). Grouping of some domestic woods according to approximate relative heartwood decay resistance (reprinted from Wood Handbook. orange1 Redwood Sassafras Walnut.282 JOSEPH R. 1987) Resistant or very resistant Bald cypress (old growth) Catalpa Cedars Cherry. eastern white Southern pine: Longleaf. critical levels of toxic extractives may require centuries to develop in wood. For applications above ground where mild decay hazard exists (i. etc. red1 Oak: (White. chestnut Pine. Slash Tamarack Slightly or non-resistant Alder Ashes Basswood Beech Birches Buckeye Butternet Cottonwood Elms Hackberry Hemlocks Hickories Magnolia Maples Oaks (red & black species) Pines (other than longleaf slash and eastern white) Poplars Spruces Sweetgum True ﬁrs Willows Yellow-poplar 1 These woods have exceptionally high decay resistance. When using naturally decay resistant wood species.
it is not effective in ground contact or if exposed to a continuous moisture source. Preston (1988) discusses new chemical protection agents for wood products and Gutzmer (1991) reports on the results of termite exposure tests of a wide variety of wood preservative chemicals. Also in some species. some tests have been in progress since 1930. and white oak (Mannesman. the resistance of species listed in Table II is for natural decay resistance and not necessarily insect resistance. western red cedar. Wood preservation is an area of active research at government. including redwood. university and industrial laboratories and new developments. With naturally decay resistant woods. many decay resistant woods are susceptible to attack by the Formosan termite. as in roof shingles. 1971). For severe decay hazard situations (i. diffusible preservatives have been introduced. preservative treated wood with the correct level of treatment is often required and preferred. In the United States. For example. which are capable . PRESERVATIVE TREATMENTS There are a wide variety of chemicals available for treating wood to provide varying degrees of decay and insect resistance. particularly in above ground applications and therefore such treatments will help protect wood from decay. Wood species classiﬁed in the non-resistant category should not be used in unprotected environments as their life span may be as short as two or three years. such as western red cedar. old growth cypress. and trade names are continually emerging. wood protection with chemicals has been accomplished by two basic methods: pressure impregnation and topical application (soaking and brushon). Recently. ground contact). Dip treatments with a preservative may extend the life of decay resistant woods (Schaffer et al. the toxic extractives are leachable in water. from antistain products for use by sawmills to “pressure treated” wood for structural uses. all of these chemical preservatives are under constant review by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the reader should be certain that the chemicals he or she is using or specifying are currently approved by the EPA. Historically.. but more information can be found in the references. products.TECHNOLOGIES FOR WOOD PRESERVATION IN HISTORIC PRESERVATION 283 to moderately resistant categories. and junipers. 1973). The chemistry of wood preservatives is beyond the scope of this chapter. the heartwood of redwood. water repellents and water repellent preservatives are especially effective for preventing absorption of water into the wood. This section is intended to provide an overview on wood preservatives that are promising for application in historic preservation.e. However. Since the water repellent treatment is applied only to the wood surface. will reduce the level of decay resistance over time. The subject of wood protection covers a wide range of interests. and for critical structural members where failure could be catastrophic and life threatening. Furthermore. are resistant to subterranean termites. This implies that contact with ﬂowing water.
CCA treated wood can be painted after the wood is thoroughly dried. high hazard applications such as ground contact foundation members. 1988). water-borne preservatives have become common in the US. other ammoniacal copper formulations that lack arsenic have found commercial success outside the United States (Preston. For quality assurance. including copper naphthenate. Likewise. In the past 20 years.6 lbs retention/ft3 ) ground contact grade (0. the operator applies a vacuum to remove excess chemicals from the wood surface. Oil-borne and water-borne preservatives have been used for many years in the US to pressure treat wood. Because CCA treated wood is green colored.e. Pressure treating is the most effective method of applying preservatives to wood. Therefore. An advantage of the oil-borne preservatives is the water repellent properties of the treated wood. CCA pressure treated wood is generally available in three levels of chemical retention based on a member’s intended use: foundation grade (0. The three methods are discussed next. and insects. untreated wood may be exposed and this wood is subject to deterioration from decay. and time). should not be used in buildings because of its toxicity. each piece should be grade stamped or tagged by the American Wood Preservers Association or other agencies to indicate the level of chemical retention and the intended use. Other oil-borne preservative systems are emerging. Since the wood is . because of its toxicity. LOFERSKI of migrating by diffusion throughout a piece of wood that has received a dip or brush-on treatment. 1988). the chemical becomes insoluble in water and will not leach out of the wood. and above ground use (0. Emulsiﬁed preservation systems involving zinc naphthenate and copper napthenate are being developed but wood that has been pressure treated with these chemicals is not yet commercially available. Because of environmental concerns. The main water-borne chemical preservative for pressure treating wood in the United States is chromated copper arsenate (CCA). Once the wood has dried. Recently. However. the oil-borne preservative pentachlorophenol has been restricted by the EPA to industrial uses such as utility poles and. pressure.4 lbs/ft3 ). ﬂooded with preservative.284 JOSEPH R. and subjected to extremely high pressure to force the chemical deep into the cell walls of the wood. and painted stock such as windows and stairs.2 lbs/ft3 ). which has been used for more than a century to treat railroad cross-ties. The amount of chemicals retained by the wood determines the level of toxicity and is regulated by the manufacturer’s treating schedule (i. In this process. its use in renovation of historic structures is usually limited to hidden. The use of CCA treated wood in buildings is relatively safe because the CCA chemically bonds to the wood cell wall upon drying after treatment. should not be used in structures occupied by humans or animals. After treatment. retention standards are still being developed because of some poor ﬁeld test performances (DeGroot. when pressure treated wood is cut. the wood is placed in a treating cylinder. The pressure treating process produces a “shell” of treated wood around an untreated core deep within the piece. creosote.
which include a preservative. The smoke and ashes are toxic.) from cyclic moisture changes. Consequently. water repellent formulations. splits. (2) soaking in water. Although CCA treated wood is highly resistant to biological deterioration it is prone to mechanical damage (cracks.or oil-based preservatives. but may be useful in restoration and reconstruction. The goal is to coat thoroughly every crack and check in the wood with preservative to minimize access for decay fungi. Soaking to preserve wood has limited applications in historic preservation. for exposed applications as in decks. Practical non-pressure treatments involve (1) brush-on or dips. Burial of wood scraps at an approved landﬁll is usually the best disposal method. the treated wood is commercially available in a kiln dry condition (approximately 15% MC) called “kiln dried after treatment” (KDAT). Caution: Never burn treated wood. Dipping wood for a few seconds to minutes in a preservative usually provides better penetration than brushing. Soaking involves cold or hot soaking of dried wood in a preservative solution for hours or days. etc. Low viscosity oils and waterborne preservatives can be used. Therefore. and timbers for log construction. care should be used when handling or cutting CCA treated wood. Also. Avoid breathing the sawdust and minimize skin contact. Better penetration and retention of chemicals is achieved by soaking as compared to brief dipping. may be useful for wood in existing buildings for low decay hazard situations where little protection is required. Consumer data information sheets are available from treated wood retailers that discuss the proper use and handling of CCA treated wood. Non-pressure preservative treatments. The penetration is usually less than 1/10 inch into side grain but much greater penetration (as much as 3 inches) into end grain is possible. a water repellent/WRP should be used to minimize moisture induced shrinking/swelling caused by weathering. and siding. shingles. Non-pressure applications of preservative chemicals. This treatment is used for fences. or (3) diffusion with water borne preservatives. millwork. are particularly effective for protecting wood that is not in ground contact and is only brieﬂy exposed to moisture. drying can take months before the moisture content is low enough to paint. the level of chemical retention is less than that of pressure treatments. Brushon or dipped wood is often used to extend the life of window sash.TECHNOLOGIES FOR WOOD PRESERVATION IN HISTORIC PRESERVATION 285 saturated with water during the treating process. Alternatively. lumber. particularly for log structures and fences. are not as effective as pressure treatments because the chemicals cannot penetrate deeply into the wood. As described previously. however. as with all pesticides. . Flooding the surface of wood with a preservative by brushing or dipping is the simplest method of application. including dips and brush-on. Pine species treat better than most other timber species.
If used in an exterior application. decay. Therefore. Log home manufacturers have developed several Borate formulations for treating green logs. Borate treated wood is paintable. Perma-Clink Systems Inc. Borate wood preservatives may revolutionize the wood preservation industry in the United States. borates were found to be toxic to decay fungi and wood-boring insects. Borate rods intended for use in existing structures are also available. the ﬁeld of timber repair in modern or historic buildings has not received much attention by researchers. in today’s preservation philosophy. Both of these chemicals may be useful to help protect joists or other members which are exposed to hazardous environments as in damp basements. Over 40 years ago. and resistant to ﬁre. A manual for using Borate products for wood preservation is available from US Borax Corporation. even if cut or sawed. Wood can be pressure-treated with borates. but the chemical is not considered to be toxic to mammals. One disadvantage of borate-treated wood is that the borates are soluble in water and can leach out of treated wood if exposed to ﬂowing water. Research has shown that several weeks after treatment. Because of its unique properties. machinable. One reason for this situation is that the government funding agencies. untreated wood will not be exposed. non-corrosive to metal fasteners. Borates (boron oxides) have been used for years as a ﬁre-retardant treatment for wood. Therefore. the preservative penetrates throughout the cross-section. LOFERSKI A third type of preservative treatment involves the use of boron compounds and may be of interest for use in preserving historic structures. and stain fungi. of Knoxville. However. and the wood preservation and wood ﬁnishing industries are most interested in developing products and processes for the tremendous volume of new wood products produced annually in the United States. but a novel application method of interest in historic preservation is the spray. borate-treated wood should be used for interior. REPAIR OF DETERIORATED TIMBER Compared to wood ﬁnishing and preservation. above ground applications only. the wood must be protected from constant wetting by water repellents or paints. 1988). it is important . even in species that are difﬁcult to treat by other methods (Bianchini. insects. Borates have been used for years by sawmills to dip lumber to prevent staining fungi from coloring wood before drying. Researchers are currently studying ways to “ﬁx” the borates to the wood cell wall to produce a leach-resistant preservative. Tennessee has recently introduced a product called Bora-Care that uses a glycerin and water solution to allow the borate chemicals to diffuse into dry wood.or dip-diffusion method. The process works best for wet lumber (MC > 30%) where the moisture in the wood serves as the vehicle for diffusion.286 DIFFUSIBLE PRESERVATIVES JOSEPH R. borate preservatives are capable of diffusing from the surface of wood into the interior of the piece.
the methods do not detract from the nature of the building. (2) Should the deteriorated timber be repaired. the newly repaired or replaced member will also deteriorate. Repair of structural members can be grouped into three categories as follows: joinery methods. This type of repair is considered by many conservationists to be the most acceptable repair method. preferably without altering or removing historic building fabric. consumer interest in new timber frame buildings has produced a small but viable timber frame building industry in the United States. Disadvantages: limited structural performance. or scarf joints to build precisely ﬁt structures similar to those produced by craftsmen from centuries past. In the past ten years. Before beginning a repair. Timber framers are capable of joining solid sawed timbers (usually of oak or pine) in large structural sizes (i. the advantages and disadvantages of the joinery method of repair are: Advantages: replace timber with timber. Otherwise. bolted joints. ﬂitch beams. and. if replacement is selected. Furthermore. and spliced on members attached with bolts. “If well designed and detailed. dovetail. Examples are bolted metal side plates. the cause of the deterioration should be identiﬁed and corrected. and adhesive methods. Several techniques have been developed to repair deteriorated timbers in buildings. This section discusses some techniques. requires highly skilled labor. and such repairs can be misleading to future generations. mechanically fastened methods. an assessment must be made to answer the following questions: (1) Why did the member deteriorate in the ﬁrst place? The cause of deterioration should be addressed and corrected before conducting any repairs.TECHNOLOGIES FOR WOOD PRESERVATION IN HISTORIC PRESERVATION 287 to restore the structural performance or appearance of a deteriorated member without damaging the character of the building.e. or left alone to continue in its current capacity? If the member is to be replaced or left in its current capacity. Failure to recognize this step is analogous to solving a symptom without curing the disease. (3) What method should be used to repair the deteriorated member? The remainder of this section addresses this question. or nails. replaced. Modern timber framers can compete in todayÕs economy because of advances in modern woodworking tools such as the chain mortiser and the portable bandsaw tenoner. such repairs can be straight forward . consideration should be given to the advantages and disadvantages of using naturally durable wood or preservative treated wood. The Timber Framer’s Guild can be contacted to obtain names of speciﬁc companies who specialize in heavy timber repair work. and they maintain a historical visual image. or dovetail joints as commonly used by traditional timber framers and furniture builders. According to Mettem and Robinson (1991). Joinery methods involve replacing damaged wood by splicing new wood into the deteriorated member using scarf. This step is particularly important if moisture is involved. Mechanically fastened methods involve the use of engineered timber connectors which are commonly used in modern structures. some original material is lost. tenon. 10-in × 10-in × 30-feet) with mortise and tenon. screws.
Ironically. Mettem and Robinson (1991) discuss the results of a recent research program on the effectiveness of various types of epoxy/reinforcement repairs.” (Mettem and Robinson. and ﬁll splits or cracks since epoxy is a good gap-ﬁlling material. often involve metallic or nonmetallic reinforcements. the mechanically fastened repair can be removed with minimal damage to the timber. The general technique is to remove some damaged wood from the member by drilling holes or sawing channels. Structural repairs. showing good contemporary workmanship. over time. Epoxy resins are typically available as low viscosity liquids or high viscosity putty or paste. Non-metallic reinforcements are often made of ﬁberglass. The high viscosity putty or paste is applied with a trowel or similar tool and is used to replace missing wood by building up and forming it into the desired shape. indicating that.288 JOSEPH R. The structural repairs can be accomplished with pressure injection methods or resin ﬁller/matrix methods. Furthermore. The injection method can also be used to ﬁx loose joints. The low viscosity liquids penetrate cracks and checks in the deteriorated wood and reinforce the weakened wood. leading to serviceability problems such as excessive ﬂoor vibration. Metallic reinforcements are often made of steel. Stumes (1979) has developed a design procedure called the Wood Epoxy Repair (WER) system and User Manual to design structural epoxy repairs. Avent (1986a. capitals. the repair may lose strength because of a bond failure. Some concerns regarding epoxy repairs of timbers are related to longevity and non-reversibility. Nonstructural epoxy repairs are used to consolidate and reinforce deteriorated wood members such as window and door frames. Adhesive methods are the newest repair techniques and have applications for both structural and non-structural situations. Advances in epoxy resin formulations in the last two decades coupled with adhesive repair techniques developed for concrete and other materials. Metallic or non-metallic reinforcement materials (rods or plates) are inserted into the voids and the epoxy is applied to adhere the reinforcement to the wood. cornices. An advantage of these fasteners is that they are designed using today’s accepted engineering practice as deﬁned in building codes and by the National Design Speciﬁcation for Wood Construction (1991). The disadvantages include potential overstiffening of the structure. if in the future. a better repair method is developed. LOFERSKI and “honest”. the mechanically fastened joints may be unattractive and incompatible with the historic building. conservationists are concerned that the epoxy repair is too permanent and non-reversible if a better . Because wood is continually shrinking and swelling from cyclic humidity and. 1986b) discusses factors that inﬂuence the strength of repaired timber and a presents design procedure for speciﬁc joint repairs. in addition to the epoxy. 1991). since the reinforcement materials expand and contract with changes in temperature at a different rate than wood. and other decorative architectural components. some critics fear that. have fostered the application to wood structures. Another advantage is that these repairs may also be “reversible”.
the cause of deterioration should be corrected. can be used to help protect wood in mild deterioration environments. 72. Avent. Otherwise the remaining original wood will continue to deteriorate. R. However.W.. leading to premature failures and additional repairs. Baker. “Decay resistance of bald cypress heartwood”. 1991). Avent. 97–106.. TIM-BOR Treatment Manual for Wood Preservation (Los Angeles. ed. DC: USDA. 1987).). 104–106. “The use of borate-treated wood in structures”. in Hamel. M. such as above ground situations. Evaluation. 1985). 1982). “Restoring and treating wood shakes and shingles”. pp. More research is needed in this area to address some of these concerns. Journal of Structural Engineering 112(2) (1986b). 1986).P. American Wood Preservers Association Standards (Sternsville.. especially by decay fungi and insects. pp. Anonymous. D.” for protecting wood in historic buildings from deterioration. Furthermore. p. in A. New England Builder May (1988). Summary Wood is a biological material and is prone to deterioration from a variety of causes.J. Durable wood. Exterior Wood in the South: Selection. “Factors that inﬂuence the serviceability of wood structures: Chemicals”. There are no “magic wands. pp. MD: AWPA. B. Wood Protection Techniques and the Use of Treated Wood in Construction (Forest Products Research Society Proc. Bianchini.. and Finishes (USDA Forest Service. pp. Protection involves a systematic approach that starts with moisture control because most wood attacking organisms require an abundant moisture source. 1987). Maintenance and Upgrading of Wood Structures (New York. Wood Handbook: Wood as an Engineering Material (Washington. “Design criteria for epoxy repair of timber structures”. R. United States Department of Agriculture.L. Campbell. Buchanan. as stated previously. FPL-GTR-69. Cassens. Forest Service. “Factors affecting strength of epoxy repaired timber” Journal of Structural Engineering ASCE 112(2) (1986a). 1988). 250–253. pp. Finishes. Freas (ed. MD: AWPA.J. R. including water repellents. 207–221.C. A. . References American Wood Preserver’s Association.N.. including heartwood from naturally durable species and chemically treated wood can be used to replace deteriorated wood in moderate to high hazard locations such as ground contact. Feist. 47358. R. CA: United States Borax Corporation. US Government Printing Ofﬁce. Applications. Clark. 55.. Book of Standards (Stevensville. otherwise the repairs may only solve the symptoms rather than the “disease”. Several repair methods are available to restore deteriorated wood. the cause of the deterioration must be corrected before attempting repairs. 222–239. Forest Products Journal 10(5) (1960). NY: ASCE. American Wood-Preserver’s Association. Agriculture Handbook No. and J.TECHNOLOGIES FOR WOOD PRESERVATION IN HISTORIC PRESERVATION 289 repair method is developed in the future. and W.
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