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Wood

Preservation
OTHER TI TLES FROM E & FN SPON

Defects and Deteri orati on i n Bui l di ngs
B.A.Richardson
Building Failures
W.H.Ransom
Building Services Engineering
D.V.Chadderton
Clays Handbook of Environmental Health
Si xteenth edi ti on
W.H.Bassett
Practical Timber Formwork
J.B.Peters
Timber Structures
E.C.Harri s and J.J Stal naker
Timber Engineering
Practi cal Desi gn Studi es
E.N.Carmichael
The Maintenance of Brick and Stone Masonry Structures
A.M.Sowden
For more information about these and other titles please contact:
The Promotion Department, E & FN Spon, 2–6 Boundary Row, London, SE1 8HN
Wood
Preservation
Second edition
Barry A.Richardson
Consulting and Research Scientist
Director, Penarth Research International
Limited
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First edition 1978
This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2003.
Second edi ti on 1993
©1978, 1993 B.A.Richardson
ISBN 0-203-47403-1 Master e-book ISBN
ISBN 0-203-78227-5 (Adobe eReader Format)
ISBN 0 419 17490 7
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data
Richardson, Barry A., 1937–
Wood preservation/Barry A.Richardson.—2nd ed.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index.
I SBN 0-419-17490-7 (al k. paper)
1. Wood—Preservation. I. Title.
TA422.R53 1993
674´.386–dc20 92–30664
C I P
To my friend John F.Levy whose
advice and encouragement have
been highly valued for many
years by all of us who are involved
in studies of wood deterioration and
preservation
Preface i x
Preface to the first edition xi
1. Preservation technology 1
1.1 I ntroducti on 1
1.2 Preservation principles 12
1.3 Wood structure 13
2. Wood degradation 23
2.1 I ntroducti on 23
2.2 Bi odegradati on 23
2.3 Moisture content fluctuations 33
2.4 Fire 41
3. Preservation systems 43
3.1 Preservation mechanisms 43
3.2 Application techniques 66
3.3 Evaluating preservative systems 93
4. Preservation chemicals 97
4.1 Preservati ve types 97
4.2 Tar-oi l s 98
4.3 Inorgani c compounds 105
4.4 Organi c compounds 127
4.5 Organometal compounds 135
4.6 Carri er systems 140
4.7 Water repellents, stabilizers and decorative systems 142
4.8 Fire retardants 146
4.9 Stai n control 147
4.10 Remedi al treatments 149
5. Practical preservation 153
5.1 General pri nci pl es 153
5.2 Uses of preserved wood 160
5.3 Heal th and the envi ronment 171
Further reading 177
Contents
vii
Appendix A. Selection of a preservation system 179
Table A.1 Typical preservative retentions for Baltic redwood 180
Table A.2 Properties of principal construction woods used in northern
and southern hemisphere temperate zones 182
Appendix B. Wood-borers 185
Table B.1 Wood-destroying termites 204
Appendix C. Wood-destroying fungi 211
I ndex 219
viii
Contents
Prepari ng a second edi ti on of a techni cal book i s
al ways i nteresti ng because the al terati ons that
are necessary i ndi cate the amount of progress
that has been made si nce the i ssue of the fi rst
edi ti on. I n thi s case I bel i eve that very l i ttl e
progress has been made si nce I wrote my Preface
to the fi rst edi ti on i n December 1977, and
certai nl y much l ess progress than was made i n
the previ ous 15 years, whi ch were probabl y one
of the most exci ti ng peri ods i n modern wood
preservation development.
There are several reasons for thi s l i mi ted and
di sappoi nti ng progress i n recent years. It i s easy
to forget that the worl d suddenl y became aware
that we were rapi dl y exhausti ng our reserves of
hydrocarbon fuels, and shortages and escalating
fuel pr i ces then affected our l i ves and
parti cul arl y our i ndustri al operati ons. Whi l st the
use of petrol eum sol vents i n preservati ves was
obvi ousl y di scouraged, the shortage of energy
affected the manufacture and appl i cati on of al l
wood preservati ves at a ti me when i t was al so
being recognized that forest resources were being
harvested faster than natural and pl antati on
renewal , and when wood preservati ves were
therefore becomi ng parti cul arl y attracti ve as a
means to reduce unnecessary deterioration and
consumpti on. The energy cri si s tri ggered an
economi c recessi on throughout the worl d and
the wood preservati on i ndustry was affected i n
the same way as most other i ndustri es, and
research and development expenditure has been
dr asti cal l y r educed. At the same ti me the
devel opment of new preservati ve systems has
become i ncr easi ngl y di ffi cul t due to the
i ntr oducti on of mor e str i ngent heal th and
envi ronmental control s. As a resul t onl y very
large companies and consortia can now afford to
devel op new preservati ves, and smal l compani es
ar e suffer i ng ser i ous di ffi cul ti es as thei r
establ i shed pr oducts become subj ect to
i ncreasi ng restri cti on or even prohi bi ti on.
Thi s i ncreasi ng awareness of heal th and
envi r onmental danger s has not necessar i l y
resul ted i n the i ntroducti on of safer products,
but i nstead the conti nui ng use of products whi ch
have been wi del y accepted for many years. For
ex ampl e, wi del y used preservati ves such as
cr eosote and the copper-chromi um-ar seni c
systems could not be introduced today, yet the
devel opment of safer al ternati ves i s vi rtual l y
i mpossi bl e because of the enor mous costs
i nvol ved, even i f a new preservati ve i s based on
establ i shed knowl edge and ex peri ence. The
present system i s therefore acti vel y di scouragi ng
the devel opment of new preservati ves whi ch are
more effi ci ent and safer, and i s i nstead
encouragi ng, through economi c necessi ty, the
extended use of established and less safe systems.
I bel i eve that, when we l ook back at thi s
period in 15 or 20 years’ time, we will consider it
to be perhaps the most depressi ng peri od i n the
hi story of wood preservati on, but I al so hope
that our heal th and envi ronmental control
systems wi l l become more real i sti c, acti vel y
encouragi ng the devel opment of safer systems
Preface
ix
but equal l y acti vel y di scouragi ng hazardous
systems. One of the most seri ous probl ems wi th
the present system i s the l ack of understandi ng
of the hazards; control s are based so often on
particular groups of toxic compounds without
recognizing that some individual compounds are
much l ess toxi c than others, and wi thout ap-
preci ati ng that the toxi ci ty of a preservati ve does
not depend on the presence of a toxi c i ngredi
al one, but al so on the concentrati on at whi ch i t
i s used. Perhaps I can hel p a l i ttl e by i ncl udi ng,
i n thi s compl etel y revi sed second edi ti on of thi s
book, an enti rel y new secti on i n whi ch I di scuss
these health and environmental problems.
Barry A.Richardson
Latchmere
Lainston Close
Winchester
Hampshire SO22 5HJ
x
Preface
Perhaps the most di ffi cul t task faci ng an author
is to decide upon the type of person for whom he
i s wri ti ng. Thi s book i s an attempt to provi de a
reasonably comprehensive and non-controversial
account of wood preservati on of val ue to a
person approachi ng a study of thi s subject for
the fi rst ti me, yet i t i s l i kel y to be of equal val ue
for reference purposes to the person who i s
al r eady i nvol ved i n commer ci al wood
preservati on or rel ated research. Indeed, those i n
i ndustry woul d natural l y tend to speci al i ze,
perhaps concentrating upon certain preservation
processes i nvol vi ng the use of a parti cul ar type
of preservati ve appl i ed by a parti cul ar method.
Those i nvol ved i n research are l i kel y to be
concerned wi th a l i mi ted geographi cal area and
thei r i nterest wi l l normal l y be confi ned wi thi n
thei r own sci enti fi c di sci pl i ne, such as
entomol ogy or mycol ogy. To al l these persons
this book attempts to provide information on the
other areas of wood preservati on beyond thei r
daily experience.
Wood Preservation i s pri mari l y an account of
the si tuati on i n the pri nci pal temperate areas of
Eur ope, Nor th Amer i ca, South Afr i ca and
Austral asi a, but the text refers i n many respects
i ni ti al l y to the si tuati on i n the Bri ti sh I sl es,
where wood preservati on i s most advanced.
Wood has been imported into the British Isles for
several centuri es, so that i t i s wi del y accepted
that it is valuable and preservation has long been
economi cal l y justi fi ed. Wood preservati on was
fi rst i ntroduced as an i ndustri al process i n
Engl and and i t has conti nued to be used i n
si tuati ons where decay i s otherwi se i nevi tabl e,
such as for r ai l way sl eeper s (ti es) and
transmi ssi on pol es. However, i t i s not suffi ci ent
to confi ne thi s account to the Bri ti sh Isl es al one,
for even Bri ti sh readers requi re i nformati on on
many other ar eas. As moder n tr ade has
ex panded preservati ves and preserved wood
products have been exported to an i ncreasi ng
extent to countri es wi th substanti al l y di fferent
decay hazards. In addition new borers and fungi
have been i ntroduced on i mported materi al s.
Wood Preservation i s a book on a sci ence (or
i s i t an art or technol ogy?) that i s steadi l y
devel opi ng, a fact that may be overl ooked by
sci enti sts usi ng thi s book, who wi l l al most
certai nl y cri ti ci ze the l ack of a bi bl i ography and
references to speci fi c statements i n the text. Thi s
cannot be accepted as a seri ous cri ti ci sm as
anyone with such an advanced interest in wood
preservati on wi l l al ready be aware of the papers
publ i shed i n, for exampl e, the Records of the
Annual Conventi ons of the Br i ti sh Wood
Preservi ng Associ ati on and the Proceedi ngs of
the Ameri can Wood Preservers’ Associ ati on,
whi ch have extensi ve bi bl i ographi es and whi ch
provi de a far more up-to-date source of further
information than can be provided in any book.
Other readers may cri ti ci ze the fai l ure to quote
speci fi cati ons for test methods, preservati ve
formul ati ons and treatment requi rements, but
agai n these are conti nuousl y revi sed and vary i n
each country so that the functi on of thi s book i s
Preface to the
first edition
xi
si mpl y to establ i sh the pri nci pl es i nvol ved,
l eavi ng the i ndi vi dual reader to obtai n copi es of
appropri ate speci fi cati ons when requi red di rect
from the i ssui ng authori ti es, such as the Bri ti sh
Standar ds I nsti tuti on, the Nordi c Wood
Preservation Council and the American Society
for Testing and Materials. No doubt a further
cri ti ci sm wi l l be the fai l ure to comprehensi vel y
l i st propri etary preservati ves but agai n these are
subject to frequent changes; some are mentioned
by name and a few are descri bed i n detai l when
i t i s consi der ed that they ar e par ti cul ar l y
important, but the enormous space required to
l i st and descr i be the sever al thousand
preservati ves that are now avai l abl e cannot be
justified.
Wood Preservation i s concerned wi th wood
preservati on, not wi th wood deteri orati on.
Whi l st i t i s obvi ousl y necessary for anyone
i nvol ved i n preservati on to possess at l east a
basi c knowl edge of the deteri orati ng agenci es
that requi re to be control l ed, the i denti fi cati on
of deteri orati on i s of l i mi ted i mportance. A
reasonabl y detai l ed account of deteri orati ng
organi sms i s gi ven i n the appendi ces, but these
l ack the di agnosti c tabl es that are so often a
feature of such descri pti ons; the i denti fi cati on of
deteri orati on i s the speci al i ty of those who
i nspect structures and prepare speci fi cati ons for
remedi al treatment, a subject that i s consi dered
i n far greater detai l i n Remedial Treatments in
Buildings. Although a section on wood structure
i s i ncl uded i n Chapter 1, i t i s assumed
thr oughout that the r eader has a basi c
knowl edge of the properti es and uses of woods.
I f thi s creates a di ffi cul ty for any reader, he can
refer to Wood in Construction or to Appendix A,
which not only summarizes the most important
preservati on treatments but al so i ncl udes a
summary of the properties of the more important
structural woods.
I was introduced to wood preservation by my
father, Stanl ey A Ri chardson, and i t i s a subject
that has al ways proved i nteresti ng to me. The
more I know about wood preservation the more
I become aware of our lack of knowledge and
the need for fur ther obser vati ons and
i nvesti gati ons. Wood pr eservati on i s a
remarkably complex subject, involving so many
di fferent di sci pl i nes, and my fi rst i mpressi on
upon compl eti ng the wri ti ng of thi s book was of
the enormous amount of information that it had
been necessary to omi t and thus the very l i mi ted
amount that could be included. I have always
been encour aged i n my studi es of wood
preservation by my many friends in industry and
the rel ated academi c and research i nsti tuti ons,
many of whom have ki ndl y pr ovi ded the
i l l ustrati ons that I have used. There are too
many of them to l i st, but I woul d l i ke to menti on
Dr John F. Levy of the I mperi al Col l ege of
Sci ence and Technol ogy, London, whose
thoughts on deteri orati on and preservati on are a
sti mul ati on to so many of us. We must gi ve hi m
credi t for the very profound statement that ‘as
far as a fungus i s concerned, wood consi sts of a
l arge number of conveni entl y ori entated hol es
surrounded by food’, surely the most impressive
statement ever i n suppor t of the need for
sci enti fi c wood preservati on.
Barry A.Richardson
Preface to the first edition
xii
1
1.1 Introduction
It must be accepted that wood decay is inevitable.
Indeed, if this were not the case our forests would
soon become cluttered with the giant skeletons of
dead trees. Natural durabi l i ty i s si mpl y an
i ndi cati on of the rate of decay, but there i s a
further factor of fundamental importance—whilst
decay may be inevitable in the forest it is not
necessari l y i nevi tabl e i n wood i n servi ce. For
ex ampl e, fungal decay i s dependent on an
adequate moisture content, so that a structure
designed to maintain wood in a dry condition is
sufficient to ensure freedom from fungal decay,
whatever the speci es of wood. I n areas where
wood borers exist which are capable of destroying
dry wood, these structural precauti ons are
i nsuffi ci ent and i t becomes essenti al to sel ect
wood speci es whi ch, whi l st they may be
susceptible to ultimate destruction from fungal
decay, possess good natural resi stance to the
wood-borer concerned. If wood with adequate
natural durability cannot be obtained it becomes
necessary to adopt preservati on processes,
although these cannot be applied universally but
onl y to those woods whi ch are suffi ci entl y
permeable to permit the required penetration and
retention of preservative.
Need for preservation
Preservati on i nvol ves addi ti onal cost and must
cl earl y be justi fi ed. The envi ronmental i st may
see preservati on as a means for reduci ng our
demand for repl acement wood, thus conservi ng
our for ests. The economi st may wi sh to
conserve our forests for rather di fferent reasons
but the pri nci pl e remai ns the same. I ndeed,
wood-i mporti ng countri es wi l l wi sh to preserve
i n or der to conser ve for ei gn cur r ency by
reduci ng wood i mports, whi l st wood-exporti ng
countri es wi l l adopt preservati on i n order to
reduce home demand for repl acement wood,
thus l eavi ng the max i mum possi bl e vol ume
avai l abl e for export. Even i n the most pri mi ti ve
tropi cal jungl e vi l l age wood preservati on has
economi c i mportance, for i n these condi ti ons
the ravages of fungi , termi tes and other wood-
destr oyi ng or gani sms ensur e that an
unacceptabl e amount of ti me and effort i s
devoted to repl aci ng wooden structures such as
homes and bri dges. I f preservati on i s practi sed,
ei ther by the sel ecti on of more durabl e speci es
or by the adopti on of a si mpl e preservati on
process, structures may doubl e thei r l i fe. I n thi s
way mor e ti me and effor t i s avai l abl e to
i mprove the qual i ty of l i fe i n the communi ty,
perhaps by growi ng extra crops for sal e. I n such
pri mi ti ve communi ti es wood has no val ue as i t
i s freel y avai l abl e, but the l abour for repai r and
reconstructi on represents a substanti al burden
on the communi ty whi ch i s just as si gni fi cant i n
more sophi sti cated countri es. For exampl e, i n
temperate cl i mates a normal transmi ssi on pol e
pr essur e-tr eated wi th cr eosote wi l l have a
typi cal l i fe of 45–60 years, whereas an i denti cal
untreated pol e wi l l l ast onl y 6–12 years. A
si mi l arl y treated rai l way sl eeper (ti e) can be
Preservation
technology
1
Preservation technology
2
ex pected to l ast mor e than 35 year s i n
compari son wi th onl y 8–10 years for untreated
wood. I n these condi ti ons preservati on has now
been uni versal l y adopted and, as a resul t, there
i s a tendency to forget the basi c economi cs; i f
untr eated str uctur al wood deter i or ates the
expense i ncurred i s not confi ned to the cost of
i ts repl acement, or even thi s and the addi ti onal
cost of l abour requi red, but i t al so i nvol ves the
per haps much hi gher cost ar i si ng thr ough
structural fai l ure. I t can al ways be argued that
fai l ur e can be avoi ded thr ough r egul ar
i nspecti on, but thi s cannot reduce the amount
of di sr upti on caused whi l st ser vi ces ar e
i nterrupted duri ng repai r and repl acement.
Preserved wood must be regarded as an
enti rel y new structural materi al and must not be
consi dered as just an i mproved form of wood, as
i t can be used i n enti rel y di fferent ci rcumstances
and certai nl y i n more severe exposure si tuati ons.
The most obvious advantage of preserved wood
i s that i t can be used wi th i mpuni ty i n si tuati ons
where normal untreated species would inevitably
decay, but i t may be argued that, i n many
si tuati ons, thi s i s a property that i t enj oys
together wi th many competi ti ve materi al s. I n
fact, the use of wood has many advantages. It i s
extremel y si mpl e to fabri cate structures from
wood and, even i n the most sophi sti cated
producti on processes, the tool i ng costs are
r el ati vel y l ow compar ed wi th those for
competi ti ve materi al s. Wood i s i deal i f i t i s
necessary to erect an i ndi vi dual structure for a
parti cul ar purpose but i t i s equal l y sui tabl e for
smal l batch or mass producti on. When these
worki ng properti es are combi ned wi th the other
advantages of wood, such as hi gh strength to
weight ratio, its excellent thermal insulation and
fi r e r esi stance, and the uni que aestheti c
pr oper ti es of fi ni shed wood, i t someti mes
becomes di ffi cul t to understand why al ternati ve
materials have ever been considered! However,
there i s one feature of wood whi ch i s uni que
amongst al l structural materi al s; i t i s a crop
whi ch can be farmed, whereas i ts competi tors
such as stone, bri ck, metal and pl asti c are al l
derived from exhaustible mineral sources.
Wi th al l these vari ous advantages wood has
l i ttl e to fear fr om competi ti ve mater i al s,
provi ded i t i s effi ci entl y uti l i zed and ei ther
sel ected or pr eser ved to ensur e that i t i s
compl etel y durabl e i n servi ce. The need for
durabi l i ty i s obvi ous, yet tradi ti ons are di ffi cul t
to displace and in many countries the progressive
deteri orati on of wood i n servi ce i s general l y
accepted. I t i s unl i kel y that al l owner s of
bui l di ngs and other wooden str uctur es
thr oughout the wor l d can be educated to
appreci ate the actual costs of the materi al and
labour involved in repairing decay damage, but
the authori ti es i n many countri es are becomi ng
i ncreasi ngl y consci ous of the way i n whi ch these
costs can affect prosperi ty. I n thi s connecti on
one current probl em i s the demand for wood
pul p whi ch di rectl y competes wi th structural
wood for the avai l abl e forest resources. A hi gh
pul p yi el d can be achi eved after short growi ng
peri ods so that there i s a tendency to fel l forests
whi l st they are very i mmature to gi ve rapi d
return on the i nvested capi tal . Thi s has resul ted
i n rapi d i ncreases i n the cost of wood and a
further justi fi cati on for i ts effi ci ent uti l i zati on
and its preservation to avoid decay.
History of preservation
Preservati on i s not, i n fact, new. The anci ents
worri ed l i ttl e at fi rst about decay as thei r
bui l di ngs were sel dom very permanent and
r epl acement wood was easi l y obtai ned.
Probabl y the person earl i est recorded as usi ng
wood pr eser vati ve was Noah who, when
bui l di ng the ark, was i nstructed by God to
‘pi tch i t wi thi n and wi thout wi th pi tch’. I n fact,
vari ous oi l s, tars and pi tches were used from
ti mes of the most remote anti qui ty. Herodotus
(c. 484–424 BC), a Greek whose monumental
work earned hi m the ti tl e of ‘Father of Hi story’,
wri tes of the art of extracti ng oi l s, tars and
resi ns. Heal so draws attenti on to a much ol der
Introduction
3
system of preservi ng organi c matter, the anci ent
Egypti an art of mummi fyi ng or embal mi ng
bodi es. Thi s i s probabl y the most effi ci ent
method of preservi ng organi c matter that has
ever been devi sed. The Egypti an mummi es are
now at l east 4000 years ol d and many are as
wel l preserved as when ori gi nal l y entombed.
Herodotus and Di odorus Si cul us (1st century
BC) i ndi cate that the body was steeped i n
natrum (or natron) for 70 days and then i n an
oi l y or bi tumi nous substance for a si mi l ar ti me.
Natrum, the producti on and use of whi ch was a
state monopol y i n Ptol emai c ti mes, from c. 320
BC, was a mi x ed sol uti on of sodi um
sesqui carbonate, chl ori de and sul phate. I t was
obtai ned from three centres fed duri ng the fl ood
season by seepage from the Ri ver Ni l e. The
most i mportant centre was an oasi s i n the
Western Desert sti l l known as Wadi Natrum. I t
i s not possi bl e that mummi fyi ng was practi sed
i n the si mpl e way descri bed as the bi tumi nous
substance woul d scarcel y penetrate, yet i t has
been found that even the i nteri or of the bones
has been penetrated. I t i s probabl e that the
body, after steepi ng i n natrum, was pl aced i n
the bi tumi nous substance whi ch was heated to
temperature above the boi l i ng poi nt of water so
that the water wi thi n the body vol ati l i zed and
was then repl aced by the oi l . Boul ton carri ed
thi s out on a pi ece of wood i n the mi ddl e of the
19th centur y; hi s r esul ts i ndi cated the
correctness of the theory and were al so the
ori gi n of the Boul toni zi ng treatment whi ch i s
sti l l i n use today.
The Egypti ans were not the onl y peopl e to
use metal l i c sal ts as preservati ves. The Chi nese
were i mmersi ng wood i n sea water or the water
of sal t l akes pri or to use as a bui l di ng materi al
before 100 BC. Wel l preserved props have been
removed from ol d Roman mi nes i n Cyprus and
ex ami nati on has shown them to contai n
metal l i c copper, wel l di stri buted throughout
both the heart and sapwood. Vari ous theori es
have been advanced to expl ai n i ts presence as a
Roman attempt at preservati on, but i s seems
more l i kel y that the true expl anati on i nvol ves
the copper found i n the soi l i n thi s area. I t i s
possi bl e that the process was el ectrol yti c, one
end of the pr op bei ng i n one type of soi l
contai ni ng copper and the other end bei ng i n
another type of soi l so that the damp wood
formed a rather compl ex cel l .
Marcus Porcius Cato (234–149 BC), a Roman
whose condemnation of the luxury of his times
earned him the nickname of ‘Cato Censorious’,
commented on wood preservation, but by far the
most i nformati ve wri ter was the renowned
Roman naturalist Pliny. Pliny the Elder (AD 23–
79), who perished at Pompeii during the eruption
of Vesuvius, mentioned that Amurca, the oil-less
by-product in the manufacture of olive oil, and
also oils of cedar, larch, juniper and nard-bush
(Valeriana spp.) were used to preserve articles of
val ue from decay. He cl ai med that wood wel l
rubbed wi th oi l of cedar was proof agai nst
woodworm and decay, and i n hi s wri ti ngs
described the preparation of 48 different kinds of
oil for wood preserving. He also observed that the
more odoriferous or resinous the wood the more
resistant it was to decay. Because the statue of
Zeus (Jupiter) by Phidias was erected in a damp
grove at Ol ympi a i ts wooden pl atform was
imbued with oil. The statue of Diana at Ephesus
was made of wood and was believed to have been
of mi racul ous ori gi n. Pl i ny, quoti ng an eye-
witness Musicians, notes that it was still thought
necessary to saturate it with oil of nard through
smal l ori fi ces bored i n the woodwork. The
Roman use of ol i ve oi l was copi ed from
Alexander the Great (356–323 BC), the king of
Macedon who conquered a l arge area of the
known world. He is said to have ordered piles and
other bridge timbers to be covered with olive oil
as a precaution against decay.
The previously mentioned statue of Diana at
Ephesus was underpinned with charred piles. This
was not a new i dea as a prehi stori c race, the
Beakermen, appl i ed charri ng to wood. The
aborigines called the Tiwi who live on Melville
I sl and near Darwi n, Austral i a, and whose
Preservation technology
4
civilization is said to be 50 000 years behind our
own, mark their graves with brightly painted poles
like American Indian totem poles, which are made
from Bloodwood, a hard red-sapped wood which
they have found to be resistant to termites and
fungal decay. Prior to painting, the wood is charred
and covered with beeswax, orchid sap or white of
turtle egg. This may be the continuation of some
pri mi ti ve knowl edge of wood preservati on.
Alternatively it may be solely a method of forming
a suitable background for painting.
As soon as man began usi ng wood as a
bui l di ng materi al i t was onl y a matter of ti me
before decay became domesticated. The fungus
that probabl y causes the greatest damage i n
buildings is the common Dry rot fungus Serpula
lacrymans. I t has never been r ecor ded as
occurri ng i n nature and appears to be associ ated
onl y wi th man-made structures. The name i s
derived from the Latin word lacrima, a tear, for
Serpula lacrymans, (formerl y known as Merulius
lacrymans i s the weepi ng fungus as fresh growth
can often be observed covered wi th drops of
water. It is this weeping or fretting which enables
i t to be i denti fi ed as the ‘fretti ng l eprosy of the
house’ i n the Ol d Testament Book of Levi ti cus.
Unti l comparati vel y recent ti mes the pri est was
the person who was cal l ed i n to deal wi th any
ki nd of troubl e or pesti l ence and consequentl y
Levi ti cus contai ns ful l i nstructi ons on how to
deal wi th the ‘l eprosy of the house’. The pri est,
when carrying out his inspection, was to look for
‘hol l ow strakes, greeni sh or reddi sh, on the
wal l s’. If they were present the house was to be
shut up for 7 days, and i f after that ti me ‘the
pl ague be spread i n the house, i t i s a fretti ng
leprosy’ and Dry rot rather than one of the Wet
rots, and he was to ‘command that they take
away the stones i n whi ch the pl ague i s, and…
cast them i nto an uncl ean pl ace wi thout the
ci ty,…the house to be scraped wi thi n round
about, and…pour out the dust…without the city
i nto an uncl ean pl ace’. Thi s may appear rather
ruthl ess but even today an affected area must be
stri pped to the bare masonry to ensure the
successful appl i cati on of fungi ci de, the Dry rot
fungus spreading through masonry in the search
for wood. It i s i n these verses of Levi ti cus, whi ch
al so descri be l eprosy i n man, that we may read
of earl y i deas of contagi on, and peopl e enteri ng
the house were requi red to wash themsel ves and
thei r garments thoroughl y on l eavi ng. I f the
priest found that the fungus had not developed
after repl asteri ng the affected area he was to
appl y fi nal ‘fungi ci dal ’ treatment and ‘take to
cl eanse the house two bi rds, and cedar wood,
and scarl et, and hyssop’. He was i nstructed to
sacri fi ce one bi rd and spri nkl e the house seven
ti mes wi th the bl ood. The other bi rd, after bei ng
di pped i n the bl ood, was freed and fl ew away,
presumabl y taki ng the pesti l ence or i nfecti on
wi th i t!
It was the bel i ef that the words of the Bi bl e
and sever al other books wer e compl etel y
i rreproachabl e that severel y di scouraged the
development of science and technology up to the
earl y 16th century. Ideas not i n agreement wi th
these standard works were consi dered hereti cal ,
and often peopl e wer e put to death for
ex pressi ng them. Other than those al ready
quoted, references to ti mber preservati on before
the 18th centur y appear to be negl i gi bl e,
al though ti mber decay was frequentl y descri bed
and appears to have been a serious problem.
Early problems
In the reign of Elizabeth I, Britain’s greatest asset
was her navy. When El i zabeth came to the
throne she found that ten out of the 32 Royal
shi ps were sufferi ng from decay. There was,
appar entl y, no accepted method of wood
preservati on, and the condi ti on of the navy was
so bad a few years l ater duri ng the rei gn of
James I that a commi ssi on of i nqui r y was
appoi nted. The fi ndi ngs emphasi zed the
i mportance of constructi ng shi ps of seasoned
wood, but l i ttl e noti ce appears to have been
taken of thi s. James I was succeeded by hi s son
Charl es I , who was beheaded, but whose son
Introduction
5
Charles II, was crowned on the restoration of the
monarchy. A period of rearmament commenced,
the navy’s programme of shipbuilding being in
the control of Samuel Pepys, the Secretary to the
Admiralty. In his famous diary Pepys remarked
on the shortage of wood bei ng such that a l arge
amount of green and unseasoned wood was used
i n shi pbui l di ng. The resul t was that many shi ps
began to decay before bei ng commi ssi oned.
Pepys very wi sel y suggested that thi s woul d not
be so i f the shi ps were better venti l ated. These
troubl es were not confi ned to Royal Navy shi ps,
and the merchantmen of the East India Company
sel dom made more than four, and someti mes
onl y three, voyages to I ndi a before becomi ng
useless through decay.
The shortage of wood that Pepys referred to
was becomi ng seri ous. The al most conti nuous
arming and rearming occurring throughout these
ti mes meant that extremel y l arge quanti ti es of
wood wer e r equi r ed for shi pbui l di ng.
Concurrentl y the ri se i n the use of i ron saw the
progressive destruction of the Wealden and other
forests to provi de smel ti ng charcoal . Dani el
Defoe i n 1724 wrote that the Sussex i ronworks
were carri ed on ‘at such a prodi gi ous expense of
wood, that even i n a country al most overrun
wi th ti mber, they began to compl ai n of
consumi ng of i t for the furnaces and l eavi ng the
next age to want for ti mber for bui l di ng’. He
saw no justi fi cati on for the compl ai nt, for Kent,
Sussex and Hampshire were ‘one inexhaustible
storehouse of ti mber’. Defoe was wrong, of
course, for wood was bei ng used at such an
al armi ng rate that there was al ready a noti ceabl e
shortage i n the 16th century. Vari ous Acts were
passed through Parl i ament i n attempts to l i mi t
consumption and obtain supplies from abroad.
There were al so attempts to transfer the i ron
smel ti ng i ndustry to North Ameri ca but thi s
never came about because of the i ntroducti on of
coal for smel ti ng. Later a further si gni fi cant
economy occurred when prejudices against the
use of coal as a domesti c fuel were fi nal l y
over come. Softwood began to ar r i ve i n
i ncreasi ng quanti ti es from the Bal ti c and Canada
but, despite this, the general shortage soon raised
pri ces and the need for preservati on became
more apparent.
The wastage of shi ps i n the Royal Navy on
account of decay was becomi ng an extremel y
grave probl em. Li ttl e seems to have been done
against Dry rot, for in 1771 Lord Sandwich had
the fungus dug out of the reserve shi ps so that he
mi ght i nspect the ti mbers. Dry rot was not the
only problem the navy had to contend with, for
ther e wer e al so the mar i ne-bor er s such as
shi pworm and other foul i ng organi sms that
attacked the outsi des of shi ps. At the ti me of
Vasco de Gama (1469–1524) the Portuguese are
known to have charred the outsides of their ships
as a protection against shipworm, and in 1720
the Royal Navy bui l t a shi p the Royal William
enti rel y from charred wood. It appears that the
experi ment fai l ed for i t was never repeated, but
charred wood is still used for shipbuilding by the
Solomon Islanders, who apparently learned the
practi ce from the Portuguese. Coveri ng the hul l
wi th sheet metal as a pr otecti on agai nst
shipworm was a system used as early as Roman
ti mes. Lead was the metal that was most easi l y
worked i nto sheets but i t was so heavy that i t
pul l ed away from i ts fi xi ngs. Copper was tri ed
by the Bri ti sh Navy but thi s coi nci ded wi th the
i ntroducti on on a l arge scal e of i ron fi tti ngs for
shi ps. El ectrol yti c acti on occurred, seri ousl y
damagi ng rudder beari ngs, so that the use of
metal sheeti ng was di sconti nued. I n 1782 the
preval ence of Dry rot i n Royal Navy shi ps was
made very apparent by the tragi c l oss of the
Royal George at Portsmouth. At the court
marti al i nvesti gati ng the deaths of the 800 men
on board i t was di scl osed that previ ousl y the
bottom had fal l en out whi l e the shi p was bei ng
heel ed over for sl i ght repai rs.
Early preservation
In 1784 the Royal Society of Arts offered a gold
medal ‘for the discovery of the various causes of
Preservation technology
6
Dry rot in timber and the certain method of its
prevention’. It was awarded in 1794 to Batson
who, in 1778, had treated an outbreak of Dry rot
i n a house by removi ng sub-fl oor soi l and
replacing it with anchorsmith’s ashes. In the early
19th century Britain was successfully negotiating
a most difficult period of history, highlighted by
the wars against Napoleon and in North America.
The Royal Navy was more important than ever
before but, al though the shortage of avai l abl e
wood brought the decay of ships daily into clearer
perspecti ve, i t was not unti l 1821 that the
Admiralty asked James Sowerby to investigate the
problem. He reported on the state of the Queen
Charlotte, a fi rst rater of 110 guns that was
launched in 1810 at a cost of £88 534. Only 14
months after launching she had to be re-built at a
cost of £94 499 before she coul d be
commi ssi oned. By 1859, when her name was
changed to Excellent, the total cost of repairs had
risen to £287 837. Sowerby reported the cause as
fungal rot and identified a score or more of fungi.
The Royal Navy was not the onl y sufferer
from Dry rot. In 1807 James Randell spoke to
the Royal Soci ety of Arts on the subject of Dry
rot and menti oned that i t had destroyed the
great dome that Robert Taylor had built on the
Bank of Engl and. By thi s ti me peopl e were
begi nni ng to take seri ous i nterest i n chemi cal
preservati ves. 1812 saw the fi rst attempt at
fumi gati on when Luki n ex per i mented i n
Wool wi ch dockyar d wi th the i nj ecti on of
resi nous vapours; the attempt was abandoned
after the appar atus ex pl oded wi th fatal
consequences to the workmen.
Salt preservatives
The 19th century produced further i nterest i n
wood decay on account of the wi despread
expansi on of the rai l ways. The stone bl ocks fi rst
used for supporti ng the rai l s were found to be
too ri gi d and wooden sl eepers were substi tuted.
These rapi dl y decayed and obvi ousl y a good
chemi cal preservati ve was requi red. The fi rst l i st
of establ i shed preservati ves, publ i shed i n 1770
by Si r John Pr i ngl e, was fol l owed shor tl y
afterwards by a second l i st drawn up by Dr
Macbr i de. The age of chemi cal wood
preservati on had arri ved and these l i sts both
appeared in the 1810 edition of Encyclopaedia
Britannica. By 1842 fi ve pr ocesses wer e
establ i shed usi ng mercuri c chl ori de, copper
sul phate, zi nc chl ori de, ferrous sul phate wi th a
sulphide, and creosote respectively.
Mercuri c chl ori de, fi rst used by the French
sci enti st Homberg i n 1705 to preserve wood
from i nsect attack, was l ater recommended by
De Boi ssi eu (1767) and Si r Humphrey Davy
(1824), and i n 1832 Kyan took out hi s patent
for thi s pr ocess whi ch became k nown as
Kyani zi ng. Kyan’s fi r st success was the
pr eser vati on of the Duke of Devonshi r e’s
conservatori es. The Bri ti sh Admi ral ty tested i t
and found i t fai l ed agai nst mari ne organi sms.
Thi s was more than a century after the Dutch
Government had found exactl y the same resul t.
Mercuri c chl ori de, al so known as corrosi ve
subl i mate, i s sol ubl e i n water, vol ati l e at
ordi nary temperatures and poi sonous. I ts use
conti nued for some ti me i n the Uni ted States
and Germany but probabl y the l ast l arge-scal e
i nstance of Kyani zi ng i n Bri tai n was i n 1863.
The use of copper sulphate was recommended
as early as 1767 by De Boissieu and Bordenave.
Thomas Wade recommended i t i n 1815, and i n
1837 Margary took out a patent for i ts use i n
wood preservation. Copper sulphate was by far
the most successful metallic salt and long after it
di ed out of use i n Engl and i ts popul ar i ty
conti nued i n France, where i t was appl i ed by a
most ingenious method known as the Boucherie
pr ocess, by whi ch a newl y fel l ed tr ee i s
i mpregnated by repl acement of the sap. The
Boucheri e copper sul phate process was very
popul ar i n France from about 1860 unti l i t went
out of favour i n 1910 because of some fai l ures
on al kal i ne soi l . I t was used for preservi ng
tel egr aph pol es i n Br i tai n pr i or to
nationalization in 1870, and continued in use in
Introduction
7
the South of France and Swi tzerl and unti l a few
years ago. The Boucheri e process was revi ved i n
1935 by the Deutsche Rei chpost but wi th a
mul ti sal t preservati ve.
The anti septi c properti es of copper sul phate
have never been questi oned and i t i s onl y the
solubility in water of this and other metallic salts
that makes them unsui tabl e as wood
preservati ves i n wet si tuati ons. I t wi l l be recal l ed
that the anci ent Egypti ans had a very effecti ve
method for the preservati on of bodi es, whi ch
Boul ton suggested had i nvol ved steepi ng i n
natron fol l owed by pi ckl i ng i n a bi tumi nous
substance. Boulton impregnated a piece of wood
wi th natron and afterwards pl aced i t i n creosote
at a temperature above the boi l i ng poi nt of
water. He found that water evapor ated,
deposi ti ng the natron sal ts i n the wood, and the
creosote then penetrated wel l i nto the dri ed
wood. Thi s process formed the basi s of a patent
by Boulton in 1879 except that copper sulphate
was used in place of natron. It was successful but
was l i ttl e used because of the success of creosote
al one, the addi ti on of the copper sul phate
ser vi ng onl y to i ncr ease the cost. Boul ton
suggested, however, that an oi l wi th no
preservati ve properti es coul d be used i n pl ace of
the creosote, i ts purpose bei ng sol el y to prevent
l eachi ng of the copper sul phate. Moder n
Boul toni zi ng i nvol ves the use of hi gh-
temperature creosote and vacuum, but simply to
boi l off moi sture wi thi n the wood so that the
creosote i s abl e to penetrate.
Zinc chloride was recommended as a wood
preservative in 1815 and 1837 by Thomas Wade
and Boucheri e respecti vel y. In 1838 Si r Wi l l i am
Burnett patented i ts use but throughout i ts wood
preservi ng hi story i t has suffered because of i ts
extreme sol ubi l i ty i n water. Despi te thi s i t was
much used by the Royal Navy. Because of the
shortage of creosote i n the Uni ted States i ts use
conti nued there l ong after i t was forgotten i n
Bri tai n. Even there, however, i ts use gradual l y
di mi ni shed because of the expansi on of the coal
gas i ndustr y and the i ncr eased i mpor ts of
cr eosote fr om Br i tai n as r etur n car go i n
petroleum tankers. Although extremely soluble it
was found to retai n i ts power of preservati on to
a smal l extent. Thi s was thought to be due to the
formation of zinc oxychloride, insoluble in water
but poisonous to fungi because of its solubility in
thei r enzyme secr eti ons. Thi s hypothesi s
suggested the i dea of the formati on of i nsol ubl e
preservati ves wi thi n wood by the appl i cati on of
two or more sol uti ons, a process that has been
effecti vel y appl i ed usi ng vari ous materi al s si nce
the begi nni ng of the 20th century. However, the
first precipitation process was a complete failure.
It was i n 1841 that Payne was granted a patent
for hi s two-stage pr ocess whi ch i nvol ved
i mpregnati on of wood wi th ferrous sul phate
fol l owed by cal ci um sul phi de. It was sai d that a
double decomposition occurred within the pores
of the wood, formi ng ferrous sul phi de and
cal ci um sul phate, both onl y spari ngl y sol ubl e i n
water, but the treatment was found to have
negl i gi bl e preservati ve effect.
Coal-tar products
Creosote i s certai nl y the most successful of the
preservatives developed during the 19th century.
The process, known as creosoti ng, i s based
essenti al l y on a patent granted to John Bethel l i n
1838. Bethel l ’s patent l i sts 18 substances,
mi xtures or sol uti ons, i ncl udi ng metal l i c sal ts,
oleaginous and bituminous substances. Although
the word ‘creosote’ i s not used, menti on i s made
of a mi xture of dead oi l wi th two or three parts
of coal -tar, and thi s i s the ori gi n of creosoti ng by
pressure i mpregnati on. I t was not the fi rst
attempt at the use of tars, for as earl y as 1756
experi ments were carri ed out i n Great Bri tai n
and America (Knowles) on the impregnation of
wood wi th vegetabl e tars and extracts. Boul ton
suggested that the term creosote ori gi nated i n a
patent granted to Franz Mol l i n 1836. Thi s
patent was concerned wi th i njecti ng wood i n
cl osed i ron vessel s wi th extracts of coal -tar, fi rst
as vapour and then as oi l i n a l i qui d state. Mol l
Preservation technology
8
termed oils lighter than water ‘Eupion’ and those
heavi er ‘Kreosot’, the l atter bei ng sai d to have
anti septi c qual i ti es. The pr ocess was not
practical as the light oils immediately evaporated
on the appl i cati on of the heated kreosot, and i t
was l eft to Bethel l to patent the moder n
creosoti ng process two years l ater. Franz Mol l
probabl y deri ved hi s term ‘kreosot’ from the
Gr eek wor ds kreas for fl esh and soter for
preserver but, al though the term kreosot was
appl i ed to the heavy coal -tar oi l s, the term
‘creosote’ was not deri ved di rectl y from i t. Even
i n Franz Mol l ’s ti me the term ‘creosote’ was
appl i ed to a product of the dry di sti l l ati on of
wood, and the term was applied to the heavy tar-
oi l s i n the bel i ef that true creosote was i denti cal
to the car bol i c aci d contai ned i n coal -tar.
Boulton mentions that Ti dy compared these two
substances and showed them to be di ssi m-i l ar.
He also demonstrated that coal-tar contained no
true creosote but the term ‘creosote’ i s now
uni versal l y appl i ed to the heavy oi l s produced
duri ng the di sti l l ati on of coal -tar.
By 1853 creosote had establ i shed i tsel f as a
most rel i abl e and persi stent wood preservati ve,
and most other processes were abandoned. I n
France, however, creosote establ i shed l ater
because of the popul ari ty of copper sul phate
al l i ed by the Boucher i e pr ocess. I n 1867
Foresti er, worki ng for the French Government
and al so Dutch Gover nment i nvesti gator s,
showed that cr eosote of a sui tabl e gr ade,
effi ci entl y appl i ed, rendered wood resi stant to
shi pworm. At about the same ti me, Crepi n,
worki ng for the Bel gi an Government, showed
that thi s appl i ed al so to other mari ne ani mal s.
However, there were di sti nct fai l ures resul ti ng
from the use of the wrong type of creosote and
these focused attenti on on studi es of the
composi ti on and effecti veness of vari ous grades.
I n 1834 the Ger man chemi st Runge
di scovered phenol (carbol i c aci d) i n coal -tar, and
i n 1860 Letheby attri buted the preservati ve
pr oper ti es of coal -tar s to thi s component.
Carbol i c aci d was recogni zed as an effecti ve
fungi ci de and i t was due to i nvesti gati ons i nto
the wood-preservati ve properti es of coal -tar that
the worl d gai ned the benefi t of a most i mportant
medical development. A young surgeon, Joseph
Li ster, was di scussi ng wi th a rai l way engi neer hi s
method for preservi ng sl eepers (ti es) and was
i nformed that i t was the carbol i c aci d whi ch
prevented decay. Li ster, worri ed by the hi gh
death rate due to i nfecti on duri ng operati ons,
i mmedi atel y saw that carbol i c aci d mi ght be
used to prevent i t. He started operati ng under a
conti nuous car bol i c aci d spr ay, al l hi s
i nstruments and hi s own hands havi ng been
washed i n the aci d. Condi ti ons were most
unpl easant but he thought i t worthwhi l e i f he
coul d save a few l i ves. He was surpri sed and
del i ghted to fi nd that, i nstead of the sl i ght
i mprovement that he had hoped for, he had
achi eved al most compl ete success. There was
opposi ti on to hi s i dea at fi rst, but hi s dramati c
r esul ts eventual l y gai ned hi m uni ver sal
recogni ti on and i t was not l ong before carbol i c
aci d was descri bed i n medi cal textbooks as the
‘aeri al di si nfectant par excel l ence’.
Letheby, appreciating the antiseptic properties
of carbol i c aci d, speci fi ed that naphthal ene and
para-naphthalene should be excluded as far as
possi bl e from creosote as he consi dered them to
have no preservati ve val ue. However, i n 1862
Rotti er concl uded that carbol i c aci d, al though
an energeti c anti septi c, had l i ttl e persi stent effect
due to i ts vol ati l i ty and sol ubi l i ty i n water. He
attri buted the durabl e success of creosote to the
heavi er and l ess vol ati l e components of coal -tar.
Despi te the i nter est i n wood pr eser vati on
resul ti ng from the expansi on of the rai l ways and
l ater of the tel egraphs, i t was not unti l 1863 that
real l y i nstructi ve experi ments were carri ed out.
These experi ments, whi ch were conducted by
Coi sne on behal f of the Bel gi an Government,
were repeated i n 1866. Coi sne treated wood
shavi ngs wi th vari ous grades of creosote and
pl aced them i n a putrefyi ng pi t for 4 years. The
resul ts were enti rel y i n favour of the use of the
heavi er oi l s, tar aci ds by themsel ves havi ng no
Introduction
9
persistent effect. These results were confirmed by
l ong-ter m ex per i ence and the Bel gi an
Government adopted the recommendations for
i ts successful creosoti ng speci fi cati ons.
About this time there were two theories on the
cause of decay. The accepted theory was that of
the great sci enti st Li ebi g, enunci ated i n great
detai l i n 1847 and 1851, whi ch cl ai med that
putrefacti on or decay of an organi c materi al was
a form of sl ow combusti on whi ch he termed
‘Er amacausi s’ and that i t was i ni ti ated on
contact wi th bodi es whi ch were al ready affected.
He di scovered that i t coul d be prevented by l ack
of moi sture and atmospheri c ai r, and from thi s
he deduced (and l ater showed) that i t was
provoked by oxygen. Dal ton’s atomi c theory,
proposed in 1808–1810, was by this time one of
the foundati on stones of sci ence and Li ebi g
cl ai med that the method of transfer was the
communi cati on of moti on from atoms of the
i nfected matter to atoms i n the contacti ng
mater i al . He deni ed that fer mentati on,
putrefacti on or decomposi ti on was caused by
any fungi , ani mal cul es, parasi tes or i nfusori a
that mi ght be present, thei r presence bei ng
coi nci dental or due to a preference for feedi ng
on decaying matter.
The parts of ani mal s and pl ants whi ch decay
most rapi dl y are the bl ood and the sap. It was
suggested that decay coul d be prevented by
coagul ants of al bumi n, such as mer cur i c
chl ori de, copper sul phate, zi nc chl ori de and the
tar-oi l s. I n 1854 Loui s Pasteur was appoi nted
Professor and Dean of the Facul ty of Sci ence at
Li l l e. Here he concentrated on hi s study of
fermentation in the production of beer and wine.
Three years later he moved to the Ecole Normale
at Pari s as Di rector of Sci enti fi c Studi es, and
while there he proclaimed that fermentation was
the resul t of the acti on of mi nute organi sms. If
fermentati on fai l ed to occur i t meant that the
organi sm was absent or unabl e to devel op
properly.
Li ebi g had observed that decay requi red
atmospheri c ai r and deduced that thi s was
because oxygen was necessary. He confi rmed
thi s theory by showi ng that oxygen accel erated
decay. Pasteur repeated the experiments and in
1864 announced that decay was caused by
minute organisms that were not spontaneously
gener ated but wer e i nstead pr esent i n
atmospher e, and thi s was one r eason why
atmospheric air was necessary. It was only a year
after thi s that Li ster appreci ated the si gni fi cance
of i nfecti on i n sur ger y and, as pr evi ousl y
menti oned, i ni ti ated the use of carbol i c aci d as a
sur gi cal di si nfectant. Pasteur ’s theor y was
confi rmed by Koch and soon gai ned support
among authori ti es such as Tyndal l . Thi s was
immediately thought to be a simplification of the
theory of preservati on as the onl y probl em was
to di scover substances toxi c to the decay-causi ng
organisms.
Pasteur was not the fi rst to decl are decay to
be caused by l i vi ng organi sms. As far as wood
was concerned there was the obvi ous damage by
borers and also the presence of fungi. In 1803
Benjamin Jonson had declared Dry rot to be the
resul t of a ‘vi si t from a pl ant and i s and ever was
so’ but he l eft i t to Theodore Harti g i n 1833 to
recogni ze the general associ ati on between fungi
and decay. Thi s associ ati on had been noti ced
before but i t was Theodore’s son Robert who i n
1878 showed fungi to be di rectl y responsi bl e for
decay. He conti nued hi s studi es i n 1885 and
made a thorough i nvesti gati on i nto the Dry rot
fungus and i ts effect on wood.
By 1884 the wood-preservi ng i ndustry had
been establ i shed l ong enough for seri ous i nterest
to be taken i n l ong-term effecti veness. The
metallic salts had broken down completely and
thei r use had been l argel y di sconti nued i n favour
of creosote. It was many years before i nterest i n
sal t preservati ves revi ved wi th the devel opment
of the mul ti sal t preservati ves, descri bed i n detai l
in Chapter 4. Creosote had been known to fail
but because of the careful records of treatment
kept by some of the i mpregnati ng compani es,
coupl ed wi th the work of peopl e l i ke Coi sne,
Boul ton and Ti dy, speci fi cati ons had been
Preservation technology
10
devel oped whi ch coul d be rel i ed on to gi ve good
protecti on. Boul ton carri ed out tests i n 1884 on
a 29-year-old fence in London Docks, apparently
as sound as when i t was erected. He detected no
tar aci ds but found the semi -sol i d consti tuents of
tar-oils, including naphthalene, to be present. He
found very l i ttl e di sti l l i ng bel ow 232°C (450°F)
and 60–70% distilled above 316°C (600°F). He
managed to detect acridine solidified in the pores
of some of the speci mens. Thi s i s an acri d and
pungent substance, neither volatile nor soluble in
water, that had been di scovered by Graebe and
Caro. Grevi l l e Wi l l i ams al so exami ned sampl es
from the fence and, al though he managed to
detect traces of tar-aci ds, the i ndi cati on was very
sl i ght and was probabl y due to the heavi est tar-
aci ds trapped wi thi n sol i di fi ed porti ons of the
oi l . I n nearl y al l of the speci mens he detected
naphthal ene and i n al l he detected acri di ne and
basi c substances. He concl uded that the
preservati ve acti on was due more to the l atter
than to the tar-aci ds. Ti dy ex peri mented on
naphthal ene, fi ndi ng that i t remai ned i n the
pores of the wood. Al though not as powerful an
anti septi c as the tar-aci ds i t was far mor e
persi stent. He deci ded that the para-naphthal ene
or anthracene contained in tar-oils was probably
without wood-preserving properties and drew up
hi s creosote speci fi cati on accordi ngl y. Thi s
standard, i ntroduced i n 1883, was the basi s of
nearl y al l Bri ti sh speci fi cati ons unti l the BESA
(now BSI) speci fi cati on was i ntroduced i n 1921.
In 1824 Hennell had synthesized alcohol and 2
years l ater Wohl er was responsi bl e for the
synthesis of urea. These achievements opened the
door to tremendous developments in industrial
synthesi s of organi c compounds. Coal i s a
veritable treasure chest of raw materials for these
processes, and i t was not l ong before coal -tar
began to suffer from the extraction of some of its
components. Typical of this was the use made of
anthracene. From the earliest times the roots of
madder (Rubia tinctoria) had been used as a
dyestuff in India and Egypt. The principal dye
involved is alizarin which is present in the root as
a gl ucosi de, ruberythri c aci d. Thi s can be
hydrol ysed to gl ucose and al i zari n, and was
extensively employed until towards the end of the
19th century in the production of Turkey Red dye
for dyers and printers. However, in 1868 Graebe
and Li eberman found that al i zari n coul d be
reduced to anthracene by heating with zinc dust.
They suggested a rather expensi ve process for
synthesizing alizarin from anthracene, which was
soon rel i nqui shed i n favour of an al ternati ve
process they di scovered si mul taneousl y wi th
Perkin, the ‘Father of Dyeing’.
Whi l st the i ncreasi ng sophi sti cati on of the
chemi cal i ndustry threatened to reduce the
effecti veness of creosote, i t was al so ul ti matel y
responsible for the development of compounds
such as pentachl orophenol and the organo-
chlorine insecticides which made the formulation
of organi c sol vent-based preservati ves possi bl e,
as described in Chapter 4. Fortunately, Tidy had
already shown that anthracene had only weak
wood-preserving properties, so that there was no
confl i ct between dye manufacturers and creosote
users. Other changes i n the composi ti on of
creosote were caused by the di fferent methods of
coki ng and the varyi ng grades of coal . Al l thi s
made i t more i mportant that the pri nci pal wood-
preservi ng components i n creosote shoul d be
i denti fi ed. Work has conti nued to the present
day, but despi te i mpr oved methods the
preservati ve acti on of creosote i s sti l l i mperfectl y
understood. I n 1951 Mayfi el d concl uded that
‘the toxi ci ty of creosote i s not due to one or a
very few hi ghl y effecti ve materi al s but i s due to
the many and vari ed compounds whi ch occur
throughout the boi l i ng range. The val ue of
creosote as a wood preservati ve depends l argel y
on whether or not i t remai ns i n the wood under
the condi ti ons and throughout the peri od of
servi ce’. Essenti al l y thi s means that a parti cul ar
grade of creosote cannot be sai d to be effi ci ent
on the meri ts of i ts chemi cal composi ti on al one.
The onl y true test i s to use i t and see how i t
performs i n normal servi ce, but the di ffi cul ty i s
the l ength of l i fe expected of creosote; the fence
Introduction
11
tested by Boul ton i n 1884 l asted about 70 years.
Even then it was demolished only to make way
for another structure and was sti l l reasonabl y
preserved. Any fi el d test woul d take as l ong, so
that eval uati on of new preservati ves i s often
based on laboratory comparisons of preservative
toxicity.
Application methods
Li ttl e has been sai d of the methods used for
appl yi ng preservati ves. An effecti ve preservati ve
can be a compl ete fai l ure i f i neffi ci entl y appl i ed,
and this is the explanation of the early failures of
creosote i n the Uni ted States. Vacuum and
pressure methods of impregnation undoubtedly
gi ve the gr eatest cer tai nty of l asti ng
preservati on. Breant i s sai d to have been the
i nventor of thi s process when he took out a
patent i n 1831, but i n Great Bri tai n Bethel l was
gr anted a patent i n 1838 whi ch i ncl uded
amongst other substances creosote appl i ed by
this means. The method soon became known as
the ful l -cel l or Bethel l process, al though i t was
modi fi ed to i ts present commerci al form, whi ch
wi l l be descri bed i n detai l i n Chapter 3, by Burt,
who was granted a patent for hi s i mprovements
to the method. Wi th creosote the method i s
i neffecti ve when appl i ed to unseasoned or wet
wood, so that extensi ve storage faci l i ti es are
requi red for dryi ng and seasoni ng. I n 1879
Boul ton was granted a patent for hi s Boi l i ng
under Vacuum process, using hot creosote to boil
off the water i n the wood. Thi s process may be
fol l owed by the ful l -cel l process or an empty-cel l
process such as the Rüpi ng process. Steami ng
and steaming-and-vacuum processes were tried
as al ternati ves to the Boul ton process but wi th
no great success.
There are several difficulties encountered with
the ful l -cel l process. Creosote bl eedi ng i s l i kel y
to occur, an annoyi ng factor wi th fences and
pol es that pedestri ans and ani mal s are l i kel y to
encounter. Another aspect i s the quanti ty of
preservati ve used, a very i mportant poi nt i n
countr i es wher e pr eser vati ves, especi al l y
creosote, are scarce and expensi ve. The empty-
cel l pr ocesses ar e a gr eat i mpr ovement as
bl eedi ng i s l ess l i kel y to occur and there i s a 40–
60% reducti on i n the use of preservati ve. The
l atter i s especi al l y i mportant i n the case of
parti cul arl y permeabl e woods and those wi th a
hi gh proporti on of sapwood. The empty-cel l
methods in common use, the Rüping and Lowry
processes, wi l l be decri bed i n Chapter 3.
The Rüpi ng process was i ni ti al l y patented by
Wasser man i n Ger many i n 1902, al though
Rüpi ng appl i ed the process commerci al l y and
Ameri can patents were subsequentl y granted i n
hi s name. The process i s commenced by the
appl i cati on of an i ni ti al ai r pressure. When the
enti r e pr ocess i s compl ete the pr essur e i s
rel eased, the compressed ai r i n the cel l s dri ves
out some of the preservati ve and a short peri od
of vacuum recovers more preservati ve, so that
the net retenti on i n the wood i s onl y about 40%
of the gross absorpti on, a savi ng i n preservati ve
of 60%. The Lowry process, which was patented
i n Ameri ca i n 1906, di ffers onl y i n that i t rel i es
on compression of air at atmospheric pressure
for return of excess preservati ve, so that there i s
no i ni ti al compressi on stage. The recovery of
preservati ve i s about 40%.
Other si mi l ar processes due to Hül sbert,
including the Nordheim process of 1907, have
been entirely superseded by the Rüping process.
In 1912 Rütgerswerke AG were granted a patent
for treatment of insufficiently dry timber by the
Rüpi ng process. I t i s i denti cal wi th Boul ton’s
patent except that an oil, used for evaporating the
water, is drawn off before the Rüping process is
applied. The vacuum and pressure methods are
the most important and most effective methods
used for the application of wood preservatives.
They suffer, however, from the great disadvantage
that speci al pl ant i s requi red and i t i s often
impossible or uneconomical to send wood to the
pl ant for treatment. Numerous non-pressure
methods are available but are suitable for use only
with specially developed preservatives such as the
Preservation technology
12
low-viscosity organic solvent products for spray
and di p treatment of dry wood, and the
concentrated borate solutions which can be used
for di ffusi on treatment of freshl y fel l ed wood
wi th hi gh moi sture content. Preservati on
processes are discussed in detail in Chapter 3.
1.2 Preservation principles
The si mpl est method to avoi d deteri orati on i s to
use onl y natural l y durabl e wood. Durabi l i ty i s
an embarrassment i n nature as i t del ays the
di sposal of dead trees, and i t can therefore be
appreci ated that onl y a l i mi ted number of wood
speci es are trul y durabl e. Thi s durabi l i ty i s
al ways confi ned to the hear twood but the
el i mi nati on of sapwood, coupl ed wi th sel ecti on
fr om a ver y l i mi ted r ange of speci es, i s
unr eal i sti c unl ess ver y hi gh costs can be
tol erated. It i s far more real i sti c to sel ect a wood
speci es for i ts physi cal properti es and then to
take sui tabl e pr ecauti ons to ensur e that
deter i or ati on i s avoi ded. Thi s does not
necessar i l y mean the use of pr eser vati ve
treatments. For ex ampl e, the most effi ci ent
method to avoid fungal decay is to keep wood
dr y, and thi s i s most si mpl y achi eved by
structural desi gn, such as the i ncorporati on of
overhangi ng eaves and gutters to di spose of
rai nfal l and damp-proof membranes to i sol ate
structural wood from dampness i n the soi l or
supporti ng structure. However, there are some
si tuati ons, usual l y ter med severe hazard
condi ti ons, where deteri orati on i s una-voi dabl e
unl ess natural l y durabl e or adequatel y preserved
wood is used. The most important severe hazard
ri sk i s the ground contact condi ti on whi ch ari ses
i n transmi ssi on pol es, fence posts and rai l way
sl eepers (ti es). In some areas i nsect-borer attack
i s vi r tual l y i nevi tabl e whatever the ser vi ce
condi ti ons, such as i n areas subject to the Dry
Wood termi tes. I n some parts of Europe the
House Longhorn beetle, sometimes known as the
House borer, represents a severe hazard to
softwood. In other si tuati ons deteri orati on may
not be i nevi tabl e, yet i t may be possi bl e or even
probabl e, representi ng a moderate hazard. Thus
the Common Furni ture beetl e i s a parti cul arl y
wi despread cause of damage, yet i t sel dom
resul ts i n structural col l apse. Si mi l arl y, fungal
decay may not normal l y present a ri sk, yet i t
may be abl e to devel op i f structural woodwork
becomes wet through acci dent or negl ect.
I t i s obvi ousl y i mportant to i denti fy the
deteri orati on hazard before deci di ng on the
precauti ons that are necessary. However, the
hazard does not vary only with the conditions to
whi ch the wood i s exposed but al so wi th the
wood speci es. For ex ampl e, a group of
Basi di omycetes are responsi bl e for the fungal
decay that is commonly known as Wet rot. The
Cel l ar rot Coniophore puteana occur s i n
persi stentl y damp condi ti ons, such as when a
damp-proof mem-brane i s omi tted and when
plates under floor joists are in direct contact with
damp supporting walls. If the moisture content
tends to fl uctuate, as i n wood affected by a
periodic roof leak, the White Pore fungus Poria
vaporaria is far more common in softwoods and,
for ex ampl e, the Stri ngy Oak rot Phellinus
megaloporus i n oak. Coriolus versicolor
sometimes develops when non-durable tropical
hardwoods are used as drips or sills on window
and door frames, and Paxillus panuoides
generally occurs where the conditions are too wet
for these other fungi. A knowledge of the basic
nature of various wood species, and perhaps even
of the pri nci pl es for thei r i denti fi cati on, i s
therefore essential for a proper understanding of
the decay hazard. The reliability of preservation
processes al so vari es wi del y wi th the wood
speci es. The most i mportant requi rement i s to
achieve an adequate retention of the preservative
wi thi n the wood. I n many speci es thi s can be
achieved relatively easily in the sapwood but the
heartwood may be completely impermeable. In
Baltic redwood (Scots pine) the treatment of the
sapwood may be al l that i s necessary as the
heartwood possesses si gni fi cant natural
Wood structure
13
durabi l i ty. I n other speci es such a Bal ti c
whitewood (spruce) even the heartwood is non-
durabl e, yet nei ther heartwood or sapwood i s
suffi ci entl y permeabl e to permi t adequate
preservati ve penetrati on. Preservati ve effi cacy
also varies with the microscopic structure of the
wood. Thus the usual l y rel i abl e copper-
chromium-arsenic water-borne preservatives are
much l ess effi ci ent i n hardwoods than i n
softwoods, apparentl y through the i nadequate
micro-distribution of the preservative within the
cell walls. Clearly a detailed knowledge of the fine
structure of wood is necessary if these various
problems are to be fully understood.
1.3 Wood structure
The tree
The basi c structure of wood, the vari ati on
between softwoods and har dwoods, the
di fferences between speci es and the si gni fi cance
of vari ous features ar al l descri bed i n greater
detail in the book Wood in Construction by the
present author. Many of the features are of
i mportance i n wood decay and preservati on.
Wood is the natural supporting skeleton of larger
pl ants and i t i s i mportant to understand the
ori gi n of the skel etal parts i n order to ful l y
appreci ate thei r properti es. A pl ant consi sts of a
crown of l eaves, a supporti ng stem and the roots
that anchor i t wi thi n the soi l . A tree i s speci al
onl y i n regard to the scal e of i ts devel opment,
and thus the need for a supporti ng skel eton
whi ch ul ti matel y becomes the wood of
commerce. However, the trunk does not perform
sol el y thi s passi ve supporti ng functi on but al so
acts as a storage area, and the outer zones are
the conducti ng routes between the crown and
the roots. In addi ti on, the growth of the crown
must be accompanied by similar growth in the
roots, and an appropri ate enl argement i n the
trunk to enabl e i t to conti nue to perform i ts
supporting function.
The growth arrangement of a tree comprising a
crown of leaves connected to the roots by usually
a single main stem, trunk or bowl is known as the
dendroi d habi t. The sol e purpose of thi s very
elaborate structure is simply to survive and to
supply the cells within the plants. This is achieved
fi r stl y by the r oots, whi ch absor b water
containing dissolved mineral salts which is then
conveyed by the trunk, branches and twigs to the
crown and the individual leaves. The function of
these l eaves i s to absorb atmospheri c carbon
dioxide, which is combined with the water from
the roots to form simple sugars by the process
known as photosynthesis; the chlorophyll in green
plants is the essential catalyst which enables this
process to proceed whenever adequate ultraviolet
radiation is received from the sun. The sugars are
then conveyed throughout the plant to the leaves,
twigs, branches, trunk and roots. The primary
function of the sugars is to provide an energy
source or food for the i ndi vi dual l i vi ng cel l s
within all these components of the tree, but a
secondary function is to provide the basic units
from which the skeletal structure of the tree is
formed. Whenever there is sufficient sunlight the
simple sugars will be produced by the leaves and
will be found distributed throughout the living
ti ssue of the tree. Some of thi s sugar wi l l be
formed into starch and deposited within the living
tissue as a reserve energy source which can be
utilized by the cells whenever sugar is unavailable
from the leaves, such as at night or during the
winter months when deciduous trees shed their
l eaves. Fi nal l y the sugar uni ts are joi ned i nto
cellulose chains which are then assembled into the
main skeleton of the woody parts of the tree.
Wood formation
A tree i s conti nuousl y i ncreasi ng i n si ze (Fi g.
1.1) and thi s i s the functi on of the embryoni c
ti ssue di stri buted around the whol e pl ant. The
i ncrease i n the overal l si ze of the crown i s the
resul t of the acti vi ty of the api cal meri stem or
Preservation technology
14
bud at the end of each twi g whi ch achi eves the
progressi ve extensi on i n l ength. The detai l ed
structure of thi s bud has l i ttl e si gni fi cance on the
str uctur e of wood but the mer i stem ti ssue
actual l y extends over the enti re surface of the
tree, just beneath the bark of the twi gs, branches
and trunk but extendi ng si mi l arl y over the enti re
root system. The purpose of this lateral meristem
i s to enabl e al l the structural components of the
tree to i ncrease i n gi rth so that they are capabl e
of supporti ng the enl arged crown. Each twi g as
i t l engthens consi sts i ni ti al l y onl y of pi th formed
by the api cal mer i stem, but i t i s cover ed
ex ternal l y by the l ateral meri stem to permi t
subsequent i ncrease i n gi rth, al though i t al so
provi des a protecti ve coveri ng to the new shoot
to control water l oss and to prevent di sease
damage. As thi s meri stem ti ssue generates new
cel l s whi ch i ncrease the gi rth the protecti ve
coveri ng spl i ts, exposi ng i nner ti ssue, but the
meri stem ti ssue then generates a new protecti ve
l ayer whi ch becomes the rough outer bark of the
branches and trunk (Fi g. 1.2).
A trunk i n i ts si mpl est form coul d thus
consi st of si ngl e twi g, progressi vel y i ncreasi ng i n
FI GURE 1.1 Di agrammati c trunk showi ng annual
ri ngs.
FIGURE 1.2 Wood zones in a trunk.
Wood structure
15
l ength or hei ght as i t i s extended by the bud at
i ts apex, the l ateral meri stem al so i ncreasi ng
the gi rth, so that the trunk possess a steep
coni cal shape whi ch i s essenti al l y the porti on
of the tree whi ch i s the wood of commerce.
The trunk consi sts of a central pi th encl osed,
i n effect, by a ser i es of cones, each cone
representi ng the annual growth i ncrement or
annual ri ng. The wood ti ssue around the pi th
i s the heartwood and consi sts of dead cel l s.
The heartwood i s surrounded by the l i vi ng
cel l s and the sapwood or x yl em whi ch i s
covered by a thi n l ayer of phl oem cel l s and the
protecti ve bark. The i nterface between the
x yl em and phl oem cel l s i s k nown as the
cambi um, the term used by wood technol ogi sts
f or the acti vel y di vi di ng cel l s whi ch ar e
descri bed by botani sts as the l ateral meri stem.
These di vi di ng cambi um cel l s are known as
fusi form i ni ti al s, the cel l s spl i tti ng off on the
i nner si de of the cambi um formi ng becomi ng
xyl em or wood ti ssue and those on the outer
si de f or mi ng phl oem or bar k ti ssue. I n
coni ferous trees the x yl em cel l s are termed
trachei ds whi l st i n di cotyl edons or broad-l eaf
trees they are termed fi bres. The cambi um al so
possess addi ti onal acti ve cel l s known as ray
i ni ti al s whi ch generate hori zontal radi al bands
of cel l s known as rays or parenchyma ti ssue
wi thi n the xyl em.
Thi s descri pti on i s not very compl ex, yet i t
expl ai ns the devel opment of wood wi thi n the
trunk of a tree. Xyl em can be formed onl y when
the enti re tree structure i s acti ve. The xyl em
deposi ts thus tend to be seasonal , parti cul arl y i n
temperate areas, so that a trunk wi l l i ncrease
each year by the addi ti on of an outer cone of
ti ssue representi ng the growth for a season. Thi s
growth vari es from a wi de band of l arge but
thi n-wal l ed cel l s known as the earl y or spri ng
growth, to much smaller thick-walled cells which
represent the summer or autumn growth. This
l ate growth termi nates sharpl y as cel l formati on
di sconti nues wi th the onset of wi nter and thi s
sharp termi nal l i ne i s then fol l owed by the l arge
cel l s of the earl y growth for the fol l owi ng
season.
These detai l s expl ai n the basi c structure of
wood but they have addi ti onal si gni fi cance. The
xyl em or sapwood i s the ti ssue that conducts
water and di ssol ved sal ts from the roots to the
crown of the tree, whilst the phloem is the tissue
that conducts sugars from the crown to the
various growing cells throughout the structure of
the tree. When a xylem cell, a tracheid or fibre, is
fi rst formed i t consi sts of a thi n wal l of sugars
whi ch have pol ymeri zed i nto cel l ul ose. The
sugars from the phloem continue to be supplied
to xyl em cel l s, the rays perhaps provi di ng routes
for thi s transfer, so that successi ve secondary
layers of cellulose are formed within the original
primary wall. Once the cell structure is complete,
a rel ati vel y rapi d process occurri ng wi thi n the
original growth season, the much slower process
of l i gni fi cati on commences. Thi s consi sts of the
progressi ve deposi ti on of l i gni n, i ni ti al l y wi thi n
the mi ddl e l amel l a, an amor phous
undi fferenti ated regi on between the cel l s, but
then wi thi n the cel l ul ose cel l wal l s. Thi s
l i gni fi cati on serves to sti ffen and strengthen the
cel l s, occurri ng progressi vel y whi l st the cel l s
remai n al i ve. The sapwood or l i vi ng xyl em cel l s
consist of a reasonably constant number of rings
or depth of xylem, presumably controlled by the
avai l abi l i ty of food and oxygen to mai ntai n the
l i vi ng cel l processes, so that further annual
growth at the cambi um i s accompani ed at the
i nner surface of the sapwood by the death of
cel l s and thei r conversi on i nto heartwood. The
onl y si gni fi cant di fference between sapwood and
heartwood is the large amount of material that is
deposi ted i n the l atter, apparentl y waste ari si ng
from the l i vi ng processes of the tree. These
deposi ts i n the heartwood cel l s reduce thei r
porosi ty and are often si gni fi cantl y toxi c, so that
heartwood is usually more resistant to insect and
fungal attack than sapwood. These deposi ts al so
tend to make heartwood more stable, so that it is
much more resi stant to swel l i ng and shri nkage
wi th changes i n moi sture content.
Preservation technology
16
Softwoods and hardwoods
There are fundamental di fferences i n the nature
of the wood of the coni fers or softwoods and
the di cotyl edons or hardwoods. I n softwoods
the pri nci pal l ongi tudi nal cel l s are known as
tr achei ds and ser ve both conducti ng and
mechani cal support functi ons. I n transverse
secti on a pi ece of wood appear s as a
honeycomb, wi th the annual r i ngs ar i si ng
through the change i n densi ty of appearance
between the earl y wood wi th i ts l arge thi n-
wal l ed cel l s and the l ate wood wi th i ts smal l
thi ck-wal l ed cel l . The transverse secti on may
al so show occasi onal verti cal resi n canal s whi l st
the radi al and tangenti al secti ons may show
hori zontal features such as rays. I n contrast the
hardwoods possess fi bres, si mi l ar to softwood
trachei ds, to provi de structural support but the
conducti ng cel l s are termed vessel s or pores.
These vessel s are di stri buted si ngul arl y or i n
cl usters throughout the wood, or i n radi al l y or
tangenti al l y ori entated groups. For exampl e,
tangenti al di stri buti on resul ts i n the ri ngporous
woods, a term that resul ts from the observati on
that a di sti nct ri ng can be seen wi th the naked
eye on a transverse secti on of speci es of thi s
type such as oak, ash or el m. Whi l st the
tr ansver se and r adi al secti ons of both
hardwoods and softwoods show annual ri ngs
whi ch may appear to be superfi ci al l y si mi l ar,
they actual l y r esul t fr om r ather di ffer ent
vari ati ons i n the structure.
I n or der to ex ami ne these mi cr oscopi c
features of a pi ece of wood i t i s necessary
ei ther to macerate the sampl e or to prepare
thi n secti ons. For macerati on the sampl e i s
fi rst treated wi th chromi c aci d i n order to
di ssol ve the mi ddl e l amel l a and thus rel ease
the i ndi vi dual components. Thi n secti ons are
prepared by soaki ng the wood unti l i t i s soft
and then cutti ng the secti ons wi th a
mi crotome. I n both cases stai ns can be used
whi ch have an affi ni ty for vari ous i ndi vi dual
components so that they ar e mor e r eadi l y
vi si bl e under the mi croscope. Macerati on has
the advantage that i t i s possi bl e to exami ne
i ndi vi dual components i n thei r enti rety, but the
di sadvantage that thei r rel ati ve posi ti ons are
compl etel y unknown. Thi n secti ons gi ve an
i ndi cati on of the rel ati ve posi ti ons but i t i s
necessary to prepare a l arge number of seri al
secti ons i n or der to encounter i ndi vi dual
components and thus constr uct a thr ee-
di mensi onal pi cture of the enti re wood.
Thi s descri pti on i s not i ntended to be a
compr ehensi ve account of the mi cr oscopi c
features of wood but si mpl y a contri buti on to
the understandi ng of wood structure. As an
exampl e Scots pi ne, Pinus sylvestris, has been
sel ected to represent softwoods wi th European
oak, Quercus robur, to represent hardwoods
(Fi g. 1.3).
The macerati on of Scots pi ne gi ves a l arge
number of thi n needl el i ke uni ts about 0.8 mm
(1/32 i n) l ong. These pri nci pal l ongi tudi nal
structural el ements are hol l ow, four-si ded and
poi nted at each end. ‘Pi ts’ are scattered al ong
opposi te si des of the trachei ds; the bordered pi ts
ar e ci r cul ar whi l st the si mpl e pi ts ar e
rectangul ar. I t i s al so possi bl e to di sti ngui sh
parenchyma cel l s i n the macerated sampl e, each
obl ong, box-shaped and about 0.1 mm (1/200
i n) l ong. Exami nati on of secti ons shows that
Scots pi ne i s composed pr edomi nantl y of
trachei ds whi ch were l ai d down i n regul ar rows
as they were formed by the cambium at the outer
l i mi t of the sapwood. The trachei ds are fi tted
end-to-end wi th an overl ap to gi ve both strength
and conti nui ty thr ough the pi ts i n the
l ongi tudi nal conducti on of fl ui ds. The spri ng
wood trachei ds are l arge i n cross-secti on and
thi n-wal l ed compared wi th the summer wood
trachei ds whi ch are di sti ngui shabl e by thei r very
thi ck wal l s. The onl y other l ongi tudi nal features
are verti cal resi n canal s whi ch appear as spots
i n cross-secti on and as fi ne whi te hai r-l i nes i n
the radi al and tangenti al secti ons. These resi n
canal s are narrow tunnel s l i ned wi th smal l
rectangular cells. The other principal features are
Wood structure
17
the medullary rays running as horizontal ribbons
in the radial direction; with luck they might be
visible in a radial section but the ends of the rays
will certainly appear in a tangential section. In
depth they consist of three to ten small oblong
cells with their length in the horizontal direction.
The top and bottom rows consist of ray tracheids
with walls of irregular thickness whilst the middle
rows are parenchyma cells which are connected to
the vertical tracheids via the simple pits. The ray
may also incorporate horizontal resin canals.
The str uctur e of a har dwood such as
European oak i s enti rel y di fferent. I n most
hardwoods the vessel s are the domi nant features
and i n cross-secti on they appear i n the oak as
l arge pores. These vessel s run for a di stance of
several metres verti cal l y wi thi n the tree and
consi st of the many squat tubul ar cel l s that can
be seen i n a macerated preparati on. These cel l s
possess thi n wal l s so that i ncreasi ng porosi ty
necessari l y l eads to decreasi ng strength i n a
har dwood. The tubul ar cel l s al so possess
numerous pi ts connecti ng wi th the adjacent
tracheids and fibres. The tracheids are rather like
those i n softwoods but l ess regul ar i n form.
Fi bres occur i n cl umps and are responsi bl e for
the pri nci pal l ongi tudi nal strength of the wood.
Each fi bre i s spi ndl e-shaped, l ong, thi n and
tough wi th a thi ck wal l and onl y a smal l cavi ty.
The fi bres are i nterl ocked or cemented to each
other to gi ve a hard tough wood. I n addi ti on
there are smal l verti cal rays and very l arge
hori zontal medul l ary rays, usual l y composed
enti r el y of r egul ar-si zed parenchyma cel l s
wi thout the r ay tr achei ds or r esi n canal s
associ ated wi th medul l ary rays i n softwoods. In
oak there are two si zes of medul l ary ray, one
broad and the other narrow and barel y vi si bl e to
the naked eye. These medul l ary rays are a source
of weakness as the verti cal trachei ds and fi bres
are defl ected around them so that shri nkage i n
oak and other hardwoods i s often associ ated
wi th spl i tti ng through the medul l ary rays. I n
some hardwoods the medul l ary rays gi ve a
regul ar pattern, the ri ppl e marks or si l ver fi gure
frequentl y seen i n quarter-sawn oak.
One of the features of the hardwood vessel s i s
FIGURE 1.3 Reconstruction of 3 mm cubes of wood, (a) A softwood, Scots pine Pinus sylvestris.
(b) A hardwood, European oak Quercus robur.
Preservation technology
18
the formati on of tyl oses as the sapwood i s
converted i nto heartwood. Li vi ng cel l s bul ge
through the pi ts to gi ve the appearance i ni ti al l y
of smal l bal l oons i n the vessel cavi ti es. These
grow unti l eventual l y the vessel i s compl etel y
bl ocked. Tyl oses occur onl y i n certai n speci es;
whi te oak possesses tyl oses whi ch bl ock the
vessels so that it is particularly suitable for barrel
maki ng, whereas red oak has no tyl oses and
smoke can actually be blown through the vessels.
Annual rings
The annual rings represent the amount of wood
formed each year but the structure in softwood is
enti rel y di fferent from that i n hardwoods. In the
softwoods a wi de ri ng of thi n-wal l ed spri ng cel l s
i s formed, fol l owed as the season progresses by a
narrower ri ng of thi ck-wal l ed summer or l ate-
wood cel l s. I n hardwoods the spri ng wood i s
formed wi th very l arge vessel s but as the season
progresses the vessel s become smal l er wi th an
increasing density of fibres and a smaller number
of trachei ds. In fast-grown softwoods the wood
i s general l y of l ow densi ty and i nferi or qual i ty,
whereas i n fast-grown hardwoods the wood
tends to have a high density and superior quality.
Thi s i s, of course, onl y a general i zati on; very
sl ow-grown softwoods have ex cel l ent work-
abi l i ty but i nfer i or str ength due to thei r
comparati vel y short trachei ds, whi l st very fast-
grown hardwoods tend to l ack the durabi l i ty
associ ated wi th sl ower grown wood.
Wood structure
These are the various microscopic features which
are vi si bl e under a normal l i ght mi croscope but
i t i s al so necessar y to consi der the sub-
mi croscopi c features whi ch can onl y be seen
wi th an el ec-tron mi croscope, as wel l as the
ul ti mate chemi cal str uctur e, i n or der to
understand some of the features of wood decay
and the expl anati ons for the acti on of the more
sophi sti cated wood pr eser vati ve. The
mi cr oscopi c fi br es or tr achei ds consi st of
ori entated mi crofi bri l s and i t has been deduced
that these i n turn consi st of bundl es of cel l ul ose
chai ns. Crystal l i ne and amorphous cel l ul ose
structures have been i denti fi ed, as wel l as rel ated
carbohydrates such as hemi cel l ul ose and starch,
al l these components bei ng assembl ed from
sugar molecules. All the characteristic features of
wood are found to be derived from these sugar-
based structures and i t i s therefore hardl y
surprising that the entire purpose of the tree is to
support and suppl y the l eaves where sugars are
generated through photosynthesis.
The trunk or stem of the tree i s, of course, the
wood of commer ce. The i ni ti al twi g i s
r epr esented by the centr al pi th whi ch i s
surrounded by the heartwood consi sti ng of cel l s
whi ch are so far removed from the bark that
they have di ed and become fi l l ed wi th vari ous
ex tr acti ves. Ar ound the hear twood i s the
sapwood of l i vi ng cel l s, the i nner zone
conducti ng water upwards to the l eaves and the
outer or phl oem conveyi ng sugars from the
l eaves to the l i vi ng cel l s throughout the tree,
provi di ng them wi th energy to sustai n l i fe and
sugar components to for m cel l ul ose,
hemi cel l ul ose and starch. The outer sapwood
cel l s i mmedi atel y beneath the phl oem are known
as the cambi um and are di sti ncti ve as they can
di vi de to form new cel l s. The cambi um consi sts
essenti al l y of two types of di vi di ng cel l , the
fusi for m i ni ti al s and the r ay i ni ti al s. The
fusi form i ni ti al s adjacent to the sapwood gi ve
ri se to xyl em or wood cel l s whi ch ul ti matel y
become the trachei ds of coni fers or softwoods
and the fi bres of di cotyl edons or hardwoods.
The outer fusi form i ni ti al s gi ve ri se to the bark.
The ray i ni ti al s al so produce xyl em but i n the
form of parenchyma or ray cel l s. In thi s way the
wood i s formed so that the verti cal trachei ds and
fi bres gi ve l ongi tudi nal strength, as wel l as
verti cal transport routes wi thi n the trachei ds i n
coni fers and wi thi n the pores surrounded by
fi bres i n di cotyl edons. In contrast, the ray cel l s
are ori entated al ong hori zontal radi al paths i n
Wood structure
19
order to provi de conducti ng ti ssue between the
phl oem and the cel l s deep wi thi n the sapwood
and hear twood, appar entl y conducti ng
extracti ves towards the heartwood and sugars to
the l i vi ng cel l s i n the sapwood, and al so often
pr ovi di ng ti ssue for the stor age of star ch,
particularly in deciduous hardwoods which shed
thei r l eaves i n wi nter and thus requi re a source
of stored energy to enabl e them to survi ve.
The strength properti es of wood can be
attr i buted to the pr i nci pal components,
par ti cul ar l y the basi c l ongi tudi nal cel l ul ar
el ements whi ch are the trachei ds i n softwoods
and the fi bres i n hardwoods. When a fusi form
i ni ti al di vi des the resul tant new xyl em cel l i s
surrounded by an amorphous undi fferenti ated
substance whi ch subsequentl y becomes the
mi ddl e l amel l a. The cel l rapi dl y achi eves i ts
ul ti mate l ength and rectangul ar cross-secti on,
squeezi ng the mi ddl e l amel l a to form a thi n l ayer
between adjacent rectangul ar cel l s. The i ni ti al
or pri mary cel l wal l (P l ayer, Fi g. 1.4) consi sts
of l oose and i rregul arl y ori entated mi crofi bri l s,
an i mportant feature as thi s thi n P l ayer must
be capabl e of extensi on as the cel l grows to i ts
ul ti mate di mensi ons. The mi cr ofi br i l s ar e
ori entated i n a predomi nantl y shal l ow spi ral ,
perhaps at about 60° to the verti cal axi s of the
cel l . Once the P l ayer has achi eved i ts ul ti mate
di mensi ons the secondary wal l (S l ayer) i s
commenced and i s formed typi cal l y i n three
separate stages. The fi rst secondary wal l (S
1
l ayer ) i s thi n wi th a pr edomi nantl y shal l ow
microfibril spiral, perhaps at about 50° to the
longitudinal axis of the cell. The S
1
layer sometimes
consi sts of two or more l amel l ae spi ral l i ng i n
opposite directions and is morphologically and
structurally intermediate between the P and S
2
l ayers. The second secondary wal l (S
2
l ayer)
consi sts of very regul ar and cl osel y packed
microfibrils at a very steep spiral angle, perhaps
only 10–20° relative to the longitudinal axis, and it
is also it is also very thick and the dominant cell
wall. Finally a third secondary wall (S
3
layer) is
sometimes formed consisting of a thin shallow
orientated layer of microfibrils, perhaps at about
50° to the l ongi tudi nal axi s. I n al l cases the
secondary walls are more regularly orientated than
the primary wall.
These cel l wal l s account for the cel l ul ose
whi ch compr i ses about 60% of the wood
substance. The S
2
l ayer i s al ways domi nant and
i t i s therefore hardl y surpri si ng to fi nd that the
basic longitudinal orientation of the microfibrils,
and thus the cel l ul ose chai ns, wi thi n thi s l ayer
account for many of the basic physical properties
of wood. Thi s S
2
l ayer i s al so rather more
massi ve i n l ate wood than i n earl y wood, agai n
accounti ng for the di fferent properti es between
these zones of the annual ri ngs.
The rectangul ar fi bres and trachei ds that are
so readi l y observed when a cross-secti on of a
piece of wood is examined under the microscope
are comparati vel y l arge but thei r component
mi crofi bri l s are qui te smal l . I t i s di ffi cul t to
i magi ne mi crofi bri l s wi thout a knowl edge of the
Angstrom (Å), the uni t of di mensi on that must
be used at thi s scal e. By defi ni ti on an Angstrom
i s 1×10-
8
cm, or 0.0000001 mm. Once the
defi ni ti on of the Angstrom i s appreci ated i t can
be sai d that a mi crofi bri l consi sts of el ementary
fi bri l s havi ng a di ameter of about 35 Å, so that
mi crofi bri l s have typi cal di ameters of 35, 70,
105, 140, etc. Å, al though some mi crofi bri l s are
flattened with dimensions such as 100×50 Å. If
these measur ements ar e now conver ted to
somethi ng fami l i ar, such as a fracti on of a
mi l l i metr e, i t wi l l be appr eci ated that the FIGURE 1.4 Cell wall layers in a softwood tracheid.
Preservation technology
20
el ementar y fi br i l s ar e ver y smal l , yet each
consi sts of a bunch of about 40 cel l ul ose chai ns,
and thus the basi c structure of the wood cel l has
been r educed to i ts ul ti mate chemi cal
components.
I t i s usual l y consi dered that the cel l ul ose
chains consist of between 200 and 2000 glucose
uni ts, al though i t i s someti mes reported that as
many as 15 000 units may be involved. As each
gl ucose uni t has a l ength of about 5 Å the chai ns
are rel ati vel y l ong, perhaps 10 000 Å (0.001
mm) or perhaps far l onger. As wood i s a natural
materi al some di sconti nui ty of the structure
occurs but the chains lie parallel for considerable
l engths, perhaps over 120 uni ts (600 Å) or more,
and i t i s these essenti al l y paral l el cel l ul ose chai ns
i n the domi nant S
2
l ayer that account for the
pri nci pal properti es of the wood.
Figure 1.5 illustrates the way in which glucose
uni ts are assembl ed to form cel l ul ose and thus
the pri nci pal structural el ements of wood. Thi s
str uctur e has consi der abl e i mpor tance i n
determi ni ng the properti es of wood. Fi rstl y the
sugar units are formed from water and carbon
di oxi de wi thi n the l eaves by the process known
as photosynthesis:
6H
2
O + 6CO
2
C
6
H
12
O
6
+ 6O
2
water cabon di oxi de gl ucose oxygen
The water i s obtai ned from the surroundi ng soi l
by the roots and i s conveyed up the tree through
the living xylem cells in the inner sapwood to the
leaves. Carbon dioxide is then absorbed from the
atmosphere by the l eaves, gl ucose i s formed by
photosynthesis and conveyed down the tree in
the phl oem between the xyl em and the bark.
Producti on of gl ucose by photosynthesi s can
occur onl y i n the pr esence of the catal yst
chl orophyl l , the green pi gment i n l eaves, and i s
dependent upon the absorption by the leaves of
l i ght energy, parti cul arl y ul travi ol et l i ght.
Energy in wood
The gl ucose product thus has a far hi gher
energy l evel than the water and carbon di oxi de
consti tuents, and thi s energy can be rel eased i n
a vari ety of ways. For exampl e, ani mal s eat
gl ucose or other sugars, converti ng them back
to the ori gi nal water and carbon di oxi de by
the addi ti on of oxygen and rel easi ng energy i n
the pr ocess. Thi s ener gy i s used f or
mai ntai ni ng l i fe processes or for generati ng
heat, and the burni ng of sugars i s perhaps the
most obvi ous i l l us-trati on of the way i n whi ch
ox ygen can be combi ned wi th gl ucose to
reverse photosynthesi s and rel ease energy. I n
the for mati on of cel l ul ose chai ns a smal l
pr opor ti on of the ener gy i s l ost but a
consi der abl e amount r emai ns, and thi s
ex pl ai ns why wood bur ns and why i t i s
attracti ve to some i nsects and fungi as a source
of nouri shment.
The glucose produced by a tree is largely used
for formati on of structural cel l ul ose but the
enormous mass of l i vi ng cel l s i n the roots,
sapwood and l eaves al l r equi r es ener gy to
mai ntai n l i fe, thi s bei ng obtai ned from the
gl ucose and associ ated sugars such as xyl ose
whi ch are al so produced by the l eaves. Duri ng
darkness or the winter months the leaves are not
produci ng sugars, yet the cel l s sti l l requi re
energy and obtain this from glucose accumulated
FIGURE 1.5 Glucose and the formation of cellulose.
Wood structure
21
within them or, for longer periods such as the
wi nter, from deposi ts of starch whi ch i s formed
from glucose and fairly readily reconverted when
requi red. Some attacki ng i nsects are unabl e to
uti l i ze cel l ul ose as a source of nouri shment but
they wi l l attack wood just for the starch or
si mpl e sugar content; even mammal s such as
rabbi ts and squi rrel s wi l l stri p the bark from
trees to gai n access to the sugary sap i n the
phloem.
Water and wood
I t has al ready been expl ai ned that the cel l ul ose
chai ns are assembl ed i nto mi crofi bri l s whi ch
are ori entated i n a predomi nantl y l ongi tudi nal
di recti on wi thi n the cel l wal l s of softwood
trachei ds and hardwood fi bres. The physi cal
properti es of wood l argel y resul t from thi s
l ongi tudi nal or i entati on of the cel l ul ose
chai ns, and thi s i s parti cul arl y the case i n the
rel ati onshi p between wood and water. Each
gl ucose uni t i n a cel l ul ose chai n possesses three
hydrox yl groups whi ch have an affi ni ty for
water. Thi s ensures fi rstl y that cel l ul ose chai ns
wi l l wet easi l y but i n addi ti on water wi l l be
hel d between the chai ns, pushi ng them apart
as i l l ustrated i n Fi g. 1.6. As the chai ns become
separated by water the bond between them
becomes weak er, so that a hi gh moi stur e
content i n wood i s associ ated wi th l oss of
strength, parti cul arl y a l oss of sheer strength
and ri gi di ty, so that a beam i s more fl exi bl e
and wood wi l l cl eave more readi l y when wet.
I f thi s separati on of the cel l ul ose chai ns were
permi tted to conti nue i ndefi ni tel y the wood
woul d eventual l y break down i nto i ndi vi dual
cel l ul ose chai ns and thus di si ntegr ate, but
movement wi th moi sture change can be l argel y
attri buted to the predomi nantl y l ongi tudi nal
or i entati on of the mi cr of i br i l s and the
cel l ul ose chai ns i n the S
2
l ayer whi ch accounts
for most of the mass of the cel l wal l , but
separati on of these chai ns i s l i mi ted by the
chai ns i n the P and S
1
l ayers that are wrapped
around them.
As ori entati on of the mi crofi bri l s i n the S
2
l ayer steepens from the pi th to the bark of the
tree the cross-secti onal movement wi th change
of moi sture content i ncreases approxi matel y i n
pr opor ti on to the cosi ne of the angl e of
ori entati on. I n addi ti on, i t woul d be expected
that the l ongi tudi nal movement woul d be
pr opor ti onal to the si ne of the angl e of
ori entati on, so that an angl e of 10–20° to the
l ongi tudi nal di r ecti on woul d suggest a
longitudinal movement of 17–36% of the cross-
secti onal movement. I n fact the l ongi tudi nal
movement is less than half this calculated figure,
apparentl y due to the restrai ni ng i nfl uence of the
pl anes of l i gni n i n the mi ddl e l amel l a. The
middle lamella appears to have much less control
on the more massive cross-sectional movement,
perhaps l argel y because i t i s ori entated then as a
thi n envel ope over the swel l i ng materi al i n
contrast wi th the verti cal tubes i n whi ch i t
obstructs l ongi tudi nal movement. However, the
cross-secti onal movement i s sti l l restrai ned when
i t reaches the fi bre saturati on poi nt, but thi s can
be attr i buted l ar gel y to the ver y shal l ow
mi crofi bri l angl e i n the P and S
1
l ayers whi ch
physi cal l y restrai n and prevent further swel l i ng.
FIGURE 1.6 Water absorption forcing cellulose chains apart.
Preservation technology
22
Prol onged waterl oggi ng i ntroduces sl ow but
progressi ve hydrol ysi s of the cel l ul ose and thus
weakeni ng, whi ch eventual l y permi ts the S
2
l ayer
to absor b water beyond the or i gi nal fi br e
saturati on poi nt and swel l to a greater extent;
thi s i s the ex pl anati on for the weakeni ng
observed in archaeological wood which has been
water l ogged for many centur i es. Car eful
mi croscopi c observati on di scl oses that water
l oggi ng permi ts bal l ooni ng where the S
2
l ayer i s
apparentl y bursti ng through the restrai ni ng P
and S
1
l ayers; thi s damage i s al so observed when
wood i s soaked wi th more powerful swel l i ng
sol vents such as al cohol s.
The l oss or gai n of water between the
cel l ul ose chai ns does not occur i nstantaneousl y
wi th changes i n the sur r oundi ng r el ati ve
humi di ty but tends to l ag. The reason i s that
changes wi l l occur onl y under the i nfl uence of
excess energy. In fact, energy i s l i berated when
cel l ul ose i s wetted and thi s becomes apparent as
the heat of wetti ng. Thi s i s vi r tual l y
i mmeasurabl e and certai nl y i nsi gni fi cant i n most
ci rcumstances, but i t means that wetti ng wi l l
proceed onl y i f thi s heat i s removed and dryi ng
wi l l proceed onl y i f heat i s provi ded. Whi l st the
di mensi ons of a pi ece of wood wi l l depend on i ts
moi sture content, thi s l aggi ng effect or hysteresi s
wi l l mean that the wood i s l arger than mi ght be
expected duri ng the dryi ng stages and smal l er
than mi ght be ex pected duri ng the wetti ng
stages, as shown i n the hysteresi s di agram i n Fi g.
1.7.
Onl y 1% of the mass of wood consi sts of
extracti ves, extraneous materi al s and mi neral s
such as si l i ca, the remai nder bei ng l i gni n and
hol ocel l ul ose or the carbohydrates and rel ated
compounds der i ved fr om sugar uni ts. The
crystal l i ne structural cel l ul ose whi ch i s the
pri nci pal component of the mi crofi bri l i s known
as a-cel l ul ose and accounts for abut 50% of the
mass of softwoods and temperate hardwoods,
the r emai ni ng hol ocel l ul ose, pr i nci pal l y
hemi cel l ul ose, contri buti ng about 25%. Li gni n
usual l y contri butes about 25%, al though i n
tropical hardwoods the lignin content is often far
higher, displacing the holocellulose in proportion
and gi vi ng greater ri gi di ty but l ess resi l i ence.
FIGURE 1.7 Variation in moisture content of wood
with changes in atmospheric relative humidity.
23
2.1 Introduction
This book is entitled Wood Preservation. It is not
therefore i ntended that i t shoul d contai n a
comprehensi ve and detai l ed account of wood
degradati on as thi s i s not essenti al to the study
of pr eser vati on chemi stry and technol ogy.
However, the acti on mechani sms of vari ous
preservatives cannot be fully understood without
a basi c knowl edge of deteri orati on processes,
and i t i s obvi ousl y desi rabl e that the most
i mportant causes of deteri orati on shoul d be
understood.
2.2 Biodegradation
I t must be accepted that wood i s peri shabl e.
I ndeed, i f thi s were not the case our forests
woul d soon be cl utter ed wi th the usel ess
skel etons of dead tr ees. Unfor tunatel y the
vari ous wood-destroyi ng i nsects and fungi are
unabl e to di sti ngui sh between forest waste and
wood i n useful servi ce. I n the past wood was
used pri nci pal l y i n forest areas where i t was
readi l y avai l abl e. Degrade was accepted but
repl acement was comparati vel y si mpl e and
i nexpensi ve. In contrast, wood i s now a val uabl e
commodi ty and tr anspor ted consi der abl e
di stances between the producti on forest and the
ul ti mate user. I t i s essenti al for wood to be
uti l i zed effi ci entl y i n order to conserve worl d
resources but al so to avoi d unnecessary cost,
both to the i ndi vi dual user and to i mporti ng
nati ons as a whol e.
Wood quality
Wood has been an article of commerce for many
centuries, some areas exporting exotic decorative
woods and others supplying straight and strong
structural woods. In the past hi gh transportati on
costs were justi fi ed onl y for the most val uabl e
woods and even normal constructi on wood
i mported, for exampl e, i nto Great Bri tai n i n the
19th century was general l y sl ow-grown and free
from sapwood. Dwi ndl i ng resources have si nce
resul ted i n the i ntroducti on of thi nni ng to
encourage maxi mum yi el d, gi vi ng rapi dl y grown
trees wi th wi de ri ngs, pri nci pal l y composed of
spr i ng wood. As the tr ees ar e fel l ed when
compar ati vel y smal l i n di ameter a l ar ge
pr opor ti on of the wood i s now sapwood;
Swedi sh r edwood (Scots pi ne) suppl i ed as
sawnwood for bui l di ng i s now approxi matel y
50% sapwood. Whi l st the strength properti es
are not si gni fi cantl y affected by wi de ri ngs and
the presence of a high proportion of sapwood,
the wood i s far l ess durabl e and far l ess stabl e
than the sl ow-growi ng heartwood that was
commonly used in the past.
Whi l st fi bre and moi sture content changes
must be recogni zed as causes of degrade i n
wood, i t i s the vari ous l i vi ng organi sms, both
mi crobi ol ogi cal and ani mal , whi ch are usual l y
more i mportant. The tree i n the forest passes
through vari ous stages, ori gi nati ng wi th the
death of the l i vi ng ti ssue and passi ng through a
dryi ng stage unti l the protecti ve bark i s l ost so
that rewetti ng i s then abl e to occur. Commerci al
2
Wood
degradation
Wood degradation
24
wood passes through si mi l ar stages and i t i s
possi bl e to establ i sh a sequence of degradi ng
organi sms to whi ch wood i s suscepti bl e at the
vari ous stages i n i ts progress from the l i vi ng tree
to the wood i n servi ce and then beyond to the
vari ous stages of destructi on.
Green wood
Sapstain
Freshl y fel l ed green wood has a very hi gh
moisture content, 60–200% for most species but
as high as 400% in extreme cases. Sugars and
starch are present, parti cul arl y i n the phl oem
and parenchyma tissue, and these conditions are
parti cul arl y attracti ve to the sapstai n fungi such
as Ceratostomella speci es. The hyphae, the
mi nute strands compri si ng the growi ng ti ssue of
the fungus, are browni sh i n col our but when
wood i s affected by a mass of these hyphae l i ght
di ffracti on gi ves i t a bl ue or bl ack col ourati on,
often known as bl ue stai ni ng or bl uei ng.
Sapstai n probl ems can be l argel y avoi ded i n
coni fer ous woods by wi nter fel l i ng, whi ch
ensures a l ower moi sture content. Fl oat-i ng l ogs
can be the cause of stai ni ng probl ems and, wi th
wet wood, an i ncrease i n temperature duri ng
shi pment can cause sweati ng i f the cel l s are sti l l
al i ve and oozi ng of sugar-ri ch sap from the ends
of l ogs fol l owed by the devel opment of a
l uxuri ant fungal growth. Sapstai n damage i s
rel ati vel y uni mportant as i t does not destroy the
wood cel l or cause any structural damage but i t
is unsightly and leads to down-grading and thus
reduced value.
I n recent years the ex cessi ve demand for
softwood has caused the fel l i ng peri od i n the
coni ferous forests to be extended throughout the
whol e year i nstead of bei ng confi ned to the
wi nter months al one. Wood fel l ed duri ng the
acti ve growi ng season, parti cul arl y the earl y
spring, contains both higher moisture and sugar
contents than wi nter-fel l ed wood and there i s a
correspondi ng i ncrease i n the danger of stai ni ng.
Indeed stai ni ng i s vi rtual l y i nevi tabl e for fel l i ngs
i n l ate spri ng or earl y summer unl ess they are
converted and ki l n-dri ed i mmedi atel y. Even then
there i s sti l l a danger that stai n wi l l devel op
duri ng the earl y stages of ki l ni ng before the
moi sture content has been si gni fi cantl y reduced.
The best sol uti on to the probl em i s to convert
the l ogs i mmedi atel y i nto sawnwood whi ch i s
then gi ven a stai n-contr ol tr eatment.
Al ter nati vel y the sawnwood i s tr ansfer r ed
i mmedi atel y to ki l ns for dryi ng and a tox i c
treatment i s i ntroduced i nto the ki l n sprays.
Many of the most wi del y used stai n-control
treatments are si gni fi cantl y vol ati l e, parti cul arl y
at the hi gh temperatures used for ki l n-dryi ng, so
that much of the treatment i s l ost duri ng the
pr ocess. A fur ther tr eatment i s ther efor e
desi rabl e when dryi ng i s compl ete i n order to
prevent the recurrence of stai ni ng shoul d the
wood become acci dental l y rewetted.
I n many cases thi s fi nal treatment i s not used
but i nstead the wood i s packaged and wrapped
i n pl asti c sheeti ng i n order to retai n the l ow
moi sture content achi eved by ki l n-dryi ng and
thus prevent the development of staining. In fact,
packaged wood wrapped i n thi s way can often
become very seri ousl y affected by stai ni ng of the
outer sti cks i n contact wi th the sheeti ng, shoul d
it be exposed to wide temperature changes which
can i nduce evaporati on of moi sture from the
wood duri ng warm condi ti ons but condensati on
under the pl asti c wrappi ng duri ng a subsequent
col d peri od. For thi s reason compl ete packages
ar e fr equentl y di pped i n a stai n-contr ol
treatment before wrappi ng but thi s achi eves
onl y l i mi ted success as i t can gi ve l i ttl e
pr otecti on to the i nner pi eces wi thi n the
package. Thi s often resul ts i n mirror image
stai ni ng (Fi g. 2.1) whi ch devel ops on adjacent
pi eces where ti ght contact prevents penetrati on
of the stai n control treatment. The onl y proper
sol uti on i s to treat pi eces i ndi vi dual l y before
packagi ng and wr appi ng, but most of the
commonl y used stai n control treatments are
applied in water and increase the moisture content
of the wood, partl y defeati ng the object of the
Biodegradation
25
ori gi nal ki l n-dryi ng. Cl earl y there i s scope for
development of improved and more reliable stain
control treatments.
Bark-borers
Bark-borers frequently attack freshly felled logs.
The Wood wasps, parti cul arl y Sirex noctilio,
attracted attenti on a few years ago when the
Austr al i an author i ti es fear ed that wasps
i ntroduced i n softwood packagi ng from the
northern hemisphere would damage valuable pine
plantations; all wood imported into Australia is
now subject to quarantine regulations to avoid
the introduction of wood-borers of any type, and
must be either inspected or destroyed on arrival
or accompanied by a certificate to show that it
has received an approved treatment. Wood wasps
bore through the bark with their ovipositor and
lay their eggs in contact with the phloem. The
larvae hatch from the eggs and then explore the
phloem, living on the sugar content of the sap and
at the same time loosening the bark; this is the
first stage in the destruction of a dead tree in the
forest. Some Longhorn beetles behave in a very
similar manner, laying their eggs in cracks in the
bark. The developing larvae either explore the
phloem in search of nourishment in the same way
as the Wood wasps or alternatively tunnel in the
sapwood, gai ni ng nouri shment from starch
deposits or, in few cases, from the cellulose of the
wood.
Pinhole-borers
Both Wood wasps and Longhorn beetles can be
quite large, with fully grown larvae being perhaps
25 mm (1 in) or more in length. In contrast the
Ambrosia beetles are much smaller, only about
3mm (1/8 in) long. These insects, the Scolytids
and Pl atypodi ds, tunnel through the bark to
produce extensive galleries in which they lay their
eggs. At the same time they introduce fungi which
thri ve on the hi gh moi sture, sugar and starch
content of the freshly felled wood, thus providing
the larvae with food; the browsing of the larvae
on the fungus accounts for the name Ambrosia.
The galleries either extend under the bark or into
the sapwood, perhaps following the less dense
spri ng wood of the annual ri ngs, and the
distinctive pattern of the galleries is frequently a
characteristic of a particular species. Ambrosia
attack can be very severe in the tropics, frequently
introducing stain; the ambrosia fungus causes a
streak of stain along the grain on either side of
each gallery, even if the stain does not spread
more widely. The borer damage to the wood is
often descri bed as pi nhol es or shothol es,
depending on the size, and the damaged wood is
known as pinwormy. Because of the danger of
Ambrosia beetle attack coupled with staining it is
normal to spray logs immediately after felling in
the tropics with a mixture of a contact insecticide
and a stain-control treatment, whilst sawnwood
produced close to the forest before shipment also
receives a further stain-control treatment as it is
normally shipped with a relatively high moisture
content.
FI GURE 2.1 Mi rror i mage stai ni ng through ti ght
strappi ng duri ng stai n-control treatment. (Penarth
Research International Limited)
Wood degradation
26
Powder Post beetles
As the moi sture content of the wood fal l s i t
becomes immune to fungal decay but it may be
suscepti bl e to Powder Post beetl e damage. The
Bostrychi d adul t beetl es bore tunnel s i nto the
sapwood i n whi ch they l ay thei r eggs, the
hatchi ng l arvae rel yi ng on stored starch i n the
wood ti ssue for thei r nouri shment. The Lycti ds
i n constrast l ay thei r eggs i n l arge vessel s or
por es, al though agai n the hatchi ng l ar vae
depend on the starch content i n the wood.
Powder Post attack i s most common i n
hardwoods because of thi s starch requi rement,
wi th Lycti d attack confi ned to l arge-pored
hardwoods. All wood is immune from Powder
Post beetl e attack i f i t i s free from starch;
temperate hardwoods are most suscepti bl e i f
felled in the early winter when the starch content
i s at i ts hi ghest l evel . Star ch natur al l y
degenerates sl owl y so that wood i s vi rtual l y
i mmune several years after fel l i ng. In addi ti on
ai r-seasoned wood i s far l ess suscepti bl e than
ki l n-dri ed, apparentl y because the cel l s remai n
al i ve duri ng ai r-seasoni ng and thus uti l i ze the
starch, whereas the cel l s are ki l l ed i n ki l n-dryi ng
so that the starch deposi ts remai n and attract
Powder Post beetl e attack.
Furniture beetles
The Anobi ds or Furni ture beetl es, are a very
important family. The bark-borer Ernobius mollis
lays eggs in cracks in the bark of dry softwood logs
or bark sti l l attached to the waney edges of
sawnwood. The hatchi ng l arvae ex pl ore the
phloem in search of nourishment and loosening the
bark, but the galleries sometimes extend for a
distance of up to 12 mm (1/2 in) into the sapwood.
These hol es i n the sapwood are someti mes
confused with those of the Common Furniture
beetle Anobium punctatum but they tend to be
rather larger in diameter and they are invariably
associated with galleries under the bark; the bark
may have fallen away from the adjacent waney
edge but the gal l eri es can sti l l be recogni zed.
Confusion with the Common Furniture beetle is
the most i mportant aspect of Ernobius mollis
attack. It is dependent on sugar in the phloem and
to a lesser extent starch in the sapwood. This
deteri orates natural l y a year or two after
conversi on, so that Ernobius i s el i mi nated
naturally without any need for treatment.
If small holes are observed in the sapwood of a
piece of softwood with no evidence of either bark
or waney edge, then the Common Furniture beetle
Anobium punctatum i s most l i kel y to be
responsible. Common Furniture beetle attack will
occur in the sapwood of most soft-woods and
hardwoods, as well as in the heartwood of some
temperate hardwood species such as birch and
beech. Eggs are l ai d, usual l y i n the summer
months, in cracks on the surface of the wood or on
furni ture i n open joi nts. The l arvae hatch by
breaking through the base of the egg and boring
straight into the adjacent wood. The insect usually
remains in the larval stage for almost a year before
forming a chamber just below the surface, in which
the full grown larva about 5mm (1/5 in) long
pupates into an adult beetle. The adult bores to the
surface and escapes by a circular flight hole about
1.5 mm (1/16 in) in diameter. The adults mate and
the female then initiates a fresh attack on the wood
by laying eggs, sometimes in the old flight holes.
Obviously the damage is caused entirely by the
larvae boring through the wood, in contrast to
Ambrosia beetle attack in which the adults are
responsible for tunnelling.
Whilst the life cyle of the Common Furniture
beetl e i s often as short as 1 year, i t can be
extended if conditions are unfavourable to 4 years
or more before the l arvae are abl e to store
sufficient energy to survive through the pupation
stage when they devel op i nto adul t beetl es. I f
wood becomes damp i t wi l l consi derabl y
encourage the activity of the Common Furniture
beetle, enabling it to attack normally resistant
heartwood. I t appears that, al though
deteri orati on may not be obvi ous, fungal or
bacterial activity is converting the wood to a form
Biodegradation
27
that is more readily assimilated by the insect. The
Death Watch beetle Xestobium rufovillosum is an
Anobid related to the Common Furniture beetle
which is entirely dependent on the presence of
microbiological attack. Indeed, wood attacked by
Death Watch beetle is often brownish in colour,
i ndi cati ng prol onged i nci pi ent fungal attack
although there may be no other evidence. The
Death Watch beetl e i s far l ar ger than the
Common Furniture beetle and in the British Isles
it is generally associated with old buildings with
oak chestnut ti mbers but parti cul arl y hi stori c
churches, apparently because the periodic heating
combines with the traditional lead roof covering
to encourage condensati on, i nci pi ent fungal
attack and thus Death Watch beetle attack in the
roof sarking boards. However, the rather sinister
name of the Death Watch beetle is not associated
with churches but with the characteristic tapping
which is used by the adult beetles as a mating call
and which is produced by striking the top of the
head against the surface of the wood on which the
beetle is standing. On a calm day the sound is
di sti nctl y audi bl e i n a qui et bui l di ng, perhaps
parti cul arl y i n one that i s si l ent through the
presence of death.
House Longhorn beetle
Whi l st i t i s l ogi cal to treat the Anobi d beetl es as
a group progressi ng from the Ernobius bark
borer to the Common Furniture beetle attacking
dry wood and ultimately the Death Watch beetle
dependent on some decay, thi s unfortunatel y
di spl aces the House Longhorn beetl e from i ts
posi ti on i n associ ati on wi th the Common
Furni ture beetl e i n thi s sequence of attack. The
Longhorn or Cerambyci d beetl es are a l arge
group of consi derabl e i mportance i n the forest
but the House Longhorn beetl e Hylotrupes
bajulus, known i n some countr i es as the
Houseborer, has adapted to dry condi ti ons i n
bui l di ngs. The attack i s confi ned to the sapwood
of dry softwoods and i s thus of parti cul ar
i mportance where wood wi th a l arge sapwood
content i s used for structural purposes. The l i fe
cycl e i s basi cal l y si mi l ar to that of the Common
Furni ture beetl e but vari es typi cal l y from 3 to 11
years. Thi s i s a l arge i nsect wi th a ful l y grown
l arva perhaps 30mm (l ¼ i n) l ong. A femal e beetl e
may l ay up to 200 eggs and, i f most of these
hatch wi thi n the same roof or fl oor structure,
very substanti al damage can be caused duri ng
the years before the adul t beetl es ul ti matel y
emerge. I ndeed, the enti re sapwood may be
ri ddl ed by oval gal l eri es, l eavi ng a thi n i ntact
veneer over the surface of the piece of wood. The
adult beetle emerges from the wood through an
oval exi t hol e about 10 mm (3/8 i n) across, but
the presence of thi s fl i ght hol e i s a certai n
i ndi cati on that severe damage has al ready been
caused and the structural integrity of the piece of
wood must be checked by probing.
The Death Watch beetl e i s onl y one of several
wood-borers which are dependent on damp or
wet condi ti ons. The presence of wood-bori ng
weevi l s i s often i ndi cated by smal l hol es i n damp
wood attacked by Death Watch beetl e or
Common Furni ture beetl e. I f l arge pi eces of
relatively durable wood such as European oak
remain in a damp and slowly decaying condition
for a prol onged peri od they may attract the
attenti on of other i nsects such as Helops
coeruleus, a l arge bl ue beetl e wi th a l ong l arva
possessi ng two recurved spi nes on i ts tai l , or
even Stag beetl es whi ch are more commonl y
found i n decayed roots or fence posts bel ow
ground l evel . These i nsects are, of course,
dependent on fungal decay which is a far more
si gni fi cant factor i n wood degradati on than the
i nsect damage.
Fungal decay
Fungal damage can or i gi nate wi thi n the
standi ng tree. Whi l st the very hi gh moi sture
content i n the l i vi ng sapwood ti ssue general l y
pr events f ungal decay and i nsect attack ,
physi cal damage to the bark and cambi um or
scars from the removal of branches may permi t
Wood degradation
28
the moi sture content to fal l to a l evel at whi ch
fungal decay i s possi bl e. Branch and root scars
ar e par ti cul ar danger poi nts as they may
expose rel ati vel y dry heartwood whi ch, whi l st
i t i s rel ati vel y durabl e i n most speci es, wi l l
permi t decay i n others such as beech. I n the
case of a branch scar the fi rst stage i s probabl y
rapi d dryi ng from the exposed end-grai n and
the devel opment of check s or spl i ts.
Subsequent r ai nfal l i s then tr apped wi thi n
these cr ack s and pr oduces a gr adi ent of
moi sture content whi ch permi ts spores i n the
atmospher e to encounter pr eci sel y the
condi ti ons that they requi re for germi nati on.
The f ungal i nf ecti on then spr eads
progressi vel y through the heart of the tree.
Dote
These heart rots are vari ousl y known as dote or
punk, or they are referred to by the name of the
attacki ng fungus, such as Honey fungus
Armillaria mellea. There are no obvi ous external
si gns of damage unti l the decay i s far advanced
and a sporophore or frui ti ng body appears
through the bark, usual l y i ndi cati ng that the
heartwood of the tree is virtually hollow. In doty
heart the attack i s wi despread but damage i s
l i mi ted perhaps because the heartwood moi sture
content i s too l ow. Whi l st the i nfecti on wi l l be
ki l l ed i f the wood i s ki l n-dri ed at a suffi ci entl y
hi gh temperature, fai l ure to take thi s precauti on
i ntroduces the danger that the i nfecti on wi l l
become reacti vated i f the moi sture content
reaches an adequate l evel . For exampl e, l ogs are
frequentl y stacked i n the open and i f they are
doty they are l i kel y to become covered wi th the
fl uffy whi te hyphae or growi ng el ements of the
reacti vi ated fungus. Washi ng fl oors can al so
reacti vate dote, the upper surfaces softeni ng
progressi vel y unti l they eventual l y break up and
fai l . Dote normal l y causes a col our change i n the
wood, most frequently to a brown colouration in
the centre of the heart, al though occasi onal l y
off-centre, when the effect i s referred to as fal se
heart. There i s usual l y a smel l characteri sti c of
the parti cul ar fungus i nvol ved.
Brown and White rots
The onl y speci al feature about dote i s i ts ori gi n
i n the standi ng tree or i n a l og that has been
permi tted to remai n for a protracted peri od i n
the for est. I n al l other r espects dote i s
characteri sti c of the most i mportant group of
wood-destroyi ng fungi , the Basi di omycetes. I n
the case of Brown rots the fungus destroys the
cel l ul ose, l eavi ng the l i gni n whi ch gi ves the
wood a characteri sti c brown col ourati on and
usual l y cross-grai n cracki ng. Common dote,
Trametes serialis, i s a Brown rot but other dotes
are descri bed as Whi te rots because the fungus
decays both cel l ul ose and l i gni n causi ng l ess
colour change and a fibrous appearance. Fomes
annosus i s a dote found i n spruce, l arch and red
oak heartwood, gi vi ng a purpl i sh col ourati on.
Thi s col our i s parti cul arl y i ntense i n spruce and
l i ghter i n l arch. The attack i s typi cal of dote,
appeari ng on the cut surface as ti ny whi te
pockets of rot fi l l ed wi th growth l i ke smal l
pieces of cottonwool. If dote is suspected but not
apparent i n thi s way i t can usual l y be detected
by l i fti ng the fi bres wi th a kni fe; i f they are l ong
and springy the wood is sound but decay must be
suspected i f they are brash and break readi l y
across the grai n.
Any dote acti vi ty that redevel ops i n wood i n
servi ce can be ul ti matel y attri buted to the
germination of a spore, perhaps on a branch scar
on a standi ng tree or a l og l yi ng i n the forest.
The other pri nci pal decays of wood i n servi ce
di ffer onl y i n the fact that spore germi nati on
occurs on the surface of the wood i n servi ce,
when the condi ti ons resul t i n an appropri ate
moi sture content wi thi n the wood and rel ati ve
humidity in the surrounding atmosphere. A vast
sel ecti on of spores i s i nvari abl y present i n the
atmosphere and a fungal infection will inevitably
devel op whi ch i s appropri ate to the condi ti ons
and the wood speci es. For ex ampl e, a post
Biodegradation
29
standi ng i n moi st ground wi l l general l y provi de
al l condi ti ons varyi ng between the hi gh moi sture
content i n the ground and the l ow moi sture
content i n the wel l -venti l ated aeri al parts but i t
i s the i ntermedi ate condi ti ons at the ground l i ne
that prompt the most seri ous decay; i n the forest
thi s gr ound l i ne damage ensur es that the
rel ati vel y dry tree fal l s to the ground where
under gr owth i nhi bi ts evapor ati on and the
i ncreasi ng moi sture content then causes decay i n
previ ousl y dry parts of the tree.
Wet rots
Ther e ar e a ver y l ar ge number of wood-
destroyi ng fungi that occur throughout the
world. However, it must be emphasized at this
poi nt that there i s never any need for decay i n
wood used i n bui l di ng as si mpl e desi gn
precauti ons are usual l y adequate to ensure that
the wood never becomes suffi ci entl y damp to
support decay fungi . There are some speci al
condi ti ons, such as external wi ndow frames,
pi l es i n the ground and frame wal l s and roofs i n
whi ch condensati on can cause wetti ng, where
decay is highly probable but it can be avoided by
taki ng proper precauti ons such as the sel ecti on
of sui tabl e durabl e wood or the use of an
adequate preservati ve treatment.
Fungal decay frequentl y occurs i n bui l di ngs
despi te the ease wi th whi ch i t can be avoi ded,
usual l y thr ough negl ect i n desi gn or
mai ntenance. The Cel l ar r ot, Coniphora
puteana, i s a parti cul arl y good exampl e of a
decay that can occur as a resul t of negl ect. It
occurs i n persi stentl y damp condi ti ons, such as
when a dampproof course is omitted and when
pl ates under fl oor joi sts are i n di rect contact
wi th damp supporti ng wal l s. I f the moi sture
content tends to fl uctuate as i n wood affected by
a peri odi c roof l eak, the Whi te Pore fungus,
Poria vaporaria, i s far mor e common i n
softwoods whi l st other fungi occur i n
har dwoods, such as the Str i ngy Oak r ot,
Phellinus megaloporus, i n oak. Coriolus
versicolor sometimes develops when non-durable
tropi cal hardwoods are used for dri ps or si l l s on
ex ter nal j oi ner y (mi l l wor k), and Paxillus
panuoides general l y occurs where the condi ti ons
are too wet for the Cel l ar fungus.
These are onl y a few of the fungi that may be
encountered but they serve to i l l ustrate the way
i n whi ch a fungus i s often associ ated wi th a
parti cul ar combi nati on of wood speci es and
condi ti ons. The Coniophora, Poria and Paxillus
speci es are al l Brown rots gi vi ng affected wood a
di sti nct brown col ourati on and a varyi ng degree
of cross-grai n cracki ng. The Phellinus and
Polystictus speci es are Whi te rots causi ng onl y
l i mi ted change i n the col our of the wood but
very pronounced softening and loss of strength.
Dry rot
Perhaps the fungus that i s most wi del y known as
causi ng seri ous damage i n bui l di ngs i s the Dry
rot fungus Serpula lacrymans. Dry rot spores
wi l l ger mi nate onl y when the atmospher i c
rel ati ve humi di ty i s sui tabl e. Usual l y acci dental
wetti ng, perhaps from a pl umbi ng l eak or a roof
defect, has caused wood to become very wet and
subsequent sl ow dryi ng, perhaps a seasonal
effect or thr ough cor r ecti on of the defect,
permi ts the wood moi sture content and the
rel ati ve humi di ty i n contact wi th the surface to
reduce sl owl y through the opti mum condi ti on
for spor e ger mi nati on. Spor e ger mi nati on
consists of the development of hyphae or threads
whi ch penetrate i nto the wood, radi ati ng from
the original point of germination and branching
so that the affected area i s covered wi th a soft
whi te growth l i ke cottonwool . If favourabl e and
unfavourabl e condi ti ons al ternate successi ve
masses of hyphae will become compacted on the
surface of the wood to form dense ski n or
mycelium.
The growth will not be confined to wood but
will spread across and through plaster, brickwork,
masonry and concrete in an attempt to discover
further supplies of wood for nourishment. This
Wood degradation
30
exploratory growth must be provided with food
from adjacent wood attacked by the fungus and
the hyphae devel op i nto rhi zomorphs or
conducting strands which convey food as well as
water absorbed from damp masonry. The fungus
will use this water and water formed during the
destruction of cellulose to form globules on the
surface of the growth whi ch, i f venti l ati on i s
restricted, will maintain the atmospheric relative
humidity at the optimum level for growth. This
habi t of formi ng ‘tears’ on the surface of the
growth explains the Latin name lacyrmans and
the descri pti on i n the Ol d Testament Book of
Leviticus, Chapter XIV, of Dry rot as the ‘fretting
leprosy of the house’. As an attack progresses the
cel l ul ose i s destroyed, gi vi ng the wood the
characteristic dark brown colour of a brown rot,
accompani ed i n the case of Dry rot by very
pronounced cross-grai n cracki ng whi ch, i n
combination with longitudinal cracking, gives the
decayed wood a characteri sti c cuboi dal
appearance. The preference of Dry rot for
unventilated situations in which it can control the
humidity ensures that it generally remains largely
concealed and the first sign of damage other than
a characteristic odour is perhaps the buckling and
cracking of a painted skirting. By then the attack
may well be very extensive, perhaps spreading
through masonry for considerable distances in all
directions in the search for wood. When the wood
suppl y i s neari ng ex hausti on or when the
humi di ty fal l s unex pectedl y the fungus may
spread onto the surface of the concealing wood or
plaster and form a sporophore or fruiting body
which will produce millions of red-brown spores
in an attempt to infect any other wood that may
be in suitable condition in the vicinity.
Soft rot
Wood that i s conti nuousl y i mmersed i n water
becomes saturated and immune to the attack of
Basidiomycetes, the Brown and White rots, but
Soft rot can occur whi ch i s caused by
Ascomycetes and the I mperfect fungi . Soft rot
takes the form of a softened layer of wood on all
ex posed surfaces, the damage progressi vel y
i ncr easi ng i n depth at a ver y sl ow r ate.
Unprotected wood immersed in fresh or sea water
is invariably affected in this way but the damage
i s comparati vel y i nsi gni fi cant i n l arge secti ons
such as those used for piling and the construction
of groynes. In wood of thinner section the loss in
strength can be significant, as in a neglected boat
where pl anki ng has been ex posed through
abrasion damage to the paintwork, or in cooling-
tower slats where the high temperature results in
parti cul arl y rapi d Soft rot attack, even i n the
presence of some preservative treatments.
Marine-borers
Conti nuous i mmer si on i n sea water al so
i ntroduces the danger of mari ne-borer attack.
Several ani mal s can i nfest wood i n thi s way but
damage i s most commonl y due to crustaceans
cal l ed Gri bbl e (Limnoria speci es) and mol l uscs
cal l ed Shi p worm (Teredo speci es). Gri bbl e
attack takes the form of superfi ci al tunnel l i ng
i nto the wood. Smal l hol es l ess than 2.5 mm (1/
10 in) in diameter are produced and intensive
attacks seriously weaken the surface of the wood
whi ch progressi vel y erodes, exposi ng fresh wood
to attack. Gri bbl e i s a major mari ne probl em i n
most parts of the worl d. In contrast, shi pworm
attack i s very di ffi cul t to detect. The ani mal
enters the wood by boring a hole about 0.5 mm
(1/50 i n) i n di ameter. Thi s i s then extended to
form a long and progressively widening tunnel
wi th a characteri sti c cal careous l i ni ng. Severe
attack may consi derabl y reduce the strength of
the wood but thi s may not become apparent
unl ess abrasi on or Gri bbl e attack exposes the
tunnel s and thei r characteri sti c whi te l i ni ng.
Shi pworm i s general l y confi ned to rel ati vel y
warm and sal i ne water so that i n Europe i t i s not
found in the north except on coasts warmed by
the Gul f Stream and i t i s absent from ri ver
estuari es and the Bal ti c Sea where the water i s
i nsuffi ci entl y sal i ne.
Biodegradation
31
I n boats most normal anti -foul i ng pai nts
provi de effi ci ent protecti on agai nst mari ne-borer
attack but i n areas where mari ne-borers are a
par ti cul ar pr obl em r egul ar i nspecti ons ar e
advi sabl e to ensure that unprotected wood i s not
ex posed by abrasi on. For ex ampl e, wooden
rudder trunki ngs cannot be effecti vel y coated
with anti-fouling paint and shipworm frequently
becomes establ i shed as a resul t. Pai nt cannot be
appl i ed regul arl y to heavy mari ne woodwork
such as pi l es, fenders and groynes, so that
naturally durable or adequately preserved wood
must be used. Wood i s rel ati vel y easy to preserve
agai nst shi pworm attack but gri bbl e i s a far
greater probl em; most preservati ves wi l l reduce
the rate of attack but wi l l not ensure compl ete
protection.
I f wood i s water l ogged and compl etel y
surrounded by an i mpervi ous cl ay or mud l ayer
there i s no possi bi l i ty of fungal decay or borer
attack because of the compl ete l ack of oxygen.
However, some anaerobi c bacteri a are abl e to
sur vi ve i n these condi ti ons, obtai ni ng the
necessary oxygen by thei r reduci ng acti on on
sui tabl e chemi cal s that may be present, such as
by the conversi on of sul phate to sul phi de and
thus the generati on of the hydrogen sul phi de
odour whi ch i s a typi cal featur e of these
condi ti ons. These bacteri a do not cause any
obvi ous damage to wood, al though i t becomes
very dark brown i n col our, but protracted
waterl oggi ng resul ts i n sl ow hydrol ysi s of the
cel l ul ose, whi ch i s thus progressi vel y l ost. The
amount of l oss can be assessed by determi ni ng
the dry densi ty of the wood but thi s i s very
di ffi cul t as any attempt to dry the sampl e
i nvari abl y resul ts i n consi derabl e di storti on,
often rather remi ni scent of the shri nkage that
occurs from Brown rot attack whi ch i s, of
cour se, another method for r emovi ng the
cel l ul ose from wood and l eavi ng the brown
l i gni n. The al ter nati ve i s to measur e the
saturated moi sture content of the sampl e by
wei ghi ng fi rstl y when wet and subsequentl y
after over-dryi ng. The amount of water l oss i s
then r el ated to the dr y mass to gi ve the
saturated moi sture content and thi s can be
di rectl y rel ated to the peri od of i mmersi on. Thi s
techni que i s someti mes used by archaeol ogi sts
to esti mate the age of an anci ent structure when
they ar e abl e to obtai n water l ogged wood
sampl es from, for exampl e, a sunken boat or
pi l es dri ven i nto a bed cl ay.
Termites
Termites or White Ants are probably the most
seri ous wood-destroyi ng pests. They are not ants
but bel ong to the Isoptera whereas true ants are
Hymenoptera, an order whi ch al so i ncl udes the
bees and the wasps. The termi tes are soci al
i nsects l i ke the true ants, l i vi ng i n communi ti es
with specialized forms or castes, the workers and
sol di ers, as wel l as mal e and femal e reproducti ve
i ndi vi dual s. Termi tes are wi despread i n tropi cal
and sub-tropi cal countri es, and the rate and
severi ty of thei r attack make them a seri ous pest
and economi cal l y si gni fi cant wherever they
occur. There are approximately 1900 identified
species of termites and more than 150 are known
to damage wood i n bui l di ngs and other
structures. Wi th such a vast number of speci es
i nvol ved i t i s essenti al when consi der i ng
preservati on systems to have a knowl edge of
thei r basi c behavi our and di fferences between
the vari ous fami l i es.
Ter mi tes ar e pr i nci pal l y tr opi cal i n
di stri buti on but are encountered as far south as
Austral i a and New Zeal and and as far north as
Fr ance and Canada. I mpr ovements i n
tr anspor tati on and wor l d tr ade have been
responsi bl e for the wi der di stri buti on of termi tes
and thi s i s parti cul arl y apparent i n France and
Ger many. The termi te of Sai ntonge,
Reticulitermes santonensis, i s nati ve to the west
coast of France between the ri vers Garonne and
Loi re, but i t has spread to Pari s where i t i s
concentrated around the Austerlitz station which
serves thi s coastal regi on. The North Ameri can
speci es Reticulitermes flavipes occur s i n
Wood degradation
32
Hambur g wher e i t was i ntr oduced i n shi p
cargoes. Both these speci es are sensi ti ve to
cl i mati c condi ti ons and are not ex pected to
spread wi del y; they are l argel y concentrated i n
heati ng pi pe ducts and other rather warm areas
i n bui l di ngs. However, i t i s sti l l remarkabl e that
the Bri ti sh Isl es remai n free from termi tes.
A common feature of the si x fami l i es of
termi tes wi thi n the order Isoptera i s the l ack of
cel l ul ase i n thei r di gesti ve enzymes, despi te the
fact that al l si x fami l i es possess members whi ch
are wood-destroying. Three of the families are of
onl y l i mi ted si gni fi cance; the Mastotermi ti dae
are represented by onl y a si ngl e pri mi ti ve speci es
in northern Australia, the Termopsidae include
three speci es that i nfest bui l di ngs i n North
America, and the Hodotermitidae are confined
to semi -desert areas of South Afri ca, North
Africa and the Middle East. The remaining three
fami l i es are of consi derabl e si gni fi cance as they
contai n the more i mportant wood-destroyi ng
termites.
The fami l y Termi ti dae i s a l arge and mi xed
group which includes the subterranean and the
mound termi tes, whi ch construct nests under the
ground, on the sides of trees or as mounds on the
ground. They are abl e to di gest wood wi thout
the assi stance of an i ntesti nal symbi ont because
they rel y on fungus for the producti on of a
cel l ul ase to convert the wood to a form sui tabl e
for thei r own di gesti on. The Termi ti dae can be
di vi ded i nto two di sti nct groups. The fi rst group
contai ns the Microcerotermes, Amitermes and
Nasutitermes speci es whi ch depend on pri or
i nfecti on by a fungus to convert cel l ul ose to a
di gesti ve form. Li gni n i s not di gested and i s
passed through the gut, provi di ng the raw
materi al for the constructi on of the typi cal
honeycomb nests and covered wal kways. I n
contrast the group contai ni ng the Macrotermes,
Odontotermes and Microtermes speci es i s not
restricted to wood already infected by fungus but
i nstead these termi tes convert al l cel l ul ose to a
di gesti bl e form i n fungal gardens wi thi n thei r
nests. Fresh wood i s gnawed i nto fragments
which are then chewed to paste and placed in the
nest where they become i nfected by the termi te
with a fungus which causes deterioration of both
cel l ul ose and l i gni n. The wood i s therefore
converted to fungal ti ssue whi ch i s then eaten by
the termi tes.
The Kal otermi ti dae fami l y i ncl udes the Dry
Wood termi tes whi ch, as thi s name i mpl i es, are
abl e to di gest wood possessi ng a very l ow
moi sture content. Symbi ont protozoa i n the
hi ndgut provi de cel l ul ases suffi ci ent to enabl e
these termi tes to di gest wood cel l ul ose i n a
normal manner, although lignin is not digested
and i s passed through the gut. Col oni es of these
termites inhabit sound dry wood and rarely enter
the ground; for thi s reason al l the other fami l i es
ar e someti mes col l ecti vel y known as
subterranean termi tes. Dry Wood termi te attack
i s spread by wi nged egg-l ayi ng femal es and, i n
areas where there is a risk of Dry Wood termite
attack, i t i s essenti al to use natural l y durabl e or
adequately preserved wood.
The termi tes i n the Rhi notermi ti dae fami l y
are someti mes descri bed as the Moi st Wood
termi tes; i n contrast those i n the mi nor fami l y
Termopsidae are sometimes described as Damp
Wood ter mi tes. The Rhi notermi ti dae cause
damage to bui l di ngs and other structures but
have far l ess economi c si gni fi cance than ei ther
the Termi ti dae or the Kal otermi ti dae. They
possess protozoan i ntesti nal symbi onts but they
prefer moi st wood whi ch i s al ready i nfected by
fungi or bacteri a, thus achi evi ng more effecti ve
digestion and assimilation than the Dry Wood
termites.
I n many areas the mai n termi te hazard i s
confi ned to the subterranean speci es of the
Termitidae. The first group of this family depends
on prior infection of the wood by fungus and they
are therefore a parti cul arl y seri ous hazard to
fence posts, transmission poles and all other wood
in soil contact. Attack can be readily prevented by
taki ng the conventi onal precauti ons to avoi d
fungal decay, such as ensuring that wood remains
dry i n bui l di ngs and usi ng onl y wood that i s
Moisture content fluctuations
33
natural l y durabl e or adequatel y preserved i n
ground contact. In the case of the second group
control is more difficult as they will physically
destroy undecayed dry wood, ingesting fragments
and transporting them back to the nest where
they process them i n fungal gardens and thus
convert them into useful food.
Physi cal barri er systems provi de the most
common method for pr otecti ng bui l di ng
structures from thi s parti cul ar hazard. The
Termi ti dae are unabl e to fl y and protecti on can
be obtai ned by i sol ati ng wood from the soi l by
the use of shields of metal or plastic between the
wood and the footi ngs, by i ntroduci ng a barri er
of poi soned soi l or concrete, or by pai nti ng
structural components whi te i f they provi de a
r oute to the wood; the ter mi tes di sl i ke
constructi ng thei r wal kways on l i ght-col oured
surfaces. These barri er systems are reasonabl y
effecti ve pr ovi ded they ar e consci enti ousl y
constructed to prevent the termi tes di scoveri ng
or constructi ng an al ternati ve route to the wood
structure. Subterranean termi tes are capabl e of
constructi ng unsupported tubul ar wal kways
spanning distances of 300 mm (12 in) or more
and thi s may enabl e them to bri dge shi el ds. In
addi ti on, barri ers of thi s type are compl etel y
usel ess i f bri dged by negl i gence i n subsequent
construction or maintenance, such as the careless
i nstal l ati on of el ectri c cabl es and pl umbi ng.
Many other termi tes, parti cul arl y the Dry
Wood termi tes or Kal otermi ti dae, are abl e to fl y
and cannot be realistically controlled by physical
bar r i er systems. I f wood i s to be used i n
structures exposed to attack i t must be natural l y
resi stant or adequatel y treated wi th preservati ve
i f i t i s to survi ve.
2.3 Moisture content fluctuations
The pr oper ti es of wood ar e pr of oundl y
i nfl uenced by the pr esence of water. The
moi sture content i s very hi gh i n standi ng trees
or freshl y fel l ed wood, usual l y known as green
wood, varyi ng typi cal l y from 60 to 200%. The
green moi sture content tends to vary i nversel y
wi th the normal dry densi ty of a wood so that
bl ack i ronwood wi th a speci fi c gravi ty of 1.08
has a green moi sture content of onl y about
26% whereas South Ameri can bal sa wi th a
speci fi c gravi ty of 0.2 has a green moi sture
content of about 400%. Duri ng dryi ng free
moi sture i s fi rst l ost from the cel l spaces and
thi s i nvol ves l i ttl e change i n properti es except
for a change i n densi ty. Eventual l y dryi ng wi l l
r esul t i n the wood r eachi ng the f i br e
satur ati on poi nt, nor mal l y at a moi stur e
content of 25–30%, and further dryi ng resul ts
i n the l oss of bound moi sture from the cel l
wal l s.
Fibre saturation point
The l oss of bound water reduces the separati on
between adjacent cel l ul ose chai ns and causes
shri nkage as wel l as progressi ve changes i n
physical properties. The amount of bound water
r emai ni ng i n the wood i s appr ox i matel y
proporti onal to the rel ati ve humi di ty of the
atmospher e, al though changes i n moi stur e
content l ag behi nd changes i n rel ati ve humi di ty,
a phenomenon known as hysteresis. Most of the
changes i n properti es wi th vari ati on i n moi sture
content can be attri buted to the submi croscopi c
or chemi cal structure of wood, as expl ai ned
previ ousl y i n Secti on 1.3.
Movement
The swel l i ng or shri nkage wi th changes i n
moisture content is known as movement. In the
longitudinal direction the movement is generally
very l ow, onl y about 0.1% for a change of
moisture content from normal dry wood at about
12% to the wet condition at fibre saturation point
or above. In contrast the movement between the
radi al and tangenti al di recti on can be l argel y
attributed to the fact that early or spring wood
shrinks less, so that in the radial direction the
movement can be attributed to the average of the
Wood degradation
34
early and late wood shrinkage, whereas in the
tangential direction the dense and strong ribs of
late wood tend to control the physical behaviour
and thus generate higher movement. Indeed, if a
pi ece of softwood i s pl aned smooth at a l ow
moisture content and then wetted, the late wood
will swell to a greater extent than the early wood
and a corrugated surface will be produced.
Gener al l y, a hi gher l i gni n content i n a
parti cul ar wood speci es wi l l resul t i n l ower
movement or greater stabi l i ty. The hi gher
shrinkage in the tangential direction, coupled in
some speci es wi th weakness i nduced by l arge
medullary rays, sometimes results in surface splits
developing during drying. However, it has been
ex pl ai ned i n Chapter 1 that the movement
characteri sti cs can be l argel y attri buted to the
microfibril angle in the cells, and as this changes
progressively from the pith outwards there is also
a progressi ve change i n movement properti es.
Heartwood close to the pith is most stable but, in
addition to this progressive change, there is a far
larger alteration in movement between heartwood
and sapwood in many species, the sapwood often
possessing extremely high movement (Fig. 2.2).
These changes i n movement rel ati ve to the
or i gi nal posi ti on i n the tr ee combi ne wi th
distorted annual rings and twisted grain to cause
warpi ng and spl i tti ng, defects that wi l l be
described in more detail later in this section.
Water vapour is lost or gained most rapidly
through end-grai n surfaces because of thei r
permeabi l i ty, a factor whi ch al so encourages the
very rapi d absorpti on of l i qui d water. Thi s
means that many defects ar i si ng thr ough
moi sture content changes, such as spl i ts and the
devel opment of decay or stai n fungi , ar e
concentrated around end-grai n surfaces. I n
general , wood i s used as l ong pi eces wi th onl y
smal l end-grai n surfaces so that the si de-grai n i s
usual l y more si gni fi cant, parti cul arl y i n servi ce
i n dry condi ti ons where i t i s the hygroscopi ci ty
of the wood coupl ed wi th changes i n
atmospheri c rel ati ve humi di ty that are l i kel y to
have the greatest effect. Wood softens as
moi sture content i ncreases towards the fi bre
saturati on poi nt, a property that i s very val uabl e
i n some ci rcumstances such as when bendi ng
wood or peel i ng veneers from l ogs, al though i t
si gni fi cantl y r educes str ength so that i n
structural uses wood must be empl oyed i n
adequate di mensi ons to tol erate the strength l oss
that wi l l occur shoul d the moi sture content
approach the fibre saturation point.
Shrinkage in buildings
When trees are fi rst converted to sawnwood
the moi sture content i s si gni fi cant because of
the danger of fungal damage and also because of
FIGURE 2.2 Shrinkage on drying.
Moisture content fluctuations
35
the excessi ve transport costs that are i nvol ved i f
the wei ght of wood i s perhaps doubl ed by a hi gh
moi sture content, but i f thi s wet wood i s used i n
buildings the most serious problem, other than
the danger of fungal decay, i s the cross-grai n
shri nkage that wi l l occur as the wood gradual l y
dri es and achi eves an equi l i bri um moi sture
content wi th i ts surroundi ngs. Thi s i s a very
seri ous probl em i n certai n uses such as wi ndow
and door frames, floorboarding, panelling and
other si tuati ons i n whi ch cross-grai n shri nkage
wi l l resul t i n the devel opment of unacceptabl e
gaps between the i ndi vi dual pi eces of wood. It i s
therefore usual to air-season or kiln-dry wood
before i nstal l ati on, to the average moi sture
content that i t wi l l encounter i n servi ce. The
mai n probl em i s that wood may be processed to
the requi red moi sture content but thi s may then
change duri ng storage, del i very or i nstal l ati on,
parti cul arl y i n bui l di ngs where the wet trades
such as bri ckl ayi ng and pl asteri ng resul t i n very
hi gh humi di ti es duri ng constructi on. I ndeed,
fl oors are someti mes l ai d i n new bui l di ngs very
pr omptl y after k i l n-dr yi ng and the hi gh
humi di ty then causes them to expand so that
someti mes the enti re fl oor l i fts i n a dome or the
ex pansi on causes ser i ous damage to the
surroundi ng wal l s (Fi g. 2.3).
FIGURE 2.3 Parquet flooring distorted through moisture absorption after being laid. (CSIRO, Australia)
Wood degradation
36
Stacki ng the wood for a peri od i nsi de the
bui l di ng before l ayi ng wi l l avoi d thi s parti cul ar
probl em as the wood wi l l thus reach equi l i bri um
with the high humidity in the damp new building
but when the bui l di ng i s ul ti matel y occupi ed the
rel ati ve humi di ty wi l l fal l and shri nkage defects
wi l l devel op. Quar ter-sawn (r adi al cut)
fl oorboards wi l l si mpl y shri nk i n wi dth l eavi ng
gaps at the joi nts but fl at-sawn (tangenti al cut)
boards wi l l cup i n addi ti on; they shoul d be l ai d
wi th the heart surface upwards so that the
cuppi ng causes each board to be rai sed i n i ts
centre rather than at its edges where it can cause
tri ppi ng. The i ntegri ty of the fl oor and thus i ts
abi l i ty to act as a fi re-break or thermal i nsul ator
is naturally affected by this shrinkage, unless the
boar ds ar e j oi ned by tongues to span the
shri nkage gaps.
Panel products
A fl oor i s a r ather l ar ge panel nor mal l y
assembl ed out of separ ate boar ds and the
probl ems encountered i n fl oors are obvi ousl y
encountered i n other panel s such as wal l l i ni ngs,
doors and furni ture. Several panel materi al s are
now available in which wood has been processed
to mi ni mi ze these shri nkage defects. In pl ywood
the wood has been cut i nto veneers whi ch are
ori entated at ri ght angl es to one another so that
the stabl e l ongi tudi nal grai n i s used to physi cal l y
r estr ai n the movement i n the cr oss-gr ai n
di recti on. Thi s method for reduci ng shri nkage i s
parti cul arl y successful i n normal bui l di ngs but
sometimes fails under extreme conditions such as
when used in boat building. Adhesives have been
devel oped whi ch wi l l wi thstand the very hi gh
stress that i s devel oped when the moi sture
content fl uctuates from fi bre saturati on poi nt
down to l ow l evel s i n very dry condi ti ons but i f
thi s occurs regul arl y there i s a tendency for the
wood to rupture on ei ther si de of the gl ue l i ne
and this can be avoided only by using wood of
moderate or low movement in the manufacture
of the pl ywood. It shoul d be appreci ated that the
pl ywood sti l l expands normal l y i n thi ckness but
thi s i s sel dom a probl em unl ess i t affects the
weather seal when pl ywood i s used as an
exteri or panel l i ng.
One parti cul ar advantage of pl ywood i s that,
as the gr ai n r uns l ongi tudi nal l y i n both
di recti ons wi thi n the pl ane of the board, i t i s
equal l y strong i n both di recti ons, al though not
as strong as the longitudinal direction for normal
wood. I n contrast i t coul d be sai d that the
al ternati ve process for produci ng a panel by the
manufactur e of par ti cl e-boar d r esul ts i n a
materi al that i s equal l y weak i n both di recti ons.
In parti cl eboard manufacture the pri nci pl e i s to
di vi de the wood i nto smal l parti cl es whi ch are
then randomly orientated so that the movement
i s shared equal l y i n al l di recti ons, al though i t i s
restrained to some extent if sufficient adhesive is
used. The movement is higher than for plywood,
and, whereas pl ywood presents a compl etel y
smooth sur face, a par ti cl e boar d i s
compar ati vel y i r r egul ar, a defect that i s
parti cul arl y noti ceabl e wi th changes i n rel ati ve
humi di ty as the sur face chi ps ex pand and
contract across the grai n. Smal l er parti cl es are
someti mes used for the surface of the board i n
order to mi ni mi ze thi s probl em or the surface i s
veneered, al though veneers appl i ed on boards
wi th comparati vel y l arge surface chi ps wi l l not
conceal thi s movement whi ch wi l l show through
the veneer as shadowing.
The onl y al ternati ve i s to reduce the wood to
i ndi vi dual fi br es whi ch ar e then r andoml y
oriented and reconstructed into a board which
i s, i n effect, a rather thi ck sheet 6f paper. Low-
densi ty boar ds of thi s type ar e; known as
i nsul ati on boards and are used for l i ni ng wal l s
and cei l i ngs, but the medi um- and hi gh-densi ty
boards or hardboards present a reasonabl y
smooth surface for pai nti ng. Whi l st fi bre-boards
mi ght appear to be si mi l ar to pl ywood i n
pri nci pl e, al though the wood components are
reori entated on a rather di fferent scal e, they do
not achi eve the same end resul ts. In fi bre-boards
the movement tends to be randomi zed i n al l
Moisture content fluctuations
37
directions, whereas in plywood the movement in
the pl ane of the board i s physi cal l y restrai ned.
Pl ywood i s therefore preferred for ex ternal
panel l i ng and other si tuati ons where i t may
achi eve a hi gh moi sture content as movement
wi thi n the panel di mensi on remai ns smal l ,
whereas a fi bre-board wi l l swel l si gni fi cantl y i n
si mi l ar condi ti ons and thi s may l ead to seri ous
distortion.
Seasoning
Shi ppi ng speci fi cati ons often requi re wood to
be pr oper l y seasoned for shi pment to the
country of desti nati on. Thi s general l y means
that the moi sture content of the wood must be
suffi ci entl y l ow to ensure that no deteri orati on
occurs wi thi n the hol d of the shi p. I n theory the
wood must be dri ed i n some way to a moi sture
content bel ow about 22% compared wi th an
average moi sture content of 60–200% when
freshl y fel l ed. Seasoni ng i s the term that i s
general l y appl i ed to the processes that are
adopted for reduci ng the moi sture content.
Vari ous shri nkage defects can devel op i f wood
i s dr i ed too r api dl y so that much of the
experti se i n seasoni ng i s devoted to achi evi ng
the maxi mum dryi ng rate whi l st sti l l avoi di ng
the devel opment of defects. Shri nkage and
swel l i ng wi l l al so occur as the moi sture content
var i es i n ser vi ce so that seasoni ng shoul d
attempt to dr y the wood to the aver age
moi sture content that i t wi l l achi eve i n fi nal
use, i n order to mi ni mi ze movement defects.
The traditional method for seasoning or drying
wood is to stack it in the open air, although it will
be appreciated that drying will be achieved only if
the stacks are protected from rai n, ei ther by
providing a roof to each individual stack or by the
use of l arge open-si ded seasoni ng sheds. One
seri ous probl em wi th ai r-seasoni ng i s the
excessive drying rate during hot weather. This can
be a very serious problem as drying occurs most
rapi dl y from the porous end-grai n whi ch thus
shrinks in advance of the wood further along a
piece, causing the development of severe splits or
seasoni ng checks. Thi s defect can be partl y
avoided by the use of end cleats, generally pieces
of wood or metal nailed across the end-grain in
order to physi cal l y restrai n the spl i tti ng. Thi s
method for controlling checks is very unreliable
and a more efficient technique is to seal the end-
grain with a bitumastic or wax formulation so
that dr yi ng i s confi ned to the si de-gr ai n
throughout the l ength of each pi ece of wood.
When the wood has a high moisture content in its
initial green state it is comparatively flexible and
i t must be careful l y stacked i n order to avoi d
sagging. Stickers or piling sticks must be placed
between the pieces to permit a proper circulation
of air, or alternatively the pieces may be stacked
with each alternate layer in a different direction, a
method known as self-piling which is frequently
used for the dryi ng of round wood such as
transmission poles.
I n ki l n-seasoni ng the wood i s pl aced i n
contai ners or ki l ns i n whi ch the temperature and
humi di ty can be control l ed i n order to achi eve
the maxi mum rate of dryi ng consi stent wi th
freedom from the development of defects. The
ki l n must be desi gned and the wood careful l y
stacked so that a uni form ai r ci rcul ati on can be
achi eved. If the ai r i s al ways passi ng i n the same
di recti on i t i s obvi ous that the temperature wi l l
be l ower and the rel ati ve humi di ty hi gher at the
exit, so that the wood nearest the exit will have a
hi gher moi sture content than that cl ose to the
i nl et. In many ki l ns the ai r fl ow can be reversed
i n or der to r educe these di ffer ences. One
advantage of ki l n-seasoni ng i s the hi gh
temperatures that are used towards the end of
the dryi ng si zes of the pi eces of wood that are
bei ng dri ed when control l i ng a ki l n, al though
cross-section dimensions will be important if it is
desi red to esti mate the ti me to compl ete the
dryi ng process.
Fi bre saturati on poi nt usual l y occurs at a
moi stur e content of about 25–30% and
shrinkage occurs in wood dried below this point.
Ai r-dryi ng wi l l normal l y reduce the moi sture
Wood degradation
38
content to 17–23%, and i f l ower moi sture
contents are requi red ki l n-dryi ng i s essenti al .
Wood can be pressure-treated with preservatives
at moi sture contents bel ow 25%. Carcassi ng or
frami ng ti mber i n bui l di ngs can tol erate a
moisture content of up to 23%, mainly because
the cross-secti on di mensi ons i n whi ch movement
occurs are rel ati vel y uni mportant and dryi ng i s
necessary onl y to achi eve resi stance to fungal
decay. Wood intended for use in ships, boats and
vehi cl es shoul d be dri ed to 15%. In a house wi th
reasonabl e central heati ng the average moi sture
content shoul d be 12%, al though bedroom
furniture would perhaps be better manufactured
wi th a moi sture content of 14%, more cl osel y
rel ated to the l ower heati ng l evel i n these rooms.
In bui l di ngs whi ch are more i ntensi vel y heated
such as offi ces and hospi tal s, a moi sture content
of 8% may be necessary, and perhaps l ess i n
fl oori ng i nstal l ed on top of fl oor heati ng.
I n cl i mates wi th col d dr y wi nter s the
atmospheri c rel ati ve humi di ty i s very l ow and
resul ts i n moi sture contents as l ow as 4% i n
bui l di ngs wi th central heati ng, yet i n the spri ng
the hi gh humi di ty may i ncrease the moi sture
content to as much as 12% so that the choi ce of
a preferred moi sture content for ki l ni ng i s rather
difficult. Indeed these required moisture contents
are al l l argel y theoreti cal as i t i s very di ffi cul t to
ensure that wood remai ns compl etel y protected
dur i ng the numer ous handl i ng and
transportati on stages after l eavi ng the ki l n. The
worst stage i s perhaps i nstal l ati on i n a new
damp bui l di ng i n whi ch any wood wi l l
automati cal l y recondi ti on to a hi gher moi sture
content i n equi l i bri um wi th the new condi ti ons.
I t has al ready been ex pl ai ned that wood
shri nks when i ts moi sture content i s reduced,
that the outer zones of the trunk shri nk more
than the i nner, and that the sapwood shri nks
more than the heartwood. In addition, the outer
l ayers of a l og or pi ece of wood are venti l ated
and thus dry more rapidly than the inner cycle as
these eradi cate any i nsect i nfestati on as wel l as
many fungal i nfecti ons.
Atmospheric relative humidity
The abi l i ty of ai r to absorb moi sture vari es wi th
the temperature so that the moi sture content at
whi ch ai r becomes saturated i ncreases wi th the
temperature. When ai r i s compl etel y saturated i t
i s sai d to have a rel ati ve humi di ty of 100%, and
a rel ati ve humi di ty of 50% natural l y means that
the ai r i s hal f saturated. I f ai r i ncreases i n
temperature the rel ati ve humi di ty wi l l decrease
or the ai r wi l l appear to become dri er as i t i s
capable of holding a larger amount of moisture
at the hi gher temper atur e, yet the actual
humi di ty or moi sture content of the ai r wi l l
remain unchanged. Thus the drying power of air
wi l l be i ncreased as the rel ati ve humi di ty i s
reduced, ei ther by reduci ng the actual humi di ty
or moi sture content or si mpl y by i ncreasi ng the
temperature to i mprove the moi sture hol di ng
capaci ty. Wood cannot dr y i f the r el ati ve
humidity of the air is 100%. In addition, if wood
i s al l owed to remai n i n ai r possessi ng a constant
rel ati ve humi di ty, i t wi l l eventual l y acqui re a
moi stur e content i n equi l i br i um wi th the
sur r oundi ng ai r. The moi stur e content i n
equi l i bri um wi th 100% rel ati ve humi di ty i s
known as the fi bre saturati on poi nt and l ower
moi sture contents are i n equi l i bri um wi th l ower
atmospheri c rel ati ve humi di ti es. It wi l l therefore
be appr eci ated that the actual oper ati ng
temper atur e of a ki l n i s compar ati vel y
uni mportant as i t i s the rel ati ve humi di ty that i s
responsi bl e for the rate of dryi ng.
Various kiln schedules have been devised to dry
wood as rapi dl y as possi bl e wi thout the
development of seasoning defects. Obviously the
rate of drying will depend on the cross-section of
the pieces of wood and it is therefore important
that a kiln should always be loaded with wood of
similar dimensions. In addition, kiln schedules are
normally devised so that they are controlled by the
moisture content of the wood at the air inlet side of
the kiln. In a typical schedule it will be specified
that, when this moisture content reaches a certain
level, the relative humidity of the incoming air
Moisture content fluctuations
39
must be reduced by raising the temperature in
order to continue the drying process. In this way
time is ignored in kiln schedules and it is also
unnecessary to consi der the actual l ayers, a
combi nati on of al l these effects l eadi ng to the
distortion and tissue rupture defects which are a
characteristic of faulty seasoning or kiln-drying.
One particularly important point is that wood is
plastic when wet but set when dry so that it is
essential that wood should be carefully stacked flat
to avoid unnecessary distortion.
Warping
War pi ng i s the gener al ter m for seasoni ng
di storti on and takes several forms. Cuppi ng i s
warpi ng across the grai n or wi dth of a board
and ari ses i n fl at-sawn boards through the outer
zones of the trunk and parti cul arl y the sapwood
shri nki ng to a greater extent than the i nner
zones, gi vi ng a pl anoconcave surface on the
outer side of the board relative to the trunk. Flat-
sawn boards used for fl oori ng shoul d al ways be
l ai d wi th the hear t upwar ds to gi ve a
pl anoconvex surface wi th the prol onged dryi ng
that wi l l occur i n servi ce and thus avoi d tri p
edges. The al ternati ve i s to use more expensi ve
quarter-sawn boards whi ch are resi stant to
cuppi ng and al so more hard weari ng. Twi sti ng
ari ses i n boards through the presence of spi ral
or i nterl ocki ng grai n and i s real l y the resul t of
wood sel ecti on rather than a seasoni ng defect,
al though spi ral grai n i s qui te common and
per haps unr eal i sti c to r ej ect. Bowi ng i s
l ongi tudi nal curvature ari si ng perpendi cul ar to
the surface of a board, ei ther through spri ng i n a
flat-sawn board or more usually through sagging
i n the stack duri ng dryi ng. Spri ng or crooki ng i s
l ongi tudi nal curvature wi thi n the pl ane of the
board and can be severe i n some speci es such
as el m or kempas grown i n swampy areas,
gi vi ng decreased strength. Fi nal l y di amondi ng
occur s i n pi eces of wood of r ectangul ar
secti on when the annual ri ngs pass di agonal l y
across the end-grai n, as shown i n Fi g. 2.4; the
radi al shri nkage i s l ess than the tangenti al
shri nkage so that the di agonal s i n a square
secti on pi ece of wood become di fferent i n l ength
and give a diamond shape.
Splitting
Dryi ng occurs most rapi dl y at the end-grai n
thr ough i ts ver y hi gh permeabi l i ty. The
shri nkage cl ose to the end-grai n may therefore
occur whi l st the rest of the pi ece of wood sti l l
has a hi gh moi sture content and retai ns i ts
swol l en di mensi ons. The stress between the
shrunk end-grai n and the swol l en i nner wood
frequentl y resul ts i n spl i ts on the end-grai n
surfaces, al though the term spl i ts i s normal l y
used to descri be cracks passi ng ri ght through the
pi ece of wood. I n contrast, checks are more
shal l ow, occurri ng as end-checks on the end-
grai n or surface checks on the other faces,
perhaps di agonal to the edge of the board i f
spi ral grai n i s present. Spl i ts and checks may
close with rewetting but, although they may then
be vi rtual l y i nvi si bl e, the strength has been l ost.
Seri ous spl i ts are someti mes descri bed as shakes,
al though thi s term i s more correctl y used to
descri be defects i nherent i n a parti cul ar tree
rather than those developing as a result of faulty
seasoning or kiln-drying.
The stresses and strains resulting from the rapid
drying of end-grain in advance of the rest of a piece
of wood have al ready been descri bed but an
identical situation occurs in respect of the entire
surface of the piece of wood which naturally dries
FIGURE 2.4 Diamonding or unsymetrical shrinkage
in tangential and radial directions.
Wood degradation
40
more rapidly than the inner wood and thus shrinks
in advance. This defect is known as case hardening.
Shrinkage of the outer zones tends to result in the
development of surface checks. If rupture does not
occur it is possible for the outer zone to be tension-
set so that subsequent sawing will release this
tension and result in spring or cupping; if tension-
set is suspected it can be relieved by steaming. The
tensi on i n the outer zone may al ternati vel y
compress the inner zone which is wetter and thus
more plastic, sometimes squeezing water out of the
end-grain. Further drying may then result in the
subsequent shrinkage of the inner zone without
associ ated shri nkage of the dry set or case
hardened outer zone, gi vi ng i nternal ruptures
known as honeycomb checks or hollow horning.
Seasoni ng defects can sti l l occur, despi te great
car e i n appl yi ng the most sui tabl e dr yi ng
schedules. Case hardening is perhaps the most
common defect i n certai n speci es such as beech.
When case hardeni ng i s anti ci pated or i t has
actual l y occurred the ki l n must be operated at a
high temperature and high humidity in order to
plasticize the outer layers of the wood so that the
case hardeni ng i s rel i eved and the wood recovers
i ts proper di mensi ons. Thi s treatment i s appl i ed
onl y for a very short peri od, suffi ci ent to rel i eve
the case har deni ng wi thout si gni fi cantl y
affecti ng the moi sture content of the pi ece as a
whol e. Hi gh temperature i s al so used duri ng
ki l ni ng i n or der to ensur e ster i l i zati on of
hardwoods agai nst Lycti d beetl e attack. In thi s
connecti on i t i s i nteresti ng to note that ki l n-
seasoned wood i s then far more suscepti bl e to
subsequent Lycti d beetl e attack than ai r-
seasoned wood, apparently because it possesses a
hi gher starch content, as expl ai ned earl i er i n thi s
chapter.
Joinery failure
Although it is normal to dry wood to a moisture
content equi val ent to the average atmospheri c
relative humidity anticipated is use, it is common
to encounter movement problems. Faults such as
gaps appearing between floor blocks or boards are
due to the wood drying after installation, either
through inadequate kilning or perhaps rewetting
between kilning and installation. A door or drawer
jammed in humid weather may be exceedingly
slack in drier conditions. Frames which introduce
an end-grain surface in contact with side-grain will
inevitably result in cracking of any surface coating
system. I n other si tuati ons the cross-secti onal
movement may become apparent as warping. The
obvious solution to all these problems is to use only
wood with low movement but this is not always
realistic. The alternative is to impregnate the wood
wi th chemi cal s whi ch i nduce stabi l i zati on,
although processes of this type are also frequently
unrealistic because of the difficulty in achieving
complete penetration.
Preferential wetting
The only theoretical alternative is to enclose the
wood within a protective film in order to stabilize
the moisture content. Paint and varnish coatings
wi l l act i n thi s way, provi ded they compl etel y
cover the wood and are not damaged in any way.
Unfortunatel y, whi l st these coati ngs gi ve good
protecti on agai nst rai nfal l , they are unabl e to
prevent moisture content changes resulting from
slow seasonal fluctuations in atmospheric relative
humidity. As a result the painted wood will shrink
or swell with changes in relative humidity, causing
the surface coating to fracture wherever a joint
involves stable side-grain in contact with unstable
end-grain. Rain is absorbed by capillarity into the
crack, yet the remaining paint coating restricts
evaporation so that the moisture content steadily
increases until fungal decay occurs if the wood is
non-durabl e. I t i s frequentl y suggested that
preservation provides a simple solution to this
probl em by rel i abl y preventi ng decay but thi s
ignores the fact that water also damages the paint
coating. Wood is a hygroscopic material, covered
with hydroxyl groups which have a strong affinity
for water so that penetrating water will tend to
coat the wood el ements, di spl aci ng pai nt and
Fire
41
varni sh coati ngs. Thi s fai l ure i s known as
pr efer enti al wetti ng and i s r esponsi bl e for
blistering and peeling in paintwork as well as loss
of transparency in varnishes.
2.4 Fire
It is well known that wood is combustible, and a
natural reaction to a fire disaster in a building is
to demand that only non-combustible materials
be used in construction in the mistaken belief that
this will ensure fire safety. The reputation of non-
combustible structural materials originates from
observations on the behaviour of, for example,
traditional heavy masonry but the same excellent
fire performance is not necessarily achieved by
other non-combusti bl e materi al s. Fi re i n a
building usually initiates in and involves mainly
the contents, and the contribution from wooden
structural members is small and usually limited to
the later stages of the fire due to their size and
posi ti on wi thi n the str uctur e. Even i n a
completely wood-framed house there is a total of
onl y one thi rd more wood than i n tradi ti onal
mi x ed constructi on. I t can therefore be
appreciated that the combustibility of structural
members is of limited importance compared with
ability to withstand fire originating in furnishings
and other building contents.
Flaming and charring
Whi l st wood i s cer tai nl y combusti bl e,
i gni tabi l i ty and r ate of combusti on ar e
par ti cul ar l y i mpor tant i n most si tuati ons.
Combusti on cannot occur i n the absence of
ox ygen so that l arge-secti on wood members
burn onl y sl owl y at thei r surface whi ch then
progressi vel y chars. As the temperature ri ses the
wood fi rst rel eases vol ati l e components whi ch
fl ame on the surface and the resi due then chars
as a further i ncrease i n temperature occurs. The
thermal conducti vi ty of wood i s very l ow, onl y
0.4% of that of steel or 0.05% of copper, and
the same order of conducti vi ty as for cork,
gypsum pl aster and other i nsul ati on materi al s.
Indeed bal sa, a very l ow densi ty wood, i s used as
an i nsul ati on materi al . The natural thermal
i nsul ati ng properti es of wood therefore l i mi t the
rate at whi ch heat can be transferred i nwards
from a burni ng ex ternal surface, and these
i nsul ati ng pr oper ti es i mpr ove steadi l y as
moi sture i s l ost from the wood and charri ng
progresses; charcoal i s an even better i nsul ator
with a conductivity of only 30 to 50% of that of
normal wood. Eventual l y the heat transfer from
the surface i s i nsuffi ci ent to rel ease vol ati l e
components from the i nteri or and the surface
fl ami ng then ceases. The charri ng rate al so
pr ogr essi vel y sl ows down, unl ess heat i s
contributed from surrounding burning materials;
the significance of the contents of the structure is
again apparent.
Fire resistance
The charri ng rate i s l oss of di mensi on, whi l st the
burn-through rate i s l oss of wei ght. I n l arge
str uctur al member s the char r i ng r ate i s
i mportant as the rate of change of di mensi on
natural l y control s the abi l i ty of the wooden
component to continue to support the structural
l oad. The char r i ng r ate var i es wi th wood
properti es such as thermal conducti vi ty and
densi ty whi ch must therefore be consi dered
when constructi ng a wooden barri er to achi eve
fire resistance, although design is of even greater
significance. For example, there must be no gaps
around doors or windows through which the fire
can penetr ate, or thi n ar eas wher e ear l y
penetration can occur. Despite its combustibility
wood possesses excel l ent fi re resi stance, l argel y
because of i ts l ow thermal conducti vi ty, and thi s
not greatl y affected by any form of treatment.
Ignition
The ignition point, usually about 270°C (518°F)
for wood, i s the temperature at whi ch the rate of
heati ng exceeds the rate of suppl y of heat and
Wood degradation
42
the fi re becomes sel f-supporti ng wi th perhaps
vi si bl e fl ame or gl ow. Ther e i s usual l y no
i gni ti on, even on the superfi ci al surface, i f the
moi stur e content of deeper ar eas of wood
remai ns above about 15%. A pi l ot source of
fl ame i s necessary i n order to i ni ti ate i gni ti on as
spontaneous i gni ti on of wood i s possi bl e onl y at
excepti onal l y hi gh temperatures. Large pi eces of
wood do not ignite easily, and ignition of smaller
pi eces i s achi eved onl y because of the rapi d rate
at whi ch they reach the i gni ti on temperature.
Flame spread
Fl ame spread across the surface of a pi ece of
wood i s real l y a seri es of i gni ti ons, one area on
fi re acti ng as pi l ot i gni ti on for the adjoi ni ng
area. Fl ame spread i s i nfl uenced by moi sture
content as i n normal i gni ti on but i t al so depends
on the densi ty and chemi cal nature of the
par ti cul ar wood. Chemi cal tr eatments can
achi eve consi derabl e success i n resi sti ng i gni ti on
and thus preventi ng fl ame spread. I ndeed, the
propagati on of a fi re by fl ame spread i s the most
ser i ous cr i ti ci sm of the use of wood as a
structural materi al , yet thi s i s the one property
that can be readi l y modi fi ed by comparati vel y
i nexpensi ve treatment.
Smoke
Smoke generati on represents the most seri ous
hazard to human l i fe duri ng fi res i n bui l di ngs.
The most harmful smokes arise from the plastics
and syntheti c fi bres whi ch are often used i n
furni shi ngs, whi l st the smoke from wood i s
comparati vel y i nnocuous. I t i s thus i mportant to
ensure that dangerous smokes are not generated
by chemi cal treatments appl i ed to wood to l i mi t
flame spread and propagation.
Despite its combustibility, wood thus possess
di sti nct advantages when used as a structural
materi al . The contri buti on of the structural
woodwork to a fire is minimal, at least in the early
stages, and wood has excellent resistance to fire
penetrati on and suffers nei ther si gni fi cant
distortion nor rapid loss of strength. In comparison
steel collapses when it reaches its yield temperature
and concrete shatters or spalls, particularly if it
encloses a steel frame. Where reinforcement bars
are present in concrete they may be stressed at high
tension and a rise in temperature will result in
yielding with distortion of the structure even if
compl ete col l apse i s avoi ded. Even i f fi re i s
controlled before the yield temperature of steel is
reached there i s sti l l a danger that excessi ve
expansion will rupture the building structure.
43
3.1 Preservation mechanisms
The science, art and technology of preservation
are concerned with the design, development and
adoption of systems for preventing the various
forms of wood deterioration. Decay by the wood-
destroying Basidiomycete fungi is certainly the
most i mportant form of deteri orati on as i t i s
i nevi tabl e whenever wood i s ex posed to
dampness. It is true that some species of wood are
more durable than others but none are completely
resistant to decay, and a species that is said to be
naturally durable will simply decay at a slower
rate than one that is said to be non-durable.
Brown and White rots
There are three i mportant factors when
considering decay caused by Basidiomycetes. The
damage caused by these fungi can be divided into
two distinct types known as Brown and White rots
respectively. A Brown rot generally destroys the
cellulosic skeleton of the wood, leaving the lignin
largely intact so that the wood becomes brown in
col our and general l y rather fri abl e, perhaps
developing longitudinal and cross-grain cracking.
A White rot decays both the cellulose and lignin so
that the colour remains virtually unaltered and the
wood becomes soft and perhaps linty.
Fungus spread
A second important feature is the development of
rhizomorphs by some fungi. These are composed
of hyphae modified into strands which are able to
conduct water and food from one part of the
fungus to another. Some fungi are able in this way
to transport moisture absorbed by one part of the
fungus to another part where it can be used, for
example, to condition wood prior to decay. In a
si mi l ar way, nouri shment or energy can be
transported from an area of active wood decay to
other parts of the fungus which are attempting to
spread in a zone lacking nourishment. This might
i nvol ve spread over masonry whi ch may, of
course, be a source of moisture but which can
never be a source of nourishment. Alternatively
the fungus may be attempti ng to spread i nto
preservative-treated wood. In the case of some
highly fixed preservative treatments the fungus
may spread through the treated zone wi thout
causing damage but also without being affected
itself, so that there is a danger that it may be able
to spread to deeper zones which are unprotected
through limited penetration of the preservative
treatment. In other cases the availability of energy
enabl es the fungus to acti vel y detox i fy
preservati ves, parti cul arl y certai n toxi c metal s
such as copper which can be de-toxified by the
formati on of ox al ate. Hi ghl y devel oped
rhi zomorphs are a feature of onl y a few
Basidiomycetes, particularly Brown rots, the best
known bei ng the Dry rot fungus Serpula
lacrymans.
Fungus requirements
The thi rd factor of i mportance concerns the
3
Preservation
systems
Preservation systems
44
essential needs of a fungus for spore germination
and development. The first requirement is for a
source of nourishment, usually wood, but it must
be appreci ated that fungi are al so capabl e of
growing on a variety of other cellulosic materials.
The second requi rement i s for water, most
Basidiomycetes requiring an adequate moisture
content within the wood that they are attempting
to decay, as well as perhaps a sufficiently high
atmospheri c rel ati ve humi di ty. I ndeed
Basi di omycete attack i s often i nvi si bl e si mpl y
because the fungus avoids attacking the external
surface of the wood where it is likely to be exposed
to the dehydrating effect of an atmosphere of low
relative humidity. The third requirement is for
oxygen and this clearly operates in the opposite
sense, tending to inhibit fungal activity deep within
large pieces of wood. The fourth requirement is the
need for a suitable temperature; low temperatures
general l y i nhi bi t devel opment whi l st hi gh
temperatures may i ni ti al l y encourage the
development of sporophores or fruiting bodies but
eventually lead to the death of the fungus. If the
temperature increase is slow the sporophores may
be able to develop to a sufficient extent to produce
spores whi ch wi l l be abl e to resi st a further
temperature increase. This will permit the fungus
to redevelop when suitable conditions return, even
if the original growth has been killed by the high
temperature.
Preservation systems
Preservati on systems rel y on the el i mi nati on of
one of these essenti al requi rements i n order to
pr event fungal devel opment. Chemi cal
pr eser vati on tr eatment i s essenti al l y the
el i mi nati on of a source of nouri shment and wi l l
be di scussed i n detai l l ater. The el i mi nati on of
ox ygen i s a system that i s actual l y used i n
pr acti ce wher e wood i s water l ogged; for
exampl e el m i s parti cul arl y suscepti bl e to decay
i n damp condi ti ons, yet i t i s wi del y used i n
mari ne and ri ver defence works and even i n boat
pl anki ng wher e i t gi ves ex cel l ent ser vi ce
provi ded that i t remai ns saturated wi th water.
Wood can survive for many centuries in marshy
areas in this way, although unfortunately there
are other chemi cal changes that sl owl y take
pl ace so that the recovery of archaeol ogi cal
wood presents special problems.
Structural design
The most widely used preservation system is to
ensure that wood remai ns dry by taki ng
appropri ate structural precauti ons. Thus
buildings are designed with roofs to protect the
structure from rainfall. Projecting eaves, gutters
and fal l pi pes are al l devi ces to ensure that
rainwater is dispersed clear of the structure. Walls
are designed to resist penetrating rain, perhaps
through cavi ty constructi on. Rai nwater i s sti l l
absorbed by the outer layers of walls constructed
from porous materi al s and damp-proof
membranes, flashings and soakers are provided to
ensure that this dampness cannot penetrate to the
i nter i or. Damp-pr oof membr anes are al so
provided to isolate the walls, joists and floors
from dampness rising by capillarity.
These precauti ons are adopted pri mari l y to
ensure that the i nteri or of the bui l di ng remai ns
vi si bl y dry but i t i s essenti al to ex tend the
pri nci pl es to ensure that wood components
remain dry. The main danger areas are wood in
contact wi th porous ex ternal bri ckwork or
masonry such as window and door frames and
roof structures supported on outer wal l s. These
precauti ons are not suffi ci ent i n themsel ves and
i t i s general l y al so necessary to venti l ate dead
spaces under fl oors, i n wal l cavi ti es and roof
spaces, parti cul arl y fl at roofs and frame wal l s.
Unfortunatel y the Bui l di ng Regul ati ons i n the
Uni ted Ki ngdom usual l y l i mi t venti l ati on i n
order to reduce heat l osses so that condensati on
and wood decay probl ems frequentl y occur;
these are di scussed i n more detai l i n the books
Remedial Treatment of Buildings and Defects
and Deterioration in Buildings by the present
author. I t must not be i magi ned that these
Preservation mechanisms
45
probl ems ari se sol el y through mi sconcei ved
regulations, as one of the most common causes
of condensati on under fl oors i s not l i mi ted
venti l ati on but the use of ai r-condi ti oni ng
equi pment wi thi n the l i vi ng space so that fl oor
traffi c surfaces are kept cool duri ng warm
weather and condensati on i s encour aged
beneath, parti cul arl y i n tropi cal areas, causi ng
Wet and Dry rot probl ems si mi l ar to those
encountered in buildings in temperate regions.
Decorative coatings
The si mpl e pr ecauti ons whi ch have been
descri bed are usual l y suffi ci ent to prevent decay
i n the carcassi ng or frami ng components of
bui l di ngs but decay may sti l l occur i n wood
whi ch i s ex posed di rectl y to the weather or
whi ch i s i n contact wi th porous bri ckwork or
masonry exposed to the weather. Reference has
already been made to the difficulties encountered
i n practi ce i n ensuri ng that wi ndow and door
frames are i sol ated from surroundi ng porous
materials by proper damp-proof membranes.
As far as rain is concerned it is normal to rely on
paint or varnish to protect exposed wood surfaces.
Pai nt manufacturers often cl ai m that pai nt
functions as a wood preservative but fluctuations
i n atmospheri c temperature, parti cul arl y
differences in temperature between the interior and
exterior of a building, result in redistribution of the
water within wood window and door frames by
evaporation and condensation so that this water
becomes concentrated immediately beneath the
cooler paint or varnish coat, usually the external
surface during winter weather. Water penetration
through a small damaged area of paint or absorbed
through contact between an inadequately painted
surface and adjacent porous brickwork or masonry
will contribute to the moisture within the wood
until eventually the moisture content reaches a
level at which a fungal attack can develop.
Whi l st i t i s true that an i ntact pai nt fi l m
prevents rai n penetrati on, i t i s equal l y true that
paint traps moisture within the wood. Random
surveys carried out in England have shown that
after a few years most wi ndow frames have
moisture contents of perhaps 20 or 30% around
the joints with the sills, often causing decay. This
probl em i s usual l y due to the fai l ure of the pai nt
at j oi nts where i t i s unabl e to tol erate the
di fferenti al movement between si de-grai n and
end-grai n. In thi s way a crack devel ops whi ch
al l ows water to penetrate but the remai ni ng
pai nt i nhi bi ts evaporati on so that moi sture
accumul ates and decay ul ti matel y occur s.
Coati ng systems may thus acti vel y encourage
decay and i n some countri es i t has become
normal practi ce i n recent years to requi re al l
wi ndow and door frames to be adequatel y
preserved. Al though thi s prevents deteri orati on
of the wood i t i s not the compl ete answer to the
probl em; water accumul ati ons sti l l occur and
therefore damage the adhesi on between the
surface coati ng and the wood. Thi s probl em i s
known as preferenti al wetti ng fai l ure and wi l l be
di scussed l ater i n thi s chapter.
Preservation by isolation
The greatest val ue of pai nt may be to physi cal l y
i sol ate wood from the attacki ng fungus as a
pai nted wood component wi l l appear to the
fungus to be sol i d pai nt. Unfortunatel y the pai nt
film can be penetrated by physical damage—the
devel opment of spl i ts at joi nts, movement of the
wood causi ng spl i ts at edges, and the
devel opment wi thi n the wood of stai ni ng fungi
which can bore outwards through the coating or
al ternati vel y settl e on the coati ng and bore
i nwards. The vari ous methods for avoi di ng these
defects wi l l be descri bed l ater. In pursui ng the
theoretical preservation techniques of isolation it
is apparent that these defects can be best avoided
by i mpregnati on rather than by superfi ci al
surface coati ng. Natural l y i t i s al so better i f the
i mpregnated materi al i s toxi c to the organi sms
that are l i kel y to cause deteri orati on. The use of
tar i s per haps the best ex ampl e of the
devel opment of thi s type of treatment. Tar was
Preservation systems
46
ori gi nal l y appl i ed as a superfi ci al coati ng but
l ater hot tar or i mpregnati on treatments were
adopted to encourage penetration and ultimately
a speci al tar di sti l l ate, creosote, was sel ected for
i ts toxi ci ty towards fungi and i ts rel ati vel y l ow
vi scosi ty. Unfortunatel y al l i sol ati on treatments
necessari l y i nvol ve substanti al al terati ons i n the
appearance of wood and the onl y al ternati ve to
the i sol ati on pri nci pl e i s to adopt one of the
vari ous toxi c systems.
Natural durability
Structural systems to ensure that wood remai ns
dry represent the most i mportant and most
wi del y used preservati on processes but there are
si tuati ons where these cannot be used, such as
where wood i s exposed di rectl y to the weather,
ground contact or other hazardous conditions. It
i s possi bl e to fi nd woods whi ch possess natural
r esi stance to al most al l bi odeter i or ati ng
agenci es; an i ndi cati on of the durabi l i ty of these
woods whi ch are most wi del y used i s gi ven i n
Appendix A. Generally, heartwood is much more
durabl e than sapwood and those speci es wi th
darker coloured and denser woods are usually
most durable. Denser woods are less porous with
more wood substance and l ess access for water
and oxygen, while darker coloured woods often
contai n extracts whi ch may be toxi c to decay
fungi or r esi ns whi ch may r educe water
absor pti on. Unfor tunatel y these gener al
pri nci pl es do not al ways appl y. Thus resi nous
Scots pi ne or spruce i s more durabl e than l ess
resinous Silver fir, yet resinous Weymouth pine is
not as durabl e as l ess resi nous l arch. Resi n
content i s evi dentl y not the enti re story and
certai nl y cannot account for the durabi l i ty of
most hardwoods.
The densi ty pr i nci pl e i s al so fr equentl y
contr adi cted. Cer tai nl y the dr y densi ty of
suscepti bl e sapwood i s i nvari abl y l ess than that
of more durable heartwood, yet very low-density
Western Red cedar i s much more durabl e than
some heavi er softwoods. The cedar i s darker due
to the presence of extracti ves whi ch are known
to be tox i c but i t i s cl ear that the natural
durabi l i ty i s not due to thi s al one but to a
combination of numerous factors. Unfortunately
durabi l i ty i s not al ways consi stent wi thi n a
speci es, al though i t i s someti mes possi bl e to
judge probabl e durabi l i ty just by col our and
densi ty. For ex ampl e, i n Scots pi ne the best
durabi l i ty i s associ ated wi th sl ow growth and
al so wi th greater densi ty and darker col our.
In al l cases natural durabi l i ty i s a measure of
resi stance to decay; there are no woods that are
compl etel y durabl e i n al l ci rcumstances as i t i s
cl earl y necessary that nature shoul d be abl e to
di spose of dead trees, but the sel ecti on of
natural l y durabl e wood i s a techni cal l y real i sti c
way to avoi d an unacceptabl e r ate of
deteri orati on and thus ensures the l i fe of a
str uctur e. For ex ampl e, the hear twood of
European oak i s frequentl y used for fence posts
and Western Red cedar i s used for wi ndow
frames, greenhouses and ex ternal cl addi ng.
Unfortunately the use of naturally durable wood
i s not al ways possi bl e; even i f suppl i es are
avai l abl e the non-dur abl e sapwood cannot
al ways be rejected. It i s frequentl y more real i sti c
and l ess ex pensi ve to sel ect wood for i ts
desi rabl e physi cal or aestheti c properti es and
then appl y preservati on treatment i n order to
ensure its durability.
Toxic preservation
Creosote has already been described as a wood
preservati ve, devel oped from the i sol ati on
pr i nci pl e wher e r el i abi l i ty i s i mpr oved by
impregnation and by the use of a material that is
toxi c to the attacki ng organi sm. Al l i sol ati on
techniques result in a fundamental change in the
appearance of wood and may be aestheti cal l y
unacceptable or even dirty, limiting their uses.
The obvi ous al ternati ve i s to abandon the
i sol ati on pr i nci pl e wi th hi gh r etenti ons of
materials of low toxicity and adopt instead low
retentions of compounds of very high toxicity.
Preservation mechanisms
47
Although creosote possesses only limited toxicity
i ts retenti ons can be reduced for many uses,
achi evi ng cheaper and cl eaner treatments.
Or i gi nal l y, cr eosote was onl y appl i ed i n
impregnation plants by the full-cell system which
i s desi gned to achi eve the maxi mum retenti on
possi bl e but for many purposes empty-cel l
systems are now adopted which, whilst achieving
almost the same penetration, reduce retentions by
perhaps 40%; impregnation systems are described
later in this chapter and creosote treatments are
described in detail in Chapter 4.
There are many di fferent toxi c preservati on
systems. I n pri nci pl e, a preservati ve can be
fungistatic in the sense that it can prevent the
fungus from attacki ng the wood but wi l l not
necessarily kill the fungus. In contrast, in remedial
treatment wood preservation, where fungus may
al ready be present, a preservati ve must have
fungicidal properties in order to ensure eradication.
Most preservative systems rely on a direct toxic
fungicidal action and on absorption by the fungus
of toxic materials in sufficient quantities to prove
fatal. Whilst this absorption is taking place some
minor damage may be caused to the wood and
some of the preservati ve components may be
removed i nto the dyi ng fungus. An adequate
reservoi r of fungi ci de i s therefore essenti al to
provide the required treatment-life in situations
where there is continuous fungal attack as in posts
and poles in ground contact. Thus the treatment
must be permanent with good resistance to losses
by leaching, volatilization and oxidation, yet it
must remain available to the attacking fungus. The
simplest toxic system may involve a compound of
low solubility which, if applied at high retentions,
will give an adequate life even when exposed to
l i mi ted l eachi ng. At the same ti me the l i mi ted
solubility will be sufficient to ensure that if the
treated wood becomes damp an attacking fungus
will encounter a toxic solution. The best example
of this type of treatment is the Timbor borate
system which is applied either by diffusion into wet
greenwood or by conventi onal pressure
impregnation into dry wood. Timbor is a highly
soluble sodium borate but the sodium ions are
progressively neutralized by atmospheric carbon
dioxide to give a boric acid deposit of relatively
low solubility. Treatments of this type are suitable
for situations where severe leaching is unlikely,
such as within buildings where the decay risk is
general l y associ ated wi th ei ther rai nwater or
pl umbi ng l eaks whi ch are recti fi ed when they
become apparent, or condensation where leaching
rarely occurs.
Fixation
One way to achi eve good resi stance to l eachi ng
i s to make use of a preservati ve deposi t whi ch i s
i nsol ubl e i n water but sol ubl e i n the presence of
a fungal enzyme. In some cases pH alone may be
involved. For example, the enzymes exuded by
Basi di omycete hyphae are usual l y aci d and
therefore requi re a preservati ve that i s sol ubl e i n
the presence of aci ds. However, thi s creates the
probl em that the preservati ve may al so be made
sol ubl e i f the treated wood i s natural l y aci d or i f
i t i s i n contact wi th aci d ground-water. A further
poi nt of i nterest wi th regard to pH i s that
enzymes may function only in acid conditions, so
that wood wi th a hi gh pH may have excel l ent
resi stance to decay. Thi s pri nci pl e has been
appl i ed i n the preservati on of wood chi p pi l es at
pul p mi l l s by treatment wi th sodi um hydroxi de,
although the same system cannot be used as a
general wood preservati ve because of the causti c
danger and the col our changes that resul t.
However, some fungi ci des such as the vari ous
phenol s are di sti nctl y more toxi c when appl i ed
as hi gh pH al kal i metal phenates than when
applied as phenols.
One further effect of pH is its influence on
spore germi nati on. The spores of most wood-
destroyi ng Basi di omycetes germi nate most
reliably in slightly acid conditions, ensuring that
germination occurs only on a wood surface which
is acid when it is damp. In some cases the acid
conditions are virtually essential for germination
as in the cases of the Dry rot fungus, Serpula
Preservation systems
48
lacrymans, and it can be suggested that this may
be because the fungus wishes to ensure that its
spores can germinate only on wood which has
al ready been subject to earl i er Wet rot attack
whi ch generates the r equi red aci di ty. For
example, a plumbing leak in a building may result
in a steady high moisture content in wood which
will permit the development of a Wet rot such as
Coniophora puteana but thi s fungus wi l l be
inhibited if the leak is repaired and the moisture
content decreases. As the activity of the Wet rot
ceases the moi sture content wi l l become more
suitable for the germination of the spores of Dry
rot, and thi s germi nati on wi l l be di sti nctl y
encouraged by the acidity of the wood caused by
the Wet rot attack. An interesting point about this
progression of events is that it apparently ensures
the development of Dry rot in drying conditions
in which this fungus alone is able to survive; if
ventilation is restricted Dry rot can maintain the
atmospheric humidity at the optimum for growth
by exuding moisture on the superficial hyphae.
Detoxification
A Basi di omycete hypha ex udes an enzyme
sol uti on whi ch attacks the surroundi ng wood
and the sol uti on of the wood components
obtai ned i n thi s way i s then absorbed by the
hypha for nouri shment. The ti p of the hypha
grows progressi vel y i nto a cavi ty that i s formed
i n advance by thi s enzyme acti vi ty. A fungi ci dal
preservati ve treatment may restri ct the abi l i ty of
the enzymes to decay the surrounding woods, as
i n the case of a hi gh pH tr eatment, or
al ternati vel y the enzyme may di ssol ve a toxi c
deposi t whi ch i s then absorbed i nto the hypha,
perhaps resul ti ng i n the death of the fungus.
However, if a fungus which is well established on
untreated wood spreads i nto a treated area i t
may have suffi ci ent ener gy to tol er ate the
absor pti on of the tox i cant, per haps by
converti ng i t to a non-toxi c form. Thus copper
may be detoxified by the formation of copper
oxal ate, a process that i s often apparent on
wood treated with copper naphthenate solution
as the characteri sti c green col our di sappears a
short di stance i n advance of the vi si bl e spread of
the fungal hyphae. Detox i fi cati on r equi r es
energy and sl ow decay sti l l occurs, so that the
preservati ve treatment i s enti rel y wasted.
Test methods
Failure of a preservative treatment in this way is
not necessarily an indication that the preservative
is unsuitable but usually that it has been applied
at an inadequate retention and that the fungus has
been able to develop on untreated wood, perhaps
exposed by cross-cutting, drilling or other wood-
worki ng, after treatment. Al ternati vel y i t i s
possi bl e that moi sture content changes have
resulted in the development of splits or checks
which have permitted fungus to penetrate through
the treated zone; it is essential that all preservative
treatments should penetrate to a sufficient extent
to avoid this danger. These factors must be clearly
appreci ated i n any attempt to test wood
preservatives. Normal laboratory testing methods
invariably involve the establishment of a toxic
limit or the retention at which the fungus is just
controlled. Spores have little spare energy and
germination is thus readily prevented on a treated
surface, resulting in a low toxic limit. A slightly
higher toxic limit generally occurs if treated wood
is exposed to fungus with a limited energy source
as in the European test EN 113 (British Standard
6009) in which treated wood blocks are exposed
to a fungal culture on malt agar. A higher toxic
limit is established where the fungus is spreading
from an untreated wooden block which provides
a more generous energy reserve as i n the
Ameri can and Nordi c tests where the treated
bl ock i s pl aced on top of an untreated feeder
bl ock. I t i s obvi ousl y desi rabl e to ensure
maximum reliability for any preservative system
and these feeder block tests must be preferred as
other tests may gi ve unreal i sti cal l y l ow toxi c
limits. In fact preservative approval systems are
general l y based on prol onged stake tri al s i n
Preservation mechanisms
49
natural ground contact condi ti ons, and
l aboratory tests are used onl y to assess the
preservative activity of individual toxicants or a
newly developed formulation in comparison with
an establ i shed preservati ve whi ch i s known to
perform reliably in actual service.
Whi l st referri ng to test methods i t i s worth
noti ng that i t i s establ i shed practi ce i n many
l aboratori es to assess new wood preservati ve
fungi ci des by di spersi ng them i n mal t agar and
ex posi ng them to fungi . Thi s method i s
compl etel y unreal i sti c as many toxi cants are
substantive on wood and may be detoxified by
thi s process of fi xati on. Thi s affi ni ty of some
toxi cants for wood i s one method of fi xati on but
there may be other complex chemical processes
i nvol ved before fi xati on occurs and i t i s essenti al
that preservati ve chemi cal s shoul d al ways be
assessed as a treatment on wood and never
al one. I t has al ready been expl ai ned that, i n
addi ti on, the spread of a fungus from untreated
to treated wood represents the most severe ri sk
because of the abi l i ty of the fungus to use energy
fr om the untr eated wood to detox i fy the
toxi cant. The i ni ti al hyphae from germi nati ng
spores do not have access to such energy reserves
and are therefore more readi l y control l ed. Some
fungi ci des, parti cul arl y types devel oped for
agri cul tural use, are extremel y effi ci ent as spore
ger mi nati on i nhi bi tor s but thi s does not
necessarily mean that they are equally efficient in
resi sti ng the detoxi fi cati on mechani sms that are
avai l abl e to a wel l -establ i shed growth.
Application systems
Some wood preservati ve systems rel y on a
r el ati vel y super fi ci al tr eatment appl i ed by
brushi ng, sprayi ng or di ppi ng. Any treatment
wi th l i mi ted penetrati on i s l i kel y to be rel ati vel y
i neffi ci ent where there i s a danger of spl i ts
devel opi ng through movement resul ti ng from
changes i n moi sture content, as descri bed i n
Chapter 2. Thi s danger i s parti cul arl y acute
where the treatment i s exposed to rai nfal l , as
water is then trapped at the base of a split where,
as evaporati on i s restri cted, i t can be absorbed
i nto the adjacent unprotected wood and can
cr eate i deal condi ti ons for both spor e
germi nati on and fungal devel opment. Even i n
the absence of spl i ts superfi ci al treatments can
provi de onl y l i mi ted protecti on agai nst fungal
attack as i n many cases hyphae wi l l be abl e to
penetrate through the treated zone, someti mes
causi ng decay of untreated wood beneath.
Repellants
This hyphal invasion can be prevented only by
the use of preservati ve systems wi th a di rect
toxi c acti on or a repel l ent acti on; a repel l ent
fungi ci de i nhi bi ts growth at a di stance because i t
reaches the fungal hyphae by vol ati l i zati on or
l eachi ng. The most effi ci ent systems for
superfi ci al treatments are certai nl y those whi ch
make use of fungi ci des whi ch have good
resi stance to both l eachi ng and vol ati l i zati on but
whi ch become toxi c i n the presence of a fungal
enzyme. Another i mportant feature of effi ci ent
superfi ci al treatments i s the use of penetrati ng
solvents, particularly non-polar organic solvents,
for the treatment of dry wood. These basi c
pr i nci pl es ar e al so appl i cabl e to r emedi al -
treatment wood preservati ves.
Persistence
Organi c sol vent preservati on systems general l y
i nvol ve the deposi ti on of the toxi cant as the
solvent disperses by volatilization. The toxicants
that are usual l y appl i ed i n thi s way are sel ected
for thei r sol ubi l i ty i n the carri er sol vent system
and thi s general l y means that they are rel ati vel y
i nsol ubl e i n water and thus resi stant to l osses by
l eachi ng, al though they must possess some
sol ubi l i ty i n water or i n fungal enzyme systems
i n order to functi on as fungi ci des. The vol ati l i ty
of or gani c compounds depends on sever al
factor s but mol ecul ar wei ght i s the most
i mportant. Lower vol ati l i ty i s associ ated wi th
Preservation systems
50
hi gher mol ecul ar wei ght but al so usual l y l ower
acti vi ty so that i t i s necessar y to sel ect
compounds possessing optimum combinations of
permanence and activity.
In many cases a series of organic compounds is
available with progressively changing properties
in terms of toxicity, volatility and water solubility.
For example, the chlorination of phenol typically
results in compounds containing from one to six
chlorine atoms. Generally the toxicity increases
wi th the degree of chl ori nati on but wi th an
effecti ve opti mum fungi ci dal acti vi ty at the
pentachl orophenol . As i ncreasi ng chl ori nati on
also reduces volatility and water solubility it will
be apparent that the pentachlorphenol is therefore
the preferred compound, achi evi ng opti mum
properti es of acti vi ty and permanence. I n the
chl ori nati on of naphthal ene the opti mum
fungi ci dal acti vi ty occur s at onl y the
dichloronaphthalene which is distinctly volatile
and possesses limited permanence, but stomach
poison insecticidal activity is still apparent in the
tetrachl oronaphthal ene whi ch i s much more
permanent and this compound has therefore often
been used as a persistent insecticide in organic-
solvent wood preservative formulations.
In al l cases the surface deposi ts may be l ost
rel ati vel y rapi dl y by vol ati l i zati on but the rate of
l oss of the total preservati ve deposi t steadi l y
decreases as the deeper deposi ts di sperse much
more sl owl y. The rate of l oss depends on the
di ffusi on gradi ent between the deposi t and the
free atmosphere, the gradi ent bei ng shal l ower
for deposi ts vol ati l i zi ng at i ncreasi ng depths, so
that the permanence of a vol ati l e treatment
depends directly on penetration.
Fixation
These comments appl y to si mpl e deposi ts of
organi c compounds wi thi n treated wood but
some organi c systems i nvol ve more compl ex
fi x ati on. For ex ampl e, copper naphthenate
treatment suffers for an extended peri od from
the characteri sti c odour of the appreci abl y
vol ati l e naphtheni c aci d whi ch i s l i berated by
sl ow hydrol ysi s. At the same ti me the copper
becomes fi x ed wi thi n the cel l wal l s and
compl etel y resi stant to l eachi ng, al though i t can
be made sol ubl e and detox i fi ed by fungal
enzymes. One practical problem with a system of
thi s type i nvol ves eval uati on. In short-term tests
the naphtheni c aci d remai ns and contri butes
substanti al l y to the acti vi ty but i n l ong-term
ser vi ce the naphtheni c aci d i s l ost and
pr eser vati on i s r el i abl e onl y i f ther e i s an
adequate retenti on of copper. Thi s i s certai nl y
the reason why many older copper naphthenate
treatments proved i neffi ci ent and were acti vel y
detoxi fi ed by fungal growth; the retenti ons had
been cal cul ated on the basi s of short-term
results, influenced by the naphthenic acid residue
and not on the basi s of l ong-term servi ce tri al s.
Chemical modification
The copper radical is a cation but there are many
other cati ons whi ch can preserve the cel l ul ose
structure i n cel l wal l s. Zi nc i s often used,
parti cul arl y where a col ourl ess preservati ve i s
preferred i n pl ace of a green copper product.
Another cation that is now widely used is tri-n-
butyl ti n, a hi ghl y acti ve radi cal whi ch fi x es
strongly to cellulose and is thus very resistant to
leaching. In fact fixation is so good that some
fungal hyphae can grow through the treated zone.
This is not achieved through detoxification of the
tri-n-butyltin but through failure of the fungal
enzymes to activate the system. The treated wood
does not decay despite the absence of toxicity and
it is clear that the tri-n-butyltin has acted in a
completely different way, modifying the substrate
so that i t has become resi stant to the fungal
enzyme system. Studies of tri-n-butyltin systems
suggest that two groups are requi red for each
cellulose chain, and at this ratio the cellulose is
resistant to decay but hyphal invasion is able to
occur. Unfortunately the lignin components in the
wood remain unprotected so that some White rot
fungi are still able to cause limited decay. One
Preservation mechanisms
51
way to prevent hyphal invasion and White rot
decay is to use higher retentions of tri-n-butyltin
but another alternative is to use a preservative
formul ati on contai ni ng an addi ti onal toxi cant
such as a phenol which is particularly efficient in
protecting the lignin.
Throughout thi s di scussi on, detai l ed reference
has been made onl y to the tri -n-butyl ti n cati on.
In fact there are a vari ety of al kyl - and aryl ti n
cati ons avai l abl e but, as i s expl ai ned i n Chapter
4, tri -butyl ti n represents the opti mum cati on.
These organoti n compounds are avai l abl e as
hal i des, acetates naphthenates, etc. but the
choi ce of ani on i s uni mportant unl ess i t i s toxi c
in itself as all these compounds tend to hydrolyse
to the ox i de, so that tri -n-butyl ti n ox i de i s
general l y the most economi c way to i ntroduce
thi s cati on i nto a preservati ve formul ati on.
It is interesting to note that tri-n-butyltin oxide
was first considered as a wood preservative as a
result of fungicide tests in the laboratory, yet it is
detoxified in the presence of wood and performs
as a wood preservative only through its ability to
modi fy cel l ul ose, unl ess excessi ve l oadi ngs are
used to ensure that unreacted compound i s
present. This clearly illustrates the need to include
wood i n any l aboratory assessment of new
compounds. It will also be appreciated that wood
preservati ves are not necessari l y toxi c and a
candidate compound need not be rejected simply
because it does not possess fungicidal activity.
Acetylation has been considered as a method for
stabilizing wood and it has been found that it also
functions as a preservative, but it is not a toxic
system and will function reliably only on woods
that are sufficiently permeable to be impregnated
throughout their thickness.
Toxic precipitates
Aqueous preservati ve systems must possess a
fixation mechanism as there is otherwise a danger
of l oss through l eachi ng whenever damp
conditions occur. Indeed, an aqueous preservative
whi ch l acks a fi x ati on system i s enti r el y
unsui tabl e for use agai nst Basi di omycete fungi
which represent a risk only when the conditions
are damp and when there is therefore a danger of
l eachi ng. Aqueous preservati ves can achi eve
fixation in several different ways but many have
been designed, at least initially, to give insoluble
preci pi tates wi thi n wood. Copper can be
sol ubi l i zed i n ammoni um sol uti on and
subsequentl y preci pi tated through l oss of
ammoni a. Sodi um pentachl orophenate i s
preci pi tated as pentachl orophenol through the
neutralization of the sodium ion by absorption of
carbon di oxi de from the atmosphere. I n some
other mul ti sal t formul ati ons preci pi tati on i s
achieved by a double decomposition, typically by
applying a toxic solution such as copper sulphate
followed by a fixation solution such as sodium
chromate to give a precipitate of insoluble copper
chromate. Although this is apparently a realistic
fixation system it does not actually perform in
this way within wood and, whilst it is found that
sodium chromate precipitate is present, it is also
apparent that the copper and chromium are fixed
independently to the wood elements. Indeed it has
been shown that the appl i cati on of copper
sul phate sol uti on al one wi l l achi eve l i mi ted
fixation of copper in this way.
Two-stage tr eatments ar e commerci al l y
unrealistic as they involve double treatment costs
so that modern mul ti sal t preservati ve systems
i nvol ve si ngl e treatments, rel yi ng on l oss of a
vol ati l e component or the i nfl uence of the wood
el ements to achi eve the requi red fi xati on; thi s
wi l l be descr i bed i n gr eater detai l i n the
di scussi on of the fi x ati on of aci d copper-
chr omi um and copper-chr omi um-ar seni c
preservati ves i n Chapter 4. One i nteresti ng
observati on i s that a copper cati on appears to
preserve the cel l ul ose whi l st a chromate ani on
appears to preserve the l i gni n, a system exactl y
paral l el to that descri bed i n connecti on wi th
organi csol vent preservati ves where copper and
tri -n-butyl ti n cati ons were descri bed as cel l ul ose
preservati ves and phenol ani ons were descri bed
as l i gni n preservati ves.
Preservation systems
52
Resistant fungi
It must be emphasized that fixation systems must
achi eve r esi stance onl y to l osses by
vol ati l i zati on, l eachi ng and oxi dati on, l eavi ng
the preservati ve accessi bl e to fungal enzyme
systems or al ternati vel y modi fyi ng the substrate
so that i t i s unaffected by the fungal enzymes. I n
the case of toxi c systems the sensi ti vi ty of the
Basi di omycetes vari es greatl y. Presumabl y the
fungi are l i kel y to be most sensi ti ve to the
toxi cants that are most readi l y sol ubi l i zed by
their enzyme systems and most resistant to those
that they are most readi l y abl e to detox i fy,
perhaps by ox al ate formati on. For ex ampl e,
Coniophora puteana i s r esi stant to many
preservati ve tox i cants and, as i t al so occurs
wi del y and causes substanti al damage, i t shoul d
al ways be i ncl uded i n l abor ator y tests to
eval uate preservati ves. Lentinus lepideus i s
known to be resi stant to tar-oi l s whi l st Lenzites
trabea is resistant to arsenic and Poria species to
copper ; i n i ni ti al l abor ator y eval uati on of
preservati ves contai ni ng these toxi c components
the appropri ate resi stant fungi shoul d al ways be
employed.
Soft rot tolerance
The Soft r otti ng Ascomycetes and fungi
Imperfecti i are general l y control l ed i n the same
way as the Basi di omycetes but thei r di sti nctl y
di ffer ent behavi our causes some unusual
di ffi cul ti es. The Soft rots were fi rst di scovered i n
Britain as a result of extensive investigations into
the fai l ure of wood fi l l i n water cool i ng towers.
Thi s fi l l consi sted of softwood i mpregnated wi th
Wol man (FCAP) sal t-type preservati ves but
deteri orati on had sti l l occurred under the warm
saturated conditions and the cause could not be
identified. The decay commenced on the external
surface of the sl ats, produci ng the surface
softeni ng that i s characteri sti c of thi s form of
decay. There was a compl ete absence of
superfi ci al vi si bl e fungal growth but eventual l y
hyphae were i denti fi ed wi thi n the cel l wal l s. As
the hyphae wer e vi si bl e onl y under the
mi croscope the organi sms were at fi rst descri bed
as micro-fungi.
It was soon established that these Soft rotting
fungi were resi stant to several types of
preservatives, particularly the fluorine types widely
used at that time. It was also observed that cooling
tower fi l l treated wi th copper-chromi um
preservatives was generally free from serious Soft
rot attack, and the ultimate solution to the cooling
tower problem was to treat all softwood fill with
copper-chromium or preferably copper-chromium-
arseni c preservati ves, the arseni c content
i mprovi ng preservati on agai nst the copper-
resistant Poria species that are encountered in the
drier components of the towers, such as structural
supports and mist eliminator slats.
I t has si nce been observed that ground-l i ne
attack i n pol es i s often l argel y caused by Soft rot
fungi . Whi l st copper-chr omi um-ar seni c
pr eser vati ves ar e r easonabl y effi ci ent i n
preventi ng Soft rots i n softwoods they are not so
effi ci ent i n hardwoods, a seri ous probl em i n
Austral i a where Eucalyptus pol es are extensi vel y
used. Damage i s parti cul arl y severe i n tropi cal
areas and can be attri buted l argel y to the fact
that al though the copper-chromi um-arseni c
pr eser vati ve has been di str i buted on al l
accessi bl e surfaces wi thi n the wood, i t has not
deepl y penetrated the cel l wal l so that the Soft
rot mi cro-fungi are abl e to expl ore wi thi n the
cel l wal l wi thout bei ng affected by the
preservati ve treatment. Thi s mi cro-di stri buti on
probl em i s a matter of very seri ous concern and
the subject of extensi ve current research.
Staining fungi
The control of stai ni ng fungi presents enti rel y
di ffer ent pr obl ems. These fungi i nvar i abl y
devel op on the sugar and starch cel l contents
wi thout affecti ng the cel l wal l s or the structural
strength of the wood. A preservative that fixes to
the cel l wal l i s therefore compl etel y i neffecti ve
Preservation mechanisms
53
agai nst stai n fungi whi ch r espond onl y to
preservati ves whi ch can exert an i nfl uence over
the cel l contents.
Stain in greenwood
There are two separate stai n-control probl ems.
The first problem concerns the development of
stai n i n freshl y fel l ed greenwood possessi ng a
hi gh moi sture content. It i s frequentl y suggested
that stai n can be avoi ded by rapi d ki l n-dryi ng
but the rate of moi sture content reducti on i s
often too sl ow and the el evated temperatures
frequentl y encourage heavy stai n devel opment
before dryi ng eventual l y achi eves control . I f
dryi ng i s suffi ci entl y rapi d to prevent stai n
devel opment the cel l s are ki l l ed by the el evated
temperatures before they have been abl e to
uti l i ze the sugar and starch cel l contents, so that
there i s then a di sti nct danger that stai n wi l l
redevel op i f the wood subsequentl y becomes
damp.
Some stai n-control treatments rel y on spore
germi nati on control or di rect toxi ci ty to hyphal
i nvasi on. Pentachl or ophenol i s one of the
toxi cants that has been most wi del y used i n
stai n-control treatments; i t has the advantage of
bei ng sl i ghtl y sol ubl e i n water and al so sl i ghtl y
vol ati l e so that i t i s abl e to di ffuse to a l i mi ted
extent and achieve some control beyond the limit
of physi cal penetrati on. Thi s abi l i ty to exert a
di stant acti on i s parti cul arl y i mportant as stai n
control treatments are general l y superfi ci al di p
or spray appl i cati ons as more deepl y penetrati ng
treatments cannot be justi fi ed as onl y temporary
protecti on i s requi red.
Freshl y fel l ed wood has a very hi gh moi sture
content and i t i s therefore normal to appl y the
treatments in the form of an aqueous solution, so
that pentachl orophenol i s general l y used as
sodium pentachlorophenate. The sodium ion is
rapi dl y neutral i zed by the natural aci di ty of the
wood and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere but
i t sti l l ensures an i ncrease i n the pH of the
treated wood whi ch enhances the acti vi ty of the
pentachl orophenol . I ndeed, the addi ti on of
excess sodium hydroxide, sodium carbonate or
sodium tetraborate ensures the maintenance of a
hi gh pH and much greater effi cacy, so that a
rel i abl e treatment can be achi eved at far l ower
pentachl orophenol retenti ons. The most effi ci ent
treatment is probably a combination of sodium
pentachlorophenate and sodium tetraborate, the
borate provi di ng effi ci ent pH control but al so
functi oni ng as an addi ti onal tox i cant and
broadeni ng the spectrum of acti vi ty of the
system.
Borate gives excellent control of many staining
fungi but unfortunately allows other fungi and
particularly surface moulds to develop if it is used
al one. The addi ti on of a l i mi ted amount of
pentachl orophenol i s suffi ci ent to avoi d these
problems; a system containing only about 20% of
the normal pentachlorophenol content provides a
safer, less expensive and more reliable treatment
than sodi um pentachl orophenate al one.
Organomercury compounds have also been used
for stain control but they have limited persistence.
Recent developments have included the use of
di spersi ons of i nsol ubl e fungi ci des such as
Captafol and Benomyl, but these are generally far
less efficient than the sodium pentachlorophenate
systems, apparentl y because thei r acti vi ty i s
confined to the superficial surface, a characteristic
which is generally unacceptable as a stain-control
system must prevent the development of internal
stain and not simply keep the surface clean. One
further recent devel opment i s the addi ti on to
stain-control formulations of water repellents and
other components such as polyethylene glycol in
order to reduce the development of splits through
the treated surface and improve the control of
internal stain.
Bark-borers
Stai n-control treatments are general l y appl i ed to
sawnwood i mmedi atel y after conversi on but
there i s al so a danger that stai n may devel op i n
l ogs i f conversi on i s del ayed. Thi s i s a seri ous
Preservation systems
54
probl em i n tropi cal areas where there i s al so a
di sti nct ri sk of bark-borers, parti cul arl y the
Scolytid and Platypodid Ambrosia beetles, which
cause physical damage in addition to introducing
stai n fungi . Logs i n tropi cal forests are therefore
often treated i mmedi atel y after fel l i ng wi th
formul ati ons contai ni ng both stai n control
fungi ci des and contact i nsecti ci des.
Stain in service
Stai n may al so devel op i n ser vi ce thr ough
condensation beneath paint or varnish coatings.
Pr obl ems wi th decor ati ve systems wi l l be
descri bed i n detai l l ater but i t i s appropri ate at
this point to consider the staining problem alone.
The stai n fungi are often the same mi xed speci es
that are responsi bl e for stai n i n freshl y fel l ed
greenwood, al though the same speci es do not
necessari l y domi nate.
Aureobasidium pullulans i s a parti cul arl y
important stain in service. It may develop in wood
through condensation under surface coatings but
i t then attacks the surface coati ng medi um,
eventually causing small unsightly black pustules
to form on the coating surface. The formation of
these pustules is associated with the development
of a hol e through the coati ng whi ch al l ows
rainwater to penetrate and thus to accumulate
beneath the coating. This species is also able to
devel op on the surface of the coati ng, bori ng
through it into the wood beneath.
This is a relatively new problem, at least in
decorati ve pai nt systems i n the Bri ti sh I sl es,
apparently because it has been usual in the past for
primers and undercoats to contain lead pigments
which were sufficiently toxic to control these fungi.
The problem is particularly acute in countries such
as Germany, where it is normal to prime wood
with dilute linseed oil before applying a coating
sustem, thus directly encouraging the development
of Aureobasidium pullulans. Attempts have been
made to treat wood and also to add toxicants to
priming oil systems but generally these precautions
have been relatively ineffective, apparently due to
thei r l i mi ted persi stence. I t i s probabl e that
toxicants or toxic pigments must also be added to
the paint system if comprehensive control of stain
development is to be achieved.
Natural control
There have been several attempts to achi eve
natural control of stai ni ng and wood-destroyi ng
fungi. Some bacteria and mould fungi which are
themsel ves vi rtual l y harml ess can i nhi bi t the
growth of fungi . The most effi ci ent system of
natural control devel oped so far i nvol ves the
i nocul ati on of freshl y fel l ed green sawnwood
wi th the moul d Trichoderma. Unfortunately this
moul d gr owth i s ver y unsi ghtl y but i t i s
superfi ci al and i s removed i f sawnwood i s
subsequentl y machi ned. At thi s stage i t cannot
be envi saged that a natur al l y antagoni sti c
control system wi l l be devel oped whi ch wi l l be
commerci al l y real i sti c, al though structural l y
harml ess bacteri a are al ready used as a means
for i ncr easi ng the per meabi l i ty of spr uce
sapwood whi ch i s usual l y r esi stant to
preservati ve penetrati on, enabl i ng i t to accept
pressure-i mpregnati on preservati ve treatments.
Borer control
Preservation of wood against wood-boring insect
attack i s si mi l ar i n pri nci pl e to preservati on
against wood-decaying fungi but there are several
practical differences. Insects are, of course, far
larger than the exploring hyphae of a fungus. In
addition, an insect is capable of movement and
thanks to thi s abi l i ty and i ts vari ous sensory
organs it is able to select the wood that it will
attack. Wi th a fungus the si tuati on i s qui te
different; spores are dispersed at random and the
developing fungus must then attempt to infect
whatever substrate happens to be avai l abl e.
Despite this fundamental difference between the
two types of attack the principle of isolation is
certainly one of the most important techniques of
preservation in both cases. Surface coatings are
Preservation mechanisms
55
perhaps more effective against insect attack than
against fungi as the development of cracks does
not generally permit wood-borer infestation to
become established, unless the female insect is
able to lay eggs through the defect in the coating
and l arval devel opment can subsequentl y take
place in the wood beneath. This is unlikely as
there is no reason to suppose that an insect can
understand that a coati ng i s conceal i ng wood
which might be an attractive site for egg-laying,
and this slight danger is further reduced if an
i mpregnati on treatment i s used i nstead of a
superficial coating.
Termite shields
Fungal spor es ar e di sper sed wi del y i n the
atmosphere and si mi l arl y wi de-spread damage
can be created by fl yi ng i nsects, but many wood-
bor er s ar e wi ngl ess. The most i mpor tant
wi ngl ess group i s probabl y the subterranean
termi tes whi ch can be prevented from i nfesti ng
bui l di ng wood by the provi si on of physi cal
shi el ds whi ch they are unabl e to negoti ate; these
shi el ds are descri bed i n Chapter 5. Termi te
shi el ds suffer from the seri ous di sadvantage that
a sl i ght error such as subsequentl y i nstal l ed
pl umbi ng or wi ri ng can render them enti rel y
usel ess. For thi s reason i t i s more usual to
prevent subterranean termi te attack i n bui l di ngs
by soi l poi soni ng. Al though thi s techni que
i nvol ves the use of toxi cants the actual system i s
sti l l a shi el d i nvol vi ng the i sol ati on of structural
woodwork from the source of i nfestati on by
poi soni ng the soi l wi th an i nsecti ci de possessi ng
a repel l ent acti on.
Repellants
With fungi, a repellent action invariably involves
the vol ati l i zati on or sol uti on of the toxi cant to a
suffi ci ent ex tent to affect growth and thus
i nhi bi t the spread of the fungus towards the
treated area, but i nsects have senses and are abl e
to move away i f they di sl i ke the condi ti ons.
General l y, repel l ants affect the ol factory senses
but they do not necessari l y i nvol ve tox i ci ty.
About 200 years ago i t was suggested that snuff
was such an unpl easant materi al that i t woul d
repel any type of borer, al though the resul ts of
actual tests agai nst mari ne borers showed that i t
had no action whatsoever.
Repel l ency i s not confi ned to the ol factory
senses. For exampl e, some speci es of termi te wi l l
not expl ore or even bui l d gal l eri es across whi te
surfaces, and there are many other reports of
i nsects whi ch wi l l not l ay eggs on surfaces of a
parti cul ar col our. It i s al so known that femal e
i nsects frequentl y taste wood before l ayi ng eggs
i n order to ensure that the substrate wi l l be
suitable for the emerging larvae. In the same way
i nsects whi ch bore i n the adul t stages may al so
be di scouraged from causi ng damage, even
wi thout the use of toxi cants. Natural durabi l i ty
agai nst i nsect attack for many tropi cal woods
can be attri buted to thei r hi gh si l i ca content, and
thi s observati on has resul ted i n the si mpl est
method for protecti ng pol yvi nyl chl ori de (PVC)
wi ri ng agai nst termi te attack as the addi ti on of
si l i ca resul ts i n greatl y extended l i fe.
The concept of usi ng si l i ca to prevent borer
attack i s not new; i t was suggested as earl y as
1862 that si l i ca deposi ts shoul d be used to
i mprove resi stance to mari ne borer attack. The
i dea was revi ved i n about 1950 wi th l i ttl e
success, al though thi s may be due to the fai l ure
to deposi t the si l i ca i n the correct form. I t i s
pr obabl e that si l i ca acts as an i r r i tant or
abrasi ve, affecti ng the mouth parts of the borer,
but i n a memorabl e debate at a Bri ti sh Wood
Pr eser vi ng Associ ati on Conventi on i n
Cambridge in 1959 it was suggested that boron
compounds mi ght al so be non-toxi c i n thei r
acti on, perhaps a ‘sharp bori c aci d crystal up the
ovi posi tor’ bei ng the true expl anati on for the
excel l ent resi stance to egg-l ayi ng wi th borate
treatments! Thi s suggesti on may appear to be
r ather amusi ng but wood-bor er i nsecti ci de
devel opment has gener ated even str anger
suggesti ons. Per sons who answer ed an
Preservation systems
56
adverti sement publ i ci zi ng a ‘compl etel y rel i abl e
method for ki l l i ng woodworm’ were sent a smal l
box containing two blocks of wood and a sheet
of i nstructi ons whi ch tol d them to ‘pl ace the
woodworm on the fi rst bl ock and hi t i t wi th the
second bl ock’!
Insect traps
A more serious suggestion involved the exposure
of blocks of alder, a wood species that is very
susceptible to Common Furniture beetle attack.
The intention was to distract egg-laying females
from furniture or structural woodwork, burning
the blocks annually to prevent the development of
a new generation of adult insects. The destruction
of the bl ocks was often forgotten and thei r
presence actually encouraged the infestation.
The sex l i fe of adul t wood-borers has al so
attracted attenti on. Wi th fl yi ng i nsects i t i s
possible to release hormone from a trap which
attracts insects of the opposite sex which can then
be electrocuted or controlled by contact with a
toxic deposit. A more efficient technique is to
sterilize the attracted insects which can then be
released to ensure sterile matings as most female
beetles mate only once. Another serious proposal
for an insecticide is based on the observation that
ki dney tubul e functi on i s sti mul ated by a
particular hormone so that its use may cause the
death of the insect through dehydration, but this
is really a direct toxic insecticide.
It is obvious that wood-borers require wood
but it must be of a suitable species, an appropriate
part of the tree and i n the ri ght condi ti on.
Removal of bark wi l l be suffi ci ent to prevent
attack by borers that are dependent on bark such
as wasps, longhorn beetles, Bostrychids and other
bark-borers, such as Ernobius mollis, and rapid
dryi ng after bark removal wi l l al so i nhi bi t
Ambrosi a beetl es; detai l s of these and other
borers are given in Appendix B. The removal of
the bark is not sufficient to prevent damage by
some borers such as the Lyctids, which generally
attack any large-pored wood containing adequate
starch. Even i f sapwood i s not suscepti bl e to
Lyctids it is usually susceptible to other borers
such as the Anobids but it is entirely unrealistic
today to remove all sapwood in an attempt to
avoid this danger and the only alternative is the
use of toxicants to provide protection.
Toxic preservation
There is no application in wood preservation for
insecticides which must be applied topically in
order to achieve control and it must be generally
assumed that the treatment must achieve control
through contact with treated wood. With contact
i nsecti ci des, control may be achi eved through
si mpl e contact as thei r name i mpl i es. A l arva
boring into treated wood will tend to absorb the
insecticide wherever the body is in contact with
treated wood but the situation is rather different
with an adult beetle which has a hard protective
coveri ng and whi ch may onl y absorb the
insecticide through the mouth or claws. It is not
sufficient to develop an insecticide as it may also
be necessary to provide an access system to the
insect, perhaps involving a special oil which will
enable it to be absorbed through the insect cuticle
or claws, or which will encourage tasting.
In contrast, the stomach insecticides must be
ingested by the insects while boring so that some
damage wi l l occur befor e the i nsect di es,
particularly when an indirect-action toxicant is
involved. Many insects do not possess enzymes
which can convert wood to an absorbable form
and rely instead on intestinal symbionts such as
bacteri a or yeasts. A preservati ve may act by
controlling these symbionts, causing the insect to
die of starvation, but it will continue to eat and
may cause significant damage before death. Many
insects are also encouraged by or dependent on
fungal attack. With some borers such as wood
weevils damage can be prevented by ensuring that
fungal decay is unable to develop. Some termites
attack dry wood, removing it to their nest where
they convert it to food in fungal gardens; wood
treated with a fungicide will eventually destroy
Preservation mechanisms
57
the fungal gardens and control the termite colony
but significant damage may occur before control
is achieved. Even direct-action stomach poisons
can act in many different ways, perhaps affecting
the neural system or alternatively affecting cell
metabolism either by retardation or acceleration.
The availability of adequate energy will permit
detoxification as with fungi, particularly in larger
insects where the available stored energy may be
considerable relative to the absorption of toxicant
from preserved wood, and it is essential to use
adequate retentions of preservatives in order to
achieve reliable control.
I t i s rel ati vel y easy to protect freshl y fel l ed
non-i nfested wood. Any treatment wi l l tend to
di scourage a femal e from l ayi ng eggs, but egg
l arvae are smal l wi th l i mi ted reserves of energy
so that they are very sensi ti ve to toxi cants. It i s
ther efor e best to eval uate pr eser vati ve
treatments usi ng l arger establ i shed l arvae whi ch
are l i kel y to be more resi stant.
Eradicant insecticides
The eradication of an established infestation is
not easy. It is difficult to ensure that the treatment
penetrates sufficiently deeply to be lethal to larger
larvae. Indeed, many eradication treatments rely
simply on preventing the ultimate emergence of
adult beetles which, coupled with the prevention
of egg-l ayi ng, ensures that the i nfestati on wi l l
eventual l y be eradi cated, al though the bori ng
within the wood may be appreciably extended
before this is achieved.
One parti cul ar di ffi cul ty wi th i nsecti ci dal
preservati ves i s to achi eve adequate permanence.
Fi xati on i nvari abl y means a l oss of repel l ent or
contact acti on so that i nsecti ci dal preservati ves
wi th l ong l i fe gener al l y r el y sol el y on a
stomachpoisoning action so that wood must be
i ngested before the i ntesti nal enzyme systems
rel ease the tox i cant, unfortunatel y al l owi ng
some tasti ng damage befor e the bor er i s
eventual l y ki l l ed. I n most cases thi s tasti ng
damage i s i nsi gni fi cant, representi ng a probl em
only when the danger is from very large numbers
of adult insects as with termite attack in tropical
areas and gribble attack marine conditions. In
many cases the er adi cati on of the bor er
i nfestati on i s more i mportant than preservati on
agai nst further attack, parti cul arl y wi th Lycti d
beetl es whi ch attack the sapwood of a l i mi ted
number of hardwoods but only within a short
ti me after fel l i ng and conver si on. Heat
treatments, someti mes formi ng part of a ki l n-
dryi ng cycl e, have been wi del y used to achi eve
eradication although they give no protection and
there i s a normal danger of rei nfestati on.
Heat and fumi gati on treatments have al so
been used agai nst Wood wasps wi th much,
greater success; the wasps l ay eggs onl y through
the bark, so that rei nfestati on of sawnwood i s
i mpossi bl e. The Austr al i an quar anti ne
regulations were originally introduced to prevent
wasp l ar vae i n i mpor ted sawnwood fr om
emergi ng, mati ng and i nfesti ng val uabl e new
coni fer pl antati ons, and both heat and
fumi gati on tr eatments wer e appr oved as
methods for ensuring that imported wood was
free from i nfestati on. Whi l e these are exampl es
of eradi cati on probl ems encountered wi th new
wood, i t wi l l be appreci ated that remedi al in-situ
pr eser vati on tr eatment i s necessar y wher e
i nfestati ons have become establ i shed i n, for
ex ampl e, bui l di ngs and boats; whi l st the
formul ati ons typi cal l y used for these treatments
are descri bed i n Chapter 4, the techni ques
i nvol ved are hi ghl y speci al i zed and are descri bed
by the author i n mor e detai l i n the book
Remedial Treatment of Buildings.
Natural control
Even very acti ve i nfestati ons of wood-bori ng
i nsects have been known to di e out natural l y
wi thout the need for remedi al preservati on
treatment. I n many cases thi s control can be
attr i buted to the acti on of par asi tes and
predators—these are descri bed more ful l y i n
Appendi x B. The best known predator i s
Preservation systems
58
Korynetes coeruleus, a handsome metallic-blue
beetl e that i s often found i n associ ati on wi th
heavy i nfestati ons of the Death Watch beetl e.
Amongst the parasites, mites are most frequently
found, particularly in Powder Post and Common
Furniture beetle infestations, both of which also
support minute ant-like parasites. Whilst these
predators and parasites can eliminate infestations
naturally, they cannot be realistically harnessed as
a method of ei ther preservati on or even
eradi cati on. The onl y possi bl e method of
bi ol ogi cal control that has yet been devi sed i s
based on the observati on that the bacteri um
Bacillus thuringiensis i s frequentl y found i n
association with termite colonies in decline, and it
has been found that si mi l ar decl i ne can be
induced in otherwise healthy colonies when it is
i ntr oduced. Bacter i a ar e ver y r esi stant to
inhospitable conditions and it is therefore possible
to envisage a deposit of this bacterium on wood
which would become active only through direct
contact with a suitable host insect.
Dampness general l y resul ts i n fungal decay i n
wood and thi s encourages the devel opment of
i nsect borer i nfestati ons; a general -purpose
preservati ve shoul d not be fungi ci dal al one but
shoul d al so be i nsecti ci dal . In the same way an
i nsecti ci dal pr eser vati ve shoul d pr efer abl y
contai n fungi ci des to reduce the danger that a
fungal devel opment wi l l encourage unusual
borer acti vi ty. There are few si tuati ons where a
single-action preservative can be clearly justified,
per haps fungi ci dal pr oper ti es al one bei ng
essenti al i n wet mi ni ng condi ti ons whi l st an
i nsecti ci de al one mi ght be j usti fi ed for the
protecti on of furni shi ngs. In the case of freshl y
fel l ed green wood a fungi ci de i s frequentl y
applied to avoid sapstain damage, although in
tropi cal condi ti ons and i nsecti ci de i s often
added, as the stai n i nfecti on i s i ntroduced by
pi nhol e bor er s whi ch car r y spor es of the
Ambrosi a fungus whi ch i nfects the wal l s of the
gal l eri es and ul ti matel y becomes the food for
hatchi ng l arvae. Cl earl y thi s fungal i nfecti on i s
dependent on hi gh moi stur e content and
protecti on i s requi red onl y for the comparati vel y
short peri od unti l the wood i s too dry to support
the stai ni ng fungi . I n thi s type of si tuati on a
stomach i nsecti ci de i s general l y unsui tabl e as
tasti ng damage can occur—before dyi ng an
i nsect may penetrate through the superfi ci al
pr otecti ve tr eatment, al l owi ng deep stai n
development to occur although the surface might
appear to be enti rel y cl ean.
Marine preservation
Mari ne borer preservati ves general l y functi on i n
the same manner as those i ntended to gi ve
protecti on agai nst wood-bori ng i nsects and
decay fungi . Preservati ves agai nst crustacean
borers operate in precisely the same way as those
agai nst i nsect borers, functi oni ng as repel l ants,
contact toxi cants or stomach poi sons. I ndeed,
one feature i s the excel l ent acti vi ty of contact
i nsecti ci des such as the organochl ori ne and
pyr ethr oi d compounds agai nst cr ustacean
borers, presumabl y because the i nsecta and
crustacea are cl osel y rel ated, both bei ng i n the
phylum Arthropoda.
Sur pr i si ngl y l i ttl e use i s made of thi s
observati on and these contact i nsecti ci des are
rarel y used i n commerci al mari ne borer
preservatives. This may be due to the fact that
these toxicants are virtually inactive against the
molluscan borers such as Teredo species which
behave in an entirely different manner. The larvae
of these borers are minute and capable of little
movement so that they are distributed in the sea
in a random manner similar to fungal spores in
the atmosphere. If they settle on a suitable wood
substrate they metamorphose and ul ti matel y
develop into a borer concealed within the wood,
but it is not clear whether the borer derives much
or even any nourishment from the wood which it
r emoves to pr ovi de a gal l er y for i ts
accommodation. The main requirement is for a
preservati ve treatment whi ch wi l l prevent the
metamorphosis of the settling larva and this is
often achi eved wi th pr eser vati ves that ar e
Preservation mechanisms
59
consi dered to be predomi nantl y fungi ci dal i n
acti on, such as creosote. I n contrast, creosote
gi ves l i ttl e protecti on agai nst the crustacean
borers such as Limnoria species which are able to
cause significant damage before they are affected
so that eventual l y the treated l ayer crumbl es
away, perhaps exposing untreated wood beneath.
Al l tox i c mar i ne pr eser vati ves must be
compl etel y r esi stant to l eachi ng to gi ve
reasonabl e l i fe to treated wood, al though wi th
the excepti on of the contact i nsecti ci des thi s
necessari l y means that some tasti ng damage
must occur before attacki ng crustacean borers
are affected. I n practi ce the tasti ng damage i s
kept to a minimum by using very high loadings
of stomach i nsecti ci des whi ch wi l l ensure death
before si gni fi cant damage can occur. Non-toxi c
pr eser vati ves have al so been consi der ed,
parti cul arl y si l i ca deposi ts i n wood, an i dea that
ori gi nates from the observati on that many
natural l y durabl e woods possess hi gh si l i ca
contents. Trials have not been entirely successful,
as menti oned ear l i er i n connecti on wi th
preservati ve systems agai nst i nsect borers, but i t
i s probabl e that the si l i ca must be deposi ted i n a
par ti cul ar cr ystal l i ne for m i f the desi r ed
protecti on i s to be achi eved.
Decorative coatings
Al though they are general l y appl i ed for aestheti c
reasons, decorati ve systems such as pai nt and
varni sh coati ngs are often cl ai med to have
preservati ve val ue. I t was expl ai ned earl i er i n
thi s chapter that ther e ar e two poi nts of
weakness wi th coati ng systems. Mi nor
i mperfecti ons due to di sconti nuous appl i cati on,
damage or very thi n coati ngs on sharp edges,
and i nadequate pai nt appl i ed on conceal ed
surfaces i n contact wi th damp bri ckwork and
masonry, may permi t l i mi ted absorpti on of
water whi ch i s then trapped beneath the coati ng
where i t accumul ates. There i s a danger that
fungal decay wi l l eventual l y devel op, al though
thi s i s perhaps l ess l i kel y than preferenti al
wetti ng; wood i s hydrophi l i c so i t prefers to be
covered with water rather than with a non-polar
oi l such as a normal coati ng system, so that
accumul ati on of water beneath a coati ng resul ts
i n l oss of adhesi on between the coati ng and the
wood. Fai l ure through preferenti al wetti ng
normal l y becomes apparent fi rst at joi nts and
then spreads wi th the devel opment of opaci ty
under varni sh systems. Fai l ures of thi s type
i nvari abl y occur and i t i s necessary to regul arl y
stri p the coati ng system to the bare wood and to
appl y a compl etel y new system i n order to
mai ntai n the appearance, a very ex pensi ve
maintenance liability.
It i s frequentl y cl ai med by pai nt and varni sh
manufacturers that these fai l ures resul t from the
use of a poor pai nt system or car el ess
appl i cati on. I n Bri tai n i t i s consi dered that a
pai nt system shoul d consi st of an i ni ti al pri mer
contai ni ng excess oi l whi ch wi l l penetrate the
pores, bl ocki ng them as i t dri es and thus ‘ki l l i ng
the sucti on.’ Thi s pri mer i s then fol l owed by an
undercoat wi th a very hi gh pi gment content
whi ch i s i ntended to fi l l i rregul ari ti es i n the
surface and to achi eve opaci ty. The fi ni sh coat
possesses a hi gh varni sh or bi nder content i n
order to gi ve a hard durabl e surface. In the case
of varni sh coati ngs onl y a si ngl e composi ti on i s
general l y empl oyed but i t i s often thi nned wi th
sol vent for the i ni ti al pri mi ng coat. Thi s i s
i ntended to achi eve i mproved penetrati on of the
pores to establ i sh good adhesi on. I n fact the
di l uti on wi th the sol vent si mpl y reduces the
amount of varni sh that i s appl i ed i n the pri mer
coat. Whi l st the di l ute varni sh has a reduced
vi scosi ty thi s does not actual l y affect the
vi scosi ty of the var ni sh medi um, whi ch i s
control l ed by i ts mol ecul ar si ze, so that the
i nacti ve di l uent sol vent tends to penetrate and
leaves the varnish components on the surface, so
that ther e i s no pr acti cal advantage wi th
thi nni ng. I n other European countri es such as
Germany a pri mi ng oi l i s often used i n pl ace of a
pi gmented pri mer. Thi s pri mi ng oi l consi sts of a
sol uti on of dryi ng oi l , essenti al l y si mi l ar to the
Preservation systems
60
thi nned varni sh used i n a Bri ti sh varni sh coati ng
system and subject to the same cri ti ci sms.
Al though i t i s true that good qual i ty pai nts
and var ni shes combi ned wi th car eful
workmanshi p achi eve the best resul ts, none of
the normal systems i s currentl y abl e to resi st
pr efer enti al wetti ng. Thi s i s par ti cul ar l y
apparent under varni sh, where i t resul ts i n the
devel opment of dark stai ns and opaci ty. I t i s
gener al l y accepted that these fai l ur es ar e
associ ated wi th the presence of water under the
coati ng. Some pai nt manufacturers try to reduce
the permeabi l i ty of thei r coati ng systems to
make them ver y r esi stant to l i qui d water
penetrati on, but di ffusi on of water vapour wi th
seasonal changes of atmospher i c r el ati ve
humi di ty i s sti l l abl e to occur. Unl ess the wood i s
unusual l y stabl e some swel l i ng and shri nkage i s
i nevi tabl e wi th gai n and l oss of water vapour.
Thi s movement i s vi rtual l y confi ned to the cross-
secti onal di mensi ons, the l ongi tudi nal
di mensi ons r emai ni ng stabl e. Some pai nt
manufacturers have attempted to produce more
fl exi bl e coati ng systems abl e to wi thstand thi s
cross-grai n movement but the resul ti ng systems
are sti l l unabl e to resi st the shear stress where
end-grai n i s i n contact wi th si de-grai n at a frame
joi nt. Thi s stressi ng i nvari abl y cracks pai nt and
varnish coating systems, allowing liquid water to
penetrate by capi l l ari ty, al though subsequent
evaporati on i s prevented because most of the
wood surface remai ns protected by the pai nt and
the water si mpl y accumul ates, i ntroduci ng a
danger of decay and preferenti al wetti ng fai l ure
despi te the consci enti ous appl i cati on of an
excel l ent pai nt system.
Some other pai nt manufacturers attri bute the
faul t to condensati on beneath the pai nt coati ng
through the redi stri buti on of moi sture i n the
wood through dai l y thermal gradi ent changes.
Some coati ngs are therefore desi gned to al l ow
water accumul ati ons to di sperse by evaporati on
through the coati ng system. In fact any coati ng
system that permi ts moi sture vapour to di sperse
outwar ds al so necessar i l y possesses poor
resi stance to seasonal changes i n atmospheri c
rel ati ve humi di ty and i s usual l y parti cul arl y
susceptible to stress cracking through movement.
Water repellants
Despi te extensi ve efforts over many years the
surface-coating industry has completely failed to
sol ve the probl em of coati ng ex ternal wood
joinery (millwork) such as windows, doors and
frames. In the United Kingdom and several other
countries there are now several recommendations
and specifications which require external joinery
to be constructed from naturally durable wood or
wood whi ch i s adequatel y preserved to avoi d
fungal decay, but preferenti al wetti ng fai l ure
remains a serious problem.
Water-r epel l ent tr eatments have been
pr oposed to pr event mi gr ati on of water
absorbed i nto joi nts damaged by movement
cracki ng of the coati ng system. These treatments
certai nl y del ay fai l ure but they sel dom represent
a complete solution to the problem as many of
them, parti cul arl y those based on waxes and
resi ns, are just as suscepti bl e to preferenti al
wetti ng fai l ure as the pai nt systems whi ch they
are desi gned to protect. I ndeed, many water-
repel l ent formul ati ons are essenti al l y si mi l ar to
the thi nned varni sh or pri mi ng oi l systems that
have al r eady been descr i bed, and i f these
formul ati ons are based on dryi ng oi l s they can
i ntr oduce a fur ther pr obl em as they may
encourage the development of stain fungi under
the paint or varnish system. Water introduced by
any means, even condensation redistribution of
the moi sture wi thi n the wood, wi l l eventual l y
accumul ate beneath the coati ng system when the
weather i s col d and stai n fungi can then devel op,
causing the darkening that is characteristic of the
progressi ve weatheri ng of a varni sh system.
The stai ni ng fungi are si mi l ar or i denti cal to
those that devel op on freshl y fel l ed sawnwood
but some speci es, parti cul arl y Aureobasidium
pullulans, do not confi ne thei r acti vi ti es to the
wood but are al so abl e to attack the coati ng
Preservation mechanisms
61
medi um. The i ncl usi on of nor mal wood-
preservati ve components i n a water-repel l ent
treatment i s not suffi ci ent to gi ve resi stance to
these parti cul ar fungi whi ch can cause the
development of bore holes through the coating
system, eventual l y r esul ti ng i n bl ack dust,
actually sporophores, on the surface. These holes
can permit further water penetration through the
coati ng system, thus encouragi ng the ul ti mate
development of wood-destroying Basidiomycete
attack as wel l as preferenti al wetti ng fai l ure.
Even i f wood i s treated wi th a toxi cant that i s
parti cul arl y acti ve agai nst these fungi and thus
free from stai ni ng under the coati ng, the resul t
may not be enti rel y sati sfactory as spores can
settl e on the external surface and bore i nwards.
In the British Isles these problems have always
been common on varni sh but were vi rtual l y
unknown i n the past on pai nt coati ngs,
appar entl y because ol d l ead pr i mer and
undercoat systems were able to resist these fungi.
Lead pai nts are not wi del y used nowadays
because of thei r toxi ci ty but i t i s possi bl e to
achi eve si mi l ar protecti on by the use of zi nc
pi gments. I t wi l l be appreci ated that pi gments
cannot be used i n cl ear varni sh systems but
sui tabl e zi nc compounds are avai l abl e, such as
resi nates. Even then the resul t may not be
enti rel y sati sfactory as stai n may devel op i n the
wood beneath the varnish.
There i s real l y a need for an enti rel y new
pri mi ng system whi ch can perform a vari ety of
functi ons. It must be a wood preservati ve wi th
acti vi ty agai nst both the wood-destr oyi ng
Basi di omycete fungi and al so the stai ni ng fungi
and superfi ci al moul ds, perhaps i nvol vi ng the
i ncorporati on of a si ngl e toxi cant wi th a very
wi de spectrum of acti vi ty or mul ti pl e toxi cants.
I n addi ti on, the pri mer shoul d act as a water
repel l ant to gi ve protecti on agai nst rai nfal l or
other sources of moi sture before the fi ni shi ng
coats are appl i ed. I t i s not suffi ci ent for the
treatment to be water-repel l ent i n the sense that
i t rel i es on a contact angl e acti on al one but
shoul d perhaps be best descri bed as a water-
proofer as it must also block the pores. This pore
bl ocki ng wi l l reduce changes i n moi sture content
of the wood ari si ng through fl uctuati ons i n
atmospheri c rel ati ve humi di ty, but pore bl ocki ng
i s al so necessary to form a foundati on on whi ch
to appl y the undercoat system. Fi nal l y, the
pr i mer system shoul d achi eve per manent
bondi ng to the wood substrate so that the enti re
coati ng system i s r esi stant to damage by
preferenti al wetti ng.
It has been suggested i n the past that these
var i ous functi ons can best be achi eved by
i ncorporati ng tox i cants i nto a conventi onal
pi gmented pri mer pai nt but thi s i s enti rel y
unreal i sti c; the l oadi ng of a pri mer pai nt on
wood i s ver y l ow and i t i s i mpossi bl e to
i ncorporate an adequate amount of carri er
sol vent i n order to achi eve the penetrati on and
di stri buti on of the preservati ve components. An
al ternati ve i s to add the pi gment and bi ndi ng
components i n a pri mer to a normal organi c
sol vent wood preservati ve, but penetrati on of
the toxi cants can be achi eved onl y i f the system
possesses l ow vi scosi ty and thi s necessari l y
resul ts i n di ffi cul ty i n mai ntai ni ng the pi gments
i n suspensi on. Fi nal l y, nei ther of these systems
achi eves any control of preferenti al wetti ng.
A more real i sti c techni que i s to achi eve the
desi red resi stance to preferenti al wetti ng i n a
penetrati ng sol vent system, perhaps appl i ed by
some advantageous techni que such as a
conventional vacuum/pressure or double vacuum
system, and then to add other compati bl e
components in order to achieve the additional
desired functions. Some long-chain alcohols have
been suggested as a means for achi evi ng
resi stance to preferenti al wetti ng but, al though
they perform reasonabl y wel l i n short-term
l aboratory tri al s, they sl owl y hydrol yse and
separate from the wood and they possess no
l ong-term advantages over conventi onal wax
water repel l ants. Excel l ent resul ts are achi eved
wi th cer tai n or ganometal l i c compounds,
including those based upon group IV/IVb such as
silicon and tin. Organotin compounds such as
Preservation systems
62
tri -n-butyl ti n oxi de are used as preservati ves but
i f they ar e r equi r ed to gi ve r esi stance to
preferenti al wetti ng much hi gher l oadi ngs are
necessary and some practical problems arise such
as vol ati l e l osses whi ch may i ntroduce a toxi c
hazard. Quaternary ammonium compounds can
al so gi ve good resi stance to preferenti al wetti ng
but the quanti ty requi red i s cri ti cal ; i f excess
compound i s appl i ed, dr y adhesi on of
subsequent pai nt fi l ms i s seri ousl y affected.
Cl earl y the devel opment of advantageous
pri mi ng treatments of these types must be a
propri etary devel opment but, al though such
processes were first proposed in 1968, there have
been no realistic commercial developments since
and it must be assumed that the coating industry
has little interest in achieving permanent paint
coati ngs, perhaps because most of i ts market
ari ses through the mai ntenance of defecti ve
paintwork! It must not be supposed that these
pri mi ng systems can functi on onl y under
pigmented paint as pore blocking can be achieved
using resins, a universal system which can be used
under both paint and varnish coatings. If these
systems can successful l y overcome preferenti al
wetting so that the coating system permanently
adheres to the wood, mai ntenance becomes
simply a matter of washing or sanding the surface
and applying a further gloss coat to maintain the
appearance. As labour costs increase throughout
the world it becomes more important to produce
durabl e systems than to rel y on regul ar
maintenance to achieve reliability.
Decorative preservatives
Surface coati ngs such as pai nt and varni sh are
not essenti al for the decorati ve use of wood.
Bare wood can be very attracti ve and perfectl y
satisfactory in service provided species is selected
whi ch possesses natural resi stance to decay and
l ow movement to gi ve resi stance to di storti on
and spl i tti ng. Al ternati vel y non-durabl e speci es
can be used if appropriate preservative treatment
i s appl i ed to achi eve these r equi r ements.
However, the wood wi l l suffer from l oss of
col our, pr i nci pal l y through l eachi ng and
oxi dati on of extracti ves and the devel opment of
surface-stai ni ng fungi , these factors general l y
combi ni ng to gi ve the grey shades that devel op
when wood i s natural l y weathered. Thi s natural
col our ati on tends to be patchy r el ated to
exposure to rai nfal l wi th protected areas under
eaves and si l l s retai ni ng thei r col our (Fi g. 3.1)
but the patchi ness can be reduced by the use of a
water-repel l ent treatment contai ni ng a toxi cant
that i s effecti ve agai nst stai ni ng fungi , al though
i t wi l l be appreci ated that thi s treatment must be
parti cul arl y resi stant to weatheri ng i f i t i s to
achi eve a reasonabl e l i fe. In fact there are few
components that can achi eve the desi r ed
resistance to weathering and it is more normal to
use a formul ati on whi ch al so contai ns pi gments
and bi nders whi ch gi ve the desi red persi stent
col ourati on but al so l eave the natural grai n of
the wood apparent. Whilst pigment and coating
bui l d on the surface of the wood i s extremel y
l ow compar ed wi th conventi onal coati ng
systems, a hi gh degree of permanence can be
achi eved through the deep penetrati on.
FIGURE 3.1 Stain on western red cedar cladding is
confined to areas exposed to rainfall and is thus less
sever e under a wi ndow si l l . (Penar th Resear ch
International Limited)
Preservation mechanisms
63
Al though these systems wer e or i gi nal l y
desi gned as a means for i ntroduci ng an arti fi ci al
pi gment system i n order to mai ntai n the natural
col our of wood, a compl ete range of al ternati ve
col ours i s now avai l abl e and the systems have
become gener al l y known as ar chi tectur al
fi ni shes. The l i fe of these decorati ve treatments
depends largely on their resistance to preferential
wetting whilst their colour retention depends not
onl y on the pi gments but al so on the presence of
toxi cants whi ch wi l l resi st stai n devel opment.
I n the physi cal sense, water absorpti on i nto
wood occurs by capi l l ari ty. There i s a tensi on
wi thi n the water surface and i f the water wets
the wal l s of a pore thi s tensi on wi l l draw the
water i nto the pore as shown i n Fi gs 3.2 and
3.3. When water wets the surface i n thi s way i t
i s sai d to have a very smal l contact angl e a.
However i f thi s contact angl e exceeds 90° the
force tendi ng to move the water al ong the pore
becomes reversed and as the contact angl e
i ncreases further the surface tensi on tends to
repel water from a pore. A water-repel l ent
treatment therefore consi sts of a coati ng on the
wal l s of the pores whi ch resul ts i n a very l arge
contact angl e so that the porous surface can
r esi st water penetr ati on pr ovi ded that the
pressure i s not excessi ve. As the pores remai n
open wi th a water-repel l ent treatment of thi s
type, trapped water, perhaps i ntroduced by
condensation, can disperse by evaporation and it
i s sti l l possi bl e for the wood beneath the
treatment to be affected by changes i n the
atmospher i c r el ati ve humi di ty but onl y by
di ffusi on al ong the treated pores. Thus a deeper
treatment wi l l resul t i n sl ower di ffusi on so that
doubl e vacuum or pressure i mpregnati on wi l l
i nvari abl y gi ve better resi stance to seasonal
fl uctuati ons than superfi ci al brush, spray or
i mmersi on treatments. Pore bl ocki ng wi l l al ways
achi eve better control over di ffusi on from the
atmosphere and better resi stance to seasonal
changes i n atmospheri c rel ati ve humi di ty but
di sper si on of tr apped water wi l l al so be
restricted.
Wood stabilization
A water-repel l ent treatment may be effecti ve i n
reduci ng absorpti on of l i qui d water and deep
penetration and pore blocking both reduce the
i nfl uence of fl uctuati ons i n atmospheri c rel ati ve
humidity. If stabilization of the wood is required,
both pore blocking and deep impregnation are
essenti al . Resi n i mpregnati on al one can be
effecti ve as i t i sol ates i ndi vi dual wood fi bres
fr om atmospher i c changes and physi cal l y
FIGURE 3.2 Capillary absorption resulting from the
surface tension within the fluid and the contact angle
a between the fluid and the solid surface.
FIGURE 3.3 Water repellency; compared with Fig 3.2
the only change is the contact angle a between the
fluid and the solid surface.
Preservation systems
64
restrai ns movement. The effecti veness of resi n-
i mpregnati on treatment i s readi l y apparent i n
wooden cutl ery handl es whi ch are now usual l y
i mpregnated to enabl e then to resi st wetti ng
duri ng washi ng. There i s al so i ncreasi ng i nterest
i n the use of resi n-i mpregnated fl oor bl ocks; one
process, devel oped i n Fi nl and as a peaceful use
for atomic energy, involves the impregnation of
the wood wi th monomers whi ch are then cured
by exposure to radi ati on.
Waxes have al so been used as i mpregnants
but, whi l e they are qui te effecti ve, they are not
widely used on their own as they tend to severely
affect coati ng and gl ue adhesi on, al though they
can be used advantageously at low loadings in
conjuncti on wi th resi ns. Pol yethyl ene gl ycol
waxes are al so used to stabi l i ze wood but i n a
rather di fferent way. They are water sol ubl e and
general l y appl i ed by protracted di ffusi on i nto
wet wood. When di ffusi on i s compl ete the
treated wood i s dri ed but shri nkage i s prevented
by baul ki ng by the resi n, so that the wood
remains in its swollen dimensions. Unfortunately
these treatments tend to be hygroscopi c, gi vi ng a
tacky surface unsui tabl e for the appl i cati on of
decorati ve pai nt or varni sh coati ngs. In fact an
humectant or hygroscopi c agent al one can be
used to achieve stability by ensuring that wood is
unabl e to dry and mai ntai ni ng i t i n i ts swol l en
state. Whi l st thi s type of tr eatment was
devel oped many years ago i t has not been wi del y
used because of the decorati on and handl i ng
di ffi cul ti es, but such processes are now bei ng
ser i ousl y consi der ed i n conj uncti on wi th
chemi cal l y reacti ve surface coati ngs to overcome
these disadvantages.
The wetti ng of wood as wel l as the movement
wi th changes i n moi sture content bel ow the fi bre
saturati on poi nt can be l argel y attri buted to the
presence of hydroxyl groups on the cel l ul ose
chai ns, as expl ai ned i n Chapter 2. Stabi l i zati on
can be achi eved by repl aci ng the hydrox yl
groups wi th other termi nal groups or by cross-
linking the hydroxyl groups on adjacent cellulose
chains. Various systems have been proposed such
as acetyl ati on or the use of ethyl ene oxi de, i-
cyanates and organometal compounds but al l
these systems suffer from the di sadvantage that
they are compl etel y effecti ve onl y i f the wood i s
enti rel y i mpregnated. It wi l l be expl ai ned l ater i n
thi s chapter that compl ete i mpregnati on i s
possi bl e onl y i n a l i mi ted number of ver y
permeable woods such as birch and it is doubtful
at the present ti me whether many of these
treatments are of greater val ue than the sel ecti on
of wood of natural l y l ow movement. However i f
woods of l ow movement are to be used i t i s
essenti al to appreci ate that they wi l l suffer from
non-reversi bl e shri nkage duri ng i ni ti al seasoni ng
and they must therefore be thoroughl y dri ed
before they are machi ned or put i nto servi ce.
Fire
One di sadvantage of wood i s fl ammabi l i ty. Fi re
wi l l occur onl y when combusti bl e materi al i s
subjected to suffi ci ent heat i n the presence of
oxygen. In the absence of any one of these three
components i gni ti on cannot occur. Wi thi n a
bui l di ng i t i s necessar y to wi thstand fi r e
penetrati on so that an acci dental fi re remai ns
i sol ated for a suffi ci ent peri od to permi t the
occupants to escape and to gi ve reasonabl e ti me
for the fi re servi ce to arri ve and prevent further
damage. Fi re resi stance i s most i mportant where
a bui l di ng i s di vi ded i nto r el ati vel y smal l
compartments, but in large open spaces such as
corri dors, stai r wel l s and roof spaces i t i s more
i mportant to prevent the rapi d spread of fl ame
across surfaces. Fire resistance is best achieved in
a bui l di ng by usi ng an adequate thi ckness of
wood in construction and avoiding any minor
i mper fecti on whi ch wi l l per mi t the fi r e to
penetrate through a parti ti on or fi re barri er.
Cl earl y, doors shoul d be ti ght fi tti ng but one
sol uti on i s to i nsert a speci al stri p i n the edges of
the doors or the door frames which is composed
of an i ntumescent materi al whi ch swel l s when
subjected to fi re and thus seal s the gaps. The fi re
resi stance of a structure i s al so i mproved i f the
Preservation mechanisms
65
wood i s not combusti bl e, and thi s appl i es
equally to preventing the spread of flame in large
spaces i n bui l di ngs.
Fire retard ants
While the provision of satisfactory fire resistance
i s pri nci pal l y a matter of desi gn, charri ng rate
varies with wood properties, such as density, and
wood sel ecti on i s therefore a si gni fi cant factor,
al though char r i ng r ate cannot be gr eatl y
i nfl uenced by treatments. I n contrast, fi re-
retardant treatments can be hi ghl y effecti ve i n
reduci ng surface spread of fl ame. An effi ci ent
fi re retardant acts i n several di fferent ways.
When the combusti bl e surface i s exposed to fi re
the treatment should prevent flaming and should
pr efer abl y r educe the r ate of degr ade and
char r i ng. I t shoul d r educe i gni tabi l i ty and
prevent after-gl ow, the sustai ned combusti on
when heat i s removed. I f i t achi eves these
requi rements i t must al so be i nexpensi ve, readi l y
appl i ed and per manent wi th no adver se
properti es; i t must not corrode metal fi tti ngs,
i nter act wi th fi ni sh systems or possess
unacceptable toxicity.
There are two pri nci pal fi re-retardant systems
i n extensi ve use at the present ti me. Intumescent
coatings act on exposure to high temperatures by
foami ng i nto an i nsul ati ng l ayer and reduci ng
the rate of temperature ri se i n the protected
wood. Thi s foami ng acti on, whi ch must be
compl eted bel ow wood charri ng temperature,
general l y fol l ows a sequence consi sti ng of fi l m
softeni ng, bubbl e formati on and ul ti mate setti ng
i nto a ri gi d foam wi th good adhesi on to the
surface. Ideal l y the bubbl es shoul d contai n i nert
or preferabl y fi re-retardant gases. I ntumescent
coati ngs are real l y pai nts and can achi eve a
decorati ve functi on. They can al so be appl i ed as
a remedi al treatment to an exi sti ng structure.
The use of intumescent strips to seal doors in fire
barri ers has al ready been descri bed; these are
si mi l ar i n acti on to i ntumescent coati ngs but are
desi gned to foam to a greater extent i n order to
achi eve compl ete seal i ng of rel ati vel y l arge gaps.
Non-i ntumescent fi re-retardant coati ngs are al so
avai l abl e. I n pri nci pl e, they consi st of heavy
i nsul ati ng coati ngs contai ni ng components
desi gned to i nhi bi t fl ami ng, perhaps by the
generati on of water vapour and other fi re-
retardant gases when exposed to heat.
I mpregnati on treatments are wi del y used as
al ter nati ves to these coati ng systems. I n
pri nci pl e, these i mpregnati on treatments are
si mi l ar i n effect to coati ngs and desi gned to
i nhi bi t fl ami ng as wel l as i nsul ati ng the wood to
prevent deep charri ng. Whi l e thei r abi l i ty to
i nhi bi t fl ami ng i s as good as or better than that
of coati ng systems, the i nsul ati ng acti on i s
achi eved by sacri fi ci ng the surface l ayers of
wood and al l owi ng them to char to a l i mi ted
extent to provi de an i nsul ati ng l ayer. Unl i ke the
surface coati ngs whi ch have no further effect
once the surface has been physi cal l y destroyed,
deep i mpr egnati on tr eatments conti nue to
control the rate of charri ng and prevent fl ami ng
and after-gl ow, even after prol onged exposure to
severe fi re condi ti ons. A surface coati ng can be
appl i ed vi rtual l y uni versal l y and wi l l achi eve the
desi red resul t provi ded that a suffi ci ent bui l d i s
obtai ned, but i mpregnati on fi re retardants can
functi on rel i abl y onl y i f adequate retenti on and
di stri buti on i s obtai ned. The rel i abi l i ty of such
treatments depends as wi th wood preservati ves
on the use of a wood i n whi ch adequate
penetrati on can be achi eved. Despi te these
di sadvantages i mpr egnati on fi r e-r etar dant
treatments are wi del y used because structural
wood can be pr etr eated at ver y l ow cost
compared wi th that of appl yi ng fi re-retardant
coatings.
I mpregnati on fi re retardants are general l y
appl i ed by the conventi onal ful l -cel l vacuum/
pressure systems that are descri bed l ater i n thi s
chapter. General l y, these fi re-retardant systems
consi st of aqueous sol uti ons of i norgani c sal ts
such as ammoni um phosphates, ammoni um
borates and zi nc chl ori de. Al l these sal ts are
water sol ubl e and treatments are therefore
Preservation systems
66
l eachabl e i f exposed to the weather. Where fi re
retardancy i s requi red i n external si tuati ons i t
woul d appear that resi stance to l eachi ng can be
obtai ned by coati ng wi th pai nt or varni sh but
most fi re-retardant treatments of thi s type are
hygroscopi c and encourage rapi d fai l ure of
coati ng systems through preferenti al wetti ng.
Polymer fire retardants have been developed that
give non-hygroscopic systems which are resistant
to l eachi ng and whi ch can r educe natur al
movement i n wood by up to 40%. Whi l st
formul ati ons of thi s type are cl earl y i deal where
fi re-retardant treatment i s requi red for wood
that wi l l be exposed to the weather, they are
unfortunatel y rather expensi ve and rel ati vel y
di ffi cul t to appl y; a two-component system i s
usual l y i nvol ved whi ch i s reacted wi thi n the
wood by heat appl i cati on after i mpregnati on.
3.2 Application techniques
Having decided on the active components that
are to be empl oyed i t i s comparati vel y si mpl e to
prepare a preservati ve formul ati on but much
more di ffi cul t to achi eve the desi red retenti on
and penetrati on wi thi n the treated wood. The
most obvi ous l i mi ti ng factors are often i gnored.
There must be suffi ci ent space wi thi n the wood
to accommodate the desi r ed vol ume of
preservati ve formul ati on. Thi s means that the
wood must have adequate porosity but it must
al so have a l ow moi stur e content befor e
treatment as thi s porous space i s otherwi se
occupied by water.
Fluid penetration
A l i qui d i s absorbed i nto a porous sol i d by
capi l l ari ty, a functi on of the surface tensi on of
the l i qui d and the angl e of contact between the
l i qui d and sol i d surface as expl ai ned earl i er i n
thi s chapter and i l l ustrated i n Fi g. 3.2. The
capi l l ari ty force F whi ch causes l i qui d fl ow i nto
pores i s gi ven by the formul a:
F=f p π cos α

where f i s the surface tensi on, d i s the di ameter
of the pore and α i s the angl e of contact. The
pressure P devel oped by thi s force depends on
the cross-secti on of the pore and i s gi ven by the
formula:
where r i s the radi us of the pore. Rate of fl ow R
i s gi ven by Poi seui l l e’s formul a:
where v is the coefficient of viscosity of the fluid. It
is apparent from this formula that the rate of
penetrati on depends parti cul arl y on the pore
diameter which is a feature of the wood species but
it is also clear that a preservation formulation can
achieve the most rapid penetration if the viscosity
and contact angle are kept to a minimum, with the
surface tensi on as hi gh as possi bl e. I t i s al so
apparent form this formula that the penetration
rate depends on the ratio of the surface tension f to
the viscosity v. As the temperature increases the
surface tensi on decreases but the vi scosi ty
decreases to an even greater extent so that this
ratio increases with temperature. For example the
rate of penetration of water increases by about
25% over a temperature increase of 10°C (18°F).
One other interpretation of this formula is that, if
the pore diameter is halved, the treatment period
must be increased eight times to achieve the same
depth of penetration.
Treatment time
Protracted treatment may be unacceptabl e for
economic or technical reasons. For example, if a
preservative has a fixation reaction it is probable
that, during a protracted treatment period, the
active components will be fixed near the surface of
the wood and only the carrier solvent will continue
Application techniques
67
to penetrate. Even where a fixation reaction is
absent there may still be a tendency for the active
components to be deposited at the surface through
the preservati ve sol uti on, mi grati ng outwards
during solvent drying. The uniform distribution of
preservative components within treated wood is
di ffi cul t to achi eve and the advantageous
performance of a proprietary preservative, based
on conventional toxicants, is frequently related to
the special solvent and fixation systems that are
involved. One method that has been suggested for
improving penetration is the use of surfactants, or
wetting agents, in order to reduce the angle of
contact, but their use often results in a substantial
reduction in the surface tension which actually
reduces the rate of penetration. If such additions
are contemplated it is essential that they should be
eval uated by si mpl e experi ments on wooden
blocks. Finally, the coefficient of viscosity in this
formul ati on rel ates to the total preservati ve
sol uti on but i n organi c sol vent systems,
parti cul arl y those i ncorporati ng resi ns, the
molecular size of some components may be large
relative to the pore size so that they are unable to
penetrate and tend to be filtered or screened out of
the solution at the surface of the wood. If these
particular components are included in order to
achieve a measure of pore blocking this screening
may be an advantage, but pore blocking will also
obstruct the further penetration of the preservative
solution.
Treatment temperature
The viscosity of some organic preservatives such as
creosote increases very rapidly as the temperature
i s reduced and heati ng i s thus essenti al i f a
reasonabl e penetrati on rate i s to be achi eved.
However, heating the preservative may have only
limited value as the preservative surface in contact
with the wood will tend to be cooled by the wood
itself and, as it is this particular surface that is
responsible for the penetration, the temperature of
the wood will tend to be of more importance than
the temperature of the preservative. The wood will
be heated by immersion in very hot preservative
but this heating process is very slow due to the low
thermal conductivity of wood. In cold climates
penetrati on may be achi eved more rapi dl y by
slowly heating wood in storage prior to treatment,
rather than by using preservative at a very high
temperature which may not achieve the same result
even if a protracted treatment process is used.
Treatment pressure
It will be appreciated that the formula refers to
penetration rate resulting from capillarity when the
wood surface remai ns i n contact wi th the
preservati ve, as i n i mmersi on treatments, but
preservative is frequently applied under pressure in
order to increase penetration rate. The application
of pressure can have a substantial influence over
penetrati on rate i n rel ati vel y porous woods,
essentially those that are not classified as resistant
to penetration, but unfortunately the application of
pressure has little influence over penetration into
the resistant species which are so difficult to treat.
Reference to the formula above which gives the
pressure P generated by capillarity shows that it is
very large if the pore diameter is very small so that
a superimposed pressure has little significance. If
resistant woods are to be treated, it is far better to
employ a non-pressure method with a preservative
formulation designed to possess maximum surface
tension, minimum viscosity and minimum contact
angle, although with any preservative it will be
appreciated that the maximum penetration rate
wi l l be achi eved i f both the wood and the
preservative are heated prior to treatment.
Superficial treatments
Var i ous super fi ci al methods ar e used i n
commercial practice for the application of wood
preservati ves. The use of brush and spray
methods is perhaps best known to the ordinary
householder, both for the preservative treatment
of new wood and for remedi al treatments,
particularly against established borer infestations
Preservation systems
68
such as woodworm or Common Furniture beetle.
Brush appl i cati on i s vi rtual l y usel ess. I t has
al ready been ex pl ai ned that effi ci ent wood
preservatives must possess low viscosity and this
necessari l y means that onl y a rel ati vel y smal l
volume of preservative is held within the bristles
of the brush. I t i s therefore very di ffi cul t to
achieve a significant loading of preservative on
the surface of the wood. Indeed, in carrying out
remedial treatment it is sometimes necessary to
apply the preservative to the undersides of rafters
and j oi sts, and any househol der who has
attempted this operation by brush will know that
the preservative runs down the handle, treating
thei r own el bow far more effi ci entl y than the
wood surface! The superficial coatings that result
from brush appl i cati on cannot achi eve the
treatment of open joints or natural splits in the
wood, and the superficial nature of the coating
ensures that the preservati ve i s l ost extremel y
rapidly by leaching when exposed to the weather
and by volatilization in a protected environment
within a building. Brush application is perfectly
sati sfactory when i t i s necessary to appl y a
superficial coating of high viscosity fluid such as
paint or varnish, but even then the loading on the
wood surface is only about 25% of that which
can be achi eved by a si mpl e ai rl ess spray
application.
Spray application
Penetration from a superficial treatment depends
entirely on the loading of preservative that can be
achi eved on the surface, and the rel i abl e
treatment of cracks and open joints is entirely
dependent on fluid flow which occurs only when
heavy loadings are achieved. The heaviest realistic
l oadi ng i s achi eved by fl ood spray, the spray
nozzle being moved slowly across the surface of
the wood so that saturation is achieved with runs
down the surface but no wasteful drips (Fig. 3.4).
It is often argued that about four brush coats are
equivalent to a single flood spray. It is true that
about the same volume of preservative is used but
the resul ts are very di fferent. Sol vent i s l ost
between the brush coats so that the flood effect
never develops and the treatment lacks the flow
i nto cracks and open j oi nts, l eavi ng the
preservative toxicants concentrated on the surface
of the wood wher e they ar e par ti cul ar l y
susceptible to loss by leaching and volatilisation.
Di fferent propri etary organi c-sol vent
preservatives often contain the same toxicants but
their efficacy may vary enormously through the
different distributions of these toxicants that are
obtai ned through formul ati on vari ati ons.
Generally, a preservative of low viscosity and low
vol ati l i ty achi eves the greatest penetrati on but
residual odour must be avoided, particularly with
remedial treatments in buildings, and it is necessary
to adopt the bal ance of properti es that i s
consi dered to be the most effi ci ent and most
acceptable. The best preservatives aim to achieve
maximum penetration with the toxicant evenly
distributed throughout the penetrated zone, but in
practice there is frequently a tendency for toxicants
to mi grate towards the surface as the carri er
solvent disperses by evaporation. Naturally, wood
porosi ty has a profound i nfl uence over both
penetration and loading, but the surface texture
has speci al si gni fi cance i n the case of spray
treatments; a rough sawn surface allows a far
greater loading of a low viscosity preservative to
adhere than does a smooth surface. Generally,
preservatives for spray application are formulated
on non-polar organic solvents of low viscosity
which penetrate far more efficiently into dry wood
than do polar or aqueous systems.
I t can be shown ex per i mental l y that a
consci enti ousl y appl i ed fl ood spray i s equi val ent
to application by 10–15 seconds immersion. It is
ther efor e fr equentl y ar gued that a spr ay
treatment i s as effi ci ent as a bri ef di p treatment,
and this concept has resulted in the development
of spr ay or del ugi ng machi nes for the
preservati on of new wood. In some cases actual
sprays are abandoned in favour of a curtain of
preservati ve through whi ch the wood passes.
Such processes can certai nl y achi eve the same
Application techniques
69
resul ts as bri ef di p treatments on the si de-grai n
of wood but general l y preservati ve l oadi ngs at
the end-grai n are far l ower, and these systems
should never be employed where thorough end-
grai n treatment i s essenti al .
Spray pressures and jet sizes
These comments on spray appl i cati on refer to
non-atomi zed systems whi ch i nvol ve the
sprayi ng of the preservati ve fl ui d as rel ati vel y
l arge dropl ets through a fan or cone nozzl e. In
normal pressure-spray apparatus thi s necessari l y
entai l s the use of l ow pressures and rel ati vel y
large jet sizes. Atomization through the use of an
ai r-entrai ned system such as a pai nt spray, or
through the use of excessi ve pressures and smal l
jet si zes wi th pneumati c sprayi ng equi pment,
resul ts i n the rapi d l oss of carri er sol vent before
the preservati ve reaches the wood surface,
unpl easant spr ayi ng condi ti ons, l ack of
penetr ati on and l i mi ted per si stence of the
pr eser vati ve. Mi st coati ng systems are ai r-
entr ai ned or atomi zed by means of hi gh
pr essur es and r esul t i n onl y super fi ci al
treatments; they are someti mes used for anti -
stai n treatment of freshl y converted green wood
but they are much l ess rel i abl e than si mpl e
i mmersi on treatments.
Thixotropic systems
The l oadi ngs of fl ood spr ay or br i ef di p
treatments depend parti cul arl y on the nature of
the wood surface but al so on the vi scosi ty of the
pr eser vati ve. Hi gher vi scosi ti es r esul t i n
increased loadings, but unfortunately, improved
penetrati on may not be achi eved as i t tends to be
i nhi bi ted by thi s vi scosi ty i ncrease. One way to
improve spray and dip preservative performance
i s to formul ate usi ng a thi ckeni ng agent whi ch
wi l l enabl e hi gh l oadi ngs of preservati ve to cl i ng
FIGURE 3.4 Preservation treatment applied by spray tunnel or deluging. This equipment has been largely
replaced by double vacuum impregnation plants. (Cuprinol Limited)
Preservation systems
70
to the surface of the wood but wi l l not obstruct
the rel ease of l ow vi scosi ty preservati ve sol uti on
i nto the wood, the thi ckeni ng agent i tsel f
remai ni ng on the surface. One exampl e i s the
bodied mayonnaise-type formulation which has
been devel oped par ti cul ar l y to achi eve
penetr ati on i n r emedi al tr eatment. Thi s
formul ati on consi sts typi cal l y of a water-i n-oi l
emul si on i n whi ch the emul si on and water
system are not essenti al but are si mpl y a means
for obtai ni ng the vi scous structure necessary to
enabl e hi gh l oadi ngs of preservati ve to cl i ng to
the surface of the wood. The emul si on breaks at
the poi nt of contact wi th the wood, al l owi ng the
l ow vi scosi ty organi c sol vent preservati ve to
come i nto contact wi th the wood and penetrate.
General l y, an organi c sol vent of l ow vol ati l i ty i s
employed in order to avoid evaporation losses
duri ng the consi derabl e ti me that can el apse
befor e the pr eser vati ve deposi t i s total l y
absorbed. There is therefore no restriction on the
ti me requi red to permi t penetrati on, al though
manufacturers of preservati ves of thi s type often
appear to be unaware of the basi c mechani cs of
the system—i f the preservati ve penetrates very
extensi vel y the toxi cants must be present at very
hi gh concentr ati ons i n or der to achi eve
retenti ons that wi l l be effecti ve.
Immersion treatments
Although these bodied systems are realistic for use
in remedial treatment the same principles cannot
be readily applied to pretreatment preservatives.
The essential feature of the bodied systems is that
heavy loadings of preservative are able to remain
on the surface unti l adequate penetrati on has
been achi eved, but thi s necessari l y means that
there will be difficulties in handling the treated
wood during the protracted penetration period. In
commercial immersion treatments, it is usually
consi dered more real i sti c to use si mpl e l ow-
vi scosi ty pr eser vati ve sol uti ons whi ch wi l l
penetrate as quickly as possible, extending the
i mmersi on peri od to achi eve the desi red
penetration. Immersion for a period up to about
10 mi nutes i s usual l y descri bed as di ppi ng,
whereas longer immersion treatments are known
as steepi ng. Someti mes one hour or more i s
needed to achi eve the necessary penetrati on,
although a low-viscosity preservative may achieve
i n a few mi nutes or hours the same depth of
penetrati on as a hi gh vi scosi ty preservati ve
appl i ed for several days. The advantages of
i mmersi on treatments are numerous; they are
si mpl e, i nvol ve l ow capi tal coast, and achi eve
excel l ent preservati ve penetrati on and l oadi ng
provi ded that adequate ti me i s avai l abl e.
Immersion treatments are unsuitable for use with
rapi d-fi xi ng preservati ves such as the copper-
chromium-arsenic water-borne preservatives and
are most sui tabl e for appl yi ng l ow vi scosi ty
organic-solvent systems to dry wood.
Diffusion
Di ffusi on treatment rel i es on an i mmersi on or
spray treatment to l oad the surface of the wood
with a preservative that will subsequently diffuse
sl owl y, to achi eve the desi red di stri buti on. The
best-known di ffusi on treatment, Ti mbori si ng,
i nvol ves the use of a hi ghl y sol ubl e borate whi ch
i s usual l y appl i ed as a hot sol uti on i n order to
achieve the required concentration. Freshly sawn
green wood wi th a moi sture content i n excess of
50% i s i mmersed bri efl y i n the preservati ve and
then cl ose-stacked and wrapped to prevent l oss
of water by evaporati on. A storage peri od of
several weeks or even months for pi eces of thi ck
secti on i s requi red to di stri bute the borate
throughout the wood. Thi s treatment achi eves
better penetr ati on i n ver y i mper meabl e
European whitewood or spruce than any other
preservati ve treatment, apparentl y because the
radi al penetrati on pathways are sti l l open i n
green wood, whereas they are cl osed i n the dry
wood that i s typi cal l y used for pr essur e
i mpregnati on treatments. Fl uori de preservati ves
are al so someti mes appl i ed by di ffusi on, and
some formul ati ons contai ni ng bi fl uori des are
Application techniques
71
sai d to be sui tabl e for di ffusi on treatment i nto
dry wood. In fact only the hydrogen fluoride gas
di ffuses deepl y i n dry condi ti ons but, whi l st i t
can be readily detected by a reagent when a piece
of treated wood i s freshl y cut, i t i s progressi vel y
l ost by vol ati l i zati on and al so by l eachi ng i f the
wood is exposed to wet conditions.
Osmose process
I n the Osmose di ffusi on process, ori gi nal l y
devel oped for the non-pressure treatment of
transmi ssi on pol es, freshl y cut l ogs are peel ed,
brushed wi th a preservati ve paste and then
covered wi th waterproof paper before bei ng
stacked for about three months to al l ow the
sal t to di ffuse. A vari ety of preservati ves i s
now used wi th the Osmose method but the
ori gi nal Osmol i t paste was a mi xture of sodi um
fl uori de, di ni trophenol and chromates, the l atter
bei ng i ncl uded to i mprove fi x ati on. I f there
i s an i nsect borer danger, arseni c i s frequentl y
i ncorporated i n preservati ves that are appl i ed
by thi s method. Very si mi l ar di ffusi on pri nci pl es
are i nvol ved i n the bandages that can be appl i ed
at the ground l i ne, to transmi ssi on pol es i n
servi ce, i n order to i mprove protecti on i n thi s
zone where the decay hazard i s most severe
(Fi g. 3.5). Bandages are often based on fl uori de
sal t pastes whi ch are desi gned to di ffuse i nto the
pol e when wet. Tar-oi l formul ati ons are al so
wi del y used, al though they are abl e to di ffuse
onl y when the pol e i s dry or pretreated wi th an
organi c preservati ve such as creosote.
Boucherie process
In the Boucherie process (Fig. 3.6), preservative is
introduced into the sap and is required to diffuse in
order to treat the neighbouring zones which are not
directly accessible. A cap is attached to the butt of a
log immediately after felling and the preservative is
introduced under low pressure from a header tank;
in this way the sap is displaced and replaced by the
preservati ve sol uti on. Copper sul phate was
empl oyed when the process was ori gi nal l y
developed by Boucherie but it does not fix within
the wood and has now been entirely replaced by
multisalt preservatives. Some of the preservatives
that are so wi del y used i n vacuum/pressure
impregnation, such as the copper-chromium-arsenic
(CCA) formulations, fix too rapidly to be applied by
this or other diffusion methods, and the more slowly
fixing copper-chromium-boron (CCB) and fluorine-
chromium-arsenic-phenol (FCAP) formulations are
more suitable. In some modern versions of the
Boucherie process the design of the caps has been
considerably improved by the incorporation of
inflated cuffs which permit much higher pressures to
be employed, giving more rapid treatment and
better control.
Gewecke or Saug-Kappe process
I n the Gewecke or Saug-Kappe process a coni cal
cap i s fi tted on the top end of the l og and a
FIGURE 3.5 Pole bandage. The Wolmanit TS impreg-
nated bandage is protected by a weatherproof cover.
(Dr Wolman GmbH)
FIGURE 3.6 Improved Boucherie cap with separately
inflated cuff to seal the pole butt.
Preservation systems
72
vacuum is applied to remove the sap and induce
preservati ve fl ow from a reservoi r at the butt
end. Although this process was developed many
years earl i er and i mproved i n 1940, i t was not
unti l 1950 that Gewecke i ntroduced i t i nto
Germany and several years l ater i nto Denmark.
Normal l y, the l ogs are peel ed and then fi tted
wi th the sucti on cap at the upper end before
bei ng pl aced i n an open tank of preservati ve.
The ori gi nal Boucheri e process woul d treat a 12
m (40 ft) l og i n 10–14 days but the Geweche
process reduced thi s ti me to 1 week and i n the
i mpr oved Gewecke pr ocess, wi th the open
treatment tank replaced by a pressure cylinder,
the treatment ti me i s reduced to onl y 20 or 30
hours. I n these l ater processes i t i s normal to
reci rcul ate the sap i n the treatment sol uti on,
addi ng preservati ve at i nterval s to mai ntai n the
necessar y concentr ati on, a system that
consi derabl y reduces wastage. Ori gi nal l y, the
Gewecke process was applied using Basilit UA or
preferabl y Basi l i t UAS, a more sol ubl e versi on,
although the process is now applied using many
other pr eser vati ves i ncl udi ng the CCA
formulation K33.
Hot-and-cold process
In developing countries there is clearly a need for
wood preservati on i n order to i mprove the
economi c condi ti ons by ensur i ng the most
effi ci ent uti l i zati on of wood and l abour
resources, but i t i s equal l y i mportant to ensure
that the process i s si mpl e wi th a l ow capi tal cost,
even i f thi s resul ts i n treatments that are l ess
rel i abl e than those that are consi dered necessary
i n more hi ghl y devel oped countri es. Di p and sap
di spl acement tr eatments ar e cur r entl y of
parti cul ar i nterest i n devel opi ng countri es but an
alternative is the hot-and-cold treatment process.
In i ts si mpl est form thi s i nvol ves the i mmersi on
of wood i n col d preservati ve fol l owed by sl ow
heating which expands the trapped air. When the
bubbl es of ex pandi ng ai r have ceased the
preservati ve i s al l owed to cool , thus causi ng the
remai ni ng trapped ai r to contract so that the
preservati ve i s drawn i nto the wood. Aqueous
preservati ves can be appl i ed i n thi s way but i f
hi gh-boi l i ng organi c preservati ves are used i t i s
possi bl e to heat the wood beyond the boi l i ng
poi nt of water, eventual l y fi l l i ng the wood wi th
water vapour. Cool i ng then r esul ts i n
condensation and the development of an almost
compl ete vacuum whi ch ensur es ex cel l ent
penetrati on, provi ded the moi sture content of
the wood was not too hi gh at the
commencement of the treatment process.
This simple form of the hot-and-cold process
i s wi del y used by farmers for the butt treatment
of fence posts; these are pl aced i n an open drum
contai ni ng creosote and a fi re i s l i t underneath
for heati ng. If the drum i s too ful l and the fi re
too hot there is a danger of considerable foaming
when the ai r expands, or even boi l i ng of trapped
water, perhaps causi ng the creosote to overfl ow
and the fi re to burn out of control . A more
sophi sti cated versi on of the process i nvol ves the
use of separate hot and cold storage tanks for the
preservati ve, wi th transfer pumps to convey i t to
an immersion tank, although it is more common
to have two separ ate i mmer si on tanks,
transferri ng the wood between them. I n al l cases
the pri nci pl e remai ns the same; ai r i s expanded
dur i ng i mmer si on of the wood i n hot
preservative and subsequent immersion in cold
preservati ve causes the ai r to contract, drawi ng
the preservati ve i nto the wood.
Gugel process
I n Ger many the hot-and-col d method of
treatment i s known as the Gugel process. I n
some systems the preservati ve i s repl aced i n the
hot stage by a hi gh-boi l i ng oi l such as waste
l ubri cati ng oi l but as there i s no appreci abl e
penetrati on duri ng the hot stage thi s does not
si gni fi cantl y affect the resul ti ng treatment. I n
Austral i a the hot stage someti mes consi sts of
prol onged steami ng and i s fol l owed by transfer
to a tank of col d preservati ve, a process that has
Application techniques
73
been fai rl y wi del y used wi th 3% borax sol uti on
to gi ve protecti on of hardwood agai nst Lyctus
powder post beetl e attack.
Pressure and vacuum treatments
I n al l treatment methods i nvol vi ng the use of
pressure of vacuum it is necessary to place the
wood in a pressure vessel, usually known as a
cyl i nder or autocl ave (Fi g. 3.7). The wood i s
loaded through a door at one end, usually on
railway bogies but sometimes on wheeled baskets,
or occasionally loose. In large plants with bogies,
it is essential that the wood should be chained
down to prevent floating when the cylinder is
flooded with preservative as it is unrealistic to
pack the cylinder sufficiently tightly for the wood
to be restrained. The impregnation process will in
any case cause swelling which may cause the load
to jam in the cylinder and it is also necessary to
l eave a smal l space at the top of the cyl i nder to
permi t recovered ai r to accumul ate. Ori gi nal l y
the cylinder doors were fitted with bolted flanges
but these were very sl ow to operate and many
qui ck-rel ease door desi gns are now avai l abl e
whi ch can appreci abl y i mprove pl ant uti l i zati on.
Loaded bogi es ar e moved i nto the empty
cyl i nder across a rai l way bri dge whi ch i s then
removed to permi t the door to be cl osed. One
advantage of a bogi e system i s that the cyl i nder
can be emptied and refilled in a very short period
usi ng extra sets of bogi es whi ch can be l oaded
whi l st another charge of wood i s bei ng treated
wi thi n the cyl i nder (Fi g. 3.8).
Al though i t i s nor mal pr acti ce to use
treatment cycl es whi ch wi l l achi eve a reasonabl y
dry surface when the charge i s removed from the
cyl i nder, some dri ppi ng may sti l l occur and i t i s
usual to al l ow the charge to stand over a dri p-
collection sump before the bogies are unloaded.
FIGURE 3.7 Typical pressure impregnation plant with bogies for the charge, quick-locking doors, pump house
and storage tanks for two different preservatives. (Hickson’s Timber Products Limited)
Preservation systems
74
With water-borne preservatives it is necessary to
ai r- or ki l n-dry wood after treatment i n order to
avoi d probl ems wi th handl i ng wet wood; whi l st
the toxi ci ty of these preservati ves i s i mportant
the corrosion of tools and fittings is often a more
serious problem.
Rai l s and bogi es waste consi derabl e space at
the bottom of a treatment cyl i nder, perhaps as
much as 25% of the vol ume, and the curved
verti cal arms whi ch support the l oad may waste
as much again so that the maximum load may be
onl y 50% of the total cyl i nder vol ume. Thi s
means that excessi ve preservati ve i s requi red to
fi l l these waste spaces duri ng treatment and i t i s
al so necessary to use a greater area of steel wi th
a greater thi ckness to wi thstand the pressure. In
addi ti on, greater energy i s needed to move the
unnecessari l y l arge vol ume of preservati ve and
ex cessi ve energy i s al so requi red to achi eve
appropriate pressures and vacuums.
One al ternati ve, whi ch i s used i n a Swedi sh
desi gn known as the 5-T pl ant (Fi g. 3.9), i s to
use baskets constructed from perforated steel ,
cl osel y conformi ng to the i nternal di mensi ons of
FIGURE 3.8 Layout of a conventional pressure impregnation plant showing the cylinder fitted with quick-
l ocki ng doors and rai l s for the feed bogi es, the storage tank, preservati ve mi xi ng tank and pi pework.
(Hickson’s Timber Products Limited)
Application techniques
75
the cyl i nder and fi tted wi th smal l bal l -beari ng
rol l ers runni ng on the i nsi de of the cyl i nder. In
thi s way the max i mum use i s made of the
avai l abl e cyl i nder space. Unfortunatel y, the
r i gi di ty of the baskets i s cr i ti cal and i t i s
unr eal i sti c to use thi s desi gn for cyl i nder
diameters in excess of about 65 cm (2 ft 2 in), yet
a cyl i nder of thi s di ameter usi ng baskets gi ves a
capaci ty equi val ent to that of a normal 1 m (3 ft
3 in) diameter cylinder using rail-loading bogies.
Baskets are pul l ed from the cyl i nder onto a
tr ough for l oadi ng, al though gener al l y the
trough is mounted on a trolley running on rails
across the end of the cyl i nder, so that several
ex tr a baskets ar e avai l abl e for l oadi ng or
unl oadi ng whi l st a charge i s i n the cyl i nder. If i t
i s requi red to i ncrease the capaci ty i t i s more
economi c to i nstal l extra cyl i nders, served from
the same system of rai l s and troughs, than to
i nstal l a new l arge di ameter cyl i nder (Fi g. 3.10).
In order to si mpl i fy i nstal l ati on the 5-T pl ants
are compl etel y sel f-contai ned, consi sti ng of a
cyl i nder mounted on top of a storage tank fi tted
wi th the necessar y pumps. A tr eatment
installation consisting of two, three or even more
of these smal l cyl i nders i s much l ess expensi ve to
FIGURE 3.9 A small plant, the 5-T, in which the rail bogies are replaced by baskets to increase cylinder
capacity. Baskets are hauled out onto trolleys; a loaded basket can be placed in the cylinder whilst a second
basket is being unloaded and reloaded. A trolley system can feed several cylinders. (Anticimexbolagen and
Cementone-Beaver Limited)
Preservation systems
76
purchase, i nstal l and operate than a l arge
conventi onal cyl i nder capabl e of a si mi l ar
throughout but there is a limit on the size of the
pi eces of wood that can be economi cal l y
accommodated in these relatively small cylinders.
Pressure and vacuum units
Wood i mpregnati on i n cyl i nders can be achi eved
usi ng a vari ety of treatment cycl es but before
di scussi ng these i n detai l i t i s necessary to
consi der the uni ts of pressure and vacuum whi ch
are used to descri be them. Fi rstl y, i t must be
remembered that the atmosphere i s at a pressure
of 1 atmosphere (atm). Drawi ng a vacuum i s an
attempt to decrease thi s pressure to 0 atm. One
method to describe both pressure and vacuum is
to consi der that a compl ete vacuum has zero
absol ute pressure so that the atmosphere i s at an
absol ute pressure of 1 atm, and any ex tra
pressure applied on top of atmospheric pressure
i s addi ti onal . Thus the appl i cati on of 5 atm wi l l
result in an absolute pressure of 6 atm, whilst the
drawi ng of a compl ete vacuum wi l l resul t i n an
absolute pressure of 0 atm. This book is intended
to be practi cal and, whi l e i t i s necessary to
i nterpret some of the more compl ex treatment
cycles in terms of absolute pressure, it is far more
conveni ent to consi der the actual pl ant
requi rements so that cycl es wi l l be quoted i n
terms of the pressure in atm that must be applied
and the effi ci ency of the vacuum as a percentage
that must be drawn. Whi l st some perfecti oni sts
wi l l object to the use of atm as the pressure uni t
and percentage as the vacuum unit it must be
clearly understood that these are, in fact the only
uni versal uni ts that are wi del y understood by
sci enti sts, technol ogi sts and pl ant operators.
Atmospheri c pressure i s someti mes descri bed
as 1 bar (b), a uni t of pressure that gi ves ri se to
FIGURE 3.10 A Gorivac plant with a rectangular treatment vessel. Large rectangular loads can be treated such
as packaged wood and completed joinery items, but only vacuum and relatively low pressures can be used.
(Gorivaerk A/S)
Application techniques
77
the fami l i ar mi l l i bar (mb) used by
meteorol ogi sts. Atmospheri c pressure i s al so
frequentl y deri ved di rectl y from the hei ght of a
mercury barometer and described as 760 mm Hg
or 30 i n Hg. I n the metri c system pressure i s
expressed i n terms of dynes (dyn) or Newtons
(N) per uni t area, and for al l practi cal purposes
i t can be asumed that 1 atm i s equi val ent to 100
kN/m
2
or 1 000 000 dyn/cm
2
. Whi l st the current
metri c standards demand that we shoul d use
uni ts i nvol vi ng Newtons, they are sti l l not
wi del y understood and tradi ti onal uni ts are sti l l
in use at many commercial plants; thus 1 atm
becomes, for practi cal purposes, 1 kg/cm
2
or 15
l b/i n
2
. The torr has al so been fai rl y wi del y
adopted as a uni t of l ow pressure, parti cul arl y
vacuum expressed on the absolute scale. A torr is
1 mm Hg, so that compl ete vacuum i s 0 torr
whilst atmospheric pressure is 760 torr. In view
of the maze of uni ts that are used at present to
ex pr ess pr essur e and vacuum, the need to
confi ne our descri pti ons to very si mpl e uni ts, the
atmosphere for pressure and the percentage for
vacuum, becomes clearly apparent.
Full-cell impregnation
In a full-cell process the aim is to achieve the
compl ete i mpregnati on of the porous spaces
within the wood in the hope that a proportion of
the preservative will penetrate the surrounding
cell walls or that they will at least be protected by
the very hi gh l oadi ngs of preservati ve around
them. I n the empty-cel l pr ocess the i ni ti al
impregnation treatment is basically similar but
this is followed by a recovery process designed to
empty the porous spaces whi l st l eavi ng an
adequate coating of preservative on the cell walls.
Bethell process
In the traditional full-cell process a sequence of
vacuum and pressure i s empl oyed to achi eve
complete impregnation of all the porous spaces
within the wood. This impregnation process is
currently known as the Bethell method, although
i t was actual l y fi rst devel oped by Breant, and
Bethell was responsible only for its adaptation to
creosote treatments. In the normal commercial
process the wood is introduced into the cylinder
and vacuum drawn of 90% or more, the time
varyi ng from 15 mi nutes to several hours
dependi ng upon the permeabi l i ty and cross-
section of the wood involved. This vacuum, which
removes most of the air from the porous spaces
within the wood, is maintained whilst the cylinder
i s fl ooded wi th preservati ve; water-borne
preservati ves are general l y used at ambi ent
temperatures and warmed onl y to prevent
freezi ng, crystal l i zati on or sl udgi ng i n col d
climates but creosote is usually applied at 60–
80°C (140–176F) to reduce the vi scosi ty and
improve penetration. When the cylinder is full the
vacuum is released and the preservative starts to
flow into the porous spaces in the wood under the
influence of atmospheric pressure (Fig. 3.11).
I n order to encourage penetrati on a pressure
is then aplied, typically 7–14 atm, and maintained
for as l ong as i s necessary to achi eve the desi red
penetrati on and retenti on, typi cal l y 1–5 hours
but occasi onal l y sever al days, dependi ng
on permeabi l i ty and cross-secti on. Someti mes
FI GURE 3.11 Bethel l ful l -cel l cycl e (F=fl ood; D=
drain).
Preservation systems
78
treatment i s speci fi ed ‘to refusal ’, i ndi cati ng that
the pressure must be be mai ntai ned unti l gauges
fi tted to the pl ant i ndi cate that there i s no
further absorpti on. Wi th some speci es of wood,
parti cul arl y Eucal ypts i n Austral i a, much hi gher
pressures are used, but not for softwoods as they
may suffer physical damage known as collapse
or washboardi ng i f ex cessi ve pressures are
appl i ed. Wi th some very permeabl e speci es of
wood the atmospheri c pressure on rel ease of the
vacuum i s suffi ci ent to ensure the necessary
penetrati on or onl y a rel ati vel y l ow pressure of 1
or 2 atm i s necessary; a process i nvol vi ng a
vacuum without a superimposed pressure stage
i s descri bed as a vacuum process whi l st one
i nvol vi ng a superi mposed pressure of l ess than 5
atm i s a l ow pr essur e pr ocess. After the
necessary peri od the pressure i s rel eased and the
preservati ve i s removed from the treatment
cyl i nder. Typi cal l y, a fi nal vacuum i s then drawn
i n an attempt to remove excess preservati ve and
avoi d subsequent bl eedi ng i n servi ce.
I n theory, thi s fi nal vacuum i s i ntended to
encourage the expansion of any residual trapped
air within the wood, forcing excess preservative to
the surface where it can drip clear, but in practice
the process often leads to excessive surface deposits
of high viscosity preservatives such as creosote. A
more important function of the final vacuum is
perhaps to rel i eve the compressed state of the
wood, thus allowing any excess preservative to be
properly absorbed. Whatever the true mechanism,
avoi dance of bl eedi ng can be achi eved wi th
creosote only if heating is maintained throughout
the treatment process so that the viscosity of the
preservative remains relatively low.
Wi th creosote treatment the nett retenti on,
defi ned as the l oadi ng of preservati ve that
remai ns after compl eti on of the enti re cycl e,
varies from 80 to 250 kg/m
3
(5–15.6 l b/ft
3
) i n
soft-woods, dependi ng on the speci es, cross-
secti on and the pr opor ti on of r esi stant
heartwood and permeable sapwood. In the case
of a water-bor ne sal t preservati ve the nett
retenti on depends on the concentrati on of the
preservati ve i n the sol uti on, but typi cal l y 4 to 28
kg/m
3
(0.25 to 1.75 l b/ft
3
) i s achi eved, dependi ng
on the preservati ve i nvol ved and the purpose for
which the treatment is intended. The Bethell full-
cel l process i s normal l y used for the appl i cati on
of water-bor ne pr eser vati ves and al so for
creosote where exceptionally high nett retentions
are requi red i n wood for use i n extreme hazard
si tuati ons such as for mari ne pi l es. Ful l -cel l
impregnation without the use of a superimposed
pressure i s al so normal l y used i n the l aboratory
for the i mpregnati on of standard test bl ocks for
bi oci dal eval uati on.
Empty-cell impregnation
In empty-cell processes, wood is impregnated with
preservative under high pressure on top of air
trapped within the wood. This trapped air is later
permitted to expand, ejecting preservative from the
porous spaces but l eavi ng the cel l wal l s
impregnated or coated with preservative. With
empty-cel l processes i t i s far easi er to achi eve
treatments that are free from bleeding in service,
but empty-cell can be used only when the necessary
retentions can be achieved despite the recovery of
preservative from the spaces within the wood.
Rüping process
There are two empty-cell processes in common use,
both originally designed for use with creosote. The
earl i est empty-cel l process was devel oped by
Wassermann but it is usually named after Rüping
who fi rst devel oped the process commerci al l y.
After the cylinder has been loaded and sealed an air
pressure is applied, usually 1.7 to 4.0 atm for a
peri od of 10 to 60 mi nutes dependi ng on the
permeability and sizes of the pieces of wood in the
charge. The cyl i nder i s then fl ooded wi th
preservative, usually creosote, without releasing
the pressure which is then increased up to perhaps
14 atm, about 10 atm above the ori gi nal ai r
pressure, and this pressure is maintained until the
requi red gross absorpti on of preservati ve i s
Application techniques
79
obtained as indicated by the plant gauges. The
pressure i s then rel eased and the preservati ve
removed from the cyl i nder, permi tti ng the ai r
trapped wi thi n the wood to expand and eject
preservative from the porous spaces (Fig. 3.12).
In practice a vacuum of about 60% is drawn
duri ng thi s stage to encourage expansi on of the
trapped ai r and to ensure that, despi te the
rel ati vel y hi gh vi scosi ty of the preservati ve, there
are no pockets of trapped ai r at a pressure i n
excess of atmospheri c. I f the pressure i s not
rel eased i n thi s way there i s a danger that the
remai ni ng pressuri zed ai r wi l l cause conti nui ng
bl eedi ng of preservati ve at the surface of the
wood, but the fi nal vacuum wi l l reduce the
pressure of trapped ai r to bel ow atmospheri c, so
that excess preservative will move inwards when
the vacuum i s rel eased, gi vi ng a parti cul arl y
cl ean sur face. Thi s fi nal vacuum was not
incorporated in the original Rüping process but
i t i s now al ways used—whatever the empty-cel l
process i t i s essenti al to ensure that any trapped
ai r i s under vacuum at the compl eti on of the
process i n order to avoi d subsequent bl eedi ng.
The requi red gross absorpti on duri ng the
pressure stage i s general l y defi ned for i ndi vi dual
speci es of wood, taki ng account of thei r
per meabi l i ti es so that a gr oss absor pti on
requi rement i s real l y a means to ensure adequate
penetrati on. When the pressure i s rel eased and
the vacuum r ecover y per i od compl eted, a
substanti al proporti on of the preservati ve wi l l
have been removed from the open porous spaces
wi thi n the wood so that the net retenti on of
preservati ve may be as l ow as 40% of the
r etenti on fr om a ful l -cel l pr ocess whi l st
achi evi ng al most as good penetr ati on. For
exampl e, i n transmi ssi on pol es penetrati on i s
essenti al , but i n most temperate areas a ful l -cel l
process i s unnecessary wi th creosote as i t wi l l
achi eve an unnecessar i l y hi gh r etenti on.
Typi cal l y, a retenti on of perhaps 250kg/m
3
(15.6l b/ft
3
) wi l l be achi eved wi th a ful l -cel l
process, but wi th a Rüpi ng empty-cel l process
the penetrati on wi l l be vi rtual l y the same but
with a retention of only about 110 kg/m
3
(6.87
l b/ft
3
). Preservati ve usage i s thus substanti al l y
reduced but this nett retention is still adequate to
prevent the fungal degradation at the ground line
that represents the pri nci pal hazard, and the
empty-cel l process can al so achi eve freedom
from surface bl eedi ng. However, i t must be
appreci ated that good penetrati on coupl ed wi th
hi gh recovery and l ow nett retenti on can be
achi eved onl y wi th preservati ves of rel ati vel y
l ow vi scosi ty and thi s necessari l y means that
creosote can be used onl y at hi gh temperatures.
In addi ti on, creosote wi l l not sati sfactori l y coat
or penetrate the cel l wal l s i f the wood has a
moi sture content i n excess of about 20%.
The Rüpi ng and other empty-cel l processes
are general l y empl oyed for creosote treatments,
although they can also be used with water-borne
preservati ves possessi ng sl ow fi xati on reacti ons,
par ti cul ar l y those that fi x onl y when a
component i s l ost such as the ammoni a-based
preservati ves, whi ch fi x as a resul t of the pH
change that occur s when the ammoni a
vol ati l i zes. Empty-cel l pr ocesses ar e al so
parti cul arl y sui tabl e for the appl i cati on of l ow
viscosity organic-solvent preservatives, achieving
FIGURE 3.12 Rüping empty-cell cycle (F=flood; D=
drain).
Preservation systems
80
ex cel l ent di stri buti on combi ned wi th l i mi ted
consumpti on of preservati ve, al though wi th
these l ow vi scosi ty systems i t i s unnecessary to
use hi gh pr essur es to achi eve the r equi r ed
penetrati on; a descri pti on wi l l be gi ven l ater of a
doubl e vacuum pr ocess whi ch i s a nor mal
empty-cel l process operati ng wi th very l ow
pressure di fferenti al s.
Whi l e Rüpi ng i s the most wi del y used empty-
cel l process, parti cul arl y for the treatment of
transmission poles with creosote in Europe, there
are a number of other empty-cel l processes of
i mportance. The doubl e Rüpi ng process was
used on the German railways from about 1909,
i nvol vi ng a normal Rüpi ng cycl e except that
duri ng the i mpregnati on stage a short peri od of
pressure was fol l owed by a vacuum wi thout
emptyi ng the cyl i nder, fol l owed by a return to
pressure and the completion of a normal Rüping
cycl e. The advantages of thi s modi fi ed process
are not cl ear. The addi ti onal vacuum woul d
appear to reduce the effect of the initial pressure,
perhaps thus i mprovi ng penetrati on compared
wi th a normal Rüpi ng cycl e but al so i ncreasi ng
the nett retenti on. The process woul d al so seem
to have an unnecessari l y hi gh energy demand,
ari si ng from the appl i cati on of an i ni ti al l y hi gh
ai r pressure whi ch i s l ater effecti vel y reduced by
the appl i cati on of a vacuum i nvol vi ng the
ex pendi tur e of further energy. I n theory i t
woul d seem to be more sensi bl e to reduce the
i ni ti al pressure al one, but thi s i s effecti vel y the
Lowry empty-cel l process that was devel oped i n
the Uni ted States as an al ter nati ve to the
Rüpi ng process.
Lowry process
I n the Lowry process (Fi g. 3.13) there i s no
i ni ti al ai r pr essur e and the pr eser vati ve i s
therefore i mpregnated on top of ai r at normal
atmospheri c pressure. A more i ntense fi nal
vacuum i s desi rabl e, perhaps as hi gh as 90%,
i n order to achi eve the maxi mum recovery but
in this respect the Lowry process is never as efficient
as the Rüpi ng process; the fi nal nett retenti on i s
typi cal l y about 60% of the gross absorpti on
compared wi th as l ow as 40% wi th the Rüpi ng
process using a low viscosity preservative. Lowry
tr eatment r esul ts i n l ess bl eedi ng than the
Rüping process because any air trapped at the
end of the treatment cycl e i s at a l ower pressure.
I n addi ti on, a Lowry treatment pl ant i s l ess
elaborate than a Rüping plant as there is no need
for a separate air pressure pump. This was at one
ti me consi dered to be an i mportant economi c
factor but i t i s l ess si gni fi cant today as many ai r
vacuum pumps can al so functi on as pressure
pumps, so that an i ni ti al ai r pressure can be
achi eved si mpl y at the cost of addi ti onal pi pe-
work and val ves.
Nordheim process
The Nordheim process was an adaptation of the
Lowry process whi ch attempted to achi eve
fur ther oper ati ng economi es. Dur i ng the
i mpregnati on stage the pressure was rai sed to
between 2 and 7atm and the cylinder valves were
then seal ed, avoi di ng the necessi ty for
continuous pumping to maintain the pressure.
I n fact the pressure reduced steadi l y as the
pr eser vati ve penetr ated i nto the wood or
FI GURE 3.13 Lowry empty-cel l cycl e (F=fl ood; D=
drain).
Application techniques
81
through l eaks i n the pl ant, gi vi ng errati c resul ts
so that the process was eventually abandoned.
Energy considerations
It i s unfortunate that i mpregnati on processes are
often devel oped by wood technol ogi sts wi th
chemi cal or bi ol ogi cal trai ni ng who usual l y
i gnore energy consi derati ons when desi gni ng
treatment cycl es or prepari ng pl ant performance
speci fi cati ons. Duri ng the i mpregnati on stage i t
i s i mportant to pressuri ze usi ng a preservati ve
feed pump as thi s ensures that the l evel i s
mai ntai ned whi l e the pr eser vati ve i s bei ng
absorbed into the wood. A pressure pump of this
type need have onl y l ow capaci ty i n vi ew of the
sl ow rate of penetrati on of preservati ve i nto
wood, and the rel ati ve ease wi th whi ch a fl ui d
can be pressuri zed i n a short peri od due to i ts
non-compressi bi l i ty. However, a hi gh-pressure
pump of l ow capaci ty i s qui te unsui tabl e for
transferri ng preservati ve between the storage
tank and pressure cylinder. The pressure pump
can be i ncr eased i n capaci ty but thi s al so
i ncr eases the power consumpti on whi l st
mai ntai ni ng the pressure and i t may be more
economi c to provi de a second hi gh-capaci ty
pump to achi eve rapi d fl ui d transfer.
Duri ng the i mpregnati on stage i t i s essenti al
that the cyl i nder shoul d be fi l l ed wi th
preservati ve wi thout any ai r bei ng l eft at the top
as the compressi on of thi s trapped ai r wi l l
absor b consi der abl e ener gy, del ayi ng the
pressuri zati on of the cyl i nder and i ncreasi ng the
cost of oper ati on wi thout achi evi ng any
advantage. Pressuri zi ng ai r or drawi ng a vacuum
i n ai r al so requi res consi derabl e energy and i t i s
therefore essenti al to ensure that the cyl i nder i s
l oaded wi th the maxi mum charge that can be
accommodated, in order to ensure minimum air
space. One possi bi l i ty i s to fl ood wi th
preservati ve before drawi ng a vacuum but,
whi l st the vacuum can certai nl y be achi eved
mor e qui ckl y, capi l l ar y for ces between the
preservati ve and the wood prevent the ful l effect
of the vacuum from bei ng transferred to spaces
wi thi n the wood; a 90% vacuum above the
preservati ve may represent a 60% vacuum or
l ess wi thi n the wood. I n addi ti on, si mpl e
hydrostati c forces are si gni fi cant i n a l arge
cyl i nder so that the effecti ve vacuum wi thi n the
wood is considerably reduced at the bottom of
the cyl i nder where wood i s subjected to the
hydrostati c pressure ari si ng through the depth
bel ow the preservati ve surface. Cl earl y, an
i ntense vacuum cannot be achi eved wi thi n wood
whi l st a cyl i nder i s fl ooded wi th preservati ve.
Many water-borne preservatives are corrosive
but i n some commerci al and pi l ot pl ants di rect
contact between preservati ve and pumps i s
avoided by employing only air pumps. Usually
both the treatment cyl i nder and the storage tank
are pressuri zed so that fl ui d transfer i s achi eved
by appl yi ng vacuum or pressure. A si ngl e ai r
pump can be used i n thi s way for al l operati ons
but the compressi bi l i ty of ai r ensures that the
pl ant can be pressuri zed onl y rather sl owl y and
at the expense of consi derabl e energy. Whi l st
these pumping operations represent perhaps the
maj or oper ati ng cost and an ar ea wher e
consi derabl e economi es can be achi eved by
intelligent plant operation, heat energy is equally
i mpor tant i n al l pl ants wher e pr eser vati ve
heati ng i s necessary. Laggi ng i s an obvi ous
precauti on but must cl earl y be extended to al l
the surfaces of the cyl i nder, storage tanks and
pi pework. One i nteresti ng concept i s to fi t the
cyl i nder and storage tanks wi th water jackets
whi ch have a hi gh thermal capaci ty and thus act
as a reservoir of heat energy, enabling off-peak
el ectr i ci ty, for ex ampl e, to be used. The
i mportant factor i s the temperature of the
preservati ve at the zone where i t i s penetrati ng
i nto the wood so that heated preservati ve can
achi eve very l i ttl e effect i f the wood i s col d.
Current practi ce i s to extend the treatment cycl e
and al l ow suffi ci ent ti me for the wood
temperature to i ncrease but a more effi ci ent
method i s to retai n wood for a day or two i n a
heated store before treatment.
Preservation systems
82
High and low pressure
Several variations of these basic treatment cycles
are used commercially. The Australian Eucalypts
are very impermeable and are often treated at very
high pressures to achieve the required penetration;
in fact increasing pressure is rather less effective
than increasing the treatment time. In contrast.
South Afri can pi ne Pinus patula i s extremel y
permeabl e and onl y very l ow pressures are
necessary to achieve complete penetration in a
short treatment time.
Double vacuum process
In double vacuum treatments an initial vacuum is
fol l owed by i mpregnati on under atmospheri c
pressure with a final vacuum to achieve a degree
of recovery and reduce bl eedi ng. The
impregnation pressure depends, as in all other
processes, on the difference between the pressure
appl i ed to the preservati ve duri ng the
impregnation stage and the initial air pressure
immediately prior to this stage. In this cycle the
initial air pressure depends on the intensity of the
initial vacuum but the degree of recovery depends
on the extent to which the final vacuum exceeds
the intial vacuum, or the degree of expansion of
trapped air that can be achieved when the final
vacuum is applied. Double vacuum is identical to
any other empty-cell process but the impregnation
pressure is very low and the process is suitable
onl y for the appl i cati on of l ow-vi scosi ty
organicsolvent preservatives, in situations where
only limited penetration is necessary (Fig. 3.14).
Doubl e vacuum i s now ex tensi vel y used,
parti cul arl y i n Europe, for the treatment of
external joi nery (mi l l work) such as wi ndow and
door frames but i t i s rel i abl e onl y i f the treated
wood i s reasonabl y permeabl e. It i s most often
used for the treatment of European redwood or
Scots pi ne Pinus sylvestris as the sapwood of thi s
can be r eadi l y tr eated and the hear twood
possesses reasonabl e natural durabi l i ty. Whi l st
redwood is most widely used for external joinery
i n Europe, whi tewood, pri nci pal l y spruce Picea
abies, i s preferred i n many cases as i t i s now
mor e r eadi l y avai l abl e thr ough ex tensi ve
pl anti ngs. Thi s whi tewood possesses very l ow
permeabi l i ty and onl y l i mi ted penetrati on can be
achieved by double vacuum treatment, even with
preservati ves of very l ow vi scosi ty. Modi fi ed
tr eatment cycl es wi th a super i mposed
i mpregnati on pressure of 1 or 2 atm are often
used, a process that is almost identical to the low
pressure process that has been used for many
years i n South Afri ca, but thi s hi gher pressure
does not si gni fi cantl y i mprove the penetrati on
rate and l onger i mpregnati on ti mes are much
more effecti ve.
Toxicant concentrations
These double vacuum and low pressure processes
for external joinery are generally operated under
a vari ety of propri etary names, the fi rst ones
being Gorivac in Denmark and Vac-Vac in the
Netherl ands and the Uni ted Ki ngdom. I t i s
frequently claimed that they provide more reliable
treatment of external joinery than the immersion
processes which they have largely replaced, but
this comment requires some explanation. It is true
that shor t di p wi l l achi eve onl y l i mi ted
FI GURE 3.14 Doubl e vacuum cycl e (F=fl ood; D=
drain).
Application techniques
83
penetration but prolonged immersion can achieve
both deep penetrati on and hi gh preservati ve
retentions. However, the required treatment time
may be too long and the high retentions may be
uneconomi c. The advantage of an empty-cel l
process i s that i t can achi eve the requi red
penetrati on at reduced retenti ons i n
comparati vel y short treatment ti mes, thus
achieving both reliability and economy. However,
it must be clearly appreciated that this does not
mean that greater reliability is achieved with a
particular preservative if it is applied by a double
vacuum empty-cel l process, i n pl ace of a
prolonged immersion treatment which is virtually
full-cell, as it is clearly necessary to take account
of the nett retentions of preservative within the
treated zone i n order to cal cul ate the nett
retenti on of the acti ve toxi cants that wi l l be
achi eved. Thus, tox i cant concentrati on i n
formul ated preservati ves must be hi gher when
appl i ed by empty-cel l processes than when
applied by full-cell processes in order to achieve
the required toxicant retentions, a factor that is
often entirely ignored, and the advantage of an
empty-cel l process when usi ng a formul ated
preservative is that it actually achieves economies
i n the use of carri er sol vent wi thout affecti ng
toxicant retentions.
Solvent recovery
Whenever organic-solvent preservatives are used,
the cost of the non-functi onal carri er sol vent
tends to i ncrease the cost of treatment. There
have been many attempts to develop processes
which can recover the carrier solvent for re-use. In
thi s sense the vari ous empty-cel l processes are
largely ignored, although they are certainly the
most effective and the most economic means to
achieve significant solvent recoveries, and they
are the onl y processes whi ch can achi eve
recoveries of the relatively non-volatile high-flash
petroleum solvents that are so widely used.
For example, it may be required to treat some
sawnwood (lumber) with pentachlorophenol at a
retenti on of 6.4 kg/m
3
(0.4 l b/ft
3
). A pressure
i mpregnati on process on the wood concerned
can achieve a gross absorption of about 200 kg/
m
3
(12.5 l b/ft
3
) and as thi s i s effecti vel y the nett
retenti on when a ful l -cel l treatment i s empl oyed
i t i s evi dent that a 3.2% pentachl orophenol
sol uti on i s r equi r ed. The nett r etenti on of
pentachlorophenol will be 6.4 kg/m
3
(0.4 l b/ft
3
)
as requi red but the nett retenti on of sol vent wi l l
be 193.6 kg/m
3
(12.1 l b/ft
3
). Al ternati vel y, an
empty-cel l process can be empl oyed whi ch
achi eves a r ecover y of about 50% wi th a
formul ati on of reasonabl y l ow vi scosi ty, so that
the nett retenti on of preservati ve wi l l be onl y
100 kg/m
3
(6.25 l b/ft
3
) and the formul ati on
concentr ati on must be i ncr eased to 6.4%
pentachl or ophenol i n or der to achi eve the
requi red retenti on of 6.4 kg/m
3
(0.4 l b/ft
3
), but
wi th thi s process the wood contai ns onl y 93.6
kg/m
3
(5.58 l b/ft
3
) of sol vent.
The use of an empty-cell process can therefore
substanti al l y r educe sol vent consumpti on
wi thout affecti ng nett retenti ons of toxi cant,
provi ded the formul ati on concentrati ons take
account of the degree of recovery that can be
achi eved, yet the normal Rüpi ng, Lowry and
double vacuum processes are seldom considered
as means for achi evi ng substanti al sol vent
r ecover i es. I nstead, the emphasi s i s on
al ter nati ve pr ocesses that uti l i ze r el ati vel y
vol ati l e sol vents whi ch can be empl oyed i n thei r
l i qui d form for a conventi onal i mpregnati on
treatment and l ater recovered as a gas.
Cellon or Drilon process
In the Cellon process, known in Europe as the
Dri l on process, the toxi cants are appl i ed i n a
l i qui fi ed petrol eum gas (LPG), normal l y butane,
by conventi onal ful l -cel l i mpr egnati on. I f
pentachlorophenol is used a concentration of 2
to 4% i s necessary, dependi ng on the nett
retenti on requi red, together wi th auxi l i ary co-
sol vents because of the l i mi ted sol ubi l i ty of
pentachlorophenol in butane. These co-solvents
Preservation systems
84
are ei ther l ow-boi l i ng such as i-propyl ether so
that they can be recovered wi th the LPG, or
hi gh-boi l i ng such as pol yal kyl ene gl ycol s and
retai ned wi thi n the wood. The persi stent hi gh-
boi l i ng sol vents are preferred as they ensure
better di stri buti on of the pentachl orophenol
wi thi n the treated wood and i mprove resi stance
to l osses through l eachi ng or vol ati l i zati on.
A vacuum i s appl i ed i ni ti al l y to the l oaded
cyl i nder and thi s i s fol l owed by purgi ng wi th an
i nert gas to remove oxygen. A normal ful l -cel l
i mpr egnati on cycl e fol l ows consi sti ng of a
vacuum, fl oodi ng wi th the preservati ve sol uti on
and the appl i cati on of an i mpr egnati on
pressure, usual l y achi eved i n thi s parti cul ar
process by heati ng the sol uti on wi th steam coi l s
i n order to generate a pressure of 7 to 10 atm.
The sol uti on possesses ver y l ow vi scosi ty,
par ti cul ar l y when heated i n thi s way, and
penetrati on i s very rapi d. When the requi red
gr oss absor pti on has been achi eved the
pr eser vati ve sol uti on i s r emoved fr om the
cyl i nder and a vacuum i s drawn i n order to
vol ati l i ze any sol vent remai ni ng wi thi n the
wood. Unfortunatel y thi s stage of the process i s
adi abati c, meani ng that the wood i s cool ed
duri ng the i ni ti al evaporati on stages, reduci ng
the vol ati l i ty of the remai ni ng sol vent. Whi l e
the generati on of pressure, by the temperature
i ncrease method, si gni fi cantl y i mproves the
recovery rate i t i s sti l l necessary to appl y a
vacuum for a peri od of 1 to 3 hours before
gi vi ng a fi nal purge wi th i nert gas and openi ng
the cyl i nder.
The energy required to maintain the vacuum
duri ng the recovery peri od i s expensi ve and the
adi abati c r estr i cti on r epr esents a sever e
l i mi tati on whi ch cannot be overcome because of
the good thermal i nsul ati on properti es of the
treated wood and the surroundi ng vacuum
conditions. The process seems unlikely to be very
economic when these disadvantages are coupled
wi th the ti me and cost i nvol ved i n the purgi ng
process and the hi gh cost of i nsuri ng a pressure
pl ant operati ng on such l ow-fl ash sol vents.
Dow process
I n the Dow process the butane carri er sol vent i s
repl aced by non-fl ammabl e methyl ene chl ori de
whi ch avoi ds the need for an i nert gas purge
and consi derabl y reduces i nsurance costs. I n
addi ti on, the use of methyl ene chl ori de enabl es
the vacuum recovery process to be repl aced by
r ecover y i n steam so that the adi abati c
l i mi tati ons of the Cel l on process are l argel y
avoi ded. The steam i s subsequentl y condensed,
separati ng the methyl ene chl ori de for re-use.
However, i t i s not cl ear that any si gni fi cant
economi c i mprovement i s achi eved wi th thi s
process as the heat energy requi rement for
steam generati on i s cl earl y l arge. The pri nci pal
advantage of the Dow process therefore l i es i n
the use of a non-fl ammabl e sol vent.
Pressure-stroke process
I t i s cl ear that these vari ous i mpregnati on
pr ocesses al l have thei r advantages and
di sadvantages, and conti nuous attempts are
being made to develop more efficient and more
economi c pr ocesses. Befor e attempti ng to
devel op a new process i t i s advi sabl e to consi der
the numerous systems that have been devised in
the past and whi ch are now used to onl y a
l i mi ted extent or are compl etel y forgotten. The
pressure-stroke method i s a devel opment of the
Bethel l ful l -cel l i mpregnati on method i n whi ch
the cyl i nder i s fi rst fl ooded wi th preservati ve.
When the preservati ve appears i n the overfl ow
pi pe the top val ve of the cyl i nder i s cl osed but
the pump conti nues to oper ate, r api dl y
i ncreasi ng the pressure. The system i s desi gned
wi th a compl ex change-over val ve so that, after
onl y 3–4 seconds of thi s pressure stroke, a
vacuum can be appl i ed whi ch, wi thi n 3 mi nutes,
reaches the vapour pressure of the preservati ve
sol uti on, rapi dl y expandi ng ai r trapped wi thi n
the wood. After about 15 mi nutes, l oss of ai r
from the wood ceases and a pressure i s appl i ed
i n the usual way (Fi g. 3.15).
Application techniques
85
This technique has been largely developed in
conjuncti on wi th a parti cul ar propri etary pl ant,
the 5-T manufactured in Sweden, and the rapid
changes between vacuum and pr essur e ar e
achi eved by usi ng a si ngl e pump whi ch runs
conti nuousl y and whi ch generates the vacuum
when requi red by di verti ng the fl ow through a
venturi device. The method also relies on the fact
that the cyl i nder r emai ns fl ooded wi th
preservati ve at al l stages; thi s avoi ds the heavy
energy demands which occur when producing a
pressure or vacuum when air is present, although
drawing a vacuum in a flooded cylinder reduces
the vacuum i ntensi ty wi thi n the wood as
previously explained.
Pressure and penetration
The pressure-stroke method was devel oped
fol l owi ng observati ons on the rate of fl ow of
preservative into softwoods. If the impregnation
pressure i s steadi l y i ncreased the rate of fl ow
increases in proportion until a critical pressure is
reached when there i s a sudden i ncrease i n
resistance to flow. It is sometimes suggested that
this resistance develops when the increasing flow
of preservative through a bordered pit achieves a
rate at which the torus is displaced, effectively
cl osi ng the pi ts. I t i s al so suggested that thi s
critical situation develops at far lower pressures in
spruce than in pine, thus explaining why only
l i mi ted penetrati on can be achi eved through
pressure impregnation of spruce. Whatever the
true explanation it is clear that pressure increases
are l i kel y to be of l i mi ted benefi t and that
prolonging the impregnation time is likely to be a
more rel i abl e way to achi eve penetrati on i nto
impermeable woods. However, it has also been
observed that if a very high pressure is suddenly
applied, a very high flow occurs initially, followed
by a decrease to the normal ex pected fl ow,
presumably as the torus becomes displaced.
Oscillating pressure process
The pr essur e-str oke method i s desi gned to
take advantage of thi s fl ow char acter i sti c by
gener ati ng pr essur es ver y r api dl y and by
i ntroduci ng two pressure stages. The osci l l ati ng
pressure method (OPM) further devel ops thi s
i dea. The cyl i nder i s fl ooded wi th a preservati ve
and then subj ected to a pr essur e of about
7.5 atm al ter nati ng wi th a vacuum of about
95%. Usual l y the cycl es i ncrease progressi vel y
i n l ength fr om about 1 to 7 mi nutes. The
number of cycl es var i es wi th the wood,
permeabl e woods usual l y requi ri ng about 40
cycl es and i mpermeabl e wood treated i n l arge
cross-secti ons up to 400 cycl es. The osci l l ati ng
pr essur e method was devel oped i n Sweden
and i ntr oduced commer ci al l y by Bol i den i n
about 1950. I n the or i gi nal ver si on of the
process the l oadi ng of the cyl i nder was fol l owed
by pr e-steami ng at a pr essur e of about one
atmospher e, the dur ati on dependi ng on the
cross-secti onal di mensi ons of the wood. Thi s
pre-steami ng was i ntroduced to make the wood
mor e fl ex i bl e and mor e amenabl e to the
osci l l ati ng pr essur e method of tr eatment. A
normal osci l l ati ng pressure cycl e was empl oyed,
the total tr eatment ti me bei ng 1 hour for
ever y (25 mm) (1 i n) of thi ckness or r adi us.
The process was used ori gi nal l y wi th S25 sal t
FI GURE 3.15 Pressure-stroke cycl e (F=fl ood; D=
drain).
Preservation systems
86
preservative and later with K33. One adaptation
of the process i s the al ternati ng pressure method
(APM), i n whi ch the vacuum i s omi tted and the
pressure fluctuates between atmospheric and 10–
13 atm (Fig. 3.16).
Poulain process
I n transmi ssi on pol es the most seri ous decay
hazard ari ses through the acti on of fungi at the
ground line. Any preservation process must take
thi s hazard i nto account, despi te the fact that
decay ri sk i s much l ess on the freel y venti l ated
porti on of the pol e above the ground. I n the
Poulain process the poles are first treated to give
adequate durability to this exposed portion and
then a second treatment i s appl i ed to gi ve
addi ti onal protecti on to the butt. Wi th thi s
process as ori gi nal l y devel oped, the pol es are
fi rst i mpregnated wi th a l i ght creosote usi ng the
Rüpi ng method then, after the cyl i nder has been
drai ned, i t i s rotated i nto a verti cal posi ti on and
fi l l ed wi th a heavy oi l to a depth of about 2 m
(6.5 ft) and the ai r above pressuri zed to force
thi s oi l i nto the butts. The Poul ai n method has
been used i n the Netherl ands but wi th the i ni ti al
Rüpi ng treatment wi th creosote repl aced by sal t
treatment, ori gi nal l y by Kyani si ng but l ater
usi ng Wol man sal ts—two preservati ve systems
that are descri bed i n the next chapter.
Another system, devel oped by Kuntz i n
Hungar y befor e Wor l d War I I , i nvol ved
i mpregnati ng the pol es wi th a l ow retenti on of
creosote of l i gni te tar-oi l , then, rotati ng the
cyl i nder so that the pol es were verti cal wi th the
butts upwards. The cyl i nder was next fl ooded
wi th col d heavy creosote, l eavi ng the butts
protrudi ng for about 2 m (6.5 ft). A hot, l i ght
creosote oi l was then i ntroduced on top of the
col d oi l and a pressure appl i ed; thi s caused the
l i ght oi l to penetrate rapi dl y i nto the butts but
the heavy oi l to penetrate onl y sl owl y i nto the
remai ni ng part of the pol e, typi cal l y gi vi ng a
penetration of 80 kg/m
3
(5 l b/ft
3
) for the butt but
only 40 kg/m
3
(2.5 l b/ft
3
) for the rest of the pol e.
Boulton process
One problem is the limited penetration that can
be achi eved when wood i s wet as, even wi th
water-borne preservati ves, ther e must be
sufficient space within the wood to accommodate
the required absorption of preservative solution
and this means that preservative should never be
applied when wood has a moisture content in
excess of the fibre saturation point of about 30%.
With creosote and other preservatives that are
l argel y i mmi sci bl e wi th water, a much l ower
moi sture content i s desi rabl e to ensure
penetration of the cell wall, although in practice a
maxi mum moi sture content of about 25% i s
usually specified. If the moisture content is higher
and ki l n-seasoni ng i s unr eal i sti c, as wi th
transmission poles to be treated during the winter
months, it is possible to remove water during the
treatment process. Creosote is generally heated to
reduce its viscosity and, in the Boulton process,
this hot creosote is used to boil off the water.
Generally, the creosote is heated to about 60°C
(140°F) and a vacuum applied to induce boiling.
When foaming ceases, pressure is applied as in a
normal Bethell full-cell process. When Boulton
originally introduced the process, boiling under
FI GURE 3.16 Osci l l ati ng pressure cycl e (F=fl ood;
D=drain).
Application techniques
87
vacuum was used to avoi d the necessi ty for
heating the creosote above 100°C (248T); some
creosotes at that ti me had very hi gh phenol
contents which were appreciably volatile at that
temperature, particularly in steam, and it was also
feared that high temperatures would damage the
wood. Damage does not occur and some
treatment plant operators are now using 120°C
(248°F), boi l i ng off water duri ng a normal
Rüping or Lowry empty-cell process without the
need for an additional vacuum stage.
The use of a very hot creosote also helps to
reduce bleeding as the viscosity of the preservative
i s l ow, achi evi ng both good penetrati on and
recovery, although it must be appreciated that
bleeding can be avoided completely only if the
cycle is designed to ensure that any trapped air
has a pressure below atmospheric at the end of
the process so that any movement of preservative
will be inwards rather than outwards. In view of
the volatile losses that can occur from creosote
duri ng Boul toni si ng a modi fi ed techni que was
devised by Rutgerswerke in which the cylinder is
first flooded with a separate hot oil for the water-
removal stage, if necessary with the application of
a vacuum to induce boiling. This heating oil is
then removed and creosote impregnated using a
normal Rüping cycle.
Preservative bleeding
The normal Bethel l , Rüpi ng and Lowry
impregnation processes have been used for many
years wi th consi derabl e success, provi ded that
appropriate precautions are taken to ensure that
the moisture content of wood is sufficiently low
and that the wood to be treated is sufficiently
permeabl e. I n recent years the most seri ous
problem has been bleeding, largely because of the
complete lack of appreciation that trapped air
must have a pressure of less than atmospheric at
the completion of an empty-cell treatment cycle.
The most seri ous bl eedi ng i s associ ated wi th
the Rüpi ng process whi ch i nvol ves an i ni ti al ai r
pr essur e fol l owed by i mpr egnati on wi th
preservati ve. In the ori gi nal process the pressure
i n the trapped ai r was rel i ed on to eject excess
preservati ve from the wood but thi s expul si on
woul d conti nue, parti cul arl y wi th creosote of
rel ati vel y hi gh vi scosi ty, for a consi derabl e
peri od after the wood was removed from the
treatment cyl i nder. I n many yards, pol es were
stored for 6 to 12 months to permi t the creosote
to drip free so that the poles were relatively clean
i n servi ce. In the Lowry process, i n whi ch the
preservati ve i s i mpregnated on top of ai r at
atmospheri c pressure, the bl eedi ng has al ways
been l ess as preservati ve recovery i s achi eved
through the application of a final vacuum. The
addi ti on of thi s fi nal vacuum to the Rüpi ng
pr ocess consi der abl y r educes but does not
compl etel y prevent bl eedi ng, unl ess the pl ant i s
operati ng at very hi gh temperatures so that the
creosote has a l ow vi scosi ty and the trapped ai r
pressure can be total l y rel i eved duri ng the
vacuum peri od. In theory, the best techni que to
avoid bleeding is to use a Lowry process with an
extended i ntense fi nal vacuum or al ternati vel y a
modi fi ed process i nvol vi ng a l i mi ted i ni ti al
vacuum, perhaps 5 to 10%, wi th a very i ntense
final vacuum to achieve the required recovery.
These methods to prevent bl eedi ng can be
successful only if the preservative possesses low
viscosity and with creosote this necessarily means
heating. This heating is wasted if the wood is cold
or wet as the creosote will be cooled at the critical
zone where it is advancing into the wood. Perhaps
i n the future treatment yards wi l l i ntroduce
storage sheds in which wood can be warmed for
several days before treatment.
A method to reduce bl eedi ng has recentl y
been i ntroduced i n I tal y. A normal Rüpi ng
process is used to apply creosote but an extended
peri od at atmospheri c pressure i s i ntroduced,
after compl eti on of the pressure i mpregnati on
stage and before the preservati ve i s removed
from the cyl i nder. Thi s al l ows the trapped ai r to
expand and a considerable degree of recovery to
be achi eved wi thout the necessi ty for
mai ntai ni ng ex pensi ve pumpi ng, the fi nal
Preservation systems
88
vacuum after drai ni ng more effi ci entl y rel i evi ng
the pressure of the ai r trapped wi thi n the wood.
However, thi s process can si gni fi cantl y i mprove
recovery and resi stance to bl eedi ng onl y i f a
substanti al ti me i s al l owed for the atmospheri c
pressure stage. Whi l st i t i s true that expensi ve
vacuum pumpi ng i s reduced i n thi s way, the
extra time involved may considerably decrease
pl ant uti l i zati on so that per haps onl y two
charges can be treated per day i nstead of three.
Pressure cycle stages
All vacuum and pressure impregnation processes
are basi cal l y si mi l ar and i nvol ve fi ve essenti al
stages. The fi rst stage i s to l oad the cyl i nder and
the second i s to adjust the pressure of the ai r
trapped within the wood by applying a vacuum
or pressure as appropri ate. The thi rd stage i s to
fl ood the cyl i nder wi th preservati ve and appl y
the i mpregnati on pressure. The fourth stage
i nvol ves drai ni ng the cyl i nder and adjusti ng the
pressure of the ai r wi thi n the wood, usual l y by
the appl i cati on of a vacuum. The and fi nal stage
i s to return the treated wood to atmospheri c
pressure then remove it from the cylinder.
Penetration depends on the difference between
the i ni ti al ai r pressure and the i mpregnati on
pressure, stages two and three respectively, so that
i t can be i mproved by reduci ng the i ni ti al ai r
pressure or by i ncreasi ng the i mpregnati on
pressure. The degree of recovery depends on the
relationship between the initial and the final air
pressures, stages two and four respectively, and the
tendency to bleed depends on how these pressures
rel ate to atmospheri c pressure. I n al l cases
penetration into relatively impermeable woods can
be achi eved more readi l y by i ncreasi ng
i mpregnati on ti me rather than i mpregnati on
pressure; pressures in excess of about 12.5 atm are
likely to cause collapse in many woods. In all cases
the gross absorption depends on the porosity of the
wood and the penetration that is achieved, and the
nett retention is the gross absorption after recovery
has occurred in empty-cell processes. In all cases
wood must be prepared before treatment. The need
to ensure a low moisture content has already been
emphasized; with round poles and piles it is also
necessary to remove the bark and phloem, and
perhaps to peel the pole to ensure a uniform shape.
All woodworking should be carried out before
treatment.
Impermeable woods
A considerable amount of thought and effort has
been devoted to i mprovi ng the penetrati on of
preservatives into impermeable woods. Although
it is clear from theory and practical experience
that penetrati on i s not usual l y i mproved
significantly by the application of high pressures
to woods of smal l pore si ze, i t i s a fact that
increased pressure remains the favoured method
for improving penetration. Pressures in excess of
about 12.5 atm are likely to lead to collapse in
softwoods but much higher pressures of 50 to 70
atm have been used in Australia for the treatment
of rel ati vel y i mpermeabl e Eucal ypt speci es.
Krüzner suggested in 1906 that penetration could
be improved by steaming wood for 3 hours at a
pressure of 10 atm, equivalent to a temperature of
about 180°C (356°F). Whilst an improvement in
penetration could be achieved in this way it was
far short of hi s expectati ons. Two years l ater
Chateau and Merkl en adapted the process,
rel yi ng on hi gh pressure steami ng to heat the
wood so that a subsequent vacuum stage resulted
in the boiling off of trapped water. This process is
still used in North America to reduce the moisture
content of wood for treatment.
The Tayl or Col qui tt pr ocess was fi r st
proposed i n 1865 as a means for reduci ng
moi sture content by vapour dryi ng but i t was
Besemfelder who patented the process in 1910.
The process rel i ed on passi ng sol vent vapour
over the wood—certai n water-i mmi sci bl e
sol vents such as tri chl oroethyl ene and benzene
performi ng best as they were abl e to absorb
water vapour whi ch was l ater readi l y removed
by condensati on. The pr ocess was ful l y
Application techniques
89
devel oped i n 1940 and the fi rst pl ant became
operati onal i n 1945. I n the Kresapi n process
i ntr oduced i n Austr i a i n 1951, ful l -cel l
i mpregnati on wi th Neckal or Saprocresol was
fol l owed by dryi ng i n the open. The treatments
were apparentl y desi gned to prevent further
water absor pti on whi l st sti l l per mi tti ng
evaporati on to occur; the Kresapi n process was
fol l owed by normal i mpregnati on wi th creosote.
Estrade process
The Estrade process, introduced in France and
Switzerland for the treatment of spruce involves
pre-treatment in the cylinder with hot air. This
process induces rapid drying of the external layers
of the wood so that substantial splits develop,
whi ch encourage deep penetrati on of
preservati ve. Whi l st thi s system permi ts the
preservati ve to gai n access to the tangenti al
penetrati on pathways, whi ch are si gni fi cantl y
more permeable than the normal radial pathways,
the splitting can be a considerable disadvantage
through the l oss of strength that occurs,
particularly in wood suffering from spiral grain.
Incising
I nci si ng can achi eve the same penetr ati on
advantages whi l st actual l y rel i evi ng stresses
wi thi n the wood and si gni fi cantl y reduci ng the
tendency for spl i ts to devel op. I nci si ng i s
achi eved by dri l l i ng or forci ng needl es i nto the
wood, or cutti ng sl i ts wi th kni ves or ci rcul ar
saws; needl es are favoured i n Germany but
kni ves are general l y used i n North Ameri ca and
the British Isles. Where slits are cut with knives it
i s obvi ous that the best penetrati on can be
achi eved by cutti ng across the grai n, to gi ve
access to the l ongi tudi nal pathways whi ch are
most per meabl e, but thi s woul d r esul t i n
substanti al and unacceptabl e l oss of strength so
that l ongi tudi nal sl i ts, to gi ve access to the
tangenti al pathways, are most real i sti c. These
sl i ts do not need to be conti nuous as the
tangenti al pathways gi ve access i n turn to the
very permeabl e l ongi tudi nal pathways.
Whi l st i nci si ng was fi rst i ntroduced as a
means to improve penetration into round poles,
i t was adapted i n Engl and for sawn spruce usi ng
smal l kni ves to gi ve a rel ati vel y cl ose pattern of
sl i ts. When used for thi s purpose the kni ves are
arranged to penetrate to a depth of about 6 mm
(1/4 i n) i nstead of the 15 mm (5/8 i n) or more
that i s normal for the treatment of pol es for
severe decay hazard condi ti ons. However, i t
must be appr eci ated that i nci si ng enabl es
treatment to penetrate onl y to the depth of the
i nci si ons. I nci si ng i s real i sti c for Dougl as fi r,
Pseudotsuga menziesii, where the treatment of
the sapwood al one i s requi red as the heartwood
i s natural l y durabl e, but the system i s l ess
effi ci ent wi th spruces such as Picea abies and
Picea sitcbensis whi ch possess non-durabl e
heartwood. On the other hand, spruce pol es
often fai l through the devel opment of checks
penetrati ng through the treated zone but i nci si ng
rel i eves these stresses. Indeed, i n woods that are
parti cul arl y suscepti bl e to checki ng, a verti cal
saw kerf i s someti mes cut before treatment i n
order to reduce thi s danger. One al ternati ve
method to reduce checki ng, i n the case of
creosote treatments, i s to use a cycl e that gi ves a
degree of bl eedi ng whi ch wi l l ensure that the
surface i s coated, and thus seal ed, agai nst the
wetti ng and dryi ng condi ti ons that i nduce that
movement within the wood that causes checking.
High energy jets
Prior to the development of incising, even high
pr essur e tr eatments wi th water-bor ne
preservati ves were unabl e to effect si gni fi cant
penetrati on i nto European whi tewood or
spruce—a species of increasing importance to the
European construction industry in view of the
decl i ni ng avai l abi l i ty of European redwood or
pi ne. Onl y the borate or fl uori de di ffusi on
treatments of freshly felled green wood were able
to achieve consistent deep penetration but their
Preservation systems
90
usefulness is limited as both these treatments are
lost in leaching conditions. Needles, drills and
knives are not the only means for incising wood
as high-energy liquid jets can be used to achieve
similar incising patterns. In fact, the preservative
can be used as the cutting fluid, achieving incising
and preservati on i n a si ngl e operati on. Thi s
system has been evaluated in the United States but
energy costs were found to be very hi gh,
apparentl y because an attempt was made to
achi eve normal gross absorpti ons of
preservatives. It is much more realistic to achieve
l ow gross absorpti ons of concentrated
preservati ves but thi s i s acceptabl e onl y wi th
preservative formulations that can subsequently
di ffuse to achi eve reasonabl e di stri buti on. The
depth of the incision depends on the pressure and
also on the volume of preservative to be applied
to a unit area of wood, so that energy savings can
be achieved if the volume can be reduced by the
use of a concentrated preservative.
Cobra process
The Cobra process was developed principally as a
remedial treatment for transmission poles at the
ground line, in order to control incipient decay and
extend thei r servi ce l i fe. The soi l i s dug away
around the pole and a hollow pin is driven in to a
depth of about 3 cm (1¼ in). Usually a reservoir is
then attached and 2–3 g of preservative solution or
paste is forced through the needle. Generally the
Wolman type of salt is employed as this is able to
diffuse throughout the pole. The process has also
been used for the treatment of railway sleepers in
service and is sometimes used for the treatment of
new wood in special circumstances, such as for
treatment with bifluoride to give protection against
House Longhorn beetl e. The HS-Presser i s a
similar system for remedial treatment in buildings,
particularly in roof structures. A hole of about 8
mm (5/16 in) diameter and 220 mm (8
3
A in) long is
bored into the wood at an angle of about 30°. A
hollow needle is then inserted and fitted with a
cylinder containing about 0.7–1.5 litres (1.2–2.6
pints) of preservative solution such as 4% Wolman
sal t or 10% Osmol WB4. The preservati ve i s
usually absorbed in a few days, even in relatively
impermeable wood. The Springer-Presser is similar
but usual l y uses 10% Wol mani t or Hydrasi l
packed in a container pressurized at about 20 atm
so that penetration is achieved more rapidly.
Injectors
These injection processes have been simplified by
the i ntroducti on, ori gi nal l y i n France, of smal l
pl asti c i njector nozzl es. These are hammered
i nto a previ ousl y dri l l ed hol e, l eavi ng onl y a
nipple on the surface of the wood. Preservative is
then i nj ected at hi gh pressure and the gun
removed, a bal l val ve mai ntai ni ng the pressure
wi thi n the wood. I f necessar y, fur ther
preservati ve can be appl i ed l ater. Thi s system i s
i deal for the remedi al treatment of ex ternal
joi nery (mi l l work) such as wi ndow and door
fr ames, the pr eser vati ve spr eadi ng for a
consi derabl e di stance around the i njecti on poi nt
but parti cul arl y al ong the grai n. When treatment
is complete the nipple can be removed and the
small hole stopped to conceal the injection point.
Ponding and water spraying
There have been many attempts to devel op
systems whi ch wi l l enabl e pr eser vati ves to
achi eve si gni fi cant penetrati on i nto spruce but
few have been realistic. One system that deserves
parti cul ar menti on i s pondi ng; i f spruce i s
fl oated i n water for a peri od of several weeks the
permeabi l i ty of the sapwood i s substanti al l y
i ncreased, but i t must be appreci ated that the
wood must then be dried before it can be treated.
Consi derabl e success has al so been achi eved,
pr i nci pal l y i n the I r i sh Republ i c, wi th
waterspray treatments whi ch are more readi l y
control l ed and wi th the del i berate i ntroducti on
of bacter i a whi ch appar entl y achi eve the
i ncreased permeabi l i ty wi thout affecti ng the
structural strength of the wood. The most
Application techniques
91
seri ous cri ti ci sm of thi s process, at l east wi th
r egar d to spr uce, concer ns the fact that
penetrati on cannot be achi eved i n thi s way i nto
spruce heartwood whi ch i s non-durabl e. On the
other hand, i n a transmi ssi on pol e, the strength
i s onl y margi nal l y affected by the decay of the
heartwood so that thi s i s probabl y the most
real i sti c method that has been i ntroduced so far
for the uti l i zati on of spruce i n pl ace of pi ne.
Plywood and particle-board
Wood-based products such as pl ywood and
chipboard must also be treated with preservatives
if they are not naturally durable and if they are to
be exposed to a deterioration hazard. Plywood can
be treated by normal preservation methods in the
finished sheet but the glue-lines tend to obstruct
penetration. A water-borne treatment increases the
moisture content and if the wood veneers possess
medium or high movement the individual veneers
will swell across the grain, causing enormous stress
so that the veneers may separate from the glue-line.
The al ternati ve i s to treat the veneers before
assembly. The simplest method is to spray them
with a water-borne preservative as they leave the
peeler. Borate preservatives such as Timbor are
able to diffuse rapidly into the wet veneer and even
rapid fixing copper-chromium-arsenic salts can be
appl i ed successful l y i n thi s way to veneers of
limited thickness.
A further al ternati ve i s to i ncorporate the
preservati ve i n the gl ue-l i ne, a system that i s
parti cul arl y sui tabl e for the appl i cati on of
certai n organi c i nsecti ci des such as Li ndane,
Di el dri n and Heptachl or (Chl ordane) whi ch are
appreciably volatile and can become uniformly
di stri buted duri ng the hot pressi ng stage. These
i nsecti ci dal gl ue-l i ne treatments are perhaps the
most suitable means for treating plywood so that
i t conforms wi th the Austral i an quaranti ne
regul ati ons but sl i ghtl y vol ati l e fungi ci des such
as pentachl orophenol can al so be appl i ed i n thi s
way. Bori c aci d i s not normal l y consi dered to be
vol ati l e but i t becomes vol ati l e i n the presence of
the steam generated duri ng the hot pressi ng and
i t i s therefore a very sui tabl e preservati ve for thi s
pr ocess, par ti cul ar l y as i t al so acts as an
accel erator for some adhesi ves.
The incorporation of preservative components
i n the adhesi ve i s vi rtual l y the onl y real i sti c
method for treati ng chi pboard. Fi bre-board i s
more di ffi cul t to treat as an adhesi ve i s not
normally used (see Wood in Construction by the
present author, page 77). When a fi bre-board
pl ant operates as a cl osed system so that the
backwater recirculates, it is possible to dose the
backwater with preservative, adjusting the dosage
until the required retention is achieved in the final
fibre-board product. This procedure is unrealistic
wi th open systems where the backwater i s
discharged but plants of this type are rare now
that there are more severe control s on
envi r onmental pol l uti on. Al ternati vel y, a
preservative solution can be sprayed either on the
wet pulp immediately after straining to form the
board or on the completed board, a procedure
that is more suitable if the chosen toxiciants are
appreciably volatile and likely to be lost during
hi gh temperature processi ng. The hi gh-densi ty
fibre-boards or hardboards are often ‘tempered’
by treatment with a drying oil. This tempered
board i s the onl y fi bre-board product whi ch
should be exposed to dampness in service and
thus the onl y product that real l y requi res
fungi ci dal treatment whi ch can be readi l y
achieved by addition to the tempering oil.
Remedial treatments
This description of wood preservation application
techni ques woul d be i ncompl ete wi thout a
reference to remedial treatment, or the application
of preservati ves to eradi cate establ i shed borer
attack or fungal decay. Remedial treatment should
commence when the damage i s observed or
suspected. A considerable amount of knowledge
and experience of both structures and the wood-
destroying insects and fungi is essential to reliably
inspect structures and diagnose wood deterioration
Preservation systems
92
problems. For example, both termites and House
Longhorn beetl es can cause very consi derabl e
damage before there is any external evidence of
their activity, and the Dry rot fungus can spread
through plaster, brickwork, masonry and concrete
in its search for nourishment and more distant
pieces of wood within the structure. The inspection
must detect the ex tent of the damage or,
alternatively, suggest the areas which should be
opened up to permit a more detailed inspection.
The fi rst task for the treatment operati ves i s
to expose the ful l extent of the damage i n order
to deci de whether the affected components
shoul d be repl aced wi th adequatel y preserved
wood or whether treatment to eradi cate the
fungal i nfecti on or i nsect attack wi l l be
suffi ci ent. Thi s exposure work i s perhaps the
most i mportant aspect of consci enti ous remedi al
treatment as i t l argel y ensures that conceal ed
damage i s detected. Preservati ve treatment then
follows. Fungal decay can generally be attributed
to a faul t i n the desi gn, constr ucti on or
mai ntenance of the structure whi ch permi ts
wood to become wet, and thi s faul t must be
corrected as part of the treatment so that further
experti se rel ated to damp-proofi ng processes
may be needed. It i s not suffi ci ent to treat onl y
the wood that i s vi si bl y affected; adjacent wood
may al ready be i nfected by a fungus and, i n the
case of an i nsect i nfestati on, an attack i n one
wood component wi l l cl ear l y i ndi cate the
hazards faced by al l others i n the structure.
Remedi al treatment must be both eradi cant
and pr eser vati ve so that the pr eser vati ve
for mul ati ons ar e often pr e-tr eatment
for mul ati ons wi th addi ti onal er adi cant
components. Spray treatment is normally used in
conjuncti on wi th organi c-sol vent formul ati ons,
whi ch are both more penetrati ng than water-
borne types and al so free from the stai ni ng that
often occurs when, for example, a roof treatment
acci dental l y soaks i nto a pl aster cei l i ng.
Occasi onal l y hol es are dri l l ed i nto beams and
other l arge wood components to permi t deep
treatment by pressure i njecti on; l arge beams i n
anci ent bui l di ngs are often i n contact wi th damp
masonry at ei ther end and therefore suffer from
i nternal decay through the absorpti on of water
by the permeable end-grain. In some cases simple
coni cal nozzl es are used fi tted to the spray gun
but, when pressure on the gun i s rel eased, there
i s a tendency for the preservati ve to fl ow out of
the i njecti on hol e. A more effi ci ent method
i nvol ves the fi tti ng of an i njector system as
descri bed earl i er i n thi s chapter. Where damage
has been caused by wood-borers such as Death
Watch beetl e i t i s unnecessary to dri l l the wood
as an i njecti on route has al ready been provi ded
by the borer gal l eri es. It i s unnecessary to i nject
al l fl i ght hol es as i t wi l l be found that i njecti on
i nto one hol e wi l l resul t i n fl ow from several
others. Brickwork and masonry infected by the
Dry rot fungus are al so dri l l ed to permi t proper
ster i l i zati on, usual l y wi th an aqueous
formul ati on as the presence of fungus i n the wal l
i ndi cates dampness whi ch mi ght obstruct the
spread of an organi c-sol vent preservati ve.
Whi l st the stri ppi ng of al l damaged wood
coupl ed wi th spray appl i cati on of preservati ves
i s the most r el i abl e method for r emedi al
treatment, there are l ess sophi sti cated methods
used i n many parts of the worl d. In Bri tai n, the
use of contact i nsecti ci de smokes has been
recommended as a method for eradi cati on of
insect borers such as Death Watch beetle. In fact,
smokes do not penetrate i nto the wood but l eave
a deposi t l ar gel y on the upper hor i zontal
surfaces whi ch may ki l l emergi ng adul t beetl es
and thus pr event subsequent egg l ayi ng.
Unfortunatel y the contact i nsecti ci des that are
used such as Li ndane, Di el dri n and DDT have
l i ttl e persi stence when fi nel y di spersed on the
surface of wood i n thi s way and these treatments
must be repeated at annual i nterval s for perhaps
8 to 12 years to permi t al l l arvae wi thi n the
wood to pupate, emerge as adul t i nsects and be
killed by the insecticidal deposit. Even prolonged
treatment can fai l to control an attack of Death
Watch beetl e i n the i nteri or of l arge beams; thi s
insect is always associated with fungal decay and
Evaluating preservative systems
93
beams can be hol l owed out, as pr evi ousl y
descri bed, i f thei r ends are bui l t i nto damp
masonr y. Tox i c gases, par ti cul ar l y methyl
br omi de, ar e al so used to er adi cate i nsect
infestations but they have distinct disadvantages.
The str uctur e must be encl osed wi thi n an
i mpervi ous sheet duri ng treatment and must
subsequentl y be wel l venti l ated to remove the
toxi c gas. I n addi ti on, the gas can ki l l onl y
i nsects that ar e wi thi n the wood and the
treatment has no preservati ve acti on to prevent
subsequent rei nfestati on.
Remedial treatment is extremely complex and
a separate science or art. It requires considerable
experience in the identification of deterioration
hazards, not onl y those that are of si gni fi cant
economic importance as in wood preservation but
al so the comparati vel y rare deteri orati on
problems, described in detail in Appendices B and
C, that natural l y cause consi derabl e concern
when they occur. Knowledge of structures is also
essential so that the causes of fungal decay can be
clearly appreciated but other remedial treatments
may be needed. Remedi al wood and rel ated
treatments are considered in detail in Remedial
Treatment of Buildings by the same author.
3.3 Evaluating preservative systems
Service records
The onl y compl etel y r el i abl e method for
eval uati ng a preservati ve system i s to observe i ts
performance i n actual servi ce. Servi ce records
are therefore very val uabl e i n confi rmi ng the
rel i abi l i ty of an establ i shed preservati on system
but al ter nati ve techni ques ar e r equi r ed to
real i sti cal l y eval uate a new preservati ve system
dur i ng i ts devel opment and befor e i ts
commer ci al i ntr oducti on. Al l acceptabl e
eval uati on techni ques attempt to reproduce
condi ti ons whi ch have been observed i n practi ce
to represent severe deteri orati on ri sks. There i s
thus a danger that these eval uati on systems can
be too exacti ng, i mposi ng unnecessari l y severe
per for mance r equi r ements on pr eser vati ves
whi ch may have been desi gned for use i n far l ess
oner ous condi ti ons i n actual ser vi ce. For
exampl e, a preservati ve for the carcassi ng or
framing wood of buildings may be required to
gi ve protecti on agai nst fungal decay, resul ti ng
fr om occasi onal l eaks or condensati on, or
perhaps gi ve protecti on onl y agai nst wood-
bori ng i nsects, and such a preservati ve does not
need to be assessed for performance i n severe
ground-contact conditions.
Performance classification
Preservatives are classified in this book into four
basi c groups, shown i n detai l i n Tabl e A.2 i n
Appendix A, in order to take account of these
various hazards. This classification system is not
standard but i s si mi l ar i n many respects to the
Nordi c system, and the requi red retenti ons
quoted in Appendix A can be readily related to
si mi l ar cl assi fi cati on systems oper ati ng
throughout the worl d. Cl ass A refers to wood i n
nor mal gr ound-contact condi ti ons such as
transmi ssi on pol es, fence posts, rai l way sl eepers
(ti es), pi l es and structural foundati ons. I t can
al so be consi dered to refer to wood i mmersed i n
fresh water as i n ri ver defence works and even
cool i ng towers, al though i n the l atter case there
i s an i ncreased ri sk of Soft rot attack, i ndi cated
i n the Dani sh system by a sub-cl assi fi cati on
Cl ass AS. Such a subdi vi si on i s unnecessary as i t
i s now recogni zed that even ground-contact
condi ti ons i ntroduce a ri sk of Soft rot damage.
Class B refers to building and construction wood
whi ch i s not i n ground contact but whi ch i s sti l l
subject to a moderate ri sk of decay through
acci dental l eaks or condensati on. I n many
respects the risk is the same as for Class A except
that si gni fi cant l eachi ng condi ti ons are not
present. Thi s cl ass i ncl udes bui l di ng carcassi ng
and frami ng, as wel l as joi nery (mi l l work) and
cl addi ng. Cl ass M refers to preserved wood for
mari ne condi ti ons but appl i es onl y when there i s
a ri sk of attack by mari ne borers, parti cul arl y
Preservation systems
94
gri bbl e Limnoria speci es. Cl ass I appl i es onl y
when there i s a ri sk of i nsect attack, parti cul arl y
by House Longhorn beetle, Hylotrupes bajulus,
in temperate areas and Dry Wood termites in the
tropi cs. Preservati ves meeti ng thi s cl assi fi cati on
gener al l y confor m wi th the Austr al i an
quarantine requirements which are designed to
prevent the i ntroducti on of new wood-borers to
Australia. These four classes thus define the most
i mportant deteri orati on ri sks that preservati ves
must be capabl e of wi thstandi ng. There are
several other servi ce si tuati ons whi ch need to be
consi dered such as stai n, Pi nhol e borer and
Powder Post beetl e control treatments that are
used i n the forests and mi l l s, but these do not
i nvol ve standard eval uati on techni ques.
A Cl ass A preservati ve i n normal l y assessed
throughout the world by the performance of the
preservati ve i n actual ground contact i n stake
tri al s (Fi g. 3.17). General l y, the stakes are
comparati vel y smal l i n cross-secti on, typi cal l y
about 50×50 mm (2×2 in), in order to exaggerate
natural leaching and the deterioration damage. It
i s usual l y consi dered that the performance of a
preservati ve can be judged reasonabl y rel i abl y
after a peri od of about fi ve years. Obvi ousl y the
ti me factor ensures that thi s system cannot be
used duri ng the devel opment of a preservati ve.
Laboratory tests
Preservati ve devel opment normal l y i nvol ves
ex posure of rel ati vel y smal l bl ocks of wood to
cul tures of si ngl e fungi i n l aboratory condi ti ons
wi th decay assessed by the wei ght l oss after a
peri od of perhaps 12 to 16 weeks. Thi s pri nci pl e
i s used throughout the worl d, the tests varyi ng
onl y i n the medi um on whi ch the fungus i s
cul tur ed; i n the Br i ti sh, Dutch and Ger man
systems the fungus i s cul tur ed on mal t agar
FIGURE 3.17 Simlangsdalen test field in Sweden, one of the sites used to assess Class A preservatives for the
Nordic approval scheme.
Evaluating preservative systems
95
whereas i n the Nordi c and Ameri can systems the
fungus develops on a small untreated block of
wood resti ng on soi l (Fi g. 3.18). Thi s techni que
i s used for eval uati on new toxi c chemi cal s; the
test bl ocks ar e i mpr egnated wi th di ffer ent
sol uti on concentrati ons so that a toxi c l i mi t or
thr eshol d can be establ i shed between the
concentrati ons at whi ch the bl ocks just decay
and those at whi ch the bl ocks are just free from
decay. I n thi s way the preservati ve acti vi ty of
var i ous tox i cants can be compar ed and
concentrati ons proposed for thei r use. When
compl ete preservati ves are assessed i n thi s way
consi derabl e care i s requi red i n di l uti ng them i n
order to define their safety factor, or the amount
of di l uti on that can be tol erated before decay
occurs. Al though these tests i nvol ve i ncreasi ng
di l uti ons of the preservati ve sol uti on and resul ts
ar e ther efor e obtai ned as tox i cant or
formul ati on concentrati on, i t i s normal to take
account of absorpti ons and report the resul ts as
retenti ons i n ki l ogrammes per cubi c metre kg/m
3
or pounds per cubi c foot l b/ft
3
.
Test fungi
The choi ce of test fungi i s al so i mportant; for
exampl e, Poria speci es are tol erant to copper
and shoul d al ways be used when a preservati ve
formul ati on contai ns thi s el ement. General l y the
test fungi are defi ned i n the appropri ate nati onal
standards. No attempt i s made i n thi s book to
descri be these standards i n detai l as they are
bei ng conti nuousl y revi sed and i t i s al ways
advi sabl e to obtai n the current standard from
the appropri ate nati onal authori ti es.
Weathering resistance
Laboratory bl ock tests can al so be used to assess
the per for mance of a pr eser vati ve after
weatheri ng by l eachi ng or vol ati l i zati on. I f a
product has good weather resi stance and a wi de
spectrum of acti vi ty agai nst the test fungi i t can
be considered to be a realistic candidate for a full
stake tri al , al though i f i t i s meant to meet onl y
Cl ass B r equi r ements a bl ock test may be
considered adequate in many countries, as in the
FIGURE 3.18 Laboratory methods for assessing the efficacy of preservatives against Basidiomycetes: (1) a
miniature soil and wood block technique suitable for rapid and inexpensive product development tests; (2) the
soil and wood block technique used in the American standard test; (3) the malt agar and wood block technique
used in the British, German and Dutch standard tests; (4) the soil and wood block technique used in the Nordic
standard test. (Penarth Research International Limited)
Preservation systems
96
Nordi c system and i n the Bri ti sh system for the
eval uati on of preservati ves for treati ng joi nery
(millwork).
Insect borers
I f a pr eser vati ve i s al so i ntended to gi ve
resi stance to i nsect borer attack, further tests are
necessary agai nst the most appropri ate speci es,
these tests usual l y bei ng carri ed out i n the
l aboratory. I n Europe the House Longhorn
beetl e r epr esents the gr eatest danger to
structural wood yet protecti on i s al so requi red
agai nst the Common Furni ture beetl e whi ch
gener al l y has a gr eater tol er ance to
preservati ves. Performance agai nst termi tes i s
al so fr equentl y assessed, the subter r anean
termi te, Reticulitermes santonensis, usual l y
bei ng consi dered the most i mportant speci es i n
Europe.
New preservatives
Normal l y a new preservati ve i s fi rst assessed
agai nst a si ngl e Basi di omycete fungus such as
the Brown rot, Coniophora puteana, and i f i t
pr oves effecti ve at appar entl y economi c
retenti ons the test i s then extended to further
fungi such as Whi te r ot and Soft r ot as
appr opr i ate to the i ntended use of the
preservati ve. Leachi ng and i nsect borer tests
fol l ow so that, ul ti matel y, compr ehensi ve
i nfor mati on i s avai l abl e whi ch cl ear l y
establ i shes whether the new preservati ve system
i s l i kel y to be rel i abl e i n servi ce. Some tests are
unreal i sti c i n the l aboratory such as the ground-
contact stake test and assessment tests agai nst
mari ne borers; these tests are best carri ed out i n
natural condi ti ons where there i s known to be a
parti cul ar hazard. I n al l these assessments i t i s
normal to compare a new preservati ve system
wi th a wel l -known establ i shed system, i n order
to confi rm that the tests are real i sti cal l y severe
and i n order to provi de di rect compari sons for
commer ci al r easons. Unfor tunatel y the
establ i shment of pr eser vati on r el i abi l i ty
represents onl y a smal l part of the the ti me, cost
and effort that i s requi red today to establ i sh a
new pr eser vati ve system, heal th and
envi ronmental eval uati on bei ng much more
di ffi cul t. I t i s therefore not surpri si ng that new
preservati ves are rarel y i ntroduced; onl y the
l argest compani es and consorti a can afford to
devel op new products today, and most new
systems are si mpl y adaptati ons, based as far as
possi bl e on establ i shed k nowl edge and
experi ence. Thi s i s unfortunatel y a si tuati on
whi ch encourages the retenti on of ex i sti ng
products, even i f they woul d not be acceptabl e
i f submi tted for approval today, a si tuati on that
acti vel y di scourages the devel opment of more
effecti ve and safer products.
97
4.1 Preservative types
Many di fferent toxi cants and other unpl easant
substances have been used as wood
pr eser vati ves. The var i ous pr eser vati on
systems and thei r acti on mechani sms have
been descr i bed i n Chapter 3 but when
consi der i ng pr eser vati ve sel ecti on f or
commerci al purposes i t i s fi rst necessary to
deci de on the basi c preservati ve type that i s
most l i kel y to achi eve the desi red functi on,
and i t i s therefore necessary to establ i sh a
reasonabl y si mpl e and real i sti c cl assi fi cati on
for preservati ves.
The normal system as adopted i n Bri ti sh
Standard 1282 i nvol ves three mai n types of
pr eser vati ve. Type TO (tar-oi l ) compr i ses
di sti l l ates of coal -tar i ncl udi ng creosote. Type
WB (water-borne) i ncl udes Wol man sal ts of
the fl uori de-chromi um type and the copper-
chr omi um f or mul ati ons whi ch cur r entl y
domi nate thi s market. The boron di ffusi on
process for green wood i s al so water-borne but
i s usual l y consi dered to be a speci al case, as i s
the use of aqueous sol uti ons of sodi um
pentachl orophenate i n sapstai n control and
aqueous emul si ons of i nsecti ci des i n Pi nhol e
and Powder Post beetl e contr ol . Type OS
(or gani c sol vent) i nvol ves l i ght petr ol eum
sol uti ons of pentachl orophenol , naphthenates
of copper or zi nc, chl ori nated naphthal enes,
organoti n compounds and many other l ess
i mpor tant compounds i ncl udi ng contact
i nsecti ci des. I n some ar eas such as
Scandi navi a, many of the or gani c-sol vent
formul ati ons are decorati ve and i ntermedi ate
between a preservati ve and a pai nt but often
achi evi ng onl y l i mi ted pr eser vati ve
effecti veness.
Tar-oi l preservati ves are al so organi c and i n
some countries such as Denmark it is the practice
to i ncl ude them wi th or gani c sol vent
preservati ves when prepari ng nati onal stati sti cs
but there are many other examples of confusing
cl assi fi cati ons. Thus pentachl or ophenol i s
normal l y descri bed as a type OS preservati ve as
i t i s tradi ti onal l y used i n organi c sol vent carri ers
but i t can be reacted wi th sodi um hydroxi de to
form sodi um pentachl orophenate, whi ch i s
water-sol ubl e, and concentrated organi c sol vent
solutions can be dispersed in water, as emulsions.
The i ncreasi ng cost of organi c sol vents and the
progressive introduction of more stringent health
and safety restri cti ons have prompted more
extensi ve use of organi c preservati ves i n water
car r i er systems whi ch shoul d be cor r ectl y
cl assi fi ed as type WB, but these devel opments
al so mean that the di sti ncti on between organi c
sol vent and water carri er systems i s now l ess
important and no longer an appropriate basis for
a pr eser vati ve cl assi fi cati on system. The
tradi ti onal cl assi fi cati on i nto types TO, WB and
OS has therefore been abandoned in this second
edi ti on. Tar-oi l systems are sti l l consi dered as an
i mportant group but the preservati ve toxi cants
or bi oci des are now cl assi fi ed as i norgani c,
organi c or organometal l i c compounds, wi th
carri er systems consi dered i n a separate secti on.
4
Preservation
chemicals
Preservation chemicals
98
I n r ecent year s the heal th and
envi ronmental dangers associ ated wi th wood
pr eser vati on have attr acted par ti cul ar
attenti on. Restri cti ons on the use of exi sti ng
pr eser vati ves and the r equi r ements f or
approval of new preservati ves have become
i ncreasi ngl y stri ngent, and are now causi ng
ser i ous di f f i cul ty to thi s i ndustr y. These
changes have not necessar i l y r esul ted i n
i mproved safety to heal th and the envi ronment
as the devel opment of saf er pr eser vati ve
systems i s now di scour aged by the costs
i nvol ved and i t has been necessar y, f or
economi c necessi ty, to ex tend the l i fe of
establ i shed preservati ve systems whi ch woul d
not be acceptabl e i f they were submi tted for
saf ety appr oval today. These heal th and
envi ronmental safety probl ems are consi dered
i n more detai l at the end of Chapter 5.
4.2 Tar-oils
Coal -tar, a product of the di sti l l ati on of coal ,
was ori gi nal l y used as a wood preservati ve but
the l i ghter creosote fracti on was l ater preferred
wi th the i ntroducti on of pressure i mpregnati on,
as i ts l ower vi scosi ty i mproved penetrati on. The
devel opment of cr eosote has been cl osel y
associ ated wi th the hi stor y of the wood
preservati on i ndustry as previ ousl y descri bed i n
Chapter 1. The word creosote was fi rst used to
descri be a tar-oi l fracti on prepar ed by the
destructi ve di sti l l ati on of wood and i n North
Ameri ca thi s product i s sti l l known as wood-tar
creosote. I t i s now more usual i n Europe to
descri be wood-tar as Stockhol m tar and the
wor d cr eosote i s now r eser ved vi r tual l y
ex cl usi vel y for the oi l prepared by coal -tar
distillation.
The nature of coal -tar vari es consi derabl y
wi th the coal type and the processi ng method.
The tar was ori gi nal l y deri ved pri nci pal l y as a
by-product of the manufacture of town gas using
hori zontal , verti cal or i ncl i ned retorts wi th
i ntermi ttent or conti nuous operati on at hi gh or
l ow temperatures, about 1350°C (2460°F) or
450–600°C (840–1110°F) respectively. The coal-
tar was then di sti l l ed to separate the vol ati l e
creosote from the resi due or pi tch, the creosote
boiling at 200–400°C (390–750°F) and the pitch
boi l i ng above 355°C (670°F); a l i ght creosote
has a l ow r esi due and conver sel y a heavy
creosote has a hi gh resi due.
Creosote availability
It is often said that, as creosote was derived from
town gas producti on, i t i s no l onger readi l y
avai l abl e. I t i s certai nl y true that there i s a
current worl d shortage of creosote for wood
preservati on but thi s ari ses through economi c
factors and i s certai nl y not the resul t of true
scarci ty. Coal -tar i s sti l l avai l abl e i n enormous
quanti ti es fr om the coke ovens whi ch ar e
associ ated wi th the metal smel ti ng i ndustri es,
but di ffi cul ti es are encountered i n prepari ng
creosote. The ol d tar di sti l l eri es, based i n urban
areas cl ose to town gas pl ants, have been cl osed
i n many countri es as thei r sources of tar have
disappeared and it is not economical to supply
them wi th tar from di stant coke ovens. There i s
no justi fi cati on for bui l di ng new di sti l l eri es cl ose
to the coke ovens whi l e the pri ces of creosote for
wood preservati on and other purposes remai n
l ow, and i t i s better to use the tar as a heavy fuel
oi l i n pl ace of petrol eum whi ch i s becomi ng
i ncr easi ngl y ex pensi ve. Pol and, the l ast
substanti al source of town-gas creosote, has
converted to natural gas and coke ovens are now
the onl y source. The pri ce of creosote, depressed
for many years whi l e the i ndustry was abl e to
conti nue to use very ol d pl ants wi th mi ni mal
capital investment, is now increasing steadily but
thi s i s essenti al i f new coal -tar di sti l l eri es or
refi neri es are to be establ i shed.
I t i s i nteresti ng to consi der the way i n whi ch
the si tuati on has devel oped i n the Uni ted States,
as i l l ustr ated i n Fi g. 4.1. Cr eosote was
originally imported into America from Europe as
Tar-oils
99
r etur n car go i n petr ol eum tanker s, and
consi derabl e shortages were experi enced there
duri ng Worl d War I, encouragi ng more extensi ve
use of sal t preservati ves but al so di l uti on of the
avai l abl e creosote wi th petrol eum. The very
r api d ex pansi on of the r ai l ways and the
transmi ssi on pol e systems carryi ng power and
tel ephone l i nes created an enormous i ncrease i n
the demand for wood preservati on after the war
and whi ch conti nued unti l after 1950, i nvol vi ng
Figure 4.1 Development of wood preservation in the United States.
Preservation chemicals
100
parti cul arl y creosote treatment. The avai l abi l i ty
of cr eosote was decr easi ng and
pentachl orophenol was used i ncreasi ngl y as a
substi tute for creosote, but ul ti matel y the steel
i ndustry establ i shed new di sti l l ati on pl ants so
that the creosote products requi red by the
industry could be produced locally. Creosote and
pentachl orophenol have retai ned a constant
volume of the wood preservation market but the
market has expanded rapidly since 1960 with the
addi ti onal vol ume sati sfi ed enti rel y by water-
borne sal t preservati ves and by the al ternati ve
ox i de formul ati ons that are now becomi ng
increasingly popular. The increasing water borne
share of the market probabl y resul ts more from
the i ncreasi ng cost of petrol eum rather than any
i ncreasi ng resi stance to the use of creosote.
Creosote composition
Clearly, changes in the sources of creosote have
resulted in significant changes in composition over
the years, particularly in the 19th century with the
i ncreasi ng i nterest i n coal -tar di sti l l ati on as a
source of val uabl e chemi cal s. Vari ous
specifications have been introduced during the last
century in an attempt to standardize creosote and
ensure reliability as a wood preservative. It is not
the purpose of this book to quote specifications in
detail as they are amended progressively and it is
far better to consult the appropriate standards
organi zati ons when i nformati on i s requi red to
ensure that only current specifications are used.
The wood-preservi ng properti es of creosote
depend on many factors. Coal-tar contains tar
acids such as phenol, xylol and cresol, together
with tar bases such as pyridine, chinoline and
acridine, as well as neutral or dead oil consisting of
naphthalene, fluorene, anthracene, phenanthrene,
etc. An increase in the high-boiling tar-acid content
increases the viscosity whereas an increase in the
naphthalene content reduces the viscosity. It was
soon recogni zed wi th the i ntroducti on of
impregnation methods that only the use of the low-
viscosity creosote fraction can achieve adequate
penetration, but it was also appreciated that the
fungi ci dal components i n coal -tar are al most
exclusively associated with this creosote fraction.
Creosote as a preservative
The tar acids have excellent fungicidal activity
and ear l y cr eosote speci fi cati ons ther efor e
emphasized tar acid content. It was presumed that
the dead oil possessed no significant preservative
pr oper ti es, and thi s type of speci fi cati on
continued in use until about 1930. In fact, the
wood-preserving properties of creosote depend on
many factors and, whilst the tar acids are good
fungicides, they are also the components which
are most suscepti bl e to l oss from wood by
volatilization and leaching. A high residue tends
to trap tar acids and protect them from loss but it
i s now appreci ated that very hi gh l oadi ngs of
other less toxic components such as naphthalene
are also very important, and high naphthalene
creosote has been found to perform best in marine
situations. In recent years health risks associated
with the use of creosote have been more closely
scrutinized, the main risks being identified as the
reported carci nogeni c properti es of pol ycycl i c
aromati c hydrocarbons, i ncl udi ng the
benzopyrenes i n creosote. The benzopyrene
content can be l i mi ted by usi ng onl y creosote
distilling at higher temperatures, a restriction that
does not affect impregnation grades but which is
now restricting the availability of lighter creosote
for surface appl i cati on for mai ntenance of
fencing. In other respects the use of creosote does
not present any unusual health hazards, provided
that plants are operated with proper care and
persons handl i ng creosote and treated wood
observe normal personal hygiene precautions.
The creosote speci fi cati ons have therefore
devel oped progressi vel y, l argel y as a resul t of
ex tensi ve servi ce ex peri ence, but the many
confl i cti ng speci fi cati ons i n di fferent countri es
have introduced unnecessary difficulties. It will be
appreciated that the nature of creosote depends
on the type of coal used and the nature of the
Tar-oils
101
di sti l l ati on processes so that i ndi vi dual l ocal
specifications have tended to be concerned largely
with the control of the available product. In 1936
the I nternati onal Advi sory Offi ce of Wood
Preservation in The Hague arranged a conference
in Copenhagen to agree a specification for use by
Scandinavian purchasers. The following year a
similar conference was held in Budapest for the
benefi t of other European consumers, the
speci fi cati ons resul ti ng from these conferences
varying only slightly in distillation characteristics
and permi ssi bl e tar aci d content so that some
creosotes could comply with both specifications.
I n the Uni ted States the Ameri can Wood
Preservers’ Associ ati on had devel oped
speci fi cati ons, and i n the Uni ted Ki ngdom the
Bri ti sh Standards Insti tuti on had speci fi cati ons
for three types of creosote obtained from different
sources. Gradual l y the range of sources has
decreased, particularly in recent years as natural
gas has replaced coal gas so that all tar is now
deri ved from the coke ovens i n the smel ti ng
i ndustri es. The current speci fi cati ons ensure
reasonabl e wood-preservi ng acti vi ty combi ned
wi th reasonabl e permanence, and are l argel y
based on comparatively recent research on the
residues found in wood after long service.
Cl earl y, l ong-term performance depends on
the heavier and more persistent components but
penetr ati on, whi ch depends on the l i ghter
components, i s al so i mpor tant. I f pr essur e
i mpregnati on i s used for creosote treatment i t i s
therefore to i ncrease the temperature, i n order to
reduce the vi scosi ty of the heavi er components
and i mprove thei r penetrati on. For exampl e, i f
the temperature of a typi cal creosote i s i ncreased
from 40 to 80°C (100 to 175°F) the viscosity is
reduced from 16 to 4 cS. I t has been wel l
establ i shed i n servi ce that after a peri od of 15 to
20 years i n ground contact the fai l ure rate
i ncreases. Whi l e the fai l ures remai n very smal l i n
number they are parti cul arl y si gni fi cant i n
rai l way sl eepers (ti es) and transmi ssi on pol es
where the system must be cl osed i f repl acements
ar e r equi r ed. These fai l ur es ar e far l ess
si gni fi cant wi th heavy oi l , assumi ng si mi l ar
penetrati on, and the val ue of heati ng heavi er oi l
to reduce vi scosi ty i s therefore cl earl y apparent.
Most speci fi cati ons l i mi t the resi due because
of the probl ems that occur through settl ement
duri ng storage, transport or treatment. Heavy
oi l s tend to bl eed more than l i ght oi l s, al though
i t wi l l be appreci ated from the comments i n
Chapter 3 that thi s i s l argel y the resul t of fai l ure
to rel i eve the trapped ai r pressure i n empty-cel l
processes. In some countri es such as the Uni ted
States cr eosote conti nues to be used i n
combi nati on wi th coal -tar as i t i s bel i eved that
the tar l i mi ts l oss of the cr eosote by
vol ati l i zati on and l eachi ng, and adul terati on
wi th petrol eum di sti l l ates i s al so permi tted i n
cer tai n ci r cumstances. These mi x tur es ar e
unusual i n other countri es where speci fi cati ons
general l y requi re creosote to be used al one, wi th
restrictions on composition to ensure optimum
preservati ve acti vi ty and permanence.
Creosote does not perform si mpl y as a toxi c
preservati ve as the resi due and other heavi er
components tend to l i mi t moi sture content
changes so that treated wood i s more stabl e and
resi stant to spl i tti ng. Creosote thus possesses a
variety of advantageous properties which are not
al l readi l y i mi tated by al ternati ve preservati ves.
Formul ated organi c-sol vent preservati ves are
general l y more expensi ve, parti cul arl y i f they
contai n hi gh resi n and wax contents desi gned to
achi eve thi s moi sture resi stance. Water-borne
preservati ves l ack thi s property compl etel y;
attempts to i ncorporate wax emul si ons have not
been very successful .
It will be appreciated that creosote possesses
many advantages i n contrast wi th the si ngl e
disadvantage that treatments are relatively dirty.
In recent years it has been limited availability that
has restri cted use rather than any doubts
regarding preservative efficacy, yet sufficient coal-
tar i s certai nl y avai l abl e. I n 1990 there was
sufficient tar feedstock in west Europe for 1 000
000 tonnes of creosote annually compared with a
local demand for wood preservation of about 200
Preservation chemicals
102
000 tonnes and an export demand of about 50
000 tonnes, mainly for North America but also
for the Nordic countries and the Middle East. In
1985 hal f of the European wood preservati on
creosote was used for railway sleepers (ties) and a
thi rd for transmi ssi on pol es, wi th most of the
remainder used for fence posts. In some countries
l ocal vari ati ons ensure rather di fferent market
di vi si ons; i n the Uni ted Ki ngdom there i s no
si gni fi cant market for creosote treatment of
railway sleepers (ties) as wood has been almost
entirely replaced by concrete.
Carbolineum or anthracene oil—
Solignum
This section has concentrated so far on creosote
for application by pressure impregnation, but a
substantial amount is also applied superficially by
brush, spray or immersion treatment, particularly
on wood that is to be used for fences and other
garden or agri cul tural purposes. Onl y l i mi ted
penetration can be achieved and it is therefore
essential to use a creosote with good resistance to
vol ati l i zati on and l eachi ng. There are separate
speci fi cati ons i n, for ex ampl e, the Uni ted
Ki ngdom, the Uni ted States and Germany for
creosote of thi s type whi ch contai ns a greater
proporti on of hi gh boi l i ng fracti ons than the
creosote oil used for impregnation. Generally, this
creosote is known as carbolineum in continental
Europe and anthracene oil in the British Isles and
North Ameri ca. Col oured pi gments are
someti mes added; the decorati ve Sol i gnum
products introduced into Denmark and the British
Isles shortly after World War I were originally
based on coal -tar fracti ons, al though modern
products contain biocides in petroleum solvents.
Fortified creosote—Carbolineum
Avenarius
The preservati ve acti vi ty of anthracene oi l or
carbol i neum i s general l y si mi l ar to that of
impregnation creosote and superficial treatments
must be parti cul arl y generous i f effecti ve
preservation is to be achieved. Internal decay is not
unusual wi th woods that are resi stant to
penetration and there have been many attempts to
improve reliability. Carbolineum Avenarius was
fi rst devel oped i n 1888 and i nvol ves the
chlorination of carbolineum. In a sense this is the
origin of the chlorinated organic compounds that
are so widely used in formulated organic-solvent
wood preservatives and which are described later
i n thi s chapter. Devel opments i n formul ated
organi c-sol vent and water-borne preservati ves
have also suggested several means for fortifying
creosote, such as the addi ti on of
pentachlorophenol to achieve similar enhancement
of the fungicidal properties. Another approach has
been to enhance acti vi ty by i ncreasi ng the
concentration of components in creosote which
seem to be particularly advantageous; one recent
development has been the additon of sulphur.
Barol
Barol was developed by Nordlinger in about 1900
and consi sts of a mi xture of copper sal ts i n
carbol i neum. Combi nati ons of zi nc sal ts and
creosote have al so been wi del y empl oyed.
Originally the Burnett zinc chloride process was
followed by impregnation with creosote; in the
Uni ted States a petrol eum di sti l l ate cal l ed
Bakensfield oil was used. This two-stage process
was superseded by a single full-cell impregnation
process involving zinc chloride solution suspended
in creosote by continuous agitation. Rütgerswerke
in Germany developed a mixture of this type with
hi gh tar-aci d creosote and i t was used by the
Austrian, Prussian and Danish railways for sleeper
(tie) preservation prior to about 1907 when it was
largely displaced by creosote alone.
Card process—Tetraset process
The Card process, whi ch was wi del y used i n the
Uni ted States, i nvol ved a mi x tur e of 20%
cr eosote, 2.4% zi nc chl or i de and water
Tar-oils
103
mai ntai ned i n suspensi on by agi tati on al one.
Despite the low creosote content the preservative
properti es were al most as good as for creosote
alone and the leach resistance was far better than
for zi nc chl ori de sol uti on al one. The Tetraset
process used in Poland was similar, but a more
sophi sti cated process i ntroduced by the Pol i sh
rai l ways shortl y before Worl d War II abandoned
conti nuous agi tati on i n favour of a stabl e
emulsion, achieved by using a sulphonate soap
and bone gl ue as a stabi l i zer; a si mi l ar process
was used in Croatia during World War II.
These propri etary processes have now been
abandoned but two-stage treatments are sti l l
used. The Wolman company in Germany replaced
the zi nc chl ori de wi th Tri ol i th sal t whi ch i s
described later, and creosote butt treatment of
poles impregnated with water-borne preservatives
is still widely used, particularly in the Netherlands
wi th the Poul ai n rotati ng cyl i nder method.
I mpregnati on wi th a water-borne preservati ve
followed by a non-preservative oil can achieve the
rel i abi l i ty of a creosote treatment wi thout i ts
disadvantages; the use of petroleum oil in this
way will be described later.
Arsenical creosote
Some creosote such as the vertical retort creosote
used in Australia will accept small amounts of
arsenic compounds such as 0.46% arsenic trioxide.
Thi s addi ti on, i ntroduced i n about 1965, has
proved very advantageous whenever insecticidal
properties are required such as when there is a
danger of termite attack. Contact insecticides such
as Lindane and Dieldrin have also been used to
fortify the insecticidal properties of creosote but
they al so gi ve addi ti onal protecti on i n mari ne
situations against gribble attack which tends to be
very resistant to creosote treatment.
Lignite oil—Kreosotnatron
Creosote i s normal l y deri ved from the fracti onal
di sti l l ati on of coal -tar pr oduced by the
carboni zati on of bi tumi nous coal , but thi s i s
onl y one of the products of degradati on of
vegetable matter under anaerobic conditions; the
ful l sequence i s peat, l i gni te or brown coal ,
l i gni tous or soft coal , bi tumi nous coal , steam
coal and anthraci te. Bi tumi nous coal i s preferred
for the manufacture of creosote as i t gi ves the
hi ghest yi el d of coal -tar but i n some areas,
parti cul arl y i n Germany, the most ex tensi ve
deposi ts of such vegetabl e matter are l i gni te or
brown coal . Li gni te-oi l i s creosote deri ved from
l i gni te-tar whi ch possesses a hi gh paraffi n and
naphthal ene content as wel l as a substanti al
degr ee of unsatur ati on whi ch r esul ts i n a
tendency for the tar to sol i di fy when exposed to
ox ygen. Li gni te-oi l has a very hi gh tar-aci d
content whi ch was ori gi nal l y ex tracted wi th
sodium hydroxide to give Kreosotnatron which
was used as a wood preservati ve for pi t props i n
the l i gni te mi nes. Tar aci ds deri ved i n thi s way
were al so used to i ncrease the tar aci d content of
nor mal cr eosote when thi s was consi der ed
desi rabl e. The hi gh paraffi n content of l i gni te-oi l
resul ts i n onl y poor fungi ci dal acti vi ty i n the
absence of the tar aci ds and i t has usual l y been
used mixed with normal creosote to give good
preservati on and a cl ean and dry surface. Most
l i gni te-tar i s now used for the manufacture of
wax and some resinous compounds.
Wood and peat tar—No-D-K
Peat tar has been used in parts of Russia far from
major coal deposi ts. Peat tar i s si mi l ar to the tar
derived from the destructive distillation of wood.
Thi s wood tar can be separated by di sti l l ati on
i nto vari ous fracti ons, i ncl udi ng wood tar oi l or
cr eosote. Softwood tar, often known as
Stockhol m tar, was at one ti me ex tensi vel y
produced in Scandinavia and widely used as a
brush-appl i ed preservati ve for l og houses and
other wood bui l di ngs. The preservati ve actvi ty i s
much l ower than that of coal -tar or anthracene
oi l and the treatment was decorati ve rather than
preservative. Wood-tar creosote was also used as
Preservation chemicals
104
a pressure i mpregnati on wood preservati ve, i ts
l ow vi scosi ty ensuri ng ex cel l ent penetrati on
compared wi th coal -tar creosote. Hardwood tar
is darker in colour and has been used extensively
i n wood preservati on onl y i n the Uni ted States
where i t has been marketed as No-D-K.
Water gas tar
Water gas is formed by passing steam over hot
coke to produce a mixture of hydrogen and carbon
monoxide. Water gas can also be carburetted to
increase the calorific value by the injection of a
petroleum distillate such as gas oil, but this also
results in the formation of water gas tar. This
process is rare in Europe but more common in the
United States. The lower viscosity tar-oil fraction
contains similar hydrocarbons to creosote, but
without tar acids and with only traces of tar bases
and some petroleum hydrocarbons of low activity.
Water gas tar oil therefore has limited preservative
val ue but i t i s often bl ended wi th creosote,
particularly in the United States where creosote has
always been comparatively scarce.
Créosite
Créosite was introduced in Belgium in about 1922.
At that time the Belgian railways considered that a
high naphthalene creosote was essential for good
preservation. In contrast, Créosite was based on
the opinion that the naphthalene was virtually
non-preservative and that the tar acids, tar bases
and neutral hydrocarbons were more important.
The naphthal ene was therefore removed and
replaced by high-boiling hydrocarbons, derived
from asphaltic bitumen. The arguments justifying
the preparation of Créosite sound like an attempt
to justify the removal of naphthalene for some
other purpose!
Creofixol—Cornelisol
Creofixol was another special creosote introduced
in Belgium in about 1919. This was a normal
creosote but with a higher proportion of low-
boiling fractions, giving a low-viscosity penetrating
product whi ch was parti cul arl y sui tabl e for
immersion treatment at ordinary temperatures.
Cornelisol was introduced in the Netherlands in
1935 and was a creosote free from tar acids and
free from residue, giving a particularly attractive
light colour. This preservative has given excellent
performance as a treatment for transmission poles.
Transote
Transote was introduced in the United States in
1917 as Reilly transparent penetrating creosote. It
consisted of 25–30% refined colourless creosote in a
volatile solvent, giving a low-viscosity penetrating
product and a treatment that was colourless, free
from bl eedi ng and pai ntabl e. Laboratory tests
indicated that the preservative activity was rather
less than might be expected from the creosote
content, suggesting that the refining process had
removed important components.
Fibrosithe
Fi br osi the was another Amer i can pr oduct,
introduced in 1923 as a creosote formulation for
appl i cati on by brush, spray or i mmersi on. I t
consi sted of 70% creosote wi th 9.5% coal -tar to
gi ve i mproved surface seal i ng, 6% phenol to
i mprove the fungi ci dal properti es and fi nal l y 8%
l i ght coal -tar naphtha and 6.5% benzene to
reduce the vi scosi ty and i mprove penetrati on. It
i s perhaps worth menti oni ng at thi s stage that
l ow vi scosi ty di l uents can si gni fi cantl y reduce
the vi scosi ty of a mi xture i n thi s way but they do
not affect the mol ecul ar si ze of i ndi vi dual
components whi ch may sti l l tend to fi l ter out on
the surface of the wood rather than penetrate.
Shale oil
Shal e oi l i s deri ved from the di sti l l ati on of
bituminous shale tar. Bituminous shale is available
in many countries including Sweden, Russia, France,
Inorganic compounds
105
Scotland and various parts of the United States. The
tar yield from shale is low and processing is justified
only when there is a shortage of competitive coal-tar
or petroleum products. In Estonia, three types of
shal e tar have been used as al ternati ves to
anthracene oil or carbolineum and as recently as
1936 shale oil was employed as an alternative to
creosote for the impregnation of railway sleepers in
Estonia and Lithuania. Tests indicate that shale oil
has l ower preservati ve acti vi ty than coal -tar
creosote but in practice it has performed reliably
when used at very hi gh retenti ons i n ful l -cel l
i mpregnati on processes, perhaps because the
physi cal barri er properti es then become more
significant than the toxic properties.
Petroleum distillates
The preservative properties of petroleum oils can
be attri buted sol el y to thei r physi cal properti es
as they are vi rtual l y non-toxi c. I n the Uni ted
States heavy oi l s ar e used as di l uents for
creosote, a practi ce based on the concept that
l oadi ngs of creosote can be substanti al l y reduced
as i n empty-cel l treatments whi l st sti l l retai ni ng
adequate preservati ve properti es, al though hi gh
l oadi ngs achi eve gr eater r esi stance to
weatheri ng. Shortages of creosote i n the Uni ted
States, parti cul arl y duri ng Worl d War I I , have
l ed to an i ncrease i n the use of petrol eum-based
preservati ves, parti cul arl y pentachl orophenol i n
heavy oi l , whi ch possess si mi l ar properti es to
creosote. Organi c-sol vent formul ati ons wi l l be
descri bed i n detai l l ater i n thi s chapter but i t i s
appr opr i ate to menti on thi s par ti cul ar
for mul ati on at thi s poi nt as i t i s di r ectl y
competi ti ve wi th creosote. The vari ous toxi cants
that have been used to forti fy creosote have al so
been appl i ed i n heavy petrol eum oi l s i n an
attempt to devel op an al ternati ve to creosote.
Copper, zinc and arsenic compounds have been
added, but a two-stage treatment i nvol vi ng a
water-borne treatment to pr ovi de tox i ci ty,
fol l owed by an oi l treatment to protect agai nst
l eachi ng, gi ves the most rel i abl e resul ts.
4.3 Inorganic compounds
Water-borne preservatives consist of solutions of
i norgani c i ons, ori gi nal l y prepared as mi xtures
of sal ts but now often formul ated from oxi des i n
order to avoid the unnecessary inactive ions such
as sodium and sulphate which are introduced in
mul ti sal t formul ati ons. Some i nacti ve groups are
i mpor tant i n fi x ati on, so that the l oss of
ammoni a from some formul ati ons resul ts i n
fi xati on by a pH change. In sal t formul ati ons, an
i nacti ve i on may be vari ed to assi st i n achi evi ng
penetr ati on or the desi r ed r etenti on. Thus
sodi um fl uori de whi ch has l i mi ted sol ubi l i ty can
achieve an adequate concentration in the normal
Wol man-type sal ts used for pr essur e
i mpregnati on, but i t must be repl aced by the
more sol ubl e and more expensi ve potassi um
fl uori de to gi ve the hi gher concentrati ons that
are requi red when these sal ts are appl i ed by non-
pr essur e i mmer si on, or when pr essur e
impregnation is used for the treatment of a wood
of low permeability.
Multisalt systems—active oxide contents
Or i gi nal l y, si mpl e sal ts wer e used as
preservati ves but they were found to have
various disadvantages; many of the most suitable
sal ts were poi sonous, corrosi ve or l eachabl e, or
possessed a rather narrow spectrum of acti vi ty.
All these disadvantages have been overcome by
the devel opment of mul ti sal t systems whi ch are
now bei ng progressi vel y repl aced by ox i de
mi x tur es desi gned to achi eve si mi l ar
combinations of functional ions. There has been
an enormous vari ety of devel opments and as
si mi l ar formul ati ons are often known by several
di fferent names i t i s di ffi cul t to ensure that any
descri pti on of water-borne wood preservati ves i s
compl ete. Thi s account i s therefore concerned
wi th the major devel opments and the most
i mportant or most i nteresti ng formul ati ons.
Where i t i s necessary to compare mul ti sal t
preser vati ves the cur r ent Amer i can Wood
Preservation chemicals
106
Preservers’ Association system has been adopted.
The most important comparisons are necessary
on the copper- chr omi um-ar seni c (CCA)
preservati ves where the three tox i cants are
expressed as oxi des, the copper as CuO, the
chromium as CrO
3
and the arseni c as As
2
O
5
. The
preservati ve acti vi ty of the formul ati on i s then
approximately indicated by the total active oxide
content, whatever the rati o of the i ndi vi dual
toxi c el ements, al though i t wi l l be appreci ated
that the i nsecti ci dal properti es depend on the
arseni c al one and that the rati os al so i nfl uence
the fi xati on of the vari ous toxi c el ements.
Mercuric chloride—Kyanising
Mercuric chloride or corrosive sublimate is very
soluble and the most important and most effective
of the si mpl e sal t preservati ves. I t was fi rst
proposed by Homberg in 1705 but the process
was patented by Kyan i n 1832. Kyani si ng
involved the treatment of wood through simple
i mmersi on i n a mercuri c chl ori de sol uti on,
general l y at a concentrati on of 0.66%. Thi s
treatment is very toxic to both insects and fungi
but it is also absorbed onto the wood; if wood
remains for a protracted period in the solution
more mercuri c chl ori de must be added to
compensate for this absorption. Mercuric chloride
solution is very corrosive and it is necessary to
construct the treatment pl ant from wood,
concrete or stone; this is the reason why mercuric
chl ori de has never been appl i ed usi ng an
impregnation plant. Mercuric chloride is also very
poisonous and very expensive but Kyanising is
perhaps the most effective water-borne treatment
for European white-wood; spruce transmission
poles can be treated by immersion for ten days in
mercuric chloride solution and there is still no
alternative treatment that can achieve the same
degree of rel i abi l i ty! Unfortunatel y, mercuri c
chloride was banned as a wood preservative in
Germany in 1935 at a time when the Wolman
salts dominated the water-borne salt preservative
market, but these were insufficiently soluble for
use i n pl ace of mercuri c chl ori de i n exi sti ng
Kyani si ng tanks. A speci al sol ubl e form of
Wolman salt was therefore prepared by replacing
sodium fluoride by the more expensive but very
sol ubl e potassi um fl uori de. The progressi ve
development of Wolman salts is described later.
Mixed Kyanising—Deep Kyanising—
Chromel—Lignasan
In 1914 Bub developed Mixed Kyanising which
involved the use of a mixture of mercuric chloride
and copper sulphate with either zinc chloride or
sodium fluoride. Deep Kyanising was developed
by Kinberg in 1924 and involved steaming and
the use of resin solvents such as trichloroethylene
to i mprove penetrati on. These processes were
fol l owed by several attempts to reduce the
corrosive action of mercuric chloride. Bryan and
Richardson developed a preservative consisting of
1 part mercuric chloride and 2 parts potassium
di chromate, a l arge concentrati on of sodi um
nitrite and some sodium carbonate. One product
of this type, known as Chromel, gave very good
results in stake tests. Although the dichromate
was originally incorporated to reduce corrosion
so that this product could be used in a normal
steel impregnation plant, it was found that it also
improved fixation and the product has proved to
be very resistant to leaching. Mercury compounds
are onl y rarel y used i n preservati on today.
Organomercury compounds were used for many
years for sapstai n control . Ori gi nal l y ethyl
mercury acetate was used but i t was soon
replaced by the phosphate, a compound marketed
as Lignasan, and later by phenyl compounds. The
use of these compounds has now been l argel y
discontinued following pollution of streams and
lakes through the use of the same compounds for
slime control by the paper industry.
Fluorine compounds
Fl uor i ne i s hi stor i cal l y one of the most
i mpor tant wood pr eser vati ve el ements.
Inorganic compounds
107
Fl uori des were ori gi nal l y proposed as wood
preservati ves i n Bri tai n i n 1861 i n processes
desi gned to preci pi tate cal ci um fl uori de or
fl uorosi l i cate (si l i cofl uori de) i n wood but these
systems were never devel oped commerci al l y.
The fi rst practi cal fl uori de process, devel oped
i n 1901 and patented i n 1903, i nvol ved
di ssol vi ng zi nc i n hydrofl uori c aci d. The l oss of
excess hydrogen fl uori de after appl i cati on of
the sol uti on to wood resul ted i n fi xati on. A
si mi l ar process devel oped i n France i n 1907
i nvol ved the treatment of wood wi th a mi xed
sol uti on of sodi um fl uori de and zi nc chl ori de,
fol l owed by heati ng to achi eve fi xati on by the
preci pi tati on of zi nc fl uori de wi thi n the wood.
The same year Wol man patented the use of
sodi um and potassi um fl uor i des for the
pr eser vati on of mi ne ti mber s. Sodi um
fl uorosi l i cate had fi rst been proposed as a wood
preservati ve i n 1904 but i t had not been wi del y
used, despi te i ts avai l abi l i ty and l ow cost, on
account of i ts l ow sol ubi l i ty and corrosi ve
pr oper ti es. I n 1926 Wol man devel oped
mi x tur es of sodi um fl uor i de and sodi um
fl uorosi l i cate for the treatment of mi ne ti mbers,
mi x tur es whi ch wer e l ess ex pensi ve than
sodi um fl uor i de al one, par ti cul ar l y wher e
sodi um fl uorosi l i cate was avai l abl e l ocal l y.
Sodi um fl uori de has been al so used as a
component i n many mul ti sal t preservati ves. It i s
extremel y fungi ci dal and al so toxi c to some
wood-borers such as the House Longhorn beetle,
Hylotrupes bajulus, al though i ts i nsecti ci dal
properti es are speci fi c to onl y a few speci es.
Sodi um fl uori de i s non-corrosi ve and treated
wood i s pai ntabl e, but the treatment i s l eachabl e
when used al one. The sol ubi l i ty of sodi um
fl uori de i s onl y 4–5% at ambi ent temperatures
but the hi gh toxi ci ty enabl es adequate retenti ons
to be achi eved by pr essur e i mpr egnati on.
Potassi um fl uori de i s more expensi ve but al so
more soluble and is used when higher solution
concentr ati ons ar e r equi r ed, such as for
i mmersi on treatments or i mpregnati on of woods
wi th l ow permeabi l i ty.
Wolman salts—Bellit—Basilit—Malenit
Formul ati ons contai ni ng fl uori ne, chromi um,
arseni c and phenol components, known i n the
Uni ted States as FCAP pr eser vati ves, ar e
usual l y k nown as Wol man sal ts. These
formul ati ons ori gi nated i n Austri a i n 1907 wi th
a Wol man patent for the use of fl uori des for the
pr eser vati on of mi ne ti mber s. I n 1909
Mal enk ovi c i ntr oduced a pr eser vati ve
consi sti ng of a mi xture of about 88% sodi um
fl uori de and 12% di ni trophenol ani l i n; thi s
pr eser vati ve was fi r st known as Bel l i t but
r enamed Basi l i t i n 1914. I n about 1913
Wol man i ntr oduced a mi x tur e of sodi um
fl uori de and di ni trophenol whi ch was known as
Schwammschutz Rütgers (Rütgers fungi ci de) as
at that ti me Wol man was associ ated wi th
Rütger swer ke. Anti mony fl uor i de and zi nc
fl uori de were proposed as addi ti ves to reduce
the cor r osi ve pr oper ti es of the
di ni trophenol ani l i n and di ni trophenol , and a
mi xture of sodi um fl uori de, zi nc fl uori de and
di ni trophenol was i ntroduced as Mal eni t i n
1921 by Mal enkovi c.
Flunax—Fluoxyth
A paral l el devel opment to these Wol man sal ts
i nvol ved a mi xture of 84% sodi um fl uori de wi th
8% xylenol saponified with 8% of 38% sodium
hydroxide solution. This product was known as
Flunax or Fluoxyth, and it was usually applied
by ful l -cel l i mpregnati on at a concentrati on of
1.5–3.5%. I n 1923 Fl unax was used by the
German rai l ways for the treatment of pi ne
sl eepers (ti es), gi vi ng a l i fe of 15–16 years
compared wi th 27 years for normal creosote
impregnation. Flunax can cause some chemical
deteri orati on, parti cul arl y the devel opment of
brashness i n beech sl eepers, so i t has not been
extensi vel y used, al though i t was re-i ntroduced
duri ng Worl d War I I when the shortage of
di ni tr ophenol and chr omates l i mi ted the
production of Wolman salts.
Preservation chemicals
108
Thriolith—Triolith—Minolith—Thanalith—
Tanalith
The true Wol man sal ts devel oped fol l owi ng a
proposal i n about 1913 for the addi ti on of
chr omates, phosphates or bor ates to the
sodi um fl uori de and di ni trophenol mi xtures as
cor r osi on i nhi bi tor s i n pl ace of the zi nc
f l uor i de whi ch was used i n Mal eni t.
Di chromates were found to be most sui tabl e
and the resul ti ng product consi sti ng of 85%
sodi um fl uori de, 10% di ni trophenol and 5%
sodi um or potassi um di chr omate was ver y
ex tensi vel y used under the name Tr i ol i th,
ori gi nal l y Thri ol i th. Thi s formul ati on was the
star ti ng poi nt f or many l ater i mpr oved
formul ati ons, the fi rst bei ng Mi nol i th whi ch
consi sted of Tr i ol i th wi th the addi ti on of
retardant properti es for wood used i n mi nes.
fungal decay but i n 1922 i t was mi xed wi th an
equal amount of sodi um arsenate to i mprove
i nsecti ci dal acti vi ty, the r esul ti ng pr oduct
bei ng known as Tanal i th, ori gi nal l y Thanal i th.
Sever al fur ther patents, pr i nci pal l y i n the
Uni ted States, covered si mi l ar mi x tures but
wi th the di ni tr ophenol r epl aced by
di ni tr ocr esol or, l ater, sodi um
pentachl orophenate.
Dichromate fixation—Triolith U—Tanalith
U—Wolmanit U—Wolmanit UA
Al though di chr omate was or i gi nal l y
i ntroduced to reduce the corrosi ve properti es
of di ni trophenol i t was soon appreci ated that
i t consi der abl y i mpr oved fi x ati on and the
r esi stance of the tr eatment to l eachi ng. I n
about 1930 the di chromate content i n Wol man
sal ts was i ncreased to further i mprove fi xati on
and these hi gh di chr omate ver si ons of the
formul ati ons were i denti fi ed by the suffi x U.
Pr eser vati ves of thi s type ar e sti l l used,
gener al l y wi th the f ol l owi ng typi cal
formul ati ons:
The fi gures i n brackets represent the rati os of
active components using the system introduced
by the American Wood Preservers’ Association,
and now wi del y adopted el sewhere, to si mpl i fy
compari sons between the rati os of the toxi c
components i n di fferent formul ati ons. Fol l owi ng
World War II, Triolith U and Tanalith U were
r enamed Wol mani t U and Wol mani t UA
respecti vel y, for use i n Europe.
Trioxan U—Trioxan UA—Wolmanit U
hochl. and Wolmanit UA hochl.
In 1934 a proposal was made in Germany to ban
the use of very poisonous mercuric chloride. Triolith
U and Tanalith U were insufficiently soluble to
prepare the relatively high solution concentrations
necessary for appl i cati on by i mmersi on usi ng
existing Kyanising tanks, which had been used with
mercuric chloride, and special soluble versions of
these Wolman salts were developed by replacing the
sodi um fl uori de wi th more sol ubl e and more
expensive potassium fluoride and, at the same time,
reducing the dinitrophenol. These new formulations
were known as Tri oxan U and Tri oxan UA,
although they were renamed after the World War II
as Wolmanit U hochl. and Wolmanit UA hochl.
respectively, the suffix indicating that they were
highly soluble.
Other Wolman salts
I t i s useful at thi s poi nt to consi der the current
European nomencl ature whi ch enabl es sal ts of
the Wol man type of di fferent manufacture to
be i denti fi ed. The ori gi nal Tri ol i th became
Inorganic compounds
109
Tr i ol i th U wi th the addi ti on of f ur ther
di chromate to i mprove resi stance to l eachi ng
and equi val ent products are Basi l i t U, Osmol i t
U, Wol mani t U, etc. The addi ti on of arseni c to
Tri ol i th gave Tanal i th, real l y an al ternati ve
name for Tr i ol i th A so that Tanal i th U i s
equi val ent to Tri ol i th UA, and si mi l ar products
ar e ther ef or e Basi l i t UA, Osmol i t UA,
Wol mani t UA, etc. Readi l y-sol ubl e products
for use when hi gh sol uti on concentrati ons are
necessar y, ei ther f or the i mpr egnati on
treatment of wood of l ow permeabi l i ty or for
i mmer si on tr eatments, wer e achi eved by
r epl aci ng sodi um f l uor i de by potassi um
fl uori de and by reduci ng the di ni trophenol
content to or i gi nal l y gi ve Tr i ox an U and
Tri ox an UA, the equi val ent products i n the
Basi l i t and Osmol i t range havi ng the suffi x
‘l ei cht l ösl i ch’, meani ng readi l y sol ubl e, and
the equi val ent Wol mani t products havi ng the
suffi x ‘hochl ’, whi ch i s an abbrevi ati on for
hi ghl y sol ubl e. I n the most recent devel opment
i t has been found that the addi ti on of aci d
gi ves i mproved fi xati on and thi s has resul ted
i n products known as Wol mani t U (or UA)
Reform, now UR (or UAR). I n Wol mani t U the
fl uori ne fi x ati on i s i mproved from 20% to
80% whi l st i n Wol mani t UA the fl uor i ne
fi xati on i s i mproved from 10% to 67% and
the arseni c fi xati on from 75% to 97%. Basi l i t
UAF i s si mi l ar to Wol mani t UAR.
FCA (or FCAP) salts
Termites represent a risk throughout most of the
Uni ted States and onl y the Tanal i th or arseni cal
types of Wol man sal ts wi l l gi ve r el i abl e
protecti on; they are usual l y descri bed as fl uor-
chrome-arsenate-phenol (FCAP) preservatives in
America but fluorine-chromiumarsenic (FCA) in
Europe. In the Uni ted States they are marketed
as Osmosal ts, Osmosar, Tanal i th, Wol man Sal ts
FCAP and Wol man Sal ts FMP, al l conformi ng
with the American Wood Preservers’ Association
Standard P5 for FCAP preservatives:
AWPA FCAP salts
Fluoride 22% F
Hexavalent chromium 37% CrO
3
Arsenic 25% As
2
O
5
Dinitrophenol 16%
Sodium pentachlorophate may be used in place of
dinitrophenol
Care i s necessary i n the i nterpretati on of these
Ameri can speci fi cati ons as the percentages are
based solely on the active components which are
pr esent. I n thi s speci fi cati on the fl uor i ne,
chromium and arsenic are generally present as
sodi um or potassi um sal ts so that al l
formul ati ons contai n i nacti ve components i n
addi ti on. A typi cal commerci al formul ati on wi l l
therefore contai n much l ower concentrati on of
these acti ve components and wi l l be descri bed as
only X% active, depending on the proportion of
these components i n the product, so that the
Tanal i th U shown i n the earl i er tabl e woul d be
onl y about 47% acti ve; the r ati os of the
components ar e al so di ffer ent fr om those
requi red by the AWPA speci fi cati on so that the
European Tanalith U formulation is not used in
the Uni ted States.
FCAP pole bandages
Wolman salts of the Triolith or U type are used
when fungal decay represents the principal hazard
or when an arsenic content is unacceptable. The
Tanalith or UA type salts are used where there is
significant insect hazard, particularly from House
Longhorn beetles or termites. These formulations
are general l y very effecti ve but severe fai l ures
have occurred where they have been used for the
treatment of coolingtower fill, the wooden slats
over which hot water runs, exposed to a current
of cooling air. This damage was not found to be
due not to leaching but to the development of
previ ousl y unknown resi stant fungi whi ch are
now known as Soft rots. Some ground-line decay
is caused in transmission poles by the same fungi
Preservation chemicals
110
and as a result the Wolman or FCAP salts have
been largely replaced for these purposes by the
greensal t or CCA preservati ves whi ch are
descri bed l ater. Unfortunatel y greensal ts fi x
ex tremel y rapi dl y and cannot di ffuse to a
si gni fi cant ex tent before fi x ati on so that, i f
permeable sapwood is coupled in a wood species
with impermeable heartwood, the heartwood can
be treated more reliably by Wolman salts as these
are abl e to di ffuse i nto i t. Thi s advantage of
Wolman salts is particularly noticeable in species
of low permeability such as spruce in which heart
rot in CCA-treated poles may be more significant
than the superficial Soft rot in FCAP or Wolman
salt-treated poles. If it is required to treat, for
ex ampl e, spruce pol es whi ch are both non-
durable and relatively impermeable throughout,
Wolman salts still provide one of the most reliable
treatments avai l abl e, parti cul arl y i f the hi ghl y
sol ubl e sal ts are used at hi gh concentrati ons.
These hi ghl y sol ubl e sal ts are al so used i n
Osmose, Cobra and other bandage methods for
i n-si tu ground-l i ne treatments to ex tend the
service life of transmission poles.
Berrit—Fluoran OG
Many other fl uori de composi ti ons have been
developed, usually as imitations of the original
salts. These compositions vary in the ratios of the
active components but their development was also
influenced by materials availability in times of
shortage such as during World War II. The serious
shortage of chromi um compounds throughout
Europe resulted in a progressive reduction in their
concentration and ultimately their omission or
replacement by other corrosion inhibitors. In the
Netherlands Triolith was used at first but replaced
by Berritt and Fluoran OG, similar to Triolith and
Tanalith respectively but with the components in
di fferent proporti ons. Progressi ve changes
conti nued as i ndi vi dual components became
scarce. Eventually, zinc sulphate was used to partly
replace the components in short supply, giving so-
cal l ed Wol man sal ts contai ni ng about 3 parts
sodi um fl uori de, 3 parts zi nc sul phate, 1 part
sodi um di chromate and a smal l amount of
dinitrophenol. These salts were still in use in the
Netherlands in 1950.
Tanalith Un and Tanalith K
The chromium shortage during World War II was
the most seri ous probl em and i n Rumani a
Tanalith Un was used which consisted of 30%
sodi um fl uori de, 50% sodi um arsenate, 10%
dinitrophenol and a reduced chromium content of
10% sodium dichromate. Tanalith K was similar,
except that the sodium dichromate was replaced
by 5% hex amethyl ene tetrami ne and the
di ni trophenol by 15% sodi um di ni trophenate.
This formulation was widely used, although in
some areas such as Croatia it often lacked the
dinitrophenol content.
Basilit A57—NAF salt—Fluorising
Basilit A57 was used in Switzerland in World War
I I , essenti al l y Basi l i t UA but wi thout the
dichromate. A similar product had been introduced
into Denmark in about 1935 where it was known
as NAF, ni trophenol -arseni c-fl uori de. More
recentl y the process of fl uori si ng has been
i ntroduced i n Austral i a for the hot-and-col d
treatment of karri sleepers (ties) involving a similar
formulation of dinitrophenol, arsenic and fluoride.
There is virtually no fixation as these formulations
lack chromate, but they have been used for the
Boucherie treatment of poles where traditional
copper sul phate i s consi dered unacceptabl e
because of the danger of development of copper-
resistant fungi such as Poria species.
Bifluoride treatments
The so-called bifluorides are potassium, sodium
and ammonium hydrogen difluoride. Hydrogen
fl uori de i s rel eased when these bi fl uori des are
applied to wood and can diffuse, giving very deep
penetration in laboratory tests. Unfortunately this
Inorganic compounds
111
hydrogen fluoride is not fixed and can be readily
l ost by l eachi ng or vol ati l i zati on. I n remedi al
treatments this diffusion is particularly valuable
and the bifluorides are still widely used in parts of
Europe for House Longhorn beetle eradication.
The hazards associ ated wi th rel ease of toxi c
hydrogen fluoride do not appear to have been
properly considered; reports published in Germany
as early as 1940 warned of these dangers, but
bifluorides continue to be used. These reports also
poi nted out that even sodi um and potassi um
fl uori de treatments sl owl y rel ease hydrogen
fluoride. Whilst there may therefore be dangers
associated with the well-established Wolman FCAP
salts which contain fluorides, the bifluorides are
certainly an even more serious danger.
Improsol—Rentex
Improsol and Rentex are mixtures of fluorides,
bi fl uor i des and chr omates, devel oped as
immersion treatments designed to achieve deep
penetrati on. Improsol ori gi nal l y consi sted of a
mixture of potassium and ammonium bifluoride
wi th wetti ng agents, and was i ntended to be
appl i ed by i mmersi on at a concentrati on of 5 to
10% to achi eve an average retenti on of about 1
kg/m
3
(0.06 l b/ft
3
) sal t. The treated wood was
then required to be maintained for about four
weeks at a minimum moisture content of 20% to
per mi t di ffusi on. Thi s tr eatment had no
resi stance to l oss by l eachi ng and vol ati l i zati on
of hydrogen fl uori de. Very ambi ti ous cl ai ms
were made for I mprosol treatment and the
formul ati on has been frequentl y modi fi ed to
reduce corrosion and increase peristence.
Mykocid BS—Osmol WB4
Improsol has also been used for sapstain control
on freshly converted green wood. Mykocid BS is a
similar bifluoride product for sapstain control.
These products achieved some penetration of the
sapstain market following restrictions on the use
of chl orophenol s, such as sodi um
pentachlorophenate, but they are comparatively
expensive. Ammonium bifluoride is very effective
agai nst stai n fungi but i t sti mul ates the
devel opment of the moul d Trichoderma viride
which then covers the surface of the wood unless
a very high fluoride concentration is employed.
The dangers associated with chlorophenols are
discussed later but it is difficult to understand the
atti tude of the Swedi sh safety authori ti es i n
permitting the use of bifluorides whilst restricting
the use of chlorophenols which are not known to
have caused any mammal i an i njury i n thei r
country. I n contrast, regul ati ons i n the Uni ted
Kingdom actually prohibit the use of bifluorides
whi l st permi tti ng the use of chl orophenol s i n
suitably controlled circumstances, although the
bi fl uor i de r estr i cti ons wer e not actual l y
i ntroduced to control wood-preservati on
treatments. Osmol WB4, i ntroduced i n about
1949, i s another propri etary sapstai n control
product based on bifluorides.
Fluorosilicates
Fl uor osi l i cates (si l i cofl uor i des) ar e not as
effi ci ent as fl uori des as wood preservati ves but
they are wi del y avai l abl e as i ndustri al waste and
are therefore a very attracti ve source of fl uori ne
i n many countri es. Sodi um fl uorosi l i cate was
fi rst proposed as a wood preservati ve as l ong
ago as 1904 but there i s sti l l research effort
devoted to devel opi ng i mproved systems i n
Germany, Yugosl avi a and Austral i a. The mai n
probl ems are rel ati vel y l ow acti vi ty associ ated
wi th l ow sol ubi l i ty, and corrosi on.
Fluorex V and Fluorex S—Sikkuid—
Fluralsil—Hydrazil (Hydrarsil)—Basilit
CFK
In 1926 Wolman developed a mixture of sodium
fl uorosi l i cate wi th sodi um fl uori de for the
treatment of mi ni ng ti mbers i n an attempt to
combine reasonable effectiveness with low cost, the
fl uorosi l i cate bei ng avai l abl e from the mi neral
Preservation chemicals
112
extraction processes associated with the mining. In
the United States sodium fluorosilicate was the
pri nci pal component i n Fl uorex V, whereas
magnesi um fl uorosi l i cate was the pri nci pal
component in both Fluorex S and in the German
product Si kkui d. Another German product
Fl ural si l consi sted of a mi x ture of sodi um
fluorosilicate and zinc chloride which was designed
to precipitate zinc fluorosilicate. It was originally
introduced in 1909 as a wood preservative and for
the sterilization of walls infected by the Dry rot
fungus, Serpula lacrymans, as an early remedial
treatment. Fluralsil was also used in Denmark in
about 1935, together with the NAF salt that has
been described earlier, as an alternative to copper
sul phate i n the Boucheri e treatment of
transmission poles, as deterioration by copper-
resistant fungi such as Poria species was causing
concern. Nei ther Fl ural si l nor NAF contai n
chromates or any other fixation components and
both can be readi l y l ost i n l eachi ng condi ti ons.
Hydrazi l , ori gi nal l y Hydrarsi l , was a mi xture of
zi nc and mercury fl uorosi l i cates whi ch achi eved
greater resi stance to l eachi ng, al though i t has
now been abandoned because of the toxicity of
the mercury content. Copper fl uorosi l i cate i s
used in Basilit CFK, a product which is described
i n detai l l ater.
Zinc salts—Burnettising
Zi nc has been used for wood preservati on i n
several different forms. Zinc salts were used in
combi nati on wi th fl uor i des i n mul ti -sal t
preservati ves, parti cul arl y as an al ternati ve to
dinitrophenol to reduce corrosion and to enhance
fungicidal activity and fixation. The use of zinc
chloride alone was originally proposed by Burnett
i n 1838 and for many years Burnetti si ng and
Kyanising with mercuric chloride were the most
popular salt treatments in Europe. Zinc chloride
was used unti l 1921 i n the Uni ted States,
particularly for railway sleepers (ties), and was
still widely used in Russia as recently as 1948.
This treatment has poor resistance to leaching but
it was found to give excellent performance when
used in combination with creosote, originally in a
doubl e- but l ater a si ngl e-stage treatment as
described earlier in Section 4.2. The use of zinc
chloride followed by creosote economized on the
use of creosote but achieved virtually as good
protection as higher retentions of creosote alone.
This double treatment was used by the Danish
rai l ways from 1889 to 1907 when economi c
factors caused it to be abandoned in favour of
creosote al one. The toxi ci ty of the creosote i s
unnecessary and this treatment can therefore use
non-toxic petroleum oils, a useful alternative in
times of creosote shortage. In the Card process in
the Uni ted States and the Tetraset process i n
Poland the two-stage treatment is replaced by a
mixture of salt solution and creosote, maintained
in suspension by agitation or emulsifiers; these
processes were described in detail in Section 4.2.
Kulba salt—chromated zinc chloride
(CZC)—copperized CZC (CCZC)
The excellent solubility of zinc chloride is helpful
in the preparation of the solution but also results
i n poor resi stance to l eachi ng. The corrosi on of
ferrous fi tti ngs can usual l y be attri buted to the
presence of hydrochl ori c aci d. Al though zi nc
chl ori de i s not so acti ve as some other sal ts i t i s
sti l l used as a component i n several mul ti sal t
preservati ves. One of the si mpl est i s Kul ba sal t
which was introduced in Belgium during World
War II and which consists of a mixture of zinc
chl ori de and sodi um hydroxi de. Chromated zi nc
chl ori de (CZC) was devel oped i n the Uni ted
States in about 1934 and achieved considerable
resi stance to l eachi ng. It consi sts of zi nc chl ori de
and sodi um di chromate mi x ed accordi ng to
ratios defined in the American Wood Preservers’
Associ ati on Standard P5 whi ch requi res the
hexaval ent chromi um content to be 20%, as
CrO
3
, and the zi nc content to be 80%, as ZnO.
In copperized CZC (CCZC) about 10% of the
zi nc chl ori de i s repl aced by cupri c chl ori de, to
broaden the spectrum of acti vi ty.
Inorganic compounds
113
ZFD—ZFM
Zinc sulphate has also been used as a component in
several multisalt preservatives. ZFD preservative
was used in Belgium in World War II and consisted
of a mixture of zinc sulphate, sodium fluoride and
dinitrophenol, whereas ZFM was zinc sulphate
and magnesium fluorosilicate (silicofluoride). In
the Netherl ands zi nc sul phate was added to
Triolith when it was in short supply, resulting in a
product that was still used in 1950, but when
Triolith was completely unavailable zinc sulphate
was used alone. Large quantities of zinc sulphate
are avai l abl e from the Wi twatersrand mi ni ng
operations in the Transvaal and this was used from
about 1918 i n a mi x ture wi th Tri ol i th as a
preservative for the treatment of mining timbers; it
was normally prepared using 3% zinc sulphate and
0.3% Triolith, and replaced zinc chloride which
had been used previ ousl y. Hi gh l oadi ngs were
necessary to achieve an appreciable preservative
effect, partl y because zi nc sul phate has poor
resistance to leaching, and this formulation was
suitable only for application to permeable wood.
Zinc meta-arsenite (ZMA)—Boliden
BIS—Boliden S—Boliden S25
Zi nc meta-arseni te (ZMA) was devel oped as a
wood preservati ve by Curti n i n the Uni ted States
i n 1928. It i s appl i ed to wood i n an aceti c aci d
sol uti on but, as the aci d i s l ost by vol ati l i zati on,
a non-l eachabl e preci pi tate of zi nc meta-arseni te
i s formed. Thi s process was extensi vel y used i n
the United States before World War II. Zinc was
al so used i n a number of the earl y Bol i den sal ts
devel oped i n Sweden. Bol i den BI S was a zi nc,
arseni c and chromi um sal t mi xture. Bol i den S
was si mi l ar i n composi ti on but prepared as an
oxide mixture. In Boliden S25 about 25% of the
zi nc was repl aced by copper, but al l these
mixtures were eventually superseded by K33, a
copper-chromium-arsenic oxide preservative; the
devel opment of Bol i den sal ts wi l l be descri bed
l ater. I n Austr al i a a copper-chr omi umzi nc-
arseni c sal t mi xture i s sti l l used whi ch i s si mi l ar
in composition to Boliden S25 but prepared from
sal ts rather than oxi des.
Copper salts
Copper is the most important component in most
of the rel ati vel y modern preservati ves. Copper
sul phate was ori gi nal l y proposed as a wood
preservative by Margary in 1837 and was used
extensively, usually as a 1% solution, although it
could not be applied in hard water which caused
preci pi tati on. Copper sul phate possesses hi gh
fungicidal activity but is very corrosive to iron and
steel . Copper i mpregnati on equi pment was
sometimes used but it was very expensive. Copper
sulphate is very soluble but, while most of the
treatment is leachable, a proportion remains fixed
within the wood. The most realistic use of copper
sulphate was in transmission pole treatment by the
Boucherie method—a cap was fitted to the butt of
a freshly felled log and the copper sulphate solution
was introduced under low pressure from a header
tank, gradual l y di spl aci ng the sap. Thi s sap-
di spl acement process was extensi vel y used i n
France and later introduced into other countries
such as Denmark and Fi nl and; Boucheri e and
si mi l ar processes are sti l l i n use wi th vari ous
preservatives. The performance of copper sulphate-
treated poles was reported to be poor in alkaline
soils but the failures were actually associated with
soi l s contai ni ng ammoni a rather than wi th
carbonaceous soi l s i n whi ch the copper i s
converted to the carbonate which is still fungicidal,
but resistant to leaching. The main problem with
all copper preservatives has been that some fungi
are resi stant, parti cul arl y the i mportant Poria
species, which are able to detoxify the copper by
formati on of the ox al ate. Copper-based
preservatives must therefore contain other toxic
fungicides if reliable preservation is to be achieved
at reasonable retentions, although it is interesting
to note that the arseni c i ncorporated as an
i nsecti ci de di sti nctl y i mproves acti vi ty agai nst
resistant fungi.
Preservation chemicals
114
Aczol—Viczsol
Aczol , known i n Germany as Vi czsol , an
ammoniacal solution of copper and zinc salts with
phenol, was originally introduced in 1907 and was
progressively improved during the following thirty
years. After treatment, the loss of ammonia results
in good fixation but it has been found in laboratory
tests that the effectiveness of the product declines
steadily, as the fixation progressed, so that realistic
assessments can only be made after a sufficient
period to allow for complete fixation. Early test
results exaggerated effectiveness and there were
initially some failures in service through the use of
inadequate retentions. It was also reported that this
treatment made wood rather brittle.
Chemonite—ammoniacal copper arsenite
(ACA)—ammoniacal copper-zinc arsenite
(ACZA)
In Chemonite the copper is used without zinc but
arseni c i s added to i mprove the i nsecti ci dal
properties. Chemonite originated in the United
States in about 1925 when Dr Aaron Gordon of
the University of California proposed that Paris
green, copper aceto-arsenite, should be used as a
wood preservative. Chemonite, which was first
marketed by the Diamond Match Company in
1934 and from 1935 by the Chemonite Wood
Preserving Company, was originally a mixture of
copper, arsenic and ammonium acetates, but it is
now usually prepared as a 6% solution for wood
preservation by mixing 1.84% copper hydroxide
and 1.3% arseni c tri oxi de wi th ammoni a and
small amounts of acetic acid and glycerol, although
different copper compounds are used at times. This
formulation, in which the ratio of copper and
arsenic is 49.8% CuO to 50.2% As
2
O
5
, is known
in America as ammoniacal copper arsenite (ACA).
Hal f of the arseni c As
2
O
5
content has been
repl aced si nce about 1983 by zi nc as ZnO, a
version known as ammoniacal copper-zinc arsenite
(ACZA) which has now replaced the original ACA
formulation in all plants in the United States. The
copper and arsenic are fixed, mainly as oxides, as
the ammonia evaporates; this slow fixation process
i s very advantageous i n the treatment of
impermeable species and also enables Chemonite
to be applied by the Boucherie and similar sap-
displacement processes. There is no corrosion of
steel pl ant but the treatment corrodes copper.
Chemonite is generally very reliable, although it
has been reported that it may be less effective in
marine situations.
CAA—ZAA
More recentl y, the Canadi an Forests Products
Laboratory has devel oped ammoni acal
preservati ves whi ch are descri bed as copper-
ammoni a addi ti ve (CAA) and zi nc-ammoni a
addi ti ve (ZAA), al though i t woul d seem more
sensi bl e to attri bute these i ni ti al s to copper-
ammoni a-arseni c, as the formul ati ons contai n
arsenic as an insecticide. These preservatives can
achi eve excepti onal penetrati on and are thus
consi der abl y mor e r el i abl e than the wel l -
establ i shed copper-chromi um-arseni c (CCA)
preservatives for the treatment of impermeable
speci es. However, di ffi cul ti es have been
encountered in substantiating these claims and it
seems more likely that the main advantage of the
CAA and ZAA preservatives, as well as of the
older-established ACA (Chemonite) product, lies
in their slow fixation and the protracted diffusion
that can occur, resulting in deep penetration in
suitable circumstances. The use of arsenic in a
recently developed product was surprising and
Domtar i n Canada soon devel oped si mi l ar
products with the arsenic replaced by quaternery
ammonium compounds; these formulations are
known as ammoniacal copper-quaternery (ACQ)
or zinc-quaternery (AZQ) formulations.
Ammoniacal copper borate (CAB)—acid
copper borate (ACB) or acid zinc borate
(AZB)
Increasing resistance to the use of arsenic also
prompted the development of ammoniacal copper
Inorganic compounds
115
borate systems in about 1965 but they have not
been used commercially to a significant extent,
apparently because the various less expensive and
well established arsenical systems have continued
in use in many countries, despite health fears.
Fixation by loss of ammonia is not essential to
copper or zinc borate systems and much simpler
formulations are possible comprising copper or
zinc acetate with boric acid. Different ratios can
be used to form various borates, the zinc borates
havi ng wel l -establ i shed fungi ci dal and fi r e
retardent properties; they are often used as active
pigments in plastics and paints.
Another ammoni acal formul ati on i nvol ves
copper carboxyl ate but i t i s essenti al l y a water-
sol ubi l i zed copper soap; thi s system wi l l be
descri bed more ful l y i n Secti on 4.5.
Copper-chromium-arsenic (CCA)
One of the most i mportant advances i n wood
preservation was the development of the copper-
chr omi um-ar seni c pr eser vati ves whi ch ar e
known in the United States as chromated copper
arsenate (CCA). There were three i ndependent
devel opment routes that ul ti matel y yi el ded
basi cal l y si mi l ar CCA products.
Acid copper chromate (ACC)—Celcure
N—Celcure A—Celcure F
Celcure was developed by Gunn in Scotland in 1926
but was then improved progressively up to 1942.
The ori gi nal Cel cure product, now someti mes
known as Celcure N, is described in America as acid
copper chromate (ACC). It consisted of a mixture of
copper sulphate, a dichromate and acetic acid, but
the acetic acid was replaced with boric acid and
phosphates and zinc chloride were added to a fire-
retardant versi on, Cel cure F. The product was
virtually free from corrosion and highly fixed, giving
excellent protection against all fungi except a few
copper-resistant species, particularly Poria species,
but its performance was unreliable against insects
and crustacean marine borers, even at high loadings.
Arsenic was therefore added to form the CCA
product Cel cure A whi ch gi ves ex cel l ent
performance in all respects; this final product will be
discussed later in comparison with other CCA
formulations.
Arsenic salts
A second route of CCA devel opment, i n
Scandi navi a, i nvol ved parti cul arl y Bol i den
products. These preservati ves were ori gi nal l y
developed as a means of utilizing arsenic waste
from the iron-ore industries in Sweden. Arsenic is a
poison and this has always caused difficulties when
it is used for any purpose; the dangers associated
with arsenic preservatives will be described later.
Arsenic was first proposed as a wood preservative
by Baster in 1730 and there have been several
proposal s si nce, pri nci pal l y for preservati ves
agai nst i nsect attack. Some fungi are al so
controlled by arsenic but others are tolerant and
can convert arsenic deposits to the toxic gas arsine.
There is no significant danger of arsine production
in wood preservatives, provided that arsenic is used
onl y as a component i n formul ati ons whi ch
contain other fungicides capable of controlling
these arsenic-tolerant organisms.
Boliden BIS
Arsenites, derived from arsenic trioxide As
2
O
3
, are
less stable and less soluble than arsenates, derived
from arsenic pentoxide As
2
O
5
. Sodium, copper and
zi nc arseni tes have been proposed as wood
preservatives, as well as sodium, copper, zinc and
chromi um arsenates, but al l have now been
superseded by modern mul ti component
preservatives. The first Boliden preservative system
was developed before 1932 by Stålhane as a two-
stage process; impregnation with sodium arsenite
solution was followed by a second impregnation
wi th zi nc chl ori de sol uti on, a doubl e
decomposition resulting in the precipitation of zinc
arsenite. The sodium arsenite was soon replaced by
the more soluble arsenate but the process was
Preservation chemicals
116
rather unreliable. Drying was necessary after the
first stage to ensure sufficient free volume within
the wood to accommodate the second-stage
i mpregnati on. An empty-cel l treatment was
considered for the first stage followed by a full-cell
treatment for the second stage but the cost of
double treatment was excessive and the process
was abandoned in 1936, to be replaced by a single-
stage process developed by Häger. In this process
the reducing properties of the wood were used to
change the valency state of the dichromate in the
formulation, in order to achieve fixation of the zinc
and arseni c components—by formati on of
chromates and by attachment to the wood
structure. This product was known as Boliden BIS
salt and was still in use in Sweden in 1950. It
consisted of a mixture of arsenic acid, sodium
arsenate, sodium dichromate and zinc sulphate, the
proportions varying slightly over the years of use.
Boliden BIS generally performed well in service but
there were some fai l ures and the product was
considered to be unreliable.
Boliden S—Boliden S25
Häger therefore developed a new version of the
formul ati on i n whi ch he repl aced the sal ts by
oxides, omitting virtually all the non-active parts
of the formulation and achieving a more toxic
product which was consequently less expensive to
transport. This substitute for the Boliden BIS salt
preservative was known as Boliden S and was
prepared as a paste by mixing zinc oxide and
chromi um tri oxi de i nto arseni c aci d (arseni c
pentoxide solution). 25% of the zinc was replaced
with copper in Boliden S25 to further improve the
preservati ve acti vi ty but, al though both these
preservatives were given extensive trials in many
parts of the world, they were soon superseded by
K33 in which all the zinc was replaced by copper.
Lahontuho K33—Boliden K33
K33 was first marketed in Finland in 1949 as
Lahontuho K33 and was introduced in Sweden as
Bol i den K33 the fol l owi ng year, eventual l y
becomi ng one of the most wi del y used CCA
preservatives. It was normally manufactured as a
paste by mixing copper oxide or carbonate and
chromi um tri oxi de wi th arseni c aci d (arseni c
pentoxide solution). It was sometimes produced as
a concentrated dry powder to reduce transport
costs but the paste version was preferred as it
avoi ded tox i c dust probl ems duri ng the
preparati on of preservati ve sol uti ons. I n some
areas cl ose to producti on pl ants i t was al so
produced as a bulk solution, normally equivalent
to 60% of the normal K33 formulation. K33 was
marketed by several di fferent compani es
throughout the world; it is known as Lahontuho
K33 or Häger K33 in Finland, as Boliden K33 in
Sweden, and as Boliden CCA and Osmose K-33 in
North America. There are also a number of other
preservati ves whi ch possess si mi l ar tox i c
component rati os such as Koppers CCA-B i n
North Ameri ca, the l atter ti tl e refl ecti ng
classification of formulations of this type as CCA
type B in American Wood Preservers’ Association
Standard P5, as ex pl ai ned l ater. CCA-B
formul ati ons have been l argel y wi thdrawn i n
recent years and repl aced wi th l ower arseni c
systems, mainly formulations conforming to CCA-
C and British Standard BS 4072 requirements.
Falkamesan
In about 1930 Falck and Kamesan developed a
mixture of arsenates and dichromates. It will be
appreciated from earlier comments on Wolman
salts that dichromates were originally incorporated
in preservatives as corrosion inhibitors but that it
had been later observed that they often improved
leach resistance. In this particular development it
was claimed that the dichromate was included
solely to improve fixation. The ratio of arsenate as
As
2
O
5
to dichromate as CrO
3
was studied and the
optimum resistance to leaching was found to occur
at a rati o of about 1:0.65 and thi s rati o was
therefore used in Falkamesan preservative. This
product could be prepared as a mixture of sodium
arsenate and potassi um di chromate, or
Inorganic compounds
117
al ternati vel y arseni c pentoxi de and chromi um
trioxide if it was required to increase the active
concentrati on and reduce transport costs. The
potassium dichromate could be displaced in theory
by l ess-expensi ve sodi um di chromate but the
sodium salt is hygroscopic and the potassium salt
was normally used to ensure a free-flowing powder
formul ati on; these comments appl y to al l
preservatives of this type.
Ascu—Greensalts (CCA)—Erdalith
Fal kamesan had been devel oped mai nl y as a
preservative against termite attack but in about
1933 copper sul phate was added to i mprove
activity against fungi, resulting in Ascu, the first
true copper-chromium-arsenic wood preservative.
I n i ts ori gi nal form Ascu was prepared by
dissolving one part arsenic pentoxide dihydrate
wi th three parts copper sul phate pentahydrate
and five parts potassium dichromate in 200 parts
water, to give a preservative for application by
normal ful l -cel l pressure i mpregnati on. The
treatment gi ves the wood a di sti nctl y greeni sh
col ourati on and the preservati ve soon became
known as greensalt, a general term that is now
applied to all CCA products, although it has also
been adopted as a trademark in the United States.
Ascu was marketed in the United States as the
or i gi nal Gr eensal t, or Gr eensal t K, whi ch
i ncorporated potassi um di chromate and whi ch
was fi rst used by Bel l Tel ephones i n extensi ve
experiments in 1938 in an attempt to develop
clean and reliable pole preservation treatments.
Greensal t S was i denti cal but the potassi um
di chromate was repl aced by an equi val ent
amount of sodium dichromate; this product was
al so known as Erdal i th. Greensal t O was an
alternative formulation, patented by McMahon in
1948, and prepared by mi x i ng 2.9 parts
chromium trioxide with 1.35 parts of alkaline
copper carbonate and one part arsenic pentoxide
dihydrate, giving approximately the same ratio
between copper and arseni c but wi th a sl i ght
increase in chromium.
Celcure A—Tanalith C
I ndustri al ex pansi on i n the Uni ted Ki ngdom
after Wor l d War I I was dependent on a
substanti al ex pansi on i n power gener ati on
capaci ty whi ch i nvol ved the rapi d constructi on
of new power stati ons, many equi pped wi th
natural -draught water-cool i ng towers. I n these
towers water i s sprayed over a stack (or fi l l ) of
speci al l y shaped and posi ti oned wood sl ats, to
expose the hot water to a ri si ng draught of
cool i ng ai r, the fl ow bei ng i nduced natural l y by
the parabol i c shape of the tower. The fi l l i s thus
continually exposed to warm water. In addition,
there i s often a second l ayer of sl ats known as
the mi st el i mi nators hi gher up the tower above
the sprays to prevent dropl ets of water from
bei ng carri ed out of the tower and causi ng
wi nter i ci ng on nei ghbouri ng roads. These mi st
el i mi nator sl ats gener al l y possess a l ower
moi sture content than the fi l l . There i s cl earl y a
severe decay ri sk and cool i ng tower wood was
ori gi nal l y treated i n the Uni ted Ki ngdom wi th
the ACC preservati ve Cel cure or the FCAP
preservati ve Tanal i th U. Deteri orati on of the
Tanal i th fi l l sl ats devel oped rapi dl y but i t was
soon di scover ed that thi s was not due to
ex cessi ve l eachi ng, but to the pr esence of
previ ousl y unknown fungi whi ch were named
Soft rots as they attacked the external surfaces of
the wood, causi ng softeni ng to a progressi vel y
i ncreasi ng depth. There were al so reports of
ground-l i ne fai l ure i n Tanal i th U transmi ssi on
pol es i n South Afri ca, agai n apparentl y due to
soft rot attack. In contrast the Cel cure fi l l sl ats
were in sound condition, although some of the
mi st el i mi nator sl ats were decayed by copper-
resi stant Poria fungi . The Bri ti sh manufacturers
of Cel cure and Tanal i th U were aware of the
reports of the excel l ent performance of greensal t
tr eatments i n the Uni ted States and both
i ntroduced new treatments of thi s type. Cel cure
became Cel cure A through the addi ti on of
arseni c whi ch i mproved effecti veness agai nst
i nsects as wel l as agai nst copper-resi stant fungi .
Preservation chemicals
118
Tanal i th U was repl aced wi th Tanal i th C, an
enti r el y new CCA pr eser vati ve, devel oped
following extensive studies of the Bell Telephone
tri al s wi th greensal t preservati ves based on the
ori gi nal Ascu formul ati on.
CCA preservatives
CCA preservatives such as Celcure A and Tanalith
C have proved to be very reliable in service and
there remai n onl y mi nor cri ti ci sms of these
systems. Fi rstl y, the moi sture content of the
treated wood can fluctuate in service in the same
way as for untreated wood and there i s a
tendency for checks and shakes to develop which
may penetrate through the treatment i f i t i s
confi ned to the rel ati vel y permeabl e sapwood.
This problem would be insignificant if treatment
could be restricted to only permeable species such
as Corsican pine or species such as Scots pine in
which non-durable but easily treated sapwood is
associ ated wi th rel ati vel y durabl e heartwood.
However, in species such as spruce which combine
i mpermeabi l i ty wi th a l ack of durabi l i ty CCA
treatment is unrealistic, as it fixes too rapidly and
is unable to improve its zone of protection by
diffusion so that splits may expose non-durable
heartwood. Thirdly, some deterioration has been
observed in hard-woods, even when treated at
hi gh retenti ons, apparentl y through poor
microdistribution of the toxic components which
do not fully protect the cell walls although they
may be present in large amounts in the pores or
vessels. Finally, there are criticisms of the toxicity
of CCA preservatives, particularly in relation to
thei r arseni c content, but these cri ti ci sms are
common to other preservative systems and they
will be discussed later.
There are now many copper-chromium-arsenic
(CCA) wood preservati ves, al though they al l
originate from the three development routes that
have been described. Within the CCA group the
copper, chromium and arsenic components are
present in varying proportions and incorporated
vari ousl y as ox i des or sal ts. To add to thi s
confusion the standard specifications define these
products i n terms of an arbi trary sel ecti on of
oxides or salts, whatever the actual compound
that is incorporated in the individual formulation.
Thus the copper content is expressed as CuSO
4

5H
2
O in British Standard 4072 but as CuO in the
American Wood Preservers’ Association Standard
P5, whatever the nature of the compound
incorporated in the actual formulation. It might
appear to be logical to describe preservatives in
terms of their toxic elements alone, a system that
has been used in Scandinavia and which certainly
enabl es the rati os of the toxi c el ements to be
readily compared, but it appears that if the active
elements are described in terms of their equivalent
oxide content, the total preservative activity of
the formulation can be judged from its total active
oxide content, thus enabling both the ratios of the
acti ve components to be compared and the
probabl e preservati ve acti vi ty of an i ndi vi dual
formulation to be assessed without difficulty.
For many year s the Amer i can Wood
Preservers’ Associ ati on speci fi cati ons defi ned
copper-chromium-arsenic wood preservatives in
terms of thei r equi val ent sal t contents as Bri ti sh
Standard 4072 but this system was abandoned in
1969 and preservatives have since been defined
i n ter ms of thei r equi val ent acti ve ox i de
contents:
AWPA CCA Type A Type B Type C
Hexavalent
chromium 65.5 35.3 47.5 CrO
3
Copper 18.1 19.6 18.5 CuO
Arsenic 16.4 45.1 34.0 As
2
0
5
Accordi ng to the speci fi cati on the hexaval ent
chromi um can be i ncorporated as potassi um or
sodi um di chromate, or as chromi um tri oxi de.
The bi val ent copper can be i ncorporated as
cupr i c sul phate, basi c car bonate, ox i de or
hydrox i de. The pentaval ent arseni c can be
i ncor por ated as sodi um ar senate or
pyroarsenate, arseni c aci d or arseni c pentoxi de.
Inorganic compounds
119
Mi x tur es of sal ts i nvol ve si gni fi cant
concentrati ons of i nacti ve i ons such as sodi um
and sul phate and these reduce the effecti ve
concentrati on of the preservati ve, whi ch i s
expressed as a percentage i ndi cati ng the acti ve
oxi de content. For exampl e, a BS 4072 type 1
preservati ve such as Cel cure A has an acti ve
ox i de content of 61.1% wher eas a type 2
preservati ve such as Tanal i th C has an acti ve
oxi de content of 59.05%. There are vari ous
products that compl y wi th thi s Bri ti sh Standard
but, as they are not actual l y manufactured from
the sal ts l i sted i n the speci fi cati on, thei r acti vi ty
may not be 100%. Some have an effecti ve
acti vi ty of l ess than 100% but K33 paste woul d
have an effecti ve acti vi ty of 125% accordi ng to
thi s Bri ti sh Standard i f i t compl i ed wi th the
standard i n terms of the rati os of the acti ve
el ements. I n contrast, K33 paste has an acti ve
content of 75.4% accor di ng to the AWPA
system as thi s i s the concentrati on of acti ve
oxi de actual l y present i n the formul ati on, the
i nacti ve component consi sti ng sol el y of water.
Greensalt—Langwood—Boliden CCA—
Koppers CCA-B—Osmose K-33—Crom-
AR-Cu (CAC)—Wolman CCA—
Wolmanac CCA
I n the Ameri can speci fi cati on, CCA type A
represents the ori gi nal Ascu type formul ati ons
and i ncl udes Greensal t and Langwood whi ch
possess a high chromium content. CCA type B
was introduced solely for K33 type formulations
and includes Boliden CCA, Koppers CCA-B and
Osmose K-33. CCA type C i ncl udes products
such as Crom-Ar-Cu (CAC), Wolman CCA and
Wol manac CCA ar e si mi l ar to BS 4072
pr eser vati ves. The Amer i can speci fi cati on
tol erates some vari ati on from the nomi nal rati os
defi ned above and thi s per mi ts pr oducts
conformi ng wi th both types 1 and 2 i n the
Bri ti sh speci fi cati on to be formul ated to meet
al so the Ameri can CCA type C speci fi cati on.
I t wi l l be appreci ated that consi derabl e care
must be taken i n i nterpreti ng retenti on fi gures
i n di ffer ent countr i es. A Br i ti sh Standar d
retenti on of 10 kg/m
3
(0.6 l b/ft
3
) means that thi s
retenti on must be achi eved i n terms of the sal t
mi xture defi ned i n the speci fi cati on, a system
that was ori gi nal l y used i n Ameri ca and whi ch
i s sti l l wi del y used i n some other countri es. Thi s
Bri ti sh Standard preservati ve has an acti ve
oxi de content of about 60% so that a retenti on
of 10 kg/m
3
i s equi val ent to a retenti on of 6 kg/
m
3
i n terms of the AWPA speci fi cati on. I n the
Nordi c countri es and many other areas i t i s
conventi onal to defi ne retenti ons i n terms of the
pr eser vati ve as suppl i ed, so that a K33
retenti on of 10 kg/m
3
, based on paste wi th an
acti ve ox i de content of 75.4%, woul d be
equi val ent to 7.54 kg/m
3
i n terms of the AWPA
speci fi cati on; K33 was al so avai l abl e as a dry
powder product wi th a hi gher acti ve ox i de
content, and as a sol uti on wi th a K33 content
of 60% and acti ve oxi de content of onl y about
45%. I n or der to avoi d confusi on i t i s
recommended that al l speci fi cati ons shoul d
ex press retenti ons i n terms of acti ve ox i de
content as i n the AWPA system as thi s al so
i ndi cates the r el ati ve effecti veness of the
product, and the contents shoul d be cl earl y
stated on al l l i terature and l abel s.
Unfor tunatel y, thi s system woul d not
compl etel y avoi d confusi on. I n the Br i ti sh
Standard retenti ons are ex pressed as overal l
retenti ons al though onl y the sapwood i s treated
i n speci es such as Scots pi ne i n whi ch the
hear twood i s r el ati vel y i mper meabl e. Thi s
system has now been abandoned in the Nordic
speci fi cati ons, wi th over al l r etenti ons now
repl aced by sapwood retenti ons whi ch can be
real i sti cal l y control l ed and readi l y checked by
analysis. European redwood or Scots pine from
the Bal ti c area currentl y contai ns an average of
about 50% sapwood so that a sapwood
retention of 10 kg/ m
3
i s equi val ent to an overal l
retention of about 5 kg/m
3
, al though i t must be
appreci ated that the overal l rtenti on wi l l vary
depending on the percentage of heartwood.
Preservation chemicals
120
Tanalith C (Tancas C)—Tanalith CCA—
Tanalith CT106—Tanalith Plus
Tanalith C with an active oxide content of 59%
i s known as Tancas C i n some areas such as
Finland. Tanalith C (CT106) is a concentrated
versi on of thi s product contai ni ng about 62%
acti ve oxi des, but another concentrated product
Tanalith CCA contains about 72% active oxide
so that i t can be used at the same retenti ons as
K33. Tanal i th Pl us i s the name appl i ed when an
emul si on addi ti ve i s used i n an attempt to
i mprove the moi sture resi stance of the treated
wood. The emul si on addi ti ve i s prepared by
di ssol vi ng waxes and a surfactant i n a sol vent,
and it is then added at about 2% to a normal
Tanal i th C treatment sol uti on. The emul si on
tends to be unstable, through the low pH and the
oxidizing properties of the hexavalent chromium
i n the preservati ve.
Celcure A—Celcure AP
Another interesting development was Celcure AP,
a paste version of Celcure A which avoids toxic
dust problems during solution preparation. This
formulation is manufactured from cupric oxide,
copper sulphate, sodium dichromate and arsenic
pentoxide, a small amount of water being added
to adjust the total active oxide content to 59.7%.
The oxide contents are closely similar to those for
Celcure A and this product therefore conforms
with British Standard 4072 type 1 without the
need for any concentration adjustment.
Celcure A—Celcure AN—Tanalith C—
Tanalith CA—Tanalith NCA
The situation in New Zealand illustrates the further
developments that are possible. The original Celcure
copper-chromium (ACC) preservative was used at first
but was found to be unreliable against insects and
copper-tolerant fungi. Boric acid was added but, while
thi s i mproved the i nsecti ci dal acti vi ty, i t was
significantly leachable and did not markedly improve
the performance against the copper-tolerant fungi. This
situation coincided with the problems in water-cooling
towers in the United Kingdom, which resulted in the
addition of arsenic and the development of Celcure A
which was approved in New Zealand in 1959; the
similar competitive product Tanalith C was introduced
at about the same time. In 1961 the arsenic content in
Tanalith C was increased to give Tanalith CA so that
lower retentions could be used for the treatment of
Radi ata pi ne i n bui l di ngs where the pri nci pal
deterioration hazard was considered to be insect
attack, Common Furniture beetle being the most
widespread hazard but termites representing the most
severe deterioration problem in some areas. In 1966
Tanalith NCA was introduced; in this the copper
content was increased at the expense of the chromium
content so that a lower retention could be used for the
treatment of wood in ground contact and where there
is also a risk of insect infestation. Celcure AN, a high-
copper formulation similar to Tanalith NCA, was
approved in 1967, although it was not introduced until
1969. Boliden S25 was also used in New Zealand,
although it was replaced in 1967 by Boliden K33.
These various CCA preservatives are compared in
Table 4.1.
The main hazard in buildings is insect borer
attack and i t wi l l be seen that the approved
retentions therefore relate to the arsenic content,
apparently designed to achieve a retention of about
0.9 kg/m
3
As
2
O
5
. For wood in ground-contact such
as poles, piles and fence posts, the main risk is fungal
decay and i t wi l l be seen that the approved
retentions, which are based on experimental results
in laboratory tests and long-term stake trials, relate
to the total acti ve ox i de content of each
formul ati on, al though the Tanal i th CA retenti on
is slightly higher than might be expected from this
r el ati onshi p. The use of the hi gh ar seni c
formul ati ons cannot be recommended as the
excess arseni c i s not fi xed and, when used at
l ower retenti ons where i nsect attack i s the mai n
normal hazard, the fungicidal protection may not
be adequate if accidental wetting should occur and
there is then a danger that arsenic-resistant fungi
may generate toxic arsine gas.
Inorganic compounds
121
After-glow suppression—3.S CCA—3.0
CCA—Celcure AG—Tanalith AG
Normal CCA preservati ves used for fence post
treatments in Australia have been found to suffer
from after-glow or continuing charring following
grass fires. The Government CSIRO laboratories
have devel oped and patented a modi fi cati on
involving the addition of zinc oxide and phosphoric
acid to a normal CCA formulation, to give type 3.S
CCA based on salts, or type 3.O CCA based on
oxi des and contai ni ng 7.32% Cu, 10.94% Cr,
10.28% As, 3.93% Zn, and 4.61% P; Celcure AG
and Tanalith AG are commercial formulations of
this type. These modifications are not new—Gunn
added zinc and phosphorus to the original Celcure
(ACC) formul ati on to form Cel cure F, the fi re
retardant version.
CCA and ACC fixation
There have been vari ous expl anati ons of the
fi x ati on of copper-chr omi um and copper-
chromi um-arseni c preservati ves. I n pi ne i t i s
probabl e that some of the copper reacts wi th or
condenses on cel l ul osi c wood components,
probabl y formi ng a copper-cel l ul ose compl ex.
The remai ni ng copper reacts wi th di chromate to
pr oduce mi x ed copper chr omates. Ex cess
di chromate i s reduced from the hexaval ent to
tri val ent state and then reacts wi th any arseni c
present or, if arsenic is absent, it is absorbed onto
the wood. Ar seni c i s fi x ed pr i nci pal l y by
tr i val ent chr omi um, pr obabl y as Cr AsO
4
,
although some arsenic may be absorbed onto the
wood el ements. At hi gh arseni c concentrati ons
some may be preci pi tated as copper arsenate. At
l ow sol uti on concentrati ons, absorpti on by the
wood el ements may be the maj or fi x ati on
process. The i nfl uence on fi xati on, of changes i n
the toxic component ratios, has been examined.
The ratio of CrO
3
to As
2
O
5
must exceed 1.5 to
ensure arseni c fi xati on but i f the rati o exceeds 2
the excess chromi um i s wasted. The rati o of
CrO
3
to CuO shoul d be at l east 2. In order to
ensure maxi mum fi xati on the toxi c el ements i n a
CCA preservati ve shoul d be present at rati os of
about 41–50% CrO
3
, about 17% CuO and
about 42–33% As
2
O
5
. These opti mum rati os are
TABLE 4.1 Comparison of CCA preservatives
Preservation chemicals
122
met in CCA-C and BS 4072 formulations; as a
resul t CCA-A formul ati ons are decl i ni ng i n use
and CCA-B formulations such as K33, with their
excessi ve arseni c contents, have been wi thdrawn
i n most countri es.
The copper-chr omi um-ar seni c or CCA
formul ati ons are the most rel i abl e general -
pur pose pr eser vati ves cur r entl y avai l abl e,
provi di ng excel l ent protecti on agai nst al l types
of fungal and wood-borer deteri orati on. The
rapi d fi xati on remai ns a probl em as i t l i mi ts the
further di ffusi on of the preservati ve when i t i s
used to treat rel ati vel y i mpermeabl e speci es and
i t i s sti l l frequentl y cl ai med that the Wol man
FCAP preservati ves, wi th thei r sl ower fi xati on,
are more rel i abl e i n these ci rcumstances. In fact,
the FCAP preservatives are not so well fixed, and
the fl uori de components are sl owl y l ost as
hydrogen fl uori de. Some of the formul ati ons
whi ch were descri bed earl i er, and whi ch rel y on
ammoni a or aceti c aci d l oss for fi xati on, can
combine all the advantages of the ACC and CCA
for mul ati ons, wi th deeper penetr ati on i n
i mpermeabl e woods and more uni form mi cro-
di stri buti on i n hardwoods.
Arsenic toxicity
The arsenic content in CCA, FCAP, CAA, ZAA,
ACA, ACZA and si mi l ar formul ati ons i s a
seri ous probl em. I t i s unfortunatel y true that
cattl e have been poi soned as a resul t of l i cki ng
treated transmi ssi on pol es and fence posts but
thi s normal l y occurs onl y i n areas where there i s
a natural sal t defi ci ency and the danger can be
compl etel y avoi ded by provi di ng proper sal t
l i cks and usi ng onl y hi ghl y fi xed preservati ves.
Arseni c preservati ves are banned i n bui l di ngs i n
some countri es such as Fi nl and, yet i n others
they are happi l y used even for the treatment of
pl ayground equi pment. I n Swi tzerl and, arseni c
preservati ves are banned for the treatment of
tr ansmi ssi on pol es as they may i ntr oduce
envi ronmental pol l uti on. In most countri es these
hazards are consi dered to be i nsi gni fi cant wi th
CCA preservati ves i n vi ew of thei r excel l ent
fi xati on (al though fi xati on i s onl y rel i abl e wi th
CCA-C and BS 4072 formul ati ons), and the
mai n fear s ar e r el ated to the possi bl e
vol ati l i zati on of arseni c when treated wood i s
destroyed by burning.
Yet another fear i s the danger of arsi ne
poisoning. In about 1890 several fatalities occurred
in homes and these were eventually attributed to
arsi ne poi soni ng. Wal l paper, decorated wi th
arsenical dyes, had been attacked by the fungus
Scopulariopsis brevicaulis, at that time known as
Penicillium brevicaule, it is now known that other
fungi can generate arsine in this way. There is no
danger of arsine poisoning from preserved wood
provided that the fungicidal components are able
to control the fungi that generate arsi ne. I f
preservation is required against insect attack alone,
as for the treatment of timber in accordance with
the Austral i an Quaranti ne Regul ati ons or for
Furniture Beetle control in New Zealand, there is
clearly a temptation to use just a simple arsenical
preservative, and there is then a danger of arsine
poi soni ng i f fungi are abl e to devel op. Many
insects are dependent on or encouraged by the
presence of fungal attack, and fungi ci dal
components i n mul ti component formul ati ons
therefore assi st i n thei r control . Thi s factor i s
completely ignored in the Australian and New
Zealand situations where the minimum retentions
of approved preservatives are based solely on an
arsenic retention of about 0.97 kg/m
3
As
2
O
5
.
More recentl y there have been fears i n the
United States concerning the carcinogenic dangers
associ ated wi th the arseni c contents i n wood
preservatives. There have been extensive enquiries
and the current evi dence suggests that the
carci nogeni c properti es are l argel y associ ated
with arsenic trioxide As
2
O
3
and arsenites rather
than with the arsenic pentoxide As
2
O
5
and the
arsenates that are used in modern preservative
formul ati ons. The carci nogeni c dangers
associated with arsenical wood preservatives are
slight, but arsenic pentoxide is prepared from the
tri oxi de and i ncreasi ng control s on the l atter
Inorganic compounds
123
compound are likely to introduce manufacturing
di ffi cul ti es, perhaps l eadi ng to scarci ty and
increased cost. The dangers associated with fixed-
arsenic wood preservatives are often exaggerated,
someti mes by manufactures of competi ti ve
products; the enquiries in the United States were
prompted by the cement and concrete industry
which feared the competition of pressure-treated
wood foundations in domestic construction!
Arseni c dangers al ways attract the most
attenti on but chromi um may represent the
greatest hazard in wood preservation. If properly
formulated preservatives are used in a competent
and responsi bl e manner the dangers are very
slight and this is confirmed by the very low level
of i l l ness or i nj ury i n thi s l ong-establ i shed
industry but it must be recognized that dangers
exist. Tropical conditions discourage the use of
protective clothing and operatives then frequently
suffer from chrome ulcers which are painful and
difficult to heal, but it is interesting to note that
there are no arsenic problems, and the injuries
sustained are an indication of poor plant hygiene
and control rather than serious criticism of the
preservative formulations involved.
Copper-chromium-boron—Wolmanit CB
(Ahic CB)
There have been vari ous cri ti ci sms of copper-
chr omi um-ar seni c or CCA pr eser vati ves,
parti cul arl y wi th regard to the possi bl e dangers
associ ated wi th thei r arseni c content and the
probl ems that ari se i n the treatment of rel ati vel y
impermeable woods through their rapid fixation.
There have been various attempts to overcome
these di ffi cul ti es, the best known bei ng the
repl acement of arseni c by boron to gi ve a
copper-chromi um-boron or CCB formul ati on.
Combinations of chromium and boron were first
proposed by Wol man i n 1913 and the earl y
devel opment of Cel cur e i ncl uded copper
formulations in which borates were used in place
of di chromates. It i s often suggested that these
i deas wer e fi r st combi ned i n the CCB
preservati ve Ahi c CB, subsequentl y renamed
Wol mani t CB, whi ch was fi rst marketed i n
Ger many i n 1960, al though the CCB
preservati ves were actual l y fi rst devel oped by
Kamesan i n I ndi a duri ng Worl d War I I . The
tox i c components i n Wol mani t CB ar e at
concentr ati ons equi val ent to 10.8% CuO,
26.4% CrO
3
and 25.5% H
3
BO
3
.
The devel opment of CCB preservati ves was
severel y cri ti ci zed parti cul arl y by manufactures
of CCA preservati ves, as i t was evi dent from
l aboratory ex peri ments that the boron was
l argel y unfi xed, al though thi s di sadvantage i s
offset in actual service by the deeper diffusion of
boron that i s achi eved i n resi stant heartwood—a
very i mportant factor where heartwood i s non-
durable, as in spruce. Trials on poles in service
have gi ven very good resul ts and i t has been
found that CCB pr eser vati ves per for m
parti cul arl y wel l on i mpermeabl e speci es such as
spruce; good penetrati on i s achi eved through the
continuing diffusion of the borate but leaching in
ser vi ce i s l i mi ted by the l ow per meabi l i ty.
However, the Nordi c-recommended retenti ons
based on stake trai l s suggest that on Scots pi ne
the performance in ground contact depends on
the cupric oxide and chromium trioxide contents
al one, the borate content maki ng no si gni fi cant
contri buti on i n thi s test si tuati on, al though the
test stakes are rel ati vel y smal l and the l eachi ng
of unfixed components is exaggerated compared
wi th servi ce performance i n l arger secti on pol es.
Tanalith CBC—Celcure M
Other manufacturers produce CCB products
such as Tanalith CBC and Celcure M, but they
tend to be rel ati vel y expensi ve because of the
hi gh retenti ons that are demanded by some
appr oval author i ti es, and they ar e usual l y
promoted i n markets such as Swi tzerl and where
ther e i s r esi stance to the use of CCA
preservati ves because of the arseni c content.
Sl ower fi xati on enabl es CCB preservati ves to be
appl i ed by the Boucheri e sap di spl acement
Preservation chemicals
124
method, and the development of Wolmanit CB
sti mul ated consi derabl e i mprovements i n the
desi gn of the caps that are used for thi s process.
Celcure N—Tancas CC
As the boron content in CCB preservatives does
not si gni fi cantl y contri bute to ground contact
performance, at least in the Nordic small-stake
trials, the best technique to avoid the criticisms of
CCA preservatives might be to omit the arsenic
and return to the old copper-chromium (ACC)
formul ati on now usual l y known as Cel cure
N.Tancas CC has been introduced in this way as an
alternative to Tancas C (CCA), and such changes
are certainly realistic in situations where there is no
significant risk of insect borer attack or resistant
fungi such as Poria species. The original Celcure
formulation is still extensively used with complete
success in the Netherlands, Sweden and parts of
the United States; it is particularly suitable for
agricultural purposes as it is completely free from
the livestock poisoning dangers associated with
preservatives containing arsenic.
Copper and zinc borates
Another obvi ous sol uti on i s to devel op borate
fi xati on systems. Ammoni acal copper borate
systems were first proposed in about 1965 and were
further developed (by the author’s laboratory) in
about 1978. They have never been extensively
adopted, probably mainly for commercial reasons;
although the ammonia liberated during the final
vacuum stages of i mpregnati on and duri ng
subsequent slow fixation is unpleasant and difficult
to control , a probl em associ ated wi th al l
preservati ve systems whi ch fi x by ammoni a
volatilization. An alternative simpler system (also
developed in the author’s laboratory) uses mixtures
of copper or zinc with boric acid and fixes through
the volatilization of a small amount of acetic acid;
the ratios can be adjusted to form several alternative
borates but the best resi stance to l eachi ng i s
achieved using an excess of copper or zinc.
Boliden P50
Bol i den P50 was devel oped i n Sweden as an
arsenic-free replacement for Boliden K33 with the
arseni c pentox i de repl aceded partl y by
phosphorus pentoxide and partly by an increase
i n the cupri c ox i de content. The currentl y
recommended Nordic retention suggests that its
performance depends upon the total ox i de
content, i ncl udi ng the phosphorus pentoxi de.
Whi l st thi s preservati ve can be ex pected to
perform wel l i n normal ground-contact
conditions it is not clear that it has any advantage
over simple copper-chromium formulations; there
must be doubts about its activity against borers
and i t i s known that phosphates actual l y
encourage the development of some stain fungi.
Cuprinol Tryck (KPN)
Cuprinol Tryck, originally Cuprinol KPN, was
devel oped by Häger as an al ternati ve to both
CCA products and hi s earl i er KP Cupri nol
system whi ch wi l l be descri bed l ater. Thi s i s an
ammoni acal formul ati on; copper carbonate i s
dissolved in caprylic acid and ammonia is added
to form cuprammonium caprylate.
Basilit CFK
Basilit CFK is another ammoniacal formulation in
which the toxic elements are chromium, fluorine
and copper as i ndi cated i n the name. Thi s
formulation consists of a mixture of very soluble
copper hexafluorosilicate, ammonium dichromate
and a small amount of diammonium hydrogen
phosphate. The Nordic retention recommendations
suggest that only the cupric oxide and chromium
trioxide contents contribute to the preservative
acti on i n ground-contact condi ti ons and any
contribution from the fluoride is insignificant. This
preservative thus possesses the same disadvantages
as other copper and copper-chromium systems,
such as l ow acti vi ty agai nst i nsect borers and
copper-resi stant fungi , but i t achi eves more
Inorganic compounds
125
efficient penetration than the rapid-fixing copper-
chromium (ACC) and copper-chromium-arsenic
(CCA) systems.
BFCA salts
The BFCA salts developed in Australia contain
boron, fl uori ne, chromi um and arseni c. They
were ori gi nal l y i ntroduced i n 1955 but the
current formul ati on dates from about 1963.
Wood is treated by immersion in concentrated
sol uti ons of the sal t mi xture, whi ch can then
penetrate by sl ow di ffusi on.
Diffusion treatments in plywood and
poles
While referring to Australia it is worth mentioning
several special diffusion techniques. Plywood can
be protected agai nst i nsect attack by addi ng
sodium arsenite to the alkaline phenolic adhesive;
sodium arsenate or arsenic pentoxide can be used,
and may be easier to add as they are more soluble,
but they are much more expensi ve. Adequate
protection is obtained at a retention of 0.8 kg/m
3
As
2
O
3
and veneers up to 2.5 mm are completely
penetrated. However, this treatment cannot be
recommended as it gives no significant protection
against fungal decay and, if the plywood is wetted
through any cause, there is a danger that arsenic-
resistant fungi will develop which may generate
toxic arsine gas. Copper hexafluorosilicate, the
very soluble compound used in Basilit CFK, can be
used at high concentrations for injection into poles
as a remedial treatment to control progressive
heart rot—the i ni ti al rot ensures that good
distribution is achieved whilst the treatment will
ensure that no further damage occurs. Thi s
compound i s rel ati vel y i nexpensi ve as sodi um
hexafluorosilicate is available in Australia as a
waste from processi ng phosphate rock for the
fertilizer industry.
Double diffusion
It will be appreciated from the earlier description
of the decay of treated wood i n cool i ng towers
that thi s deteri orati on represented a seri ous and
continuing problem. The Soft rot damage was
initially superficial but progressively increased in
depth on the rel ati vel y thi n-secti on fi l l sl ats
whi l st, i n the Cel cure-treated towers, copper-
tolerant fungi were attacking structural members
and the mi st el i mi nators. The Soft-rotted zone
was ver y per meabl e and was used wi th
consi derabl e success i n conj uncti on wi th a
doubl e di ffusi on remedi al treatment process
desi gned to hal t further decay. The towers were
operated i n order to ensure that the fi l l was
thoroughl y wetted and i t was then fl ood-sprayed
wi th copper sul phate sol uti on whi ch di ffused
i nto the water i n the Soft-rotted l ayer. After
suffi ci ent ti me had been al l owed for deep
di ffusi on to occur a second appl i cati on, of
sodi um chromate, was made to preci pi tate the
copper as copper chromate.
Another doubl e-di ffusi on treatment that i s
worth menti oni ng and whi ch was ori gi nal l y
developed in the United States during World War
II is currently in use in Papua New Guinea as it is
a relatively simple treatment, suitable for use in
developing countries. Dry wood is immersed in a
3% copper sul phate sol uti on at about 88°C
(190°F) for a period of seven hours and then the
solution, still containing the wood, is allowed to
cool for about si x teen hours. The wood i s
removed, any excess copper sul phate on the
surface i s ri nsed away, and the wood i s then
immersed for 48 hours in a 10% sodium arsenate
solution. The process was modified by using a
mixture of sodium arsenate and dichromate for
the second treatment to improve fixation. It is
al so possi bl e to treat i n the same way usi ng
sodium fluoride followed by copper sulphate.
Boron compounds
Perhaps the earliest record of the use of boron in
wood preservati on i s i n the chromi um-boron
preservati ve devel oped by Wol man i n 1913.
Twenty years l ater boron was proposed as a
component in Celcure, principally as a replacement
Preservation chemicals
126
for dichromate in the flame-retardant formulation
Celcure F.Borates possess fungicidal, insecticidal
and flame-retardant properties, and their use in
multicomponent preservatives such as CCB and the
various copper and zinc borate systems has already
been descri bed. As borates combi ne both
i nsecti ci dal and fungi ci dal properti es they are
effi ci ent preservati ves even when used al one,
although they are not considered suitable for use
when treated timber will be subjected to leaching
or ground contact conditions. This restriction is
based on the observation that the preferred borates
are soluble, but it ignores the fact that borates can
achieve exceptional penetration and, that when the
sodium ions are neutralized by atmospheric carbon
dioxide, the final boric acid deposit possesses very
low solubility at normal temperatures.
Timbor
Borates can be applied by normal impregnation
methods but their greatest value is in diffusion
treatments. Freshl y fel l ed and converted green
wood with a moisture content in excess of 50% is
treated with the borate preservative by immersion
or spray, and the treated wood i s then cl ose-
stacked and wrapped or placed in storage rooms
to prevent moisture evaporation, thus allowing
the borate treatment to diffuse deeply. Boric acid
and sodium tetraborate (borax) are insufficiently
soluble but much higher concentrations can be
achieved if a solution is prepared using 1 part
bori c aci d to 1.54 parts sodi um tetraborate
decahydrate; thi s mi x ed sol uti on i s dri ed to
produce Polybor, known as Timbor when used as
a wood preservati ve and correspondi ng
approx i matel y to di sodi um octaborate
tetrahydrate Na
2
B
8
O
13
–4H
2
O which has a boron
content equivalent to 117.3% H
3
BO
3
.
Diffusol
Despi te thi s hi gh bori c aci d equi val ent and
excellent solubility it is still necessary to heat the
solutions to maintain the required concentrations,
which vary with the thickness of the wood to be
treated, so that the retention is uniform whatever
the cross-section area. Thus in 25 mm (1 in) thick
wood a minimum solution concentration of 20%
H
3
BO
3
is required and a minimum temperature of
40°C (104°F) is therefore necessary, whilst at 75
mm (3 in) thickness the required concentration
increases to 40% and the temperature to 57°C
(135°F). Timbor diffusion has been widely used
throughout the world but the minimum storage
period of 4 weeks per 25 mm (1 in) thickness
necessarily involves considerable capital cost and
high interest rates have discouraged the use of the
system in many countries, although it remains
extremel y attracti ve for the treatment of non-
durabl e tropi cal hardwoods i n devel opi ng
countries. Diffusol is a thickened borate treatment
whi ch can achi eve adequate surface l oadi ngs
without heating.
Timbor rods—Boracol 20—Boracol 40—
Trimethyl borate (TMB)
Sodium octaborate tetrahydrate is also available as
Timbor rods which can be inserted in drilled holes in
wood at risk such as window frames, joist and beam
ends in damp external walls, and even poles and
sleepers (ties), producing a preservative solution if
the wood becomes wet. Boracol 20 and 40 are
concentrated borate solutions containing 20 and
40% disodium octaborate tetrahydrate respectively;
they are generally used as alternatives to Timbor
rods by injection into drillings in wood components
subject to severe fungal decay hazard, usually as
remedial treatments. Trimethyl borate (TMB) is a
very volatile compound which can be applied as a
vapour-phase treatment to achieve deep penetration
in woods which are impermeable to normal liquid
treatments; subsequent steaming hydrolyses the
TMB to deposit boric acid in the wood.
Borester 7
Borates are parti cul arl y useful as treatments for
hardwoods that are suscepti bl e to Lycti d beetl e
Organic compounds
127
attack as they ar e effecti ve at ver y l ow
concentrations, applied by immersion or spray;
bori c aci d sol uti on i s frequentl y used for thi s
purpose i n Austral i a. Borates are al so extremel y
effecti ve i n the control of stai n fungi , al though
they are most effecti ve as al kal i ne hi gh-pH
treatments so that sodi um tetraborate i s more
rel i abl e than bori c aci d or the hi ghl y sol ubl e
mi xture. However, they are rel ati vel y i neffi ci ent
agai nst superfi ci al moul ds such as Penicillium
and Trichoderma speci es so that they must be
used i n combi nati on wi th other toxi cants, such
as sodium pentachlorophenate, as described later
in this chapter. Borate esters enable boric acid to
be used i n or gani c-sol vent for mul ati ons;
hexyl ene gl ycol bi borate, Borester 7, i s most
extensi vel y used i n thi s way.
Chlorophenates
Sodium pentachlorophenate is well known alone
or i n combi nati on wi th borates as a sapstai n
control treatment but it can also be used as a
component in wood preservative formulations. Its
use as an alternative to dinitrophenol in Wolman
FCAP salts has already been mentioned but it also
forms the basis of several two-stage treatments in
whi ch copper or zi nc pentachl orophenates are
deposi ted. For exampl e, copper sul phate and
sodi um pentachl orophenate sol uti ons can be
added to fi bre-board to preci pi tate copper
pentachl orophenate, an organometal l i c
compound whi ch wi l l be consi dered l ater and
whi ch i s al so the acti ve component i n KP-
Cuprinol and several other preservatives.
There are hundreds of different water-borne
si mpl e sal t and mul ti component preservati ves
currently on the market throughout the world or
which are historically significant. It is impossible
to mention them all in a brief description and it
would, indeed, serve little purpose as there are
continuous changes. This description is therefore
r estr i cted to a few of the most i mpor tant
formulations in an attempt to define the general
principles involved. Multicomponent water-borne
preservatives are reliable and economic. They can
achieve excellent fixation and provide permanent,
clean and safe treatment of wood. Their main
disadvantages are their failure to control changes
in the moisture content in wood so that there is a
danger that checks and shakes may devel op
through the preserved zone if the penetration is
l i mi ted. Some of the components used,
particularly arsenic, are very toxic but excellent
fixation ensures that treated wood is entirely safe
with properly designed formulations. There are
several other mi nor cri ti ci sms of water-borne
preservati ves whi ch shoul d be menti oned. The
el ectri cal i nsul ati on val ue of treated wood i s
i mportant for transmi ssi on pol es and rai l way
sleepers (ties). With CCA preservatives wood has
a relatively low electrical resistance when freshly
treated but this increases steadily with drying; the
resi stance i s never as hi gh as wi th creosote
treatment but wi th ox i de preservati ves i t i s
general l y the same as for untreated wood,
although with salt preservatives it may be less and
perhaps too low for track signalling systems in
some sleeper (tie) treatments.
4.4 Organic compounds
Hi stori cal l y, the most i mportant organi c
preservatives were the fractions obtained by the
di sti l l ati on of tar, pr i nci pal l y fr om coal ;
preservati ves of thi s type have al ready been
described in detail in Section 4.2. It was observed
that changes in the composition of these distillates
affected preservati ve performance, apparentl y
through changes i n the concentrati ons of
i ndi vi dual components. At fi rst, changes i n
composition were caused mainly by processing, to
remove compounds that were useful for other
purposes, but there were later attempts to control
processing to achieve the most reliable creosote
wood preservati ve. There were subsequentl y
attempts to forti fy tar-oi l products, ei ther by
processing such as by the chlorination used in
Carbolineum Avenarius, developed about 1888,
Preservation chemicals
128
or by the addition of toxicants, such as the copper
salts added by Nordlinger about 1900, and the
arseni c compounds that are today added to
creosote i n Austral i a to enhance i nsecti ci dal
properti es. Attempts to repl ace creosote wi th
petroleum distillates of a similar physical nature
were unsuccessful as it was soon discovered that
they lacked preservative properties, and toxicants
needed to be added; pentachlorophenol in heavy
oil has been extensively used in the United States
as an alternative to creosote.
The addition of toxicants to heavy petroleum
oil was originally an attempt to find alternatives
to creosote at times of scarcity. While the new
formul ati ons were desi gned to possess al l the
advantages of creosote in terms of toxicity and
even the limited volatility that is so valuable in
stabilizing the moisture content in treated wood,
they also retained the disadvantages such as the
di rty appearance and the tendency to bl eed,
l ar gel y as a r esul t of the sel ecti on of a
comparati vel y crude and i nexpensi ve sol vent.
True organi c wood preservati ves consi st of a
solution of toxicants in volatile solvents and give
per fectl y cl ean tr eatment i f the sol vent i s
completely volatile and the toxicant is colourless.
The preservati ve acti on depends sol el y on the
persistent toxic deposit and the solvent has no
preservative action, however expensive it may be.
The use of such solvents can be justified only
when water-borne preservatives are unacceptable.
The main problem with the use of water is the
swelling that it causes as this is unacceptable for
worked joi nery (mi l l work); even i f the treated
wood i s dri ed as there i s sti l l a danger of
permanent distortion. For such purposes the extra
cost of an organic solvent can be justified and
worked joinery now constitutes the main market
for organic solvent-based preservatives.
Organic solvents—proprietary advantages
Whilst the organic solvent may not contribute
di rectl y to the preservati ve properti es i t i s
certainly of considerable importance. Non-polar
light petroleum distillates have low viscosities and
are able to penetrate rapidly into dry wood so
that they are parti cul arl y sui tabl e for use i n
preservative formulations that are designed for
superfi ci al appl i cati on by brush, spray or
immersion. However, it is not sufficient to achieve
deep penetration by the preservative formulation
as the subsequent vol ati l i zati on of the sol vent
may cause the toxicants to return to the surface
where they wi l l be parti cul arl y suscepti bl e to
losses by volatilization and leaching. Co-solvents
are frequently used, sometimes to speed up the
solution of the toxicants during manufacture, but
often to provide high-viscosity residues or tails
which will retain the toxicants whilst the carrier
solvent volatilizes, ensuring proper distribution.
In some cases the use of co-sol vents di sti nctl y
r educes the appar ent tox i ci ty of an acti ve
component, perhaps due to deeper distribution or
a protecti ve acti on whi ch al so ensures greater
persi stence and a l onger effecti ve l i fe. Whi l st
many products may be based on the same
concentrati on of a parti cul ar tox i cant, thei r
performance may vary widely and it must not be
assumed that apparentl y si mi l ar propri etory
products achieve similar performance.
Nitrated compounds
Nitration may increase the fungicidal activity of
compounds such as phenol , cresol , x yl enol ,
naphthol and anthranol . Vari ous ni trated
compounds were proposed as wood preservatives
i n the 19th century but few were adopted
commercially as tests indicated that high retentions
of, for example, dinitrophenol or dinitro-o-cresol
were required when they were used alone.
Raco—Antinonnin—Antingermin—
Mykantin
Raco consi sted pri nci pal l y of ni trated phenol s
whilst Antinonnin, which was introduced in 1892
but still in use in 1913, consisted of a mixture of
potassi um di ni tro-o-cresol ate, soft soap and
Organic compounds
129
water. I n Anti ngermi n copper was used i n
combination with dinitro-o-cresol. However, the
most i mportant use of ni trated organi c
compounds was in combination with salts in the
Wolman-type preservatives as described in Section
4.3. Whilst there have been many recent attempts
to develop in-situ groundline treatments to extend
the life of treated poles, it is interesting to note
that a sodium dinitro-phenate formulation known
as Mykantin paste was developed by Falck for
this purpose as long ago as 1912.
Chlorinated compounds—chlorophenols
There were many attempts to enhance the
preservative activity of creosote by chlorination,
sti mul ati ng i nterest i n chl ori nated phenol s,
although they were not seriously considered as
wood preservati ves unti l much l ater when
Hatfi el d i n the Uni ted States compl eted an
assessment of their activity. He first investigated
tetrachlorophenol and later pentachlorophenol,
whereas Iwanowski and Turski at the same time
investigated di- and trichlorophenols. By 1935
Hatfield was able to review the properties of the
compl ete range of chl orophenol s and chl oroo-
phenylphenols, as well as their sodium salts. It
was found that hi gher chl ori nati on general l y
i ncreased the fungi ci dal acti vi ty but al so the
mel ti ng poi nt, gi vi ng more acti ve and more
persistent preservatives. Following completion of
these studies, pentachlorophenol was introduced
for exteri or joi nery (mi l l work) preservati on i n
about 1936, and within a few years a 5% solution
of pentachlorophenol was widely accepted as the
standard organic-solvent formulation.
Pentachl orophenol sol uti ons have been
prepared using a wide range of solvents. A heavy
persi stent sol vent i s often sel ected where the
preserved wood wi l l be ex posed to ground
contact or severe weathering, as this will protect
the pentachl orophenol from l eachi ng and wi l l
tend to stabi l i ze the wood as wi th a creosote
treatment. Volatile solvents are employed when
the preservative is intended for internal use or
where the treatment must be paintable. Generally,
co-solvents must be added, perhaps in order to
obtain the necessary solvency power but also as
anti-blooming agents to prevent the migration of
the pentachlorophenol to the surface as the light
carri er-sol vent vol ati l i zes. These anti -bl oomi ng
agents are normally non-volatile such as dibutyl
phthalate or trixylyl phosphate but paintability is
improved if solid co-solvents are used such as
rosin esters. The non-volatile co-solvent content is
parti cul arl y i mportant as i t has a profound
i nfl uence over the l i fe of the pr eser vati on
treatment as it largely determines the distribution
of the pentachlorophenol and perhaps physically
protects it from volatilization.
Phenylphenol
The water-sol ubl e sodi um, and occasi onal l y
potassi um, sal ts of the chl orophenol s are al so
extensively used, principally as sapstain control
treatments for freshly felled green wood but also
for masonry sterilization associated with remedial
treatment agai nst Dry rot. Sodi um
pentachl orophenate dust or sol uti on spray i s
di sti nctl y i rri tant and there have been several
attempts to develop more pleasant alternatives.
Sodi um o-phenyl phenate has l argel y repl aced
sodium pentachlorophenate in remedial treatment
although it is little used in sapstain control; it is
more expensi ve but l ess effecti ve than sodi um
pentachlorophenate. Phenylphenol was originally a
by-product of the production of phenol by the
Dow process which has now been replaced by the
cumene process, ex cept i n Pol and. Some o-
phenylphenol is synthesized in the United Kingdom
but Poland is now the only country in which this
compound remains available at a realistic cost that
enables it to be used in stain control.
TC oil
While referring to phenol production it is perhaps
worth mentioning that phenol itself is too soluble
and too volatile to be used in wood preservation but
Preservation chemicals
130
the cumene process generates a phenolic residue,
known in the United Kingdom as TC oil, which is
very similar to creosote in its physical properties. It
is a particularly useful preservative for exterior
timbers such as fencing, as it has excellent colour
retenti on properti es. I t i s al so free from the
carcinogenic polycyclic hydrocarbons that limit the
use of creosote. It is therefore surprising that these
phenolic residues have not been proposed as wood
preservatives in other countries where phenol is
produced by the cumene method.
Al though sodi um pentachl orophenate i s
extensively used for sapstain control treatment,
pentachlorophenol is relatively inefficient. This
difference can be attributed to the high pH of the
sodium pentachlorophenate solution which is alone
sufficient to inhibit stain and can achieve complete
control i n the presence of l i mi ted amounts of
tox i cant. The addi ti on to sodi um
pentachlorophenate of a buffer such as sodium
carbonate, to maintain the high pH, considerably
enhances the apparent stain control activity. A
suitable phosphate can function as a buffer in the
same way but the residual phosphate will encourage
the development of surface mould. A borate buffer
is therefore preferred as it also contributes to the
toxicity of the formulation; borate alone is sufficient
to control the stai n and the sodi um
pentachl orophenate i s needed onl y to control
superficial moulds which are resistant to boron.
Pentabor
One of the most effecti ve formul ati ons consi sts
of 1 part sodi um pentachl orophenate wi th 3
parts sodi um tetraborate decahydrate (borax)
whi ch can be used at the same concentrati on as
the sodi um pentachl orophenate al one. Thi s
formul ati on general l y achi eves i mproved stai n
control at l ower cost and consi derabl y reduces
any danger s associ ated wi th the sodi um
pentachl orophenate, si nce thi s i s reduced to onl y
a quarter of the total content. Pentabor S i s a
formul ati on of thi s type but wi th hal f the water
of crystal l i zati on removed, to concentrate the
product and reduce transport costs. Thi s rati o of
the tox i c components per for ms wel l for
treatments i n temperate areas but the proporti on
of sodium pentachlorophenate must be increased
for the treatment of tropi cal hardwoods.
Chlorophenol toxicity
There are many proprietory wood preservatives
containing chlorophenols and it is unrealistic to list
them. Pentachlorophenol is the most important
organic compound used in wood preservation. In
the United States the wood preservation industry
sti l l uses about 20 000 tonnes of
pentachl orophenol annual l y, despi te concern
regardi ng possi bl e heal th hazards; whi l st i t i s
certainly true that chlorophenols are toxic, this is a
problem that applies to all wood preservatives and
they should therefore be handled with care. Some
fatalities have occurred but these have all been
associ ated wi th abnormal absorpti ons of
pentachl orophenol , through a fai l ure to take
normal precautions. There are also fears that the
di ox i n i mpuri ti es i n chl orophenol s may be
particularly hazardous but, whilst there may be
distinct dangers associated with 2,4,5-T, the well
known herbi ci de whi ch i s a tri chl orophenyl
acetate, there is no evidence of similar dangers
associated with pentachlorophenol or even the
tri chl orophenol wi th whi ch i t i s someti mes
contaminated—apparently because the latter is
2,4,6-trichlorophenol and generates a different
range of dioxin impurities which are actually less
toxic than the chlorophenols from which they are
deri ved. Envi ronmental theoreti ci ans have
suggested that pentachl orophenol shoul d be
repl aced i n stai n control by l ess persi stent
trichlorophenol but this compound is less effective
and must be used at higher concentrations, and the
dioxin impurities tend are more toxic than those
associated with pentachlorophenol. The continued
use of pentachlorophenol would appear to be best
in terms of both handling safety and environmental
protection. Tetrachlorophenol is also sometimes
used and represents an intermediate risk.
Organic compounds
131
Pentachlorophenol (PCP)—
pentachlorophenyl esters—Mystox LPL—
Fungamin
Pentachl orophenol i s essenti al l y a fungi ci dal
wood pr eser vati ve possessi ng onl y l i mi ted
acti vi ty agai nst borers, pri nci pal l y those that are
dependent on previ ous fungal decay or the
presence of an i ntesti nal fl ora. I t i s therefore
fr equentl y for mul ated wi th i nsecti ci des,
parti cul arl y the contact i nsecti ci des that are
descr i bed l ater i n thi s chapter. I t has no
appreci abl e fi xati on to wood and i s essenti al l y a
si mpl e toxi c deposi t whi ch normal l y possesses
r easonabl e l i fe thr ough i ts r el ati vel y l ow
vol ati l i ty coupl ed wi th fai rl y deep penetrati on.
Pentachl orophenyl l aurate (Mystox LPL) and
rosi n ami ne-D pentachl orophenate (Fungami n)
are compounds in which the pentachlorophenol
has been reacted wi th other organi c groups to
i ncr ease the mol ecul ar wei ght and r educe
vol ati l i ty but sol ubi l i zati on i s al so assi sted and
the need for speci al sol vents to prevent surface
bl oomi ng i s avoi ded. Copper and zi nc
pentachlorophenate are also useful preservatives;
these are descri bed i n detai l l ater i n thi s chapter.
Cumullit—Parol
p-chloro-m-cresol was first proposed as a wood
preservative in 1913 and was the main toxicant in
Cumul l i t, fi rst marketed i n Germany i n about
1917. This product performed well when applied
by normal pressure i mpregnati on methods but
l ow r etenti ons fr om br ush tr eatment wer e
inadequate; it is not known whether this was due
to inadequate solution concentration. Parol was
the potassium salt and was used for the treatment
of transmission poles in Germany in World War I;
in world War II it was again used either as the
sodium salt or dissolved in ethanol before dilution
to a concentrati on of about 1%. p-chl oro-m-
cr esol i s a fungi ci de and not si gni fi cantl y
insecticidal. The compound does not appear to be
currently used but it is mentioned here, as are
several other compounds, as a potential wood
preservative for use when established compounds
become scarce or too expensive.
Chloronaphthalenes
The chloronaphthalenes were proposed as wood
pr eser vati ves fol l owi ng the successful
chl ori nati on of creosote and the devel opment of
Car bol i neum Avenar i us. I ndi vi dual
chloronaphthalenes are rarely used commercially
and mi xtures resul ti ng from the chl ori nati on of
naphthal ene are usual l y descri bed i n terms of
thei r mel ti ng poi nt whi ch i ncreases wi th the
degree of chl ori nati on. Thus the mono- and
dichloronaphthalenes are liquids whereas tri-and
tetrachl oronaphthal enes are sol i d waxes.
The mono- and di- compounds are distinctly
fungi ci dal but thi s acti vi ty appear s to be
associ ated i n part wi th thei r vol ati l i ty and the
fungi ci dal properti es are reduced i n the tri - and
tetra-compounds, despite the higher chlorination
whi ch woul d normal l y suggest greater fungi ci dal
acti vi ty. The expl anati on probabl y l i es i n thei r
manner of use and evaluation—these compounds
ar e used i n super fi ci al br ush and spr ay
treatments where the deeper di stri buti on of the
l ower vi scosi ty compounds accounts for thei r
apparent fungi ci dal acti vi ty, whereas i n an
i mpregnati on treatment the sol i d compounds
combi ne greater protecti on agai nst fungi wi th
much gr eater per manence thr ough thei r
resi stance to vol ati l i zati on.
The insecticidal properties increase steadily with
the degree of chlorination, whether the compounds
are appl i ed by i mpregnati on or superfi ci al
application, and this fact is reflected in, for example,
the South Afri can standard whi ch requi res
principally tetrachloronaphthalene to be used and
thus defines a minimum chlorine content of 47%
and a minimum softening point of 90°C (194°F).
The vol ati l i ty of the mono- and
di chl oronaphthal enes resul ts i n a characteri sti c
odour whi ch i s a di sti nct di sadvantage. As the
chl or onaphthal enes ar e l ar gel y used i n
Preservation chemicals
132
preservati ves for superfi ci al appl i cati on thei r
per for mance depends l ar gel y on thei r
penetrati on. There have been several suggesti ons
that thi s can be i mproved by the addi ti on of
vari ous resi ns and waxes, and parti cul arl y by
addi ng steari c or pal mi ti c aci ds or esters; the
l atter act as surfactants, condensi ng onto the
hydrophi l i c wood components and permi tti ng
the hydr ophobi c sol uti on to penetr ate.
Surfactant systems of thi s type are extensi vel y
used as addi ti ves to road tar and bi tumen to
assi st wetti ng of damp crushed stone.
Halowax—Wykamol (Anabol)
Hal owax, consi sti ng mai nl y of tri chl oronaph-
thal ene gave ex cel l ent preservati on agai nst
termi te attack when eval uated i n Panama i n
1913, but the advantages of this material do not
appear to have been i mmedi atel y appreci ated
commercially. Chloronaphthalene wax was the
principal toxicant in Anabol, a remedialtreatment
wood preservative introduced in England in 1934
and subsequentl y renamed Wykamol . The
excellent termite resistance of chloronaphthalene
wax was also established in South Africa in about
1950; a mixture of 3.5% tetrachloronaphthalene
as an insecticide with 2.0% pentachlorophenol as
a fungicide in organic solvent was approved for
use by pressure impregnation to meet regulations
that requi red al l wood i n certai n areas to be
preserved against termites and Longhorn beetles.
Xylamon—Olimith C20—Ridsol
Mono- and di chl or onaphthal ene wer e fi r st
proposed as wood preservatives in about 1920
and were the pri nci pal toxi cants i n Xyl amon
whi ch was i ntroduced i n 1923. Si mi l ar products
have been i ntroduced more recentl y such as
Ol i mi th C20 and Ri dsol i n the Netherl ands.
Whi l st the smel l of these compounds i s a
di sadvantage, the toxi c vapour di ffuses deepl y
after superficial treatment and these products are
therefore particularly suitable for the eradication
of House Longhorn beetle and other borers in
remedial treatments.
Chlorobenzenes -Rentokil
Whilst referring to remedial treatments it should be
added that, whilst chloronaphthalene wax was the
principal toxicant in the product Anabol, later
renamed Wykamol, this formulation also originally
contai ned o-di chl orobenzene to gi ve a deepl y
penetrati ng i nsecti ci dal vapour acti on. Thi s
component was replaced in Wykamol in 1939 by
Rotenone and, after World War II, by Lindane
contact insecticide, although it continued in use in
other similar formulations such as Rentokil. o-
di chl orobenzene (ODB) i s a l i qui d whereas p-
dichlorobenzene (PDB) is a solid but more volatile.
The eradicant activity of PDB against Common
Furniture beetle was first established in about 1915
but the excessive volatility results in a powerful
eradicant action with only limited persistence. ODB
is slightly less active but penetrates well into wood
and gives excellent insecticidal preservative action
coupl ed wi th good persi stence. The fungi ci dal
activity of the chlorobenzenes increases with the
degree of chlorination as might be expected and the
trichlorobenzenes have been proposed as wood
preservatives. Hexachlorobenzenes have also been
considered but their low volatility and low water
solubility substantially reduce their effectiveness
when applied as superficial preservatives, although
they are probably much more effective when used
for impregnation.
Gamma hexachlorocyclohexane—
Lindane Gammexane
Hexachlorobenzene must not be confused with
benzenehexachloride, a rather misleading name
that was used in the past for hexachlorocyclo-
hex ane. The gamma i somer of hax achl oro-
cyclohexane has been known variously as γ-BHC,
Gammexane, γ-HCH and Lindane, although the
two latter terms are now preferred. Lindane has
been ex tensi vel y used as a contact acti on
Organic compounds
133
i nsecti ci de i n formul ated organi c-sol vent
preservati ves, parti cul arl y for superfi ci al
application in remedial treatments and usually at a
concentrati on of 0.3–0.5%. Acti vi ty decreases
progressi vel y through vol ati l e l osses that are
initially very rapid but if reasonable penetration is
achieved the treatment will give protection against
egg-l ayi ng or emergence of adul ts fol l owi ng
pupation for many years. This activity is affected
by the presence of other components, especially
some waxes, resins and non-volatile oils, which
trap the Lindane, usually giving a lower initial
toxi ci ty but greater persi stence; the val ue of
different proprietory products may vary greatly,
despite a similar Liridane content, through the
presence of these apparentl y non-functi onal
components.
Rotenone—Dicophane (DOT)
I t i s often suggested i n l i terature on wood
preservati ves that Li ndane and other contact
insecticides were first considered as insecticidal
components in about 1947–1953 but, whilst this
was apparentl y the si tuati on i n Germany and
perhaps the United States. Lindane was already in
use in the United Kingdom in 1945 where it had
replaced Rotenone, a natural contact insecticide
derived from the Derris root, in Wykamol. Prior
to the i ntroducti on of Li ndane, Di cophane or
DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and the
less effective contact insecticide 666 had also been
considered but were less effective. DDT must be
used at 2%, or even 5% where there is a severe
insect hazard such as a risk of termite attack, to
achieve the same protection as Lindane at about
0.5%, the insecticidal activity depending on the
pp-DDT content.
Cyclodiene insecticides—Heptachlor
(Chlordane)—Dieldrin (HEOD)—Aldrin
(HHDN)—Endrin
The cycl odi ene i nsecti ci des Chl ordane
(Heptachl or), Al dri n (HHDN) and Di el dri n
(HEOD) have all been widely employed as soil
poisons in termite control treatments but Dieldrin
was preferred as a wood preservative because of
its lower vapour pressure and better persistence.
Thi s persi stence has been a consi derabl e
di sadvantage when Di el dri n has been used i n
agriculture and horticulture as the insecticide has
accumul ated i n natural food chai ns, causi ng
considerable infertility where these chains end in,
for example, birds of prey and causing concern
that mankind may be affected in a similar way.
Endrin, a similar insecticide, is less persistent than
Dieldrin and has therefore been more widely used
in agriculture and horticulture but it is not so
active as an insecticidal wood preservative. Whilst
Di el dri n i s not popul ar i n wood preservati on
because of the bad publicity associated with these
agri cul tural probl ems, none of the chl ori nated
hydrocarbon contact i nsecti ci des represent
significant environmental risks when employed in
wood preservati on as these products control
insects only within the confined environment of
the wood so that they are unable to enter the
natural food chains.
Whilst it may be an advantage to develop non-
persistent insecticides for use in agriculture and
horticulture it is clearly essential that extremely
persistent insecticides should be developed for use in
wood preservation. In most countries these contact
insecticides continue in use as wood preservatives,
perhaps subject to special licensing if their use is
forbidden for other purposes, although generally
Lindane is now preferred to Dieldrin. One difficulty
is the limited availability of these insecticides now
that they are no l onger manufactured for
agriculture, since it does not appear to have been
generally appreciated that the wood-preservation
market for these compounds is larger in many
countri es than for agri cul ture. Chl ordane
(Heptachlor) has been recently considered an as
alternative to Dieldrin as it is less volatile and thus
more persistent that Lindane, but there is some
current concern regarding possible carcinogenic
dangers associated with this compound.
Among the chlorinated hydrocarbon contact
Preservation chemicals
134
i nsecti ci des Di el dri n, Al dri n and Chl ordane are
most persi stent. Li ndane i s l ess persi stent and
DDT i s not l ost too rapi dl y but i t i s much l ess
acti ve. Mari ne exposure tests have shown that
these contact i nsecti ci des possess ex cel l ent
acti vi ty agai nst the crustacean borers such as
gri bbl e, but l i ttl e acti vi ty agai nst the mol l uscan
shi pwor ms whi ch ar e mor e suscepti bl e to
fungi ci dal preservati ves. It has been found that a
chlorinated hydrocarbon contact insecticide such
as Di el dri n or Li ndane i n creosote provi des
excel l ent preservati on i n mari ne si tuati ons.
Organophosphorus and carbamate
insecticides
The probl ems wi th chl ori nated hydrocarbon
insecticides have prompted the development of
many al ternati ves, mai nl y for agri cul tural and
horticultural uses, where only limited persistence is
considered to be advantageous, so that most have
been unsui tabl e for wood preservati on where
persistence is essential. Phenthoate, Fenitrothion,
Mal athi on, Di chl orvos, Carbaryl , Di azi non,
Fenthion, Arprocarb, Bromophos and Fenchlorphos
have been consi dered, as wel l as many other
organophosphorus and carbamate insecticides. The
most promi si ng were organo-phosphorus
compounds; some of them such as Malathion were
unsuitable due to their persistent and unpleasant
odour but Fenitrothion and particularly Phenthoate
were active and acceptable alternatives to Dieldrin
and Li ndane, al though al l organophosphorus
insecticides are very toxic to humans.
Pyrethroids
The pyrethroi ds are much safer. They were
ori gi nal l y deri ved from the pyrethrum dai sy but
the natural extracts are not persi stent on wood
although they have a very powerful knockdown
i nsecti ci dal acti on whi ch i s val uabl e i n fl yi ng-
i nsect control . Syntheti c pyrethroi ds have been
devel oped wi th a range of properti es and several
of these compounds are now used in forest and
mill treatments against pinhole and lyctid attack,
i n remedi al treatments, and even i n preservati on
treatments against termite and House Longhorn
beetl e attack. Decamethri n has rather hi gh
mammal i an tox i ci ty but Del tamethr i n,
Cypermethrin and particularly Permethrin have
l ow toxi ci ty and are now extensi vel y used; they
can gi ve both er adi cati on and l ong-ter m
protecti on agai nst wood-bori ng beetl es, termi tes
and crustacean marine borers such as gribble.
Many organic fungicides have been developed
since World War II and some have been used in
wood preservati on. Most of these compounds
ori gi nate from agri cul tural and horti cul tural
research programmes ai med at devel opi ng
fungi ci des wi th l ow persi stence and i t i s not
therefore surprising that very few of these new
compounds have proved effecti ve as wood
preservatives, although some of them are used in
stai n control . Modern performance and safety
approval schemes involve substantial cost so that
developments for wood preservation alone are
unreal i sti c as expensi ve new products cannot
compete with established products, and only a few
compounds developed since World War II justify
mention here. Suspensions of Benomyl (Benlate) and
Captafol (Difolatan) were introduced as alternatives
to chlorophenols but they are not generally very
effective; they leave only a superficial deposit which,
whilst it may control surface stain and mould, has
no influence over deep stain within the wood, and
these fungicides are only reliable when formulated
with borates which will control deep sapstain.
Carbamates such as I PBC (Pol yphase),
chl orothal oni l (Tuffgard, Tuffbri te), vari ous
isothiazolone (ITA) compounds, thiazoles such as
MBT and TCMTB, and tri azol es such as
cebuconazol e, propi conazol e and azaconazol e
(Madurox) have performed well in stain control
trials alone or in various formulations, and are also
claimed to be suitable for wood preservation use but
they are never as persistent and reliable as inorganic,
organometal or even quaternery ammoni um
systems. The trihalomethylthio- compounds must be
mentioned as they have been used particularly to
Organometal compounds
135
control stain in service beneath paint and varnish
coatings. Captan is probably the least efficient of
this group but this may be only a solubility factor as
Fol pet (Fungi trol 11) wi th the same
trichloromethylthio- radical is very active. The
dichlorofluoro- compounds Fluorfolpet (Preventol
A3) and Dichlofluanid (Preventol A4) are also very
effective and are preferred by many manufacturers
as they are more readily soluble in most organic
solvents whereas Captan and Folpet are virtually
i nsol ubl e and can usual l y be appl i ed onl y i n
relatively high viscosity systems, such as pigmented
coatings or formulations with a relatively high resin
content. Various metal soaps and organometal
compounds are used in organic solvent systems but
they will be considered separately in the next section
of this Chapter, together with organo-nitrogen
compounds such as quaternery ammoni um
compounds.
4.5 Organometal compounds
Various organometal compounds have been used
in wood preservation, particularly mercury and
tin compounds. Metal soaps, particularly copper
and zinc naphthenates, have also been used and,
whilst they are metal esters rather than organo-
metal compounds, they are considered to be more
appropri ate to thi s secti on. Si mi l arl y, the
organonitrogen compounds are not organo-metal
but they are included in this section as they are
similar in many respects to organotin compounds.
Copper and zinc soaps
The preservati ve acti vi ty of metal soaps can be
attri buted pri nci pal l y to the metal content and
thi s i s now recogni zed i n most speci fi cati ons.
Fol l owi ng treatment, the soaps hydrol yse and
the aci d i s sl owl y l ost by vol ati l i zati on, l eavi ng
onl y the metal . Wher eas the aci d has an
important eradicant function when metal soaps
are used for remedi al treatment, care must be
taken to condi ti on test bl ocks to ensure that
most of the aci d has di spersed when assessi ng
preser vati ve acti vi ty, to avoi d enhanced
performance whi ch wi l l be absent i n actual
servi ce. Copper and zi nc are effecti ve fungi ci des
but i f they are appl i ed at i nadequate retenti ons
they tend to be detoxi fi ed by tol erant fungi such
as Poria speci es, and thi s can be cl earl y seen
when i nadequate l oadi ngs of gr een copper
naphthenate are used, as fungal i nfecti ons may
decol ouri ze the treated wood. Other metal
naphthenates have been empl oyed, such as
cal ci um and bari um, but the acti vi ty of these
compounds must be attributed to the acid alone
whi ch i s ul ti matel y l ost by vol ati l i zati on.
Cuprinol
Metal naphthenates were fi rst proposed as wood
preservati ves by von Wol ni ewi cz i n Russi a i n
1889 but they were fi rst marketed commerci al l y
as Cupri nol i n Denmark i n 1911 and were
i ntroduced from there i nto Sweden i n about
1920 and i nto Engl and i n 1933. Copper
naphthenate i s produced ei ther by the fusi on
method in which copper oxide or carbonate is
di ssol ved i n heated naphtheni c aci d or by the
pr eci pi tati on method fol l owi ng doubl e
decomposi ti on when sodi um naphthenate i s
mixed with copper sulphate in aqueous solution.
The very di sti ncti ve green copper naphthenate i s
an i mportant organi c-sol vent wood preservati ve
and cl ear zi nc naphthenate i s al so extensi vel y
used. Both these soaps possess l ow i nsecti ci dal
activity, except when free acid is still present, but
adequate r etenti ons gi ve good fungi ci dal
protecti on. Fai l ures of treated wood i n servi ce
are usual l y associ ated wi th the devel opment of
resi stant fungi on wood treated by superfi ci al
brush or spray application.
Oborex Cu and Zn
Copper and zi nc naphthenates are marketed
throughout the world under a variety of names,
such as Oborex Cu and Zn in the Netherlands,
Preservation chemicals
136
but it is unrealistic to list them—there were at one
time 23 copper naphthenate and a further eight
zi nc naphthenate formul ati ons regi stered i n
Sweden al one! I n the Uni ted Ki ngdom the
producti on of copper naphthenate i ncreased
considerably during World War II, largely as a
result of the demand for preserved ammunition
boxes and other military packaging which would
not deteriorate in service, but also for treatment
of canvas. Copper naphthenate has not been used
i n heavy petrol eum oi l to the same extent as
pentachlorophenol, although such formulations
inhibit the volatilization of the naphthenic acid
and prolong the acid activity.
Acypetacs copper and zinc
Naphtheni c aci d has not been readi l y avai l abl e
i n recent years and vari ous syntheti c aci ds have
been consi dered as al ternati ves. Many organi c
aci ds are sui tabl e but octanoi c and versati c aci ds
have been preferred in some countries, probably
because they have been used as al ternati ves to
naphtheni c aci d i n soaps used as pai nt dri ers.
Cupri nol i n Engl and has been parti cul arl y acti ve
i n the search for advantageous aci ds, eventual l y
adopting a mixture of linear and branched chain
saturated aliphatic carboxylic acids derived from
petrol eum, the resul ti ng soaps bei ng descri bed as
acypetacs copper or zi nc.
Copper and zinc pentachlorophenates
The formation of copper pentachlorophenate by
precipitation from mixtures of copper salts and
pentachlorophenates will be described shortly but
copper and zi nc soaps are al so mi x ed wi th
pentachlorophenol in organic-solvent solutions in
the hope that the metal pentachlorophenates will
be formed fol l owi ng the vol ati l i zati on of
naphtheni c aci d after treatment. The
unpredictability of the reactions is clearly apparent
with the copper formulations as they often retain
the green col our of the copper naphthenate
whereas copper pentachlorophenate is dark red.
However, even i n aci d condi ti ons, where the
formation of pentachlorophenate is prevented in
thi s way, these mi x ed preservati ves have
consi derabl e advantages over the use of thei r
individual components alone as they possess a
broader spectrum of acti vi ty and greater
persistence, and numerous clear organic-solvent
preservatives are therefore based on mixtures of
zinc naphthenate and pentachlorophenol. These
preservatives are often prepared by adding zinc
naphthenate to a normal pentachl orophenol
solution containing the usual co-solvents and anti-
blooming agents, yet if the toxicants are present at
an appropriate ratio the zinc naphthenate content
alone is sufficient to carry the pentachlorophenol
wi thout the need for these addi ti ves, an
observation that is put to good effect in the South
African Standard for such mixtures, which requires
0.31% zi nc and 2.5% pentachl orophenol i n
normal preservative solutions applied by pressure
i mpregnati on. Naphthenates are al so si mi l arl y
used in conjunction with other anionic fungicides
such as o-phenylphenol but many preservatives
also contain trihalomethylthio type fungicides to
improve the resistance to staining fungi.
KP-Cuprinol—Penta-Tetra-Copper
KP sal t, whi ch i s known i n Sweden as KP-
Cuprinol, is another invention of Häger who was
responsi bl e for K33 and the earl i er Bol i den
products BI S, S and S25. KP sal t was fi rst
introduced in Sweden in 1955 and was supplied as
two components—the K salt contained copper as
the ammoni acal carbonate whi l st the P sal t
contai ned sodi um chl orophenate, usual l y
tetrachlorophenate. The two salts were dissolved
separately and then mixed to prepare a solution
with a pH of 8.0–8.5 for full-cell impregnation
containing 0.3% copper and 0.15% chlorophenol.
After treatment the ammonia evaporated, reducing
the pH and causing the precipitation of copper
pentachl orophenate. As the fi x ati on process
occurred onl y after the treatment cycl e was
completed, KP salt could be applied by empty-cell
Organometal compounds
137
processes, al though the Lowry process was
normally preferred. KP salt was applied in this way
at the commencement of the Royal process for the
treatment of joi nery (mi l l work) i n whi ch
impregnation is followed by heating under oil to
remove the water and ammonia so that, when the
wood is removed from the treatment vessel, it is
also deeply impregnated with the oil. Penta-Tetra-
Copper is a similar product, forming a mixture of
copper penta- and tetrachlorophenate.
Cuprinol Tryck (Cuprinol KPN)
Cuprinol Tryck, originally Cuprinol KPN, was
devel oped by Häger as an al ternati ve to both
CCA products and hi s earl i er KP Cupri nol
system. I t i s an ammoni acal formul ati on
comprising copper carbonate dissolved in caprylic
acid and ammonia added to form cuprammonium
caprylate, the eventual volatilization of ammonia
precipating cupric caprylate.
Copper 8-hydroxyquinolinolate (oxine
copper)—Cunilate—Nytek GD—Cupristat
Copper 8-hydroxyquinolinolate, also known as
oxine copper, has been introduced in recent years
as an al ternati ve to copper naphthenate. Thi s
compound does not present the di sti ncti ve
naphtheni c aci d odour of copper naphthenate
and i t i s al so resi stant to hydrol ysi s so that i t can
be sol ubi l i zed i n water; Cuni l ate 2174 i s 10% of
thi s compound sol ubi l i zed i n water. Wood
preservati ves of thi s type such as Nytek GD and
Cupri stat are al so used for stai n control . They
have very l ow mammal i an tox i ci ty and are
virtually free from tainting problems so that they
can be used for the treatment of food packagi ng
such as frui t boxes, someti mes wi th the addi ti on
of water-repellent components.
Organomercury compounds
The use of mercury compounds i n wood
preservati on has al ready been descri bed i n an
earlier section of this chapter and it will therefore
be appreciated that mercuric chloride (corrosive
sublimate) was an important wood preservative in
the l ate 19th century. I n 1910 mercury
chl orophenate was devel oped to avoi d the
corrosive properties of mercuric chloride but it was
found to be comparatively uneconomic and was
never used commercially. Various organomercury
compounds were patented in Germany in 1926 but
were not used significantly in Europe, although
ethyl mercury and phenyl mercury compounds
were introduced in North America in about 1930
and were soon extensively used in stain-control
treatments. Ethyl mercury chl ori de, sul phate,
phosphate and acetate have all been used, as well
as phenyl mercury acetate and oleate, usually at
concentrations of about 0.1% to achieve stain
control on freshl y fel l ed green wood. These
compounds are still used for this purpose in some
areas but they are very toxic and were largely
repl aced by sodi um pentachl orophenate after
about 1940. The more volatile compounds such as
ethyl mercury acetate possess limited effective life
and, where organomercury compounds continue to
be used, phenyl mercury acetate or preferabl y
oleate are normally employed. Pyridyl mercury
chloride and stearate have also been proposed, and
diphenyl mercury and phenyl mercury chloride
have been reported as possessing good preservative
activity against termites.
Organotin and organolead compounds
Silicon, germanium, tin and lead form Group IV/
IVb in the periodic classification. Generally, the
stability of organic compounds of these metals
decreases with increasing atomic weight from silicon
through germanium and tin to lead but in other
respects the metals behave in a fairly analogous
fashion to give four types of tetravalent compounds;
RMX
3
, R
2
MX
2
, R
3
MX and R
4
M, where M is the
metal, R is an alkyl or aryl group and X is the
‘anionic radical’ which differs from the R groups as
it is not attached to the metal by a C-M bond.
Bi ol ogi cal acti vi ty i ncreases steadi l y from
germanium to lead, being moderately developed in
R
2
MX
2
and highly developed R
3
MX, the silicon
compounds and the other two structures exhibiting
Preservation chemicals
138
vi rtual l y no acti vi ty. The greatest acti vi ty i s
associated with the tin and lead compounds but, as
lead is far less expensive than tin, it would appear
to be the more economi c. I n fact, the l ead
compounds tend to be more reactive, introducing
manufacturing difficulties and instability in use so
that the tin compounds are generally preferred. In
addi ti on, resi dues from the degradati on of
organol ead compounds are tox i c i norgani c
compounds, although formed in only insignificant
amounts from biocidal treatments, whereas the
ul ti mate degradati on products from ti n
compounds are generally innocuous.
Tri phenyl ti n compounds have found use i n
agri cul ture and tri phenyl l ead compounds have
been used in anti-fouling compositions but, in
other bi oci dal appl i cati ons, the tri al kyl ti n
compounds have been most widely used. Their
mi crobi ol ogi cal acti vi ty depends on the total
number of carbon atoms in the alkyl chains for
both symmetrical and asymmetrical compounds—
the greatest fungicidal activity develops with 9–12
carbon atoms, an observation made in about 1952
which prompted proposals for their use as wood
preservatives. The mammalian toxicity decreases
sharpl y wi th i ncrease i n total carbon atoms,
perhaps being related to the water solubility of the
stable hydrolysis products—trimethyl and triethyl
compounds hydrolyse to the water-soluble and
hi ghl y toxi c hydroxi des, tri propyl compounds
form stable oxides or hydroxides, whilst tributyl
and l onger chai n compounds form oi l -sol ubl e
oxides of lower toxicity, and trioctyl compounds
are compl etel y non-tox i c. The i nsecti ci dal
properties decline steadily as the number of carbon
atoms increases and reduce sharply when these
exceed about 15, while general wood preservative
acti vi ty decreases conversel y to the i ncreasi ng
equi val ent wei ght, and then decreases more
sharply in excess of 15 or 18 carbon atoms.
Tributyltin compounds
Tributyltin compounds are therefore preferred as
they offer the gr eatest separ ati on between
mammal i an tox i ci ty and useful bi oci dal or
preservative action, and tri-n-butyltin compounds
are the only organometallic compounds of Group
I V metal s that are extensi vel y used i n wood
preservati on. Al though they were proposed as
wood preservati ves fol l owi ng observati ons of
thei r ex cepti onal fungi ci dal and i nsecti ci dal
activity, they are actually non-toxic when applied
to wood at low retentions, yet the wood does not
necessarily decay. It appears that the tributyltin
group may have a chemi cal affi ni ty for wood
cel l ul ose, causi ng modi fi cati on whi ch i nhi bi ts
decay, although fungal hyphae may penetrate into
the treated wood. There is thus a distinct danger
that internal decay can occur if the preserved zone
is relatively shallow, a danger that is normally
avoi ded by usi ng a much hi gher retenti on of
tributyltin oxide or by the addition of other non-
fixing fungicides. For example, a 0.1% organic-
sol -vent sol uti on of tri butyl ti n oxi de can be
shown i n l aboratory ex peri ments to gi ve
protecti on to a compl etel y i mpregnated pi ne
block but in commercial treatments 1% is more
normal , or al ternati vel y 0.5% when other
fungicides are present.
Experience since 1959 when tri-n-butyltin oxide
was first introduced commercially in the United
Ki ngdom suggests that the addi ti on of other
fungi ci des i s advantageous, parti cul arl y
pentachlorophenol, o-phenylphenol and borates as
these appear to gi ve consi derabl y i mproved
resistance to White rots, whereas the organotin
compounds give particular protection against the
Brown rots whi ch attack onl y the cel l ul ose i n
wood. These mixed formulations are particularly
preferred for remedi al treatment preservati ves
whilst the higher concentration of 1.0% tri-n-
butyl ti n oxi de i s now used extensi vel y for the
treatment of ex ternal joi nery (mi l l work),
parti cul arl y by the doubl e vacuum process.
Formul ati ons someti mes al so contai n contact
i nsecti ci des, al though tri -n-butyl ti n ox i de i s
di sti nctl y i nsecti ci dal and can gi ve ex cel l ent
protection on its own when applied at adequate
retentions. The House Longhorn beetle is readily
Organometal compounds
139
controlled in this way at retentions of about 1 kg/
m
3
whereas twice this concentration or more is
required to control the Common Furniture beetle.
Numerous propri etory organi c-sol vent wood
preservati ves now contai n tri -n-butyl ti n
compounds as their principal toxicants, and such
formulations are extensively applied by pressure
impregnation, double vacuum, immersion or spray.
The vol ati l i ty of tri -n-butyl ti n oxi de can be
troubl esome duri ng hot weather and l ess vol ati l e
compounds have been used such as naphthenates
and phosphates, al though they al l eventual l y
hydr ol yse to the ox i de. Pr obl ems at l ow
temperatures usual l y i ndi cate contami nati on
with more volatile compounds such as halides
through poor manufacture or reacti on wi th
addi ti ves; some stabi l i zers that are added to
TBTO can cause i ncreased vol ati l i ty. There i s
also some evidence of degrade on treated wood
to di - and monobutyl ti n but, whi l st these forms
have l ower mi crobi ol ogi cal acti vi ty, there i s no
evi dence that the l ong-term preservati ve acti on
has been affected, probabl y because i t depends
on bl ocki ng hydroxyl groups on cel l ul ose and
l osses by vol ati l i zati on and degrade affect onl y
the excess unreacted compound.
The fungi ci dal preservati ve acti on of tri -n-
butyl ti n oxi de i s enhanced when i t i s appl i ed i n
the presence of a swel l i ng sol vent, parti cul arl y
water. Permapruf T, known in the Nordic area as
BP Hyl osan PT, was the fi r st pr opr i etar y
pretreatment product to take advantage of thi s
observation and consisted of tri-n-butyl ti n oxi de
solubilized in water using quaternary ammonium
compounds. Whi l e other surfactants can be
empl oyed, they are general l y l ess rel i abl e and
cannot contri bute to the preservati ve acti vi ty i n
the same way. A sapwood retenti on i n pi ne of
1.2 kg/m
3
TBTO i n Permapruf T i s equi val ent to
the normal requi red retenti on of 9 kg/m
3
acti ve
oxides in conventional CCA formulations, which
i s achi eved wi th retenti ons of 15 kg/m
3
Tanalith
C or Cel cure A; the overal l retenti ons are
appr ox i matel y hal f these fi gur es. These
retenti ons, based on stake tri al s, suggest that
Permapruf T, whi ch contai ns 10% TBTO, i s
about 25% mor e effecti ve than a Br i ti sh
Standar d 4072 CCA sal t pr oduct, such as
Tanalith C and Celcure A, which contain about
60% acti ve oxi des.
The systematic studies by the author in 1960–
70 on the organic compounds of the Group IV/
IVb el ements si l i con, germani um, ti n, and l ead
prompted i nterest i n si mi l ar studi es on other
groups in the periodic classification. In Group III
boron has been ex tensi vel y used, as borates
deri ved from bori c aci d but not as organi c
compounds, but aluminium has proved useful in
water-repellent and film-forming compounds as
descri bed l ater i n thi s chapter. Phosphorus,
sulphur and chlorine from Groups V, VI and VII
are used as component elements in many of the
moder n compl ex or gani c fungi ci des and
i nsecti ci des, but onl y Group V gi ves ri se to a
range of compounds whi ch have si mi l ari ty to the
organometal compounds of Group IV. Group V/
Vb compri ses ni trogen, phosphorus, arseni c,
antimony and bismuth, but only the great variety
of organic compounds of nitrogen have attracted
speci al attenti on.
Organonitrogen compounds—quaternary
ammonium compounds—alkyl
ammonium compounds (AAC)
The organic compounds of nitrogen are generally
known as amines and do not usually have any
speci al bi oci dal acti vi ty, but the quaternery
ammonium compounds, sometimes known as alkyl
ammoni um compounds (AAC), are di sti nctl y
di fferent. The greatest bi ol ogi cal acti vi ty i s
associated with compounds with a single anionic
group such as chloride or bromide and a cation
comprising nitrogen with four organic groups. The
simplest cation is ammonium, NH
4
. With larger
organi c groups water sol ubi l i ty i s associ ated
usually with a benzyl group and these compounds
are favoured for wood preservation as they avoid
the need for a co-solvent such as an alcohol. The
precise structure of the other three organic groups
Preservation chemicals
140
attached to the nitrogen is relatively unimportant
in the sense that greatest biocidal activity develops
when the carbons in these groups total about 16.
An alkyl-benzyl-dimethyl ammonium compound
with an alkyl group with a chain length of about
14 therefore represents optimum fungicidal and
bacte-ricidal activity; compounds of this structure
are known as benzalkonium compounds and are
used as antiseptics. They are very effective as wood
preservatives, achieving an eradicant action but
also a persistent action through condensing onto
hydroxyl groups on wood cellulose. A compound
wi th a sl i ghtl y di fferent structure, benzal kyl -
tri methyl ammoni um, i n whi ch the benzal kyl
structure forms a single group on the nitrogen, has
been ex tensi vel y used i n wood preservati on,
particularly in Europe where it was known as
Gloquat C but it has now been withdrawn as there
are heal th probl ems associ ated wi th the
preparation of the raw materials from which it was
manufactured.
Preservati ve acti vi ty has been reported for a
wide range of amines and quaternery ammonium
compounds but thi s acti vi ty i s associ ated i n
many cases wi th a surfactant effect or degrade to
ammoni a wi th no true preservati ve acti on. The
failure of some of these compounds has led to
doubts regarding the reliability of the quaternery
ammoni um compounds but, i f compounds of
sui tabl e structure are sel ected, they have a broad
spectrum of acti vi ty, al though some of the
compounds can be degraded by resistant fungi. It
is therefore advisable for quaternery ammonium
compounds to be used only in association with
other fungi ci des such as borates.
4.6 Carrier systems
The car r i er system i s as i mpor tant as the
tox i cant system i n a wood pr eser vati ve
formulation. The advantages and disadvantages
of var i ous systems have been di scussed
theoreti cal l y i n Chapter 3 and there are al so
appropriate notes in Section 4.2 of this chapter.
However, for mul ated pr eservati ves need a
carri er sol vent, the most i mportant choi ce bei ng
between pol ar sol vents such as water and
alcohols, which have reactive hydroxyl groups
whi ch wi l l cause swel l i ng i n wood, and non-
pol ar sol vents such as petrol eum di sti l l ates
whi ch wi l l avoi d swel l i ng.
Organic solvents—proprietary advantages
Whi l st an organi c sol vent may not contri bute
directly to the preservative properties it is certainly
of consi derabl e i mportance. Non-pol ar l i ght
petroleum distillates have low viscosities and are
able to penetrate rapidly into dry wood so that
they are particularly suitable for use in preservative
formul ati ons that are desi gned for superfi ci al
appl i cati on by brush, spray or i mmersi on.
However, i t i s not suffi ci ent to achi eve deep
penetration by the preservative formulation as the
subsequent volatilization of the solvent may cause
the toxicants to return to the surface where they
wi l l be parti cul arl y suscepti bl e to l osses by
vol ati l i zati on and l eachi ng. Co-sol vents are
frequently used, sometimes to assist in the solution
of the toxicants during manufacture but often to
provide high viscosity residues or tails which will
retai n the toxi cants whi l st the carri er sol vent
volatilizes, ensuring proper distribution. In some
cases the use of co-solvents distinctly reduces the
apparent toxicity of an active component, perhaps
due to deeper distribution or a protective action
which also ensures greater persistence and a longer
effective life. For example, pentachlorophenol is
often used i n heavy oi l as an al ternati ve for
creosote, the heavy oil persisting and protecting the
pentachl orophenol from l eachi ng and
volatilization. While many products may be based
on the same concentration of a particular toxicant,
their performance may vary widely and it must not
be assumed that apparently similar proprietary
products will achieve similar performance.
The penetrati on of pol ar organi c sol vent
systems can be i mproved by the addi ti on of
vari ous resi ns and waxes, parti cul arl y by addi ng
Carrier systems
141
steari c or pal mi ti c aci ds or esters; the l atter act
as surfactants, condensi ng onto the hydrophi l i c
wood components and per mi tti ng an
hydrophobi c sol uti on to penetrate. Surfactant
systems of thi s type are ex tensi vel y used as
addi ti ves to road tar and bi tumen to assi st
wetting of damp crushed stone.
There have been many attempts to use water
more ex tensi vel y to avoi d the hi gh cost of
organi c sol vent systems and to reduce fi re and
heal th ri sks. I n suspensi on systems, l i qui d or
solid toxicants are dispersed directly in the water
usi ng onl y a surfactant; the toxi cants do not
penetrate and are simply deposited on the wood
surface. I n emul si on systems the toxi cants are
general l y di spersed as a concentrated sol uti on i n
sol vent emul si fi ed i n water. When appl i ed to the
surface of wood the emul si on breaks, al l owi ng
the sol vent phase to penetrate whi l st the water
evaporates. The fi re ri sk associ ated wi th the use
of spr ayed or gani c-sol vent pr eser vati ves i s
consi derabl y reduced but i n spray appl i cati on
the penetrati on depends di rectl y on the sol vent
concentrati on that i s present and can never be as
good as wi th organi c sol vent systems.
Bodied mayonnaise-type emulsions
(BMT)—Woodtreat
One probl em i n remedi al treatment preservati on
i s the deep penetrati on that i s requi red where
l arge wood secti ons are i nvol ved whi ch may be
sufferi ng from deep borer i nfestati ons or fungal
i nfecti ons, and i n the treatment of ex ternal
j oi ner y whi ch may al so be suffer i ng fr om
i nternal fungal decay, conceal ed by a pai nt
coati ng. The bodi ed mayonnai se-type (BMT)
emul si on products are pastes whi ch can be
appl i ed to the surface of wood wi th a trowel or
gun, the emul si on breaki ng i n contact wi th the
sur face so that the or gani c-sol vent phase
contai ni ng the toxi cants i s abl e to penetrate
sl owl y. Organi c sol vents of l ow vol ati l i ty are
used as very deep penetrati on can be achi eved i n
thi s way, al though many propri etary products
contain inadequate concentrations of toxicant—
the concentration must depend on the required
retenti on rel ated to the degree of penetrati on
that may be achieved. The best known product
of thi s type i s Woodtreat.
Wykamol injectors—borate diffusion
treatments—Boracol—Borester 7—
Timber rods
Wykamol remedial products were usually applied
in the past by drilling deep holes which were then
injected under pressure using a conical nozzle.
Thi s system has been repl aced by a moul ded
plastic injector which is driven into each hole,
leaving a projecting nipple to which a pressure
gun i s fi x ed. Organi c-sol vent products are
appreciably compressible and the injector is fitted
with a non-return valve, thus trapping within the
hole a reservoir of preservative which is then able
to disperse deeply within the wood. Unlike the
BMT systems this technique can be used for the
treatment of window frames and other external
joinery; after treatment is complete each nipple is
removed with a chisel and the hole stopped and
pai nted to conceal the remai ns of the i njector
within the wood. Concentrated borate solutions
such as Boracol 20 and 40 and Borester 7 can be
used in downward holes, slowly diffusing; Timbor
rods can also be inserted into holes, diffusing if
the wood becomes wet. The borate products are
described earlier in this chapter.
Smoke treatments
Insecticidal smokes must also be mentioned as
they are cl ai med to have advantages over the use
of formul ated organi c-sol vent preservati ves. A
smoke can achi eve onl y a fi nel y di spersed sol i d
deposi t concentrated l argel y on upper hori zontal
surfaces. Wi th contact i nsecti ci des such as
Li ndane or Di el dri n any i nsect settl i ng on the
treated surface wi l l be ki l l ed, but the fi nel y
di spersed and superfi ci al nature of the deposi t
ensures onl y transi ent protecti on.
Preservation chemicals
142
Gas treatments—methyl bromide—
Dichlorvos—methyl borate
Fumi gant gases are attracti ve because of thei r
very low viscosities compared with liquids and the
penetrati on that they can achi eve. Methyl
bromi de i s very effecti ve i n eradi cati ng i nsect
infestations such as termites but it is extremely
poisonous. A stack of wood or an entire structure
such as a house must be sealed for several days to
permit the methyl bromide to entirely eradicate
any deep-seated borer infestation as there is no
residual action, and the gas must then be entirely
removed by ventilation. An alternative system for
a building is to install porous strips impregnated
wi th a vol ati l e i nsecti ci de such as Di chl orvos,
although the strips must be replaced annually,
shortly before the flight season, as with a smoke
treatment, and a more real i sti c use for thi s
particular insecticide is at low concentrations in
multicomponent products as an initial eradicant
insecticide. Methyl borate is a much more realistic
gaseous preservative. Although it will penetrate
deeply into wood it will subsequently hydrolyse to
deposit boric acid, but realistic retentions of boric
acid can only be achieved if this preservative is
appl i ed by i mpregnati on processes to achi eve
deep penetration, the gaseous phase only assisting
with subsequent diffusion.
4.7 Water repellents, stabilizers
and decorative systems
Changes in moisture content up to fibre saturation
point invariably involve movement, shrinkage with
drying and swelling with wetting. Although it is
normal to dry wood to a moi sture content
equi val ent to the average atmospheri c rel ati ve
humi di ty anti ci pated i n use, i t i s common to
encounter movement problems. Faults such as gaps
appearing between floor blocks or boards are due
to the wood dryi ng after i nstal l ati on, ei ther
through inadequate kilning or perhaps re-wetting
between kilning and installation. A door or drawer
jammed in humid weather may be exceedingly
sl ack under dri er condi ti ons. Frames whi ch
introduce an end-grain surface in contact with
side-grain will inevitably result in cracking of any
surface-coati ng system. I n other si tuati ons the
cross-sectional movement may become apparent as
warping through twisted grain effects. The obvious
solution to all these problems is to use only wood
with low movement but this is not always realistic.
The alternative is to impregnate the wood with
chemi cal s whi ch i nduce stabi l i zati on.
Unfortunately these processes are also frequently
unrealistic because of the difficulty of achieving
complete impregnation, a problem that has already
been discussed in connection with normal wood
preservation.
Paint and varnish
One obvi ous sol uti on i s to encl ose the wood
within a protective film to stabilize the moisture
content. Paint and varnish coatings will act in this
way, provided they completely cover the wood
and remai n compl etel y undamaged.
Unfortunatel y, whi l st these coati ngs gi ve good
protecti on agai nst rai nfal l , they are unabl e to
prevent moisture content changes resulting from
slow seasonal fluctuations in atmospheric relative
humidity. As a result the painted wood will shrink
or swell with changes in relative humidity, causing
the surface coating to fracture wherever a joint
involves stable side-grain in contact with unstable
end-grain. Rain is absorbed by capillarity into the
crack, yet the remaining paint coating restricts
evaporation, so that the moisture content steadily
increases until fungal decay is sure to occur if the
wood is non-durable. It is frequently suggested
that preservation provides a simple solution to
this problem, but this ignores the fact that water
also damages the paint coating. It is explained in
Chapter 2 that wood is an hygroscopic material,
covered wi th hydroxyl groups whi ch have a
strong affi ni ty wi th water so that penetrati ng
water wi l l tend to coat the wood el ements,
displacing paint and varnish coatings. This failure
i s known as pr efer enti al wetti ng and i s
Water repellents, stabilizers and decorative systems
143
responsi bl e for bl i steri ng and peel i ng i n
pai ntwork and the l oss of transparency i n
varnishes.
Water repellent preservatives
The best sol uti on to both the decay and
preferenti al wetti ng i s treatment of ex ternal
joi nery (mi l l work) and cl addi ng before pai nti ng,
wi th a formul ati on that i s both a preservati ve
and a water r epel l ant. A water-r epel l ent
tr eatment coats the por es of a str uctur al
materi al , reversi ng the angl e of contact so that
capi l l ary absorpti on of water i s prevented; water
repel l ency i s associ ated wi th water gl obul ati on
on the surface but absence of gl obul ati on on a
weathered surface does not necessari l y mean
that a treatment i s no l onger effecti ve as the
pores may sti l l be water repel l ent.
Waxes and resins
Various waxes, particularly paraffin waxes, are the
most commonly used water-repellent components
in wood preservative formulations, although a
treatment based on a wax i s general l y as
susceptible to preferential wetting failure as the
surface coati ng that i t i s desi gned to protect.
Treatments of this type are reliable only if they
penetrate deepl y and are appl i ed at suffi ci ent
retentions to ensure that the wood elements are
entirely inaccessible to even changes in the relative
humidity of the atmosphere. High-wax retentions
cannot be used if wood is to be finished with a
paint or varnish coating as the adhesion is seriously
affected—the coating cannot adhere to the wax
deposi t and i s unabl e to penetrate i f the wax
retention is too high, but in addition, the wax may
migrate into the coating solvents, affecting both
solvent loss and the ability to absorb the oxygen
required for drying so that the coating may remain
tacky. The wax will continue to migrate through
subsequent coatings, affecting inter-coat adhesion,
perhaps even causing cissing, the situation when a
coat i s unabl e to wet a surface and tends to
concentrate i n gl obul es, l eavi ng other areas
uncoated. Yet another problem with migrating
wax is the tendency to prevent the development of
gl oss i n the fi nal top coat. For these vari ous
reasons waxes are generally used at low retentions
and the desired pore-sealing action is achieved by
the addition of resins.
Resi n sel ecti on i s cri ti cal i n terms of water
and water vapour r esi stance as wel l as
pai ntabi l i ty. The al i phati c and ar omati c
hydrocarbon resi ns are i nexpensi ve and effi ci ent
but they do not dry; they sol i di fy onl y by l oss of
sol vent and may be re-di ssol ved by coati ng
sol vents, perhaps i nterferi ng wi th the dryi ng and
durabi l i ty of the coati ng system. Natural dryi ng
oi l s such as boi l ed l i nseed oi l can al so be used
but pai ntabi l i ty probl ems may ari se through
slow drying. The use of suitable modern alkyd
resi ns can avoi d thi s di ffi cul ty but they are al so
expensi ve. The most real i sti c systems therefore
tend to be based on mi x tur es of wax es,
hydrocarbon resi ns and al kyd resi ns to avoi d
these probl ems, and there are therefore di sti nct
di fferences between propri etary products.
It is particularly important to appreciate that
unsaturated or dryi ng resi ns are l i kel y to
significantly reduce the activity of some cationic
preservati ves such as zi nc, and parti cul arl y
tributyltin oxide. In addition, alkyd resins will
solidify only in the presence of driers or catalysts
such as metal naphthenates, and these catalysts
may be inactivated by tributyltin oxide which is a
base and wi l l thus absorb thei r aci ds. Such
problems can be avoided by using other toxicants,
yet tributyltin oxide is particularly suitable as it
tends to improve the resistance of the formulation
to preferential wetting, and it is therefore better
to use tributyltin compounds other than the oxide
such as the naphthenate or o-phenyl phenate
which do not suffer from these disadvantages.
Silanes (silicones)
There have been several attempts to devel op
more sui tabl e water repel l ent components i n
Preservation chemicals
144
vi ew of the di ffi cul ti es associ ated wi th the use of
waxes. Tri butyl ti n oxi de ori entates onto the
wood fi bres, gi vi ng a water-repel l ent surface
through the presence of the hydrophobic butyl
groups. However, this compound is expensive,
and toxi c at hi gh retenti ons, so that use as a
water repellant is unrealistic, but other Group IV
or ganometal compounds can be used. The
or ganosi l i con compounds, the si l anes or
si l i cones, are the best known water repel l ents i n
this group but the very stable silicone oils tend to
possess many of the di sadvantages associ ated
wi th heavy organi c oi l s and waxes. The onl y
si l i cones sui tabl e are those whi ch have a hi gh
degree of functi onal i ty so that they are abl e to
attach themsel ves to the wood components i n
the same way as tri butyl ti n oxi de, thus gi vi ng
good resi stance to preferenti al wetti ng fai l ure.
They have not been ex tensi vel y empl oyed,
pr obabl y thr ough di sappoi nti ng r esul ts
fol l owi ng the use of unsui tabl e si l i cone oi l s and
resins.
Organoaluminium compounds—Manalox
Organic compounds of aluminium, titanium and
zirconium can also be used but the water-repellent
groups in typical available commercial products
are usually long-chain fatty acids such as stearate
whi ch gi ve a wax y treatment and are more
suscepti bl e to oxi dati on when appl i ed at l ow
retentions than the short-chain alkyl groups on
typi cal si l i cone resi ns. However, al umi ni um
compounds can incorporate unsaturated chains
and, when used for preservative, water-repellent or
priming treatments, they can provide excellent
adhesive bonding between the wood elements and
alkyd systems, giving resistance to preferential
wetti ng. Even tox i c groups such as
pentachl orophenate can be i ncorporated, thus
avoiding the need for special co-solvent or anti-
blooming systems. These principles are most highly
developed in various Manalox products which can
be described as polyoxoaluminium compounds.
These advantages of organoaluminium compounds
are not apparent in the normal aluminium stearate,
which performs only in the same way as a wax.
Stabilizers
I f tri butyl ti n oxi de i s appl i ed at retenti ons i n
excess of the toxi c l i mi ts requi red to protect
wood agai nst fungal decay, the tr eatment
eventual l y saturates al l the free hydroxyl groups
on the cel l ul ose chai ns whi ch are responsi bl e for
hygroscopic movement and the wood becomes
compl etel y stabi l i zed. Such tr eatments ar e
uneconomi c but there are other possi bl e systems
for chemi cal l y r eacti ng these tr oubl esome
hydroxyl groups. Formaldehyde treatment in the
presence of an aci d catal yst wi l l cross-l i nk
hydroxyl groups on adjacent chai ns, reduci ng
the di mensi ons of the wood i n the process but
al so reduci ng the movement to l ess that 10% of
normal . Acetyl ati on i nvol ves the treatment of
wood wi th aceti c anhydri de i n the presence of a
strong aci d catal yst, a process that consi derabl y
reduces the hygroscopi ci ty of wood and al so
i ncr eases i ts r esi stance to fungal attack.
However, al l these chemi cal modi fi cati on
treatments suffer from the severe di sadvantage
that they are effecti ve onl y i f the wood i s
completely impregnated and they can therefore
be used real i sti cal l y onl y on permeabl e speci es;
acetyl ati on i s bei ng used i n thi s way to an
i ncreasi ng extent on radi ata pi ne.
Bulking—Impreg—PEG—Carbowax—
MoDo
In bulking, the wood is impregnated with a very
high retention of material which will physically
restrai n movement. Several resi n systems have
been employed in this way such as the phenolic
resi n i n I mpreg and a styrene/pol yester co-
polymer system used for the impregnation of floor
blocks, in Finland. These systems rely on physical
restraint and are reliable if deep penetration is
achieved, although complete penetration is not
essential. The polyethylene glycol waxes are also
Water repellents, stabilizers and decorative systems
145
bulking treatments but they are applied in water
and retain the wood in the expanded wet state.
Treatments of this type such as PEG, Carbowax
and MoDo are generally applied by prolonged
di ffusi on. The compounds wi th l ow mol ecul ar
weight of 200–600 are readily soluble in water
and diffuse reasonably quickly but 1000 is less
soluble and gives slower diffusion, although it is
less hygroscopic so that after drying the wood is
not so tacky as with the lower molecular weight
treatments. These systems are used particularly
for the stabilization of archaeological specimens,
the largest to be treated so far being the warships
Wasa in Stockholm and Mary Rose in Portsmouth
whi ch were spray-treated wi th a mi x ture of
pol yethyl ene gl ycol and borate whi l st the
atmospheric relative humidity was maintained at
a hi gh l evel to prevent dryi ng. Al though thi s
system has been used successful l y for the
stabi l i zati on of gun stocks, the rel ati onshi p
between molecular weight, treatment time and
hygroscopicity is a distinct disadvantage. In one
system for the treatment of floor blocks the low
mol ecul ar wei ght compounds are empl oyed,
fol l owed by compl ete dryi ng, and the
introduction of isocyanate vapour which reacts
wi th the gl ycol to form a pol yurethane resi n,
avoi di ng al l the di sadvantages and gi vi ng a
treatment which is stable and resistant to heavy
floor wear. There are many other polymer systems
that have been or coul d be used but they are
generally unrealistic, combining the need for high
retentions with expensive chemical compounds.
Decorative preservatives—Madison
formula
Whi l e many water-repel l ent preservati ves are
desi gned speci fi cal l y for use as pretreatments
prior to painting or varnishing, perhaps in place
of conventional priming treatments, other systems
are designed as complete maintenance treatments,
frequentl y servi ng a decorati ve as wel l as a
protective function; these decorative preservatives
are particularly popular in the Nordic countries.
The two types of water-repellent preservative are
not necessari l y si mi l ar; the fi rst type must be
compati bl e wi th subsequent pai nt or varni sh
coatings whilst the second type must clearly have
good resi stance to weatheri ng. The Madi son
formul a, devel oped i n the Uni ted States as a
mai ntenance treatment for western red cedar
cladding, is perhaps the best known. It consists of
paraffi n wax, pi gments and boi l ed l i nseed oi l
binder with pentachlorophenol as the preservative
and zinc stearate to give water repellency, colour
retention and freedom from stain. It has now been
largely replaced by various improved proprietary
products, those contai ni ng tri hal omethyl thi o-
compounds bei ng much more effi ci ent i n
controlling stain, as explained in Section 4.9.
Royal process
Weather resistance is poor with systems that are
simple deposits of hydrophobic components such
as waxes whi ch are suscepti bl e to preferenti al
wetting, but can be improved by using a binder as
i n the Madi son formul a or by fi xati on to the
wood as wi th si l i cone resi ns, al though deep
penetration will improve the performance of most
systems. In the Royal process developed by Häger
for the treatment of external joinery (millwork) a
water-borne preservative treatment is followed by
deep treatment with a drying oil. This is a very
effective process but involves a complex multi-
stage treatment and the need for a multiple oil-
storage system to provi de fi ni shes i n di fferent
col ours. Whi l st the Royal process gi ves an
exceptionally durable decorative finish it is also
very ex pensi ve. The mai n probl em i s that
treatment is carried out in two stages, the first
introducing large quantities of water which must
be removed before the second oil impregnation
stage can be satisfactorily achieved. There is no
reason why si mi l ar rel i abi l i ty coul d not be
achieved by single impregnation with an organic
system, designed to achieve both the preservative
and the decorati ve functi ons, but commerci al
companies are reluctant to invest in systems that,
Preservation chemicals
146
because of the need for different colours, involve
mul ti pl e storage tanks and a danger of
contamination in the impregnation cylinder.
4.8 Fire retardants
Modern water-borne fire-retardant formulations
ori gi nated i n 1821 when Gay-Lussac reported
that ammoni um phosphate, ammoni um
phosphate wi th ammoni um chl ori de, and
ammoni um chl ori de wi th borax (sodi um
tetraborate) were excellent fire retardants when
applied at adequate retentions to cellulosic fibres.
These substances were not so effective when used
on wood but thi s was due to di ffi cul ty i n
achi evi ng adequate retenti ons from superfi ci al
treatments. They were far more effective when
applied by pressure impregnation to give higher
retenti ons but, as wi th the sal t preservati ves,
corrosion problems were encountered and the use
of ammonium sulphate was discontinued for this
reason shortly after it was introduced in 1880.
Oxylene—Minolith—Celcure F—
Pyrolith—Fyre Prufe—Minalith—Pyresote
The Oxyl ene process was i ntroduced i n 1905,
followed by Minolith in about 1915 which consisted
of Triolith wood preservative with the addition of a
large concentration of rock salt, to give a combined
preservative and fire retardant for use in mines. In
about 1930 Celcure F was developed, in which the
acetic acid in normal Celcure was replaced by boric
aci d whi ch, wi th added phosphates and zi nc
chloride, performed well as a flame retardant.
Vari ous competi ti ve systems fol l owed such as
Pyrolith, Fyre Prufe, Minalith and Pyresote, all
based on similar mixtures of soluble salts, usually
added to established preservative formulations. Fire-
retardant salt components are leachable but also
hygroscopic so that normal coating systems cannot
be used on treated wood to give protection against
leaching. The compositions of the products have
varied with the availability of individual chemical
compounds. The most popular components are
ammonium phosphates, ammonium sulphate, zinc
chloride, boric acid and borates. A fire retardant
must suppress both flaming and after-glow but only
a few compounds can achieve this when used alone.
Non-Com
Generally, formulations containing zinc chloride
such as Pyresote, which also contains ammonium
sulphate, boric acid and sodium dichromate, and
might be described as a fire-retardant version of
chromated zi nc chl ori de, are decl i ni ng i n use,
wher eas the l ess sophi sti cated mi x tur es of
ammoni um phosphates, ammoni um sul phates
and borates are becoming more popular. More
ex pensi ve systems such as Non-Com, whi ch
pol ymeri zes wi thi n the wood, have been
introduced to avoid the problems associated with
soluble and hygroscopic salts. This improvement
has certainly increased the scope of fire-retardant
treatments but it is clear that there is far more
interest in North America than in Europe.
Halogenated compounds
An al ternati ve method for achi evi ng l each
resistance is to use only water-insoluble organic
compounds. General l y, fi re retardants can be
prepared by using high loadings of halogenated
compounds such as chl oronaphthal enes and
chlorinated paraffins, although their effectiveness
as fi re retardants i s greatl y i ncreased i f they
i ncorporate catal ysts, parti cul arl y anti mony or
zinc compounds. Brominated compounds are also
used. These are the only formulations that may be
suitable for remedial use in building structures,
but i t i s di ffi cul t to fi nd sol vents that do not
themsel ves i ntroduce a fi re hazard duri ng the
application process. The very high retentions that
are necessary unfortunatel y make these
treatments very expensive and they have not been
used to any si gni fi cant extent. I n recent years
more sophisticated organic polymer treatments
have been developed, primarily for the use on
Stain control
147
textiles—whilst these are efficient on wood, they
again suffer from relatively high cost and the need
for high retentions. It is therefore usually more
real i sti c to use i ntumescent systems for i n-si tu
treatments but, as these are essentially coatings
rather than preservatives, their composition is not
considered in detail here; their mode of action has
already been discussed in Chapter 3.
4.9 Stain control
Organomercury compounds—sodium
pentachlorophenate
The normal wood preservati ve systems gi ve
comparati vel y poor control over the sapstai n
fungi and superficial moulds that are principally
responsible for stain in freshly felled green wood,
and under coati ng systems i n servi ce. I t was
eatablished in about 1935 that organomercury
compounds were ex tremel y effecti ve i n
control l i ng these mi xed fungal i nfecti ons and
chlorophenols were introduced about five years
l ater. The organomercury compounds are very
toxi c and, despi te vari ous attempts to reduce
mammalian toxicity, by replacing ethyl mercury
by phenyl mercury compounds and acetates by
oleates, their use is now forbidden or officially
discouraged in most countries. Despite the irritant
nature and moderately high toxicity of sodium
pentachl orophenate, i t remai ns i n use i n most
countries as efficient and economic alternatives
are not readi l y avai l abl e. However, thi s
compound is not permitted in some countries such
as Sweden, where there are fears of health risks
associated with dioxin impurities, as described in
the earlier section on organic compounds.
Fluorides and bifluorides
Fl uori des and parti cul arl y the so-cal l ed
bi fl uori des such as ammoni um hydrogen
difluoride have been extensively used for sapstain
control but they are not very reliable. Ammonium
hydrogen difluoride gives good control of stain
fungi but actual l y sti mul ates growth of some
surface moulds such as Trichoderma viride which
can cause severe probl ems unl ess very hi gh
fluoride concentrations are used.
Pentabor
In the absence of any obvious simple alternatives
co-formul ati ons wi th other compounds were
devel oped, ori gi nal l y as a means to reduce the
toxicity of the organomercury compounds and
the i r r i tancy associ ated wi th sodi um
pentachl orophenate. Some co-formul ati ons,
parti cul arl y those based on combi nati ons of
sodi um pentachl orophenate and borax, have
been widely used throughout the world and offer
treatments of l ower toxi ci ty than wi th sodi um
pentachl orophenate al one. Co-formul ati ons
suffer fr om the obvi ous di sadvantage that
several separate components must be measured,
perhaps i n smal l quanti ti es, when toppi ng up
tr eatment tanks. The most popul ar co-
for mul ati on consi sts of 1 par t sodi um
pentachlorophenate with 3 parts borax (sodium
tetr abor ate decahydr ate). The cost of
manufacture has tended to di scourage the use of
ready mi xed composi ti ons but Pentabor, a co-
formulation of this type developed in England,
has hal f the water of crystal l i zati on removed, to
reduce transport costs. Bromophenols have also
been used, parti cul arl y tri bromophenol , both
al one and i n combi nati on wi th borates, but they
have no si gni fi cant advantages over the l ess
ex pensi ve and more effecti ve chl orophenol s,
except that thei r toxi c dangers are l ess wel l
known and thei r use i s therefore l ess restri cted.
Borates
Chloro- and bromophenols are generally used as
sodium or potassium phenates, the alkalinity or
hi gh pH greatl y enhanci ng thei r stai n control
activity. The addition of inactive sodium carbonate
prolongs control, apparently by maintaining this
Preservation chemicals
148
high pH. Borax was originally added to sodium
pentachlorophenate to broaden the spectrum of
activity but the ability of borax to maintain the
high pH is probably equally important. Borate
compounds cannot be used alone in stain control
treatments because they are not effective against
some surface moulds, but they are very effective
against sapstain itself and are now used as the
main toxicant in many formulations, additional
fungicidal components effectively controlling only
the surface-mould problem.
Benomyl (Benlate)—Captofol
(Difolatan)—quaternary ammonium
compounds—zinc borate—Polyphase
(IPBC)—Chlorothalonil (Tuffbrite)—
isothiazolones (ITA)—thiazoles (MBT,
TCMTB)—triazoles (Madurox)
Suspensions of Benomyl (Benlate) and Captafol
(Di fol atan) were i ntroduced as al ternati ves to
chl orophenol s but they are not general l y very
effecti ve; they l eave onl y a superfi ci al deposi t
which, whilst it may control surface stain and
mould, has no influence over deep stain within the
wood. These fungicides are therefore most reliable
when formulated with borates which will control
deep sapstain. The most effective stain control
treatments are therefore mixtures of borates which
will control deep sapstain with other fungicides
such as Benomyl, Captafol or even quaternary
ammonium compounds which will control surface
mould growth. Completely inorganic systems such
as zinc borate formulations are not currently used
but are probabl y the most promi si ng sapstai n
control treatments for the future. Thi s
development has been largely ignored, probably
because i t i s wel l known that cati ons such as
copper and zinc are not effective alone against
sapstai n, and chemi cal manufacturers have
therefore concentrated on research on increasingly
complex organic compounds, which are generally
expensi ve and l ack permenance when wi del y
dispersed on a wood surface exposed to strong
sunlight, as a stain control treatment. Some of
these organic compounds have proved effective
and marketable for stain control. They are all
described in more detail in the earlier section on
organic compounds. Carbamates such as IPBC
(Pol yphase), chl orothal oni l (Tuffbri te), vari ous
isothiazolone (ITA) compounds, thiazoles such as
MBT and TCMTB, and tri azol es such as
cebuconazol e, propi conazol e and azaconazol e
(Madurox) have performed well in trials, alone or
in various formulations.
Stain in service (under coatings)—
trihalomethylthio- compounds—Captan—
Folpet (Fungitrol 11)—Fluorfolpet—
Dichlofluanid (Preventol A3, A4)
I t wi l l be appreci ated from the comments i n
Chapter 3 that the control of stain under paint
and varni sh on exteri or joi nery (mi l l work) i s
essenti al to achi eve a reasonabl e l i fe for a
decorative coating system. One of the best ways
to apply a stain control treatment is as a normal
wood preservative, perhaps in a water-repellent or
priming formulation, as a pre-treatment prior to
paint or varnish. Normal organic-solvent wood
preservatives possess poor activity against stain
fungi and moul d, even i f they contai n
pentachlorophenol at 5% or tributyltin oxide at
2%, although both these toxicants are also used
for mould control in emulsion paints. Copper 8-
hydrox yqui nol i nol ate and Thi ram are more
effi ci ent, whi l st di phenyhl mercury dodecenyl
succi nate (Nuodex 321 Extra) gi ves excel l ent
results initially, but lacks persistence. Only the
tri hal omethyl thi o- compounds have proved
consistently reliable. Captan is probably the least
efficient of this group of compounds but this may
be only a solubility factor as Folpet (Fungitrol 11)
with the same trichloromethylthio- radical is very
active. The dichlorofluorocompounds Fluorfolpet
(Preventol A3) and Dichlofluanid (Preventol A4)
are also very effective and are preferred by many
manufacturers as they are more readily soluble in
most organi c sol vents, whereas Captan and
Folpet are virtually insoluble and can usually be
Remedial treatments
149
applied only in relatively high-viscosity systems,
such as pigmented coatings, or formulations with
a relatively high resin content. However, none of
these treatments gi ve permanent protecti on as
they are l ost by vol ati l i zati on and oxi dati ve
degradation, in common with almost all organic
compounds; only inorganic systems such as zinc
borate formul ati ons are abl e to provi de
permanent protection.
Stain in service is perhaps most apparent when
simple clear or pigmented preservative systems are
applied to external cladding and joiner (millwork).
The pi gmented and water-repel l ent Madi son
formula was introduced in the United States some
years ago as a maintenance treatment for western
red cedar cladding, relying on pentachlorophenol
and zi nc tox i cants. Performance has been
unpredictable—the formula contains boiled linseed
oil which is readily attacked by some of the stain
fungi on wood, parti cul arl y Aureobasidium
pullulans, and there have been many attempts to
develop improved proprietory products. In some
cases the risk of stain and mould development has
been reduced by the use of alternative binders, such
as the Manalox compounds described as water
repellants earlier in this chapter, but a great variety
of toxicants has also been used. Some of these have
been introduced without proper evaluation whilst
others, such as the organomercury compounds,
have shown good initial activity but poor life.
Some propri etory treatments have actual l y
i ncreased the stai n ri sk! The most successful
products general l y contai n one of the
trihalomethylthio- compounds.
4.10 Remedial treatments
Remedi al treatment preservati ve formul ati ons
have been mentioned up to now only in passing
as they actual l y represent a di sti nct and rather
speci al i zed devel opment route. They wi l l be
described only briefly; a more detailed account is
avai l abl e i n the book Remedial Treatment of
Buildings by the present author.
Xylamon—Rentokil—Wykamol (Anabol)
Few products were produced specifically for this
purpose before about 1920. Xyl amon was
i ntroduced i n Germany i n about 1923 as an
eradicant for House Longhorn beetle using mono-
and dichloronaphthalenes with their characteristic
pungent odour. This development was followed in
the Uni ted Ki ngdom by the i ntroducti on of
Rentokil based on o-dichlorobenzene, and in 1934
by Anabol, later called Wykamol, which consisted
principally of chloronaphtalene wax with a small
amount of o-dichlorobenzene. From that point
Richardson & Starling Limited, the manufacturers
of Wykamol, became leaders in the development of
new remedial treatment preservatives. In 1939 the
o-dichlorobenzene in Wykamol was replaced by
Rotenone, a natural insecticide extracted from
Derris root. DDT was considered as a replacement
when it was introduced during World War II but it
was not very effective. In 1945 the Rotenone was
replaced by Lindane which was found to be far
more effective, particularly in combination with
chloronaphthalene wax which tended to protect it
from vol ati l i zati on, i ncreasi ng i ts effecti ve l i fe
without significantly reducing its activity.
Cuprinol—Reskol
The Cupri nol copper and zi nc naphthenate
products had been widely used previously for the
eradication of fungal infections in building timber,
although failures occasionally occurred as it is
di ffi cul t to achi eve adequate retenti ons by
superficial brush or spray application. In 1936
Richardson & Starling introduced Reskol which
was designed specifically as an eradicant fungicidal
wood preservati ve. I t consi sted ori gi nal l y of
bari um naphthenate and p-di chl orobenzene i n
light creosote. In about 1955 the formulation was
changed to 5% pentachlorophenyl laurate in a
light petroleum distillate but this proved rather
unsatisfactory, although it is still used by other
manufacturers. It was therefore replaced in 1957
by 5% o-phenylphenol; many other manufacturers
Preservation chemicals
150
have used 5% pentachlorophenol but it is very
unpl easant to appl y by spray duri ng remedi al
treatment.
Insect i nfestati ons are often encouraged by or
dependent on fungal decay and a combi ned
insecticide and fungicide treatment was therefore
introduced by adding pentachlorophenyl laurate
and l ater o-phenylphenol to Wykamol, resulting
i n Wykamol PCP and Wykamol Pl us. Thi s
combined product eventually replaced Wykamol
and Reskol . I n 1961 tri -n-butyl ti n oxi de was
added, ori gi nal l y as a persi stent fungi ci de,
repl aci ng a proporti on of the o-phenyl phenol .
Wykamol Pl us has conti nued to contai n two
complementary fungicides and has thus largely
avoided the problems encountered by products
whi ch rel y upon tri -n-butyl ti n oxi de al one, o-
phenyl phenol was deri ved from the manufacture
of phenol by the Dow process and became scarce
and expensi ve when thi s process was repl aced by
the cumene method. This stimulated yet another
new devel opment wi th the repl acement of the o-
phenylphenol by a borate ester.
I n 1967 Wykemul si on was i ntr oduced,
i ncorporati ng the same toxi cants as Wykamol
Pl us but wi th a reduced amount of sol vent
emulsified in water. When sprayed on the surface
of wood the emul si on breaks, al l owi ng the
sol vent phase to penetrate whi l st the water
evaporates. The fi re ri sk associ ated wi th the use
of spr ayed or gani c-sol vent pr eser vati ves i s
consi derabl y reduced. Thi s type of emul si on
must not be confused with products containing
onl y a smal l amount of sol vent as these are
sui tabl e onl y for pressure i mpregnati on; i n spray
appl i cati on the penetrati on depends di rectl y on
the sol vent concentrati on that i s present.
Injection and diffusion treatments—
bodied mayonnaise-type emulsions
(BMT)—Woodtreat
One pr obl em i n r emedi al tr eatment
preservati on i s the deep penetrati on that i s
r equi r ed wher e l ar ge wood secti ons ar e
i nvol ved whi ch may be sufferi ng from deep
borer i nfestati ons or fungal i nfecti ons, and i n
the treatment of external joi nery whi ch may
al so be sufferi ng from i nternal fungal decay
conceal ed by a pai nt coati ng. The bodi ed
mayonnai se-type (BMT) emul si on products are
pastes whi ch can be appl i ed to the surface of
wood wi th a tr owel or gun, the emul si on
breaki ng i n contact wi th the surface so that the
organi c-sol vent phase contai ni ng the toxi cants
i s abl e to penetrate sl owl y. Organi c sol vents of
l ow vol ati l i ty are used as very deep penetrati on
can be achi eved i n thi s way, al though many
pr opr i etor y pr oducts contai n i nadequate
concentrati ons of toxi cant; the concentrati on
must depend on the requi red retenti on rel ated
to the degr ee of penetr ati on that may be
achi eved. The best known product of thi s type
i s Woodtreat.
Wykamol injectors—borate diffusion
treatments—Boracol—Borester 7—
Timber rods
Wykamol r emedi al pr oducts were usual l y
appl i ed i n the past by dri l l i ng deep hol es whi ch
were then injected under pressure using a conical
nozzl e. Thi s system has been repl aced by a
moul ded pl asti c i njector whi ch i s dri ven i nto
each hol e, l eavi ng a projecti ng ni ppl e to whi ch a
pressure gun i s fi xed. Organi c-sol vent products
are appreci abl y compressi bl e and the i njector i s
fi tted wi th a non-return val ve, thus trappi ng
wi thi n the hol e a reservoi r of preservati ve whi ch
i s then abl e to di sperse deepl y wi thi n the wood.
Unl i ke the BMT systems thi s techni que can be
used for the treatment of wi ndow frames and
other ex ter nal j oi ner y; after tr eatment i s
compl ete each ni ppl e i s removed wi th a chi sel
and the hole stopped and painted to conceal the
r emai ns of the i nj ector wi thi n the wood.
Concentrated borate solutions such as Boracol
20 and 40 and Bor ester 7 can be used i n
downward holes, slowly diffusing; Timbor rods
can al so be i nserted i nto hol es, di ffusi ng i f the
Remedial treatments
151
wood becomes wet. The borate products are
descri bed earl i er i n thi s chapter.
Smoke and gas treatments
Insecti ci dal smokes and gas treatments are used
i n remedi al treatment i n some ci rcumstances but
smokes gi ve super fi ci al deposi ts wi th onl y
transi tory protecti on and gases area general l y
er adi cants gi vi ng no pr otecti ng. They ar e
descri bed i n more detai l i n the earl i er secti on on
carri er systems.
Thi s account of remedi al treatments has been
l i mi ted to bui l di ng treatments. Other remedi al
treatments, of pol es at the ground l i ne usi ng
bandages and injection treatments into poles and
rai l way sl eepers (ti es), are descri bed el sewhere i n
thi s chapter and i n Chapter 3, together wi th
descriptions of termite remedial treatments using
soi l poi soni ng.
153
5.1 General principles
Deterioration risk
Before the most sui tabl e preservati on system
can be sel ected the deteri orati on ri sk must be
cl earl y defi ned. Wi th normal structural wood
i t i s possi bl e to def i ne si tuati ons wher e
deteri orati on wi l l certai nl y occur, and i n these
severe hazard condi ti ons the use of natural l y
dur abl e or adequatel y pr eser ved wood i s
essenti al . Perhaps the most i mportant severe
hazar d si tuati on i s gr ound contact and
tr ansmi ssi on pol es, f ence posts, r ai l way
sl eepers (ti es) and constructi on pi l es must be
properl y protected. I n most mari ne si tuati ons
protecti on i s requi red agai nst mari ne borers,
and bui l di ng str uctur es r equi r e pr otecti on
agai nst the House Longhorn beetl e and agai nst
Dry Wood termi tes i n areas where there i s a
danger of attack by these i nsects. I n al l these
si tuati ons the use of natural l y durabl e wood i s
unreal i sti c as i t i s both scarce and expensi ve,
and i n pr acti ce pr eser vati ve tr eatment i s
essenti al and of ten r equi r ed under l ocal
regul ati ons.
A moderate hazard exi sts i f deteri orati on i s
possi bl e r ather than pr obabl e. I n nor mal
bui l di ng constructi on i n temperate cl i mates
there i s the danger that sapwood may become
i nfested by wood-borers and fungal i nfecti on
may occur i f wood becomes wet, per haps
through poor mai ntenance or condensati on. I n
such si tuati ons treatment i s desi rabl e rather
than essenti al , al though there i s one si tuati on i n
whi ch ther e may be a str onger case for
treatment. External joi nery (mi l l work) such as
door and wi ndow frames i s usual l y protected by
pai nt or var ni sh coati ngs but cr ack s can
devel op through movement at joi nts, permi tti ng
the penetrati on of water and i ntroduci ng a
decay ri sk. Whi l e i t i s theoreti cal l y possi bl e to
avoi d thi s danger, by careful mai ntenance or by
the use of wood of l ow movement, i t i s cl earl y
desi rabl e to reduce the decay danger by the use
of natural l y durabl e or adequatel y preserved
wood, and thi s i s now mandatory i n several
countri es.
Where the deteri orati on danger i s onl y sl i ght
there can be no justi fi cati on for treatment. The
most obvi ous ex ampl e i s the str uctur al
woodwork i n a normal dry bui l di ng. General l y,
l eaks wi l l become readi l y apparent before fungal
decay can develop and, if the sapwood content
of the woodwork is limited, Common Furniture
beetl e i nfestati on, the normal borer hazard i n
temper ate cl i mates, wi l l be str uctur al l y
i nsi gni fi cant. I n these ci rcumstances treatment
cannot be justi fi ed; i f decay occurs i t wi l l be a
cl ear i ndi cati on of defecti ve desi gn, constructi on
or maintenance. Another slight hazard involves
furni ture constructed from wood speci es that are
suscepti bl e to attack by Common Furni ture
beetl e or Powder Post beetl e; the l atter
represents a ri sk onl y wi thi n two or three years
after fel l i ng.
5
Practical
preservation
Practical preservation
154
Stain control
Freshl y fel l ed green wood i s al so subject to a
sl i ght hazard, both i n the forest and after
conversi on at the mi l l . Whi l st the moi sture
content remai ns hi gh there i s a danger that stai n
fungi can devel op and i f l ogs are l i kel y to remai n
i n the forest or i n storage for a si gni fi cant peri od
before conversion the cut ends should be sprayed
i mmedi atel y after fel l i ng. Freshl y sawn wood
must al so be treated, al though i t i s frequentl y
cl ai med that stai n can be avoi ded by rapi d
dryi ng. I n fact, even i n ki l n-dryi ng there i s a
danger that stai n wi l l devel op befor e the
moi sture content i s si gni fi cantl y reduced and, i f
ki l n-dri ed wood i s wrapped i n an attempt to
retain the low moisture content, there is a danger
that condensati on wi l l occur beneath the
wrappi ng and a treatment i s sti l l necessary i f
freedom from stain is to be assured. In practice it
i s normal l y more real i sti c to treat al l sawn wood
to prevent stai n, permi tti ng normal sawn wood
for use as carcassi ng (frami ng) and other general
purposes to dry natural l y duri ng storage and
transport. Wrapped kiln-dried wood, preferred
for joi nery (mi l l work) manufacture, must be
treated before and after ki l ni ng i f compl ete
freedom from staining is required.
Organomercury compounds were used in the
past for stain control but the most widely used
treatment today in temperate areas is 2% sodium
pentachlorophenate solution. In some countries
such as Finland only 1 % is often used as it is
argued that the lower cost and improved safety
justifies increased risk of stain development. In
Medi terranean-type cl i mates the concentrati on
must be increased to about 3% on softwoods, and
i n tropi cal areas about 5% i s requi red on
hardwoods. Sodium pentachlorophenate can be
replaced by various mixtures incorporating this
compound, as described in the previous chapter,
but the most efficient consists of 1 part sodium
pentachl orophenate wi th 3 parts sodi um
tetraborate decahydrate (borax), a mixture that
has been in use since World War II and is more
effective, more economic and safer than sodium
pentachlorophenate alone. Pentabor S is a mixture
of this type, which is concentrated by a reduction
in the water of crystallization; 1.3% Pentabor S is
approximately equivalent in performance to 2%
sodium pentachlorophenate. If these mixtures are
used on hardwoods i n the tropi cs i t i s more
effective to change the proportions rather than
si mpl y i ncrease the use concentrati ons. Thus
Pentabor SA i s based on a mi xture of 1 part
sodium pentachlorophenate with 2 parts borax.
When sodium pentachlorophenate is applied to
wood the sodium ions are quickly neutralized by
the natural aci di ty, resul ti ng i n a rel ati vel y
superficial precipitate and poor penetration. The
mixtures with borax delay this precipitation and
thus achi eve better penetrati on and i mproved
control over internal staining which can develop
under a superficially treated zone.
Li mi ted penetr ati on i s al so the mai n
cri ti ci sm of Benomyl (Benl ate) and Captafol
(Di fol atan) suspensi ons whi ch have been used
i n recent years as repl acements for sodi um
pentachl or ophenate, al though they ar e
effecti ve when mi x ed wi th bor ates whi ch
control deep stai n. Bi fl uori de mi x tures have
al so been used such as I mpr osol and BP
Mykoci d BS. These sol uti ons and the hydrogen
fl uori de that they l i berate can penetrate very
deepl y and they gi ve ex cel l ent control over
i nternal stai n, al though they are much l ess
persi stent than sodi um pentachl orophenate
and must al so be used at comparati vel y hi gh
retenti ons to control moul d growth so that
they tend to be rather expensi ve.
Pinhole borer control
Pi nhol e borers wi l l rapi dl y attack l ogs whi l e the
bark i s sti l l adheri ng. They i ntroduce stai n fungi
to thei r gal l eri es, causi ng both stai ni ng and
bori ng damage. Whi l st thi s damage can be
prevented by the rapi d removal of the bark thi s
encourages stai n devel opment so that a stai n
control treatment i s then necessary (Fi g. 5.1). I t
General principles
155
i s often consi dered more real i sti c to spray the
freshly felled logs, particularly in tropical forests,
with a stain control treatment incorporating an
insecticide, perhaps as an emulsion or suspension.
Lindane has been used for this purpose for many
years but it is now being replaced by synthetic
pyrethroids such as Permethrin.
Powder Post beetle control
The sapwood of l ar ge-por ed har dwoods i s
suscepti bl e to attack by Lyctus Powder Post
beetl e and i t i s advi sabl e to treat wood wi th an
i nsecti ci de (Fi g. 5.2) where thi s i s a l ocal danger,
even i f wood i s to be ki l n-dri ed; i ndeed thi s
i nsect depends on starch wi thi n the wood whi ch
tends to be l ost dur i ng ai r seasoni ng, but
retai ned duri ng ki l n-dryi ng. Whi l st stai n control
treatment may not be consi dered necessary when
hardwoods are bei ng rapi dl y ki l n-dri ed an
i nsecti ci dal treatment i s often essenti al . Borates
are parti cul arl y sui tabl e for thi s purpose and are
wi del y used i n Austral i a and New Zeal and, and
one advantage of the pentachl orophenate and
FIGURE 5.1 Pinhole borer prevention on tropical hardwood logs by spraying with Protostan insecticide after
removal of bark. (Stanhope Chemicals Limited)
Practical preservation
156
borate mi xtures such as Pentabor i s the effecti ve
control of these Powder Post beetl es that can be
achi eved at the same ti me as stai n control wi th
ai r-seasoned wood; i t i s not necessary to add an
addi ti onal i nsecti ci de. Suscepti bl e hardwoods
i ncl ude the temperate oak, el m and wal nut as
wel l as the tropi cal l i ght-col oured hardwoods
such as obeche and ramin.
Preservation requirements
True preservati on treatments general l y i nvol ve
impregnation using vacuum and pressure systems.
Throughout the world the most important risk
si tuati on i nvol ves the use of wood i n ground
contact as there is then a severe danger of fungal
decay, principally by Basidiomycetes. These fungi
are generally unable to develop when wood is
immersed in water but there is then a danger of
Soft rot and borer attack in marine situations.
Above ground level there is still a danger of decay
where rainwater may remain trapped in joints or
spl i ts, and thi s danger can be consi derabl y
enhanced where a split occurs through a relatively
i mpermeabl e coati ng such as pai nt or varni sh
which will tend to restrict dispersion of the water
FIGURE 5.2 Spraying susceptible tropical hardwood with Lyxastan insecticide to prevent Powder Post beetle
attack. Immersion treatment is also used. (Stanhope Chemicals Limited)
General principles
157
by evaporati on. I n most temperate areas the
sapwood of many hardwoods and softwoods is
suscepti bl e to Common Furni ture beetl e
i nfestati on but a much greater structural ri sk
occurs i n temperate and tropi cal areas where
there i s a danger of i nfestati on by the House
Longhorn beetle and Dry Wood termites. Many
termites are, however, unable to fly and are more
readily controlled by soil poisoning around the
structure or the i nstal l ati on of termi te shi el ds
rather than by treatment of the susceptible wood.
Need for permanence
In al l preservati on processes there i s a need for
permanence. Thus al l preservati ves must have
adequate r esi stance to vol ati l i zati on and
ox i dati on, dependi ng on the par ti cul ar
condi ti ons of use, and al so resi stance to l eachi ng
i f they ar e l i kel y to be ex posed to a hi gh
moisture content in exposed or ground contact
condi ti ons or i n mari ne envi ronments. Whi l e i t
may appear adequate to encl ose wood i n a
superfi ci al envel ope of protecti ve treatment i t
must be appreci ated that deeper penetrati on wi l l
significantly improve the life of treatments which
are sl i ghtl y vol ati l e or water sol ubl e, and natural
spl i ts or acci dental damage may penetr ate
thr ough a super fi ci al tr eatment, per haps
permi tti ng i nternal decay to devel op.
Preservative selection—wood selection
Table A.1 in Appendix A is a schedule of some of
the most wi del y used preservati ve systems wi th
typi cal recommended retenti ons on European
redwood or Scots pi ne. These retenti ons al so
appl y on most other softwoods, al though the
actual preservation process may vary depending
on the properti es of an i ndi vi dual wood speci es,
as shown in Table A.2. For example, Corsican
pi ne Pinus nigra, South Afri can pi ne Pinus
patula, Shor tl eaf or Souther n pi ne Pinus
echinata al l possess non-durabl e heartwood and
sapwood but both are also permeable and these
speci es can ther efor e be r eadi l y pr eser ved,
al though i t wi l l be appreci ated that the sapwood
retenti ons shown i n Tabl e A.1 must be achi eved
throughout in such woods. European redwood
or Scots pi ne, Pinus sylvestris, possesses rather
si mi l ar properti es when fast grown, al though i n
sl ow-grown wood the heartwood i s much l ess
permeabl e and al most compl etel y resi stant to
penetrati on, but al so possesses moderate natural
durabi l i ty. I t i s therefore general l y consi dered
that adequate protecti on can be achi eved by
tr eati ng the per meabl e sapwood al one. I n
Dougl as fi r, Pseudotsuga menziesii, the
heartwood has good natural durability but the
non-dur abl e sapwood i s al so r esi stant to
i mpregnati on. Adequate penetrati on can be
achi eved i f the sapwood i s i nci sed to gi ve access
to routes for tangenti al penetrati on.
Unfortunately the same system is less effective
on European spruce Picea abies; although incising
wi l l enabl e the sapwood to be treated the
heartwood i s non-durabl e and there i s thus a
danger that the outer sapwood will split through
shrinkage, following periodic wetting and drying,
exposing unprotected and non-durable heartwood.
The development of splits is not very likely with
spruce as it possesses low movement as shown in
Table A.2 and this wood is therefore more suitable
for superficial treatment than woods with medium
or l arge movements. I f deep penetrati on i nto
spruce can be achi eved wi th a non-fi x ed
preservative leaching is unlikely following initial
drying or seasoning in view of the impermeability
of the wood and i ts natural resi stance to re-
wetting. This advantage of impermeable woods is
often ignored, particularly when considering the
reliability of unfixed treatments such as borates,
which can be applied readily to green spruce by
diffusion to give complete impregnation.
Round pol es typi cal l y i nvol ve rel ati vel y
i mpermeabl e heartwood, perhaps wi th some
natural durabi l i ty, surrounded by rel ati vel y
permeable sapwood which enables a preserved
zone to be achieved. In sawn wood the surface
possesses a random distribution of sapwood and
Practical preservation
158
heartwood and, whi l st the heartwood may be
moderately durable as in slow-grown European
redwood, it cannot be readily treated and will
deteriorate when exposed to a continuous decay
risk such as in ground contact. There is a shortage
of redwood of suitable size for transmission poles
and a proposal that poles should be constructed by
laminating smaller pieces of wood is unrealistic as
it exposes moderately durable heartwood which
cannot be treated, and which gives inadequate
performance when i t l acks the protecti on of
surrounding treated sapwood. It is perhaps strange
to consider that a more realistic technique might be
the use of spruce, incised after lamination, as the
low movement would avoid the danger of cracks
penetrating through the treated zone.
Full- and empty-cell impregnation
Ful l -cel l pressure i mpregnati on i s normal l y
empl oyed when i t i s requi red to achi eve the
hi ghest possi bl e l oadi ng of preservati ve wi thi n
wood. This system is therefore used to achieve
very high retentions of creosote, such as for use in
marine conditions, and also for the application of
rapi d fi x i ng mul ti component water-borne
preservati ves such as the copper-chromi um-
arseni c (CCA) types. A ful l -cel l water-borne
treatment results in a very high moisture content
which considerably increases the weight of wood
as wel l as i ntroduci ng handl i ng and worki ng
probl ems, but i t i s normal l y consi dered that
empty-cell processes cannot be used as fixation
will occur within the wood and cause depletion of
the acti ve components i n the recovered
preservative solution. The concentration can be
corrected if it is consistent but difficulties also
arise through the nature of the fixation process;
the recovered solution contains reducing sugars
from the cel l contents whi ch may cause
preci pi tati on wi thi n the storage tanks. These
problems do not occur with preservatives which
fix by loss of a volatile component rather than by
reaction with the wood elements; the ammoniacal
preservati ves and the zi nc and copper borate
systems whi ch fi x by aceti c aci d l oss can be
reliably applied by normal empty-cell techniques.
Empty-cel l processes are used mai nl y for
creosote treatments for normal ground contact
situations, particularly for transmission poles; they
achieve preservative retentions that are adequate
without wasting excessive preservative. They can
also achieve relatively clean treatments, although
consi derabl e di ffi cul ti es are often encountered
when using the Rüping cycle which involves an
initial air compression stage and, if the pressure of
thi s compressed ai r i s not compl etel y rel i eved
during the final recovery stages, there is a danger
that bleeding will continue for a protracted period
fol l owi ng treatment. For thi s reason a Lowry
empty-cell cycle is preferred, although it should
also be noted that it achieves better distribution of
the preservative as well as giving freedom from
bleeding. The advantages and disadvantages of
these various processes are discussed in Chapter 3.
Double vacuum impregnation—
immersion treatment
Where very permeable woods are involved, such
as South Afri can pi ne, or where onl y l i mi ted
penetrati on i s necessary as i n the treatment of
joi nery (mi l l work), l ow i mpregnati on pressures
can be used, even doubl e vacuum treatments
whi ch uti l i ze onl y a vacuum and atmospheri c
pressure to achi eve penetrati on. It has al ready
been ex pl ai ned i n Chapter 3 that, when
rel ati vel y i mpermeabl e woods are i nvol ved,
pr essur e i ncr ease i s not ver y effecti ve i n
achi evi ng i ncreased penetrati on and retenti on,
and to extend the treatment ti me i s far more
effecti ve. Thi s i s cl earl y demonstrated i n non-
pressure immersion techniques where complete
i mpr egnati on can be achi eved, pr ovi ded
suffi ci ent ti me i s al l owed.
Diffusion treatment
Prolonged used of immersion plant is economically
unr eal i sti c but di ffusi on techni ques can sti l l
General principles
159
be used. A concentrated water-borne preservative
solution can be applied by immersion or spray to
green wood possessing a high moisture content in
excess of perhaps 50%. The wood is then close
stacked and wrapped or placed in special sealed
bui l di ngs to i nhi bi t evaporati on so that the
pr eser vati ve can penetr ate deepl y by sl ow
di ffusi on ( Fi gs 5.3 and 5.4). Ti mbor borate
treatment is applied in this way and is perhaps the
most real i sti c method for the treatment of
spruce—compl ete penetrati on can be achi eved
and the rel ati ve i mpermeabi l i ty of the spruce,
fol l owi ng dryi ng, means that l osses through
leaching are unlikely, provided that the source of
moisture is not prolonged and continuous. Spruce
treated in this way is not sufficiently reliable for
ground contact conditions but is ideal for other
situations in buildings as it provides protection
agai nst both i nsect attack and fungal decay
caused by acci dental l eaks or condensati on.
Bifluorides are often applied similarly but much
of thei r deep penetrati on can be attri buted to
hydrogen fl uori de whi ch i s readi l y l ost by
vol ati l i zati on and l eachi ng. Potassi um fl uori de
mixtures such as Osmose can also be applied in
thi s way but, i f fi xed treatments are requi red,
preservative fixing by ammonia or acetic acid loss
are most suitable provided that fixation is delayed
by wrappi ng for a suffi ci ent peri od to permi t
complete diffusion.
Spray treatment
Spray treatments are general l y unsui tabl e for
severe hazard preservati on as they are onl y
superfi ci al and the protecti on can be readi l y
damaged by the development of shakes or splits
and by woodworking. However, spray treatments
cannot be seriously faulted if they are applied
sufficiently generously to a completed structure
and they are thus perfectly adequate for remedial
in-situ treatments; these are described in more
detai l i n the book Remedial Treatments of
Buildings by the present author. Brush treatments
should never be considered for the application of
preservati ves as they cannot achi eve l oadi ng
sufficient to give even superficial protection.
Ideal preservation
The ideal situation would be to use only naturally
durabl e wood but adequate suppl i es are not
available and it is economically unrealistic to reject
all sapwood and use only durable heartwood. An
alternative ideal situation would be for all wood to
be treated throughout its thickness at the mill, so
FI GURES 5.3 and 5.4 Di ffusi on treatment at a modern sawmi l l i n Papua New Gui nea. Sawn wood i s
immersion-treated at the end of the production line and then close stacked in sealed sheds to permit diffusion
of the preservative.
Practical preservation
160
that it would remain reliably preserved even if
subjected to extensive wood-working. This can be
achieved in permeable species such as Corsican,
South African and Southern pine using normal
pressure i mpregnati on techni ques, even usi ng
standard copper-chromi um-arseni c (CCA)
preservati ves. Al ternati vel y many speci es,
including some normally impermeable species such
as spruce, can be treated by diffusion with borates
to gi ve wood that i s compl etel y rel i abl e i n
rel ati vel y protected above-ground si tuati ons,
including joinery (millwork) where the necessary
protection is provided by a coating system.
5.2 Uses of preserved wood
Ground contact
Preservation was originally introduced as a means to
avoid the deterioration that occurs when untreated
wood is used in various service conditions, but the
introduction of reliably preserved wood effectively
i ntroduced an enti rel y new structural materi al
which can be used in new situations for which
untreated wood was never previously considered—
such as for durable wood house foundations. The
major use of preserved wood is certainly in ground
contact conditions. In many respects poles, posts
and piles present similar technical problems as they
all involve ground contact conditions and they vary
only in their dimensions and in the fact that poles
have most of their length above the ground in
contrast to piles which usually have most of their
length below ground.
Poles, piles and posts
Round wood tr ansmi ssi on pol es (Fi g. 5.5)
are used throughout the worl d, the pri nci pal
advantages of wood bei ng ex cel l ent strength-
to-wei ght properti es and el asti ci ty under l oad.
Natur al l y dur abl e wood i s r ar el y used and
most pol es are vacuum/pressure treated wi th
cr eosote or water-bor ne sal t pr eservati ves.
I n rel ati vel y permeabl e woods such as Southern
FI GURE 5.5 Eucal yptus tr ansmi ssi on pol es i n
Austr al i a i mpr egnated wi th Tanal i th C (CCA)
preservative. (Hickson’s Timber Products Limited)
Uses of preserved wood
161
pi ne compl ete i mpregnati on i s achi eved and
al most any fi xed preservati ve i s sui tabl e; these
are the Class A conditions shown in Table A.2 in
Appendix A.
Where the sapwood al one i s permeabl e but
the heartwood i s moderatel y durabl e, as i n
European redwood, resi stance to movement i s
desi rabl e to reduce the tendency for checks or
spl i ts to devel op and ex pose the untreated
heartwood. Water-borne preservati ves are l ess
effecti ve than creosote, whi ch i s parti cul arl y
effi ci ent i n reduci ng movement, al though water-
borne systems are effi ci ent on speci es possessi ng
l ow movement where there i s l i ttl e l i kel i hood of
the devel opment of checks. Checki ng i s often
ignored, yet in tropical areas a wood with a large
movement can fai l structural l y, si mpl y due to the
physi cal damage that resul ts. Whi l st European
redwood i s normal l y consi dered to possess
per meabl e and non-dur abl e sapwood,
impermeable and moderately durable heartwood
and onl y medi um movement, these properti es
appl y onl y to wood that has grown rel ati vel y
sl owl y. Wi th fast-grown wood the heartwood
may be non-dur abl e but i t i s al so mor e
permeabl e so that reasonabl e penetrati on can be
achi eved wi th nor mal vacuum/pr essur e
processes, al though i t shoul d be appreci ated that
where thi s fast-grown wood i s i ncl uded i n a
treatment charge the absorpti on of preservati ve
must be i ncreased to ensure rel i abl e protecti on.
Dougl as fi r al so possesses non-dur abl e
sapwood and durable heartwood but even the
sapwood i s resi stant to i mpregnati on and pol es
can be rel i abl y preserved onl y i f they are i nci sed.
Spruce possesses sapwood that i s resi stant to
i mpregnati on but i nci si ng has onl y l i mi ted
advantages as the hear twood i s al so non-
durabl e. However, as the wood i s rel ati vel y
i mpermeabl e a deposi t of unfi xed preservati ve
wi thi n the hear twood possesses ex cel l ent
resi stance to l eachi ng—rapi dl y fi xed copper-
chromi um-arseni c (CCA) preservati ves wi l l treat
the sapwood onl y to the depth of i nci si ng but
wi th copper-chr omi um-bor on (CCB)
preservati ves the boron component wi l l conti nue
to di ffuse, si gni fi cantl y i mprovi ng the durabi l i ty
of the hear twood. The sl ow fi x ati on
preservati ves whi ch fi x by ammoni a or aceti c
aci d l oss are more effi ci ent as they can combi ne
thi s protracted di ffusi on wi th ul ti mate fi xati on.
However, i t must be appreci ated that hi gher
concentrati ons are requi red i f such di ffusi on
occurs. The wrappi ng of the treated wood to
prevent dryi ng and to al l ow for di ffusi on i s
probabl y best avoi ded for pol es so that hi gher
loadings can be achieved through relatively rapid
fi xati on i n the external sapwood zone, where
there i s the greatest decay ri sk, but sl ow ai r
dryi ng ensures that the i nner moi sture content
changes onl y sl owl y and si gni fi cant di ffusi on i s
sti l l abl e to occur.
The i ncreasi ng scarci ty of sui tabl e si zes and
speci es of wood for transmi ssi on pol es means
that there is increasing interest in the use of more
readi l y avai l abl e speci es, such as rel ati vel y
impermeable spruce, and in the manufacture of
pol es by l ami nati ng smal l er secti ons. I n
l ami nated pol es compl ete i mpr egnati on i s
essenti al and i t i s i mportant to appreci ate that a
speci es such as European redwood wi th an
impermeable but moderately durable heartwood
i s enti rel y unsui tabl e—the l ami nati on ensures
that the heartwood i s exposed to ground contact
which represents the greatest decay risk, whereas
i n round pol es the heartwood i s protected by
rel i abl y preserved sapwood. It may seem strange
but spruce i s l i kel y to be more rel i abl e than
European redwood l ami nated pol es because
l ami nated spruce pol es can be i nci sed after
manufacture to gi ve a treated zone to a fi xed
depth and the low movement of spruce avoids
the danger of the devel opment of shakes that
may penetrate through thi s rel ati vel y superfi ci al
treatment.
I n tropi cal areas probl ems are frequentl y
encountered i n the treatment of hardwoods,
particularly Eucalypts treated with water-borne
preservatives. Soft rot frequently develops at the
ground line, apparently because this fungus is able
Practical preservation
162
to i nvade the cel l wal l s whi ch have not been
penetrated by the tox i c components i n the
preservati ve—thi s i s a probl em of mi cro-
distribution of the preservative within the wood
and i s currentl y the subject of ex tensi ve
investigation. Class AS preservatives in Denmark
are considered to be those that are particularly
sui tabl e for use i n si tuati ons where there i s a
danger of soft rot; this generally means continuous
immersion in water in the Danish context.
In the Poulain process, described in detail in
Chapter 3, a relatively light overall treatment of a
pole is followed by a second and more thorough
treatment of the butt. This originally involved a
Rüping empty-cell treatment of the entire pole with
a light creosote followed by a further treatment of
the butt with a heavier oil. In more recent years
creosote has been used following a water-borne
and someti mes unfi xed treatment to gi ve the
desired additional protection at the ground line. In
the Dessemond process in France, poles were first
treated with copper sulphate but mercuric chloride
Kyanising or zinc chloride Burnettising treatments
were al so used. The Card, Tetraset and other
similar processes are described in detail in Chapter
4. In recent years it has often been argued that
creosote butt treatment should be applied to all
poles treated with water-borne preservatives but
this achieves little advantage—a fixed water-borne
treatment such as CCA will give reliable protection
at the ground line in normal conditions and it is the
exposed part of the pole that suffers from the
devel opment of checks. Butt treatments wi th
creosote or non-toxic bitumen have an advantage
only when the pole is treated with a poorly fixed
preservati ve whi ch i s unabl e to wi thstand the
ground contact conditions.
Creosote treatment (Fi gs 5.6 to 5.8), has the
di sti nct di sadvantage that i t i s di rty and l i kel y to
bl eed, per haps causi ng ser i ous damage to
cl othi ng where pol es are erected i n areas wi th
heavy pedestr i an tr affi c; the pr obl ems of
bleeding with empty-cell and particularly Rüping
tr eatments has been di scussed i n detai l i n
Chapter 3. Preventing bleeding only reduces the prob-
FI GURE 5.6 Peel i ng transmi ssi on pol es pri or to
creosote treatment. (Industri- og Byggnadsaktiebolaget
Suecia, Sweden)
FI GURE 5.7 Pol es on bogi es bei ng l oaded i nto the
treatment cylinder. Creosote is heated electrically to
reduce viscocity and improve penetration. (Industri-
og Byggnadsaktiebolaget Suecia, Sweden)
FIGURE 5.8 The stock yard with modern handling
equi pment. (I ndustr i - og Byggnadsakti ebol aget
Suecia, Sweden)
Uses of preserved wood
163
lem as the poles still remain dirty. Water-borne
treatments are clean and attractive but shakes or
splits may develop and many of these systems
contain arsenic which is a danger to livestock,
even if it is proved to be reliably fixed. Fence
posts can be a source of arsenic poisoning just as
much as transmission poles; the easiest way to
avoid arsenic toxicity is to use only arsenic-free
preservatives such as the copper-chromium (ACC)
types are completely reliable, except in situations
where there is a serious hazard from termites or
copper resistant fungi such as Poria species.
Fences r ecei ve l i ttl e attenti on yet they
represent a very l arge vol ume of treated wood.
Usual l y, l ocal speci es are used and there i s thus a
tendency for thei r val ue to be l argel y i gnored as
repl acements can be readi l y obtai ned. However,
any repl acement or repai r of a fence represents
substanti al l abour costs and there i s al ways
justification for the selection of naturally durable
wood or the use of a preservati on process.
Round posts are always best and as they have
onl y a smal l secti on they usual l y consi st al most
enti rel y of sapwood. In vi ew of the short l ength
of the posts even rel ati vel y i mpermeabl e speci es
can be treated by penetration through the more
per meabl e end-gr ai n. I n many countr i es
standard fence posts, pressure treated wi th
creosote or water-borne preservatives, represent
a normal commodi ty whi ch can be readi l y
purchased by the agricultural community, but in
other countri es there i s a tendency to prepare
posts on each i ndi vi dual farm. I n thi s case
preservati ve treatment, i f i t i s used at al l , i s
normal l y appl i ed by the butt hot and col d
method described in Chapter 3.
Al though preserved constructi on pi l es are
compl etel y rel i abl e and wi del y used i n Ameri ca,
they are not popular in Europe where tubular
steel and concrete pi l es are preferred. However,
wood pi l es are wi del y used i n mari ne si tuati ons
throughout the worl d. Some natural l y durabl e
woods are used such as greenheart but preserved
pi l es, parti cul arl y i nci sed creosoted Dougl as fi r,
are most popular. In situations where there is a
ri sk of mari ne borers i t i s necessary to use ei ther
very high retentions of creosote or additives such
as arseni c or contact i nsecti ci des whi ch wi l l
pr event damage by gr i bbl e. Whi l st mar i ne
defence works such as groynes must be si mi l arl y
protected, the superfi ci al and decki ng ti mbers i n
whar fs, j etti es and mar i nas r epr esent onl y
normal decay hazards and Class A preservatives
are compl etel y sati sfactory for such structures.
Railway sleepers (ties)
The fi rst use of pressure creosoted wood was for
rai l way sl eepers (ti es). Wood sl eepers (Fi g. 5.9)
are sti l l ex tensi vel y used but the decl i ni ng
avai l abi l i ty of l ar ge-secti on wood has
progressi vel y i ncreased thei r cost and metal and
parti cul arl y concrete sl eepers have been adopted
i n sever al countr i es for economi c r easons,
although without taking proper account of the
l i fe of the sl eeper whi ch i s al most i ndefi ni te wi th
creosote treatment to a sui tabl e wood. In recent
years the system of mounti ng the rai l s i n chai rs
screwed to the sleeper has been abandoned in
many countri es i n favour of the use of fl at-
bottomed r ai l s secur ed wi th spi kes.
Unfortunately, the spikes do not hold so well in
cr eosoted wood and ther e ar e sever al
di sadvantages wi th water-borne treated wood
such as movement spl i ts, ex posi ng onl y
moderatel y durabl e heartwood i n European
redwood sl eepers, and el ectri cal i nsul ati on
probl ems wi th sal t systems, where si gnal l i ng
systems operate through the rai l s. Wi th new
high-speed tracks, where spiked flat-bed rails are
unsuitable, and where there are doubts about the
l i fe of concrete sl eepers, there i s now a tendency
to return to creosoted wood sl eepers.
Wi th European redwood transmi ssi on pol es
and sl eepers there i s a danger, parti cul arl y wi th
water-bor ne tr eatments, that untr eated
moderately durable heartwood will be exposed
by cracki ng and wi l l sl owl y decay. When such
cracki ng i s observed i n adequate ti me i t i s
possi bl e to carry out remedi al treatments usi ng
Practical preservation
164
the Cobr a and si mi l ar i nj ecti on pr ocesses
descr i bed i n Chapter s 3 and 4. Di ufi x , a
spreadabl e mi xture of creosote, tar, pi tch and
fi l l er, was devel oped for coati ng rai l way sl eepers
to fill existing cracks and reduce the tendency for
further shakes to develop.
Wi th some preservati ves a further probl em i s
sl ow and progressi ve Soft rot attack at the
ground line. With softwood poles this damage
general l y occurs onl y wi th the ol d fl uori ne-
chr omi um-ar seni c-di ni tr ophenol (FCAP)
treatments; wi th copper-chromi um (ACC) and
copper-chromium-arsenic (CCA) preservatives it
occurs only on hardwoods. In 1928 Allgemeine
Hol zi mpragni erung GmbH i ntroduced AHI G,
the fi rst pol e bandage for wrappi ng round the
exposed ground l i ne of a pol e to control Soft rot
damage (see Fi g. 3.5). AHIG, whi ch consi sts of a
water-proof bandage l i ned wi th Wol man sal ts,
has si nce been fol l owed by many si mi l ar
products such as the Osmose bandage and Pile
Card. In the Mayerl process a trough i s fi xed
round the pol e at the ground l i ne and fi l l ed wi th
creosote whi ch i s then sl owl y absorbed i nto the
pol e. These processes are speci fi c remedi es for
progressi ve surface Soft rot and i njecti on i s
essenti al i f an attempt i s to be made to control
heart rot devel opi ng i n untreated heartwood.
Road works
Wood blocks treated with creosote and tar were
ex tensi vel y used i n the past as road pavi ng
bl ocks. They wer e l ai d wi th the end-gr ai n
upwards and gave an exceptionally durable and
r esi l i ent r oad. Whi l st they ar e no l onger
general l y used for publ i c roads they are sti l l used
i n parts of Europe as fl oori ng i n heavy i ndustri al
works (Fi g. 5.10). I n modern road bui l di ng,
preserved wood i s most extensi vel y used for
fenci ng and for crash-barri er posts—l arge-
secti on wood posts can be i nstal l ed di rectl y i nto
FIGURE 5.9 Using preservative cartridges of Wolmanit TSK to protect heartwood at risk in sleepers (ties)
through checks extending through the outer preserved zone. (Dr Wolman GmbH)
Uses of preserved wood
165
the soi l whereas steel posts must be mounted i n
concr ete i f they ar e to pr ovi de adequate
resistance to impact damage. Both fencing and
crash-barri er posts are usual l y treated wi th
water-borne preservati ves, parti cul arl y copper-
chromi um-arseni c (CCA) types at the Cl ass A
retentions shown in Table A.2 in Appendix A.
Bridges
Bri dges are al so someti mes constructed from
wood but i t i s i mportant to be aware of the
dangers of exposi ng heartwood whi ch i s onl y
moderatel y durabl e when, for exampl e, sawn
European redwood is employed. Incised European
whi tewood or spruce i s more rel i abl e, even
though i t i s cl assi fi ed as non-durabl e and
impermeable, than European redwood or Scots
pi ne wi th easi l y penetrated sapwood and
moderatel y durabl e heartwood; the l ow
movement of spruce means that incising results in
treatment to a controlled depth which is unlikely
to be penetrated by the development of shakes.
Buildings
Many exposed structures represent probl ems
si mi l ar to those for bri dges but i n bui l di ngs (Fi gs
5.11 to 5.14) there i s usual l y l ess ri sk as they
shoul d be desi gned to ensure that wood remai ns
dry. For thi s reason a speci al Cl ass B i s shown
i n Tabl e A.1 i n Appendi x A for bui l di ngs,
i ncl udi ng cl addi ng and str uctur al el ements
ex posed to the weather, as above-gr ound
condi ti ons are general l y l ess severe than ground
contact. Wood preservati on i s requi red i n fl at
roofs, swi mmi ng pool roof l i ni ngs and i ndustri al
bui l di ngs where a decay ri sk may ari se through
condensati on, but i n other ci rcumstances the
mai n reason for a preservati ve treatment may
si mpl y be the desi re to guard agai nst future
damage by acci dental l eaks or by House
Longhorn beetl e i n temperate areas and Dry
Wood termi tes i n the tropi cs. Where i nsecti ci dal
protecti on i s requi red, preservati ves meeti ng the
Cl ass I requi rements i n Tabl e A.1 are requi red.
General l y, water-borne preservati ves contai ni ng
FIGURE 5.10 End-grain wood blocks impregnated with creosote and used as a heavy industrial floor. (Orben
Boi s SA)
Practical preservation
166
FI GURE 5.11 Pi ne, pressure i mpregnated wi th an
organi c sol vent preservati ve BP Hyl osan, used as
cl addi ng for a pri ze-wi nni ng housi ng proj ect i n
Sweden. (Svenska BP Aktiebolag)
FI GURE 5.12 Pr eser vati ve-tr eated fr ami ng and
Douglas fir plywood used in Canada for construction
of durable house foundations, a system widely used in
North Ameri ca. (Counci l for Forest I ndustri es of
British Columbia)
FI GURE 5.13 Pi ne, i mpregnated wi th BP Hyl osan,
used as ceiling and wall lining to a swimming pool in
Sweden, (Svenska BP Aktiebolag)
FI GURE 5.14 Pi ne, i mpregnated wi th Bol i den K33
preservative used as a durable cladding for a factory
building in Sweden. (Anticimexbolagen)
Uses of preserved wood
167
arsenic or boron are most economic but these are
stomach poi sons and tasti ng damage may be
si gni fi cant, parti cul arl y i n the case of exposure
to termi tes. The use of contact i nsecti ci des such
as Li ndane, Di el dri n or Permethri n i s desi rabl e
to avoi d the damage but thei r effecti ve l i fe i s
consi derabl y l ess. Wi th non-fl yi ng termi tes,
damage i s normal l y avoi ded by poi soni ng the
soi l around the bui l di ng or by usi ng shi el ds
whi ch wi l l prevent the termi tes from gai ni ng
access; these are i l l ustrated i n Fi g. 5.15 and are
rather remi ni scent of the staddl e stones used i n
ol d Engl i sh barns to prevent rats from gai ni ng
access to the stored grai n.
Fencing
Whi l st wood used above gr ound l evel i n
bui l di ngs general l y represents a consi derabl y
reduced ri sk compared wi th that i n ground
contact condi ti ons, there are si tuati ons where
wood is exposed to the weather and may decay
where rai nwater can penetrate i nto joi nts or
cracks. It i s perhaps worth menti oni ng that one
exampl e of thi s ri sk occurs i n fenci ng where the
morti ces used i n the constructi on of gates and
for fixing rails to posts represent water traps and
are therefore i nvari abl y the areas where decay
progresses most rapidly, even if naturally durable
wood such as oak is employed.
Joinery (millwork)
I n bui l di ngs, the ex ternal cl addi ng does not
usual l y present any seri ous probl ems and the
mai n danger i s associ ated wi th the j oi nery
(mi l l work) such as the wi ndow and door frames.
Decay devel ops under the pai nt or varni sh
coati ng when water i s tr apped fol l owi ng
absorpti on through spl i ts at the joi nts. The
natural reacti on i s to i ntroduce a preservati ve
to prevent decay but spl i ts then conti nue to
occur at the joi nts and water i s absorbed whi ch,
even i f i t i s unabl e to cause decay, resul ts i n
preferenti al wetti ng fai l ure of the pai nt coati ng.
The use of water-repel l ent or gani c-sol vent
preservati ves tends to prevent the water from
bei ng absorbed, al though cracks at the joi nts
sti l l occur so that water repel l ents tend to del ay
rather than compl etel y prevent fai l ure. The best
way to reduce cracks i s to use onl y wood wi th
l ow movement and natural durabi l i ty; sui tabl e
FIGURE 5.15 Protecting buildings from non-flying termites. Shields (or caps) on supporting walls and all pipes
and cables passing from the oversite to the floor will give some protection but regular inspection of the crawl
space is necessary and any mounds or tunnels found, which tend to by-pass the shields, must be destroyed. Soil
poisoning is more reliable and now more commonly used. Trenches are dug, then the oversite is levelled and the
site sprayed. Treatment is also applied to all fill returned to the trenches. In this way the building is isolated by
a poisonous zone.
Practical preservation
168
tropical hardwoods are available. Alternatively,
preservati ve treatment can be used but i t i s sti l l
essenti al to use wood wi th l ow movement to
avoi d the spl i tti ng of the coati ng system at the
joi nts so that a l onger decorati ve l i fe can be
achieved.
Remedial treatments
Remedi al treatments i n bui l di ngs (Fi g. 5.16) are
descri bed bri efl y i n Chapters 3 and 4, but these
are extremel y compl ex processes whi ch are al so
rel ated to dampness probl ems and masonry
deter i or ati on and they ar e best consi der ed
enti rel y separatel y, as i n the book Remedial
Treatments of Buildings by the present author.
The economics of preservation versus remedial
tr eatments i n bui l di ngs must al so be
consi der ed—i s i t mor e sensi bl e to take
precauti ons duri ng constructi on or si mpl y to
remedy defects i f they devel op? I n ground
contact condi ti ons i t i s cl ear that the use of
naturally durable or adequately preserved wood
i s essenti al . European redwood or Scots pi ne
joi nery (mi l l work) i s al most certai n to decay,
despi te regul ar pai nti ng, and preservati on i s
j usti fi ed. Wher e ther e i s a r i sk of House
Longhorn beetl e preservati on i s agai n justi fi ed
for the carcassing or framing components of a
bui l di ng but i t cannot be justi fi ed where there i s
a ri sk of attack onl y by Common Furni ture
beetl e whi ch can do l ess damage to the structure.
Someti mes preservati on i s appl i ed as there may
be a sl i ght danger of an acci dental l eak but i t i s
unl i kel y that i t can be justi fi ed, al though i f there
i s known to be a condesati on probl em, as i n fl at
roof constructi on, precauti ons preservati on i s
essential.
The concl usi on that must be reached i s that
there are many si tuati ons i n bui l di ngs where
preservati on i s essenti al or cl earl y desi rabl e,
but i t i s equal l y apparent that i n many countri es
FIGURE 5.16 A water-in-oil emulsion Wykemulsion being used for remedial treatment of a roof. Organic
solvent preservatives are often preferred but this emulsion reduces the fire risk. (Cementone-Beaver Limited)
Uses of preserved wood
169
the need for preservati on i s l argel y i gnored. The
proposal that treatments should be introduced in
under-devel oped countr i es i s par ti cul ar l y
i nteresti ng; at present a l arge proporti on of the
nati onal effort i s devoted to repl aci ng decayed
bui l di ngs and even a preservati on treatment of
l i mi ted effi cacy may resul t i n a substanti al
improvement in national prosperity.
Boats
I n boats (Fi g. 5.17) i t i s usual to use onl y
natural l y durabl e wood to avoi d fungal decay.
The mai n danger ari ses through penetrati on of
rai n through decki ng and upper works together
wi th poor venti l ati on wi thi n the hul l . There i s
no reason why properl y preserved wood shoul d
not be used as an al ter nati ve to natur al l y
dur abl e wood, a fact whi ch i s gener al l y
accepted i n the case of pl ywood, but the use of
wood i n boat bui l di ng has pr ogr essi vel y
decl i ned i n recent years, l argel y as a resul t of
the unrel i abl e performance of wooden boats.
Thi s can be attri buted partl y to the seri ous
decay that occurred regul arl y some years ago i n
non-durabl e core veneers i n pl ywood. Whi l st
non-durabl e veneers are no l onger permi tted,
pl ywood sti l l possesses a poor reputati on. The
other probl em wi th wooden boats i s the need to
pai nt them regul arl y; thi s coul d be avoi ded by
the use of treatments whi ch woul d prevent
preferenti al wetti ng fai l ure. These probl ems are
descri bed i n more detai l i n Chapters 3 and 4.
Ther e ar e oppor tuni ti es for pr eser vati on
treatments to be used more extensi vel y but i t i s
fi r st necessar y to r e-establ i sh the good
r eputati on of wood i n boat bui l di ng. One
seri ous probl em concerns the atti tude of pai nt
manufacturers; they are rel uc-tant to adopt
systems that wi l l reduce pai nt fai l ure as they are
l argel y dependent on mai ntenance pai nti ng for
thei r tur nover, al though thi s short-si ghted
atti tude has resul ted si mpl y i n the abandonment
of pai nted boats and i s the mai n reason for the
substanti al reducti on i n the use of wood i n boat
bui l di ng.
FIGURE 5.17 Pine, pressure treated with Boliden K33 salt preservative, used for piles, beams and decking of a
yacht jetty. (Anticimexbolagen)
Practical preservation
170
Agriculture
Agri cul tural bui l di ngs (Fi gs 5.18 and 5.19) are
often constructed from wood i n al l parts of the
worl d. In recent years there has been a tendency
to abandon the use of frame buildings and to
adopt pol e constructi on i nstead, an exampl e
bei ng the pol e barn where pressure-treated
roundwood i s used for the basi c structural
member s. The use of pr eser ved cl apboar d
cl addi ng enabl es thi s form of constructi on to be
adopted for other purposes such as cow-houses
and i mpl ement sheds. There are a mul ti -tude of
smal l uses for preserved wood i n agri cul ture and
horti cul ture, a few bei ng the constructi on of
greenhouses, mushroom boxes, stakes for fruit
trees and vi nes, and fences and gates.
Mines
In mines the dampness and constant temperature
conditions favour decay. Two basic types of support
are required, the working-face supports or props
and the linings to the main roadways. Wood is still
ex tensi vel y used for props but i t i s usual l y
consi dered that there i s l i ttl e justi fi cati on for
preservati on as onl y a rel ati vel y short l i fe i s
requi red. I n the case of the more permanent
roadways there is a tendency for steel to be adopted
but wooden boards are often placed between steel
arches and these must be treated. Usually, water-
borne preservati ves are used, parti cul arl y the
copper-chromium-arsenic (CCA) types, and there is
also a demand for fireproofing treatments for wood
used in principal roadways, although it is not clear
that wood necessarily contributes to fires in mines as
it is normally too damp.
Australian quarantine requirements
Two special preservation requirements must be
menti oned. The fi rst concerns the Austral i an
Quaranti ne Regul ati ons whi ch requi re that al l
imported wood forming part of disposable or re-
usabl e packagi ng (cargo contai ners) must be
treated to ensure that i t does not i ntroduce a
wood-borer ri sk. The reasons for these
regul ati ons have been di scussed i n detai l i n
Chapter 2 and suitable Class 1 type preservative
retentions are shown in Table A.1 in Appendix A.
Cooling towers
Another speci al use for preserved wood i s i n
cooling towers where the fill slats are exposed to
FIGURE 5.18 A simple pole barn constructed from
wood i mpr egnated wi th Tanal i th C (CCA)
preservative. Hickson’s Timber Products Ltd)
FIGURE 5.19 Silos in Sweden contructed from pine
impregnated with Boliden K33. (Anticimexbolagen)
Health and the environment
171
hot water and are thus particularly susceptible to
Soft rot degradati on. Whi l st there have been
ex peri ments wi th a number of al ternati ve
materials such as glass, asbestos and concrete, the
l ow densi ty of wood makes i t parti cul arl y
attracti ve for thi s purpose and i t i s enti rel y
reliable if treated with a suitable preservative such
as a copper-chromium-arsenic (CCA) system.
5.3 Health and the environment
I n recent years the heal th and envi ronmental
dangers associ ated wi th wood preservati on have
attracted parti cul ar attenti on. Restri cti ons on
the use of ex i sti ng pr eser vati ves and the
requi rements for approval of new preservati ves
have become i ncreasi ngl y stri ngent and are now
causi ng seri ous di ffi cul ty to the i ndustry. These
changes have not necessari l y resul ted i n reduced
ri sks to heal th and the envi ronment, as the
development of safer preservative systems is now
di scouraged by the costs i nvol ved i n submi tti ng
new preservati ves for approval and i t has been
necessary, for economi c necessi ty, to extend the
l i fe of establ i shed preservati ve systems whi ch
woul d not be acceptabl e i f they were submi tted
for safety approval today.
Al l wood preservati ves contai n tox i c
components but there is no justification for their
prohi bi ti on. Regul ati ons shoul d speci fy the
precautions that are necessary to ensure their safe
use in terms of the hazards to operatives during
formulation and use, to the users of treated wood,
and to the envi ronment. I n some cases these
precautions may mean that it is uneconomic to
use a particular product and realistic control is
therefore achi eved. For ex ampl e, arseni c
compounds are very toxic but they can be safely
used in wood preservation with appropriate strict
controls on the handling of treating solutions, but
modern preservative formulations ensure that the
arsenic is ultimately fixed in the wood so that it
cannot easily affect users or the environment by
leaching or volatilization. Control is much easier
at treatment plants than during the handling and
working of treated wood or service in a structure,
remedial wood treatment in buildings presenting
the greatest risks so that it is discussed later in
detail, although solution spills and wind-blown
dust from treatement plants can cause problems;
dust dangers are not si gni fi cant wi th most
preservatives as powder formulations have been
largely replaced by pastes and solutions.
Arsenic
The arsenic content in CCA, FCAP, CAA, ZAA,
ACA, ACZA and similar formulations is a serious
problem, it is unfortunately true that cattle have
been poi soned as a resul t of l i cki ng treated
transmi ssi on pol es and fence posts but thi s
normally occurs only with preservatives in which
the arsenic is not fully fixed, such as K-33 which
has now been l argel y wi thdrawn, and onl y i n
areas where there is a natural salt deficiency—the
danger can be completely avoided by providing
proper sal t l i cks and usi ng onl y hi ghl y fi xed
preservatives. Arsenic preservatives are banned in
buildings in some countries such as Finland, yet in
others they are used even for the treatment of
pl ayground equi pment. I n Swi tzerl and, arseni c
preservati ves are banned for the treatment of
transmi ssi on pol es as they may i ntroduce
environmental pollution. In most countries these
hazards are considered to be insignificant with
CCA preservati ves i n vi ew of thei r excel l ent
fixation, although fixation is only reliable with
CCA-C and BS 4072 formulations, and the main
fears are related to the possible volatilization of
arseni c when treated wood i s destroyed by
burning.
Yet another fear i s the danger of arsi ne
poisoning. In about 1890 many fatalities occurred
in homes and these were eventually attributed to
arsi ne poi soni ng. Wal l paper decorated wi th
arsenical dyes had been attacked by the fungus
Scopulariopsis brevicaulis. at that time known as
Penicillium brevicaule, it is now known that other
fungi can generate arsine in this way. There is no
Practical preservation
172
danger of arsine poisoning from preserved wood
provided that the fungicidal components are able
to control the fungi that generate arsi ne. I f
preservati on i s requi red agai nst i nsect attack
alone, as for the treatment of wood in accordance
with the Australian Quarantine Regulations or
for Furni ture Beetl e control i n New Zeal and,
there is clearly a temptation to use just a simple
arsenical preservative and there is then a danger
of arsine poisoning if fungi are able to develop.
Many insects are dependent on or encouraged by
the presence of fungal attack and fungi ci dal
components i n mul ti -component formul ati ons
therefore assi st i n thei r control . Thi s factor i s
completely ignored in Australia and New Zealand
where the mi ni mum retenti ons of approved
preservati ves are based sol el y on an arseni c
retention of about 0.97 kg/m
3
As
2
O
5
.
There have been fears, parti cul arl y i n the
Uni ted States, concerni ng the carci nogeni c
dangers associated with the arsenic contents in
wood preservatives. There have been extensive
enquiries and the current evidence suggests that
the carcinogenic properties are largely associated
with arsenic trioxide, As
2
O
3
, and arsenites rather
than with the arsenic pentoxide, As
2
O
5
, and the
arsenates that are used in modern preservative
formul ati ons. The carci nogeni c dangers
associated with arsenical wood preservatives are
slight but arsenic pentoxide is prepared from the
tri oxi de and i ncreasi ng control s on the l atter
compound are likely to introduce manufacturing
di ffi cul ti es, perhaps l eadi ng to scarci ty and
increased cost. The dangers associated with fixed
arsenic wood preservatives are often exaggerated,
someti mes by manufacturers of competi ti ve
products; the enquiries in the United States were
prompted by the cement and concrete industry
which feared the competition of pressure-treated
wood foundations in domestic construction!
Chromium
Arsenic dangers always attract most attention but
chromium may represent the greatest hazard in
wood preservati on. I f properl y formul ated
preservati ves are used i n a competent and
responsible manner the dangers are very slight
and this is confirmed by the very low level of
illness or injury in this long-established industry,
but i t must be recogni zed that dangers exi st.
Tr opi cal condi ti ons di scourage the use of
protective clothing and operatives then frequently
suffer from chrome ulcers which are painful and
difficult to heal but it is interesting to note that
there are no arsenic problems, and the injuries
sustained are an indication of poor plant hygiene
and control rather than serious criticism of the
preservative formulations involved.
Creosote
In recent years health risks associated with the use
of creosote have been more closely scrutinized,
the main risks being identified as the reported
carci nogeni c properti es of pol ycycl i c aromati c
hydrocarbons, i ncl udi ng the benzopyrenes i n
creosote. The benzopyrene content can be limited
by usi ng onl y cr eosote di sti l l i ng at hi gher
temperatures, a restriction that does not affect
impregnation grades but which is now restricting
the avai l abi l i ty of l i ghter creosote for surface
application, for maintenance of fencing. In other
respects the use of creosote does not present any
unusual health hazards, provided that plants are
operated with proper care and persons handling
creosote and treated wood observe normal
personal hygiene precautions.
Chlorophenols
I n the Uni ted States the wood preservati on
i ndustry sti l l uses about 20 000 tonnes of
pentachl orophenol annual l y despi te concern
regardi ng possi bl e heal th hazards. Whi l st i t i s
certainly true that chlorophenols are toxic, this is a
problem that applies to all wood preservatives and
they should therefore be handled with care. Some
fatalities have occurred but these have all been
associ ated wi th abnormal absorpti ons of
Health and the environment
173
pentachl orophenol through a fai l ure to take
sensible precautions. There were several fatalities
in France when operatives who were stripped to
the wai st i n very hot weather became heavi l y
contaminated with sapstain treatment, and several
fatalities occurred in Germany in a similar way
through people bathing in water contaminated
with pentachlorophenol remedial treatment. There
are al so fears that the di ox i n i mpuri ti es i n
chlorophenols may be particularly hazardous but,
whilst there may be distinct dangers associated
wi th the herbi ci de 2,4,5-T, whi ch i s a
trichlorophenyl acetate, there is no evidence of
similar dangers associated with pentachlorophenol
or even the tri chl orophenol wi th whi ch i t i s
someti mes contami nated. Apparentl y, thi s i s
because the latter is 2,4, 6-trichlorophenol and
generates a different range of dioxin impurities
whi ch are actual l y l ess tox i c than the
chl orophenol s from whi ch they are deri ved.
Environmental theoreticians have suggested that
pentachl orophenol shoul d be repl aced i n stai n
control by less persistent trichlorophenol but this
compound is less effective and must be used at
higher concentrations, and the dioxin impurities
tend to be more toxic than those associated with
pentachlorophenol, so that the continued use of
pentachlorophenol would appear to be best in
terms of both handling safety and environmental
protection. Tetrachlorophenol is also sometimes
used and represents an intermediate risk.
Chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides
The chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides DDT,
Dieldrin and Lindane have attracted particular
attention at times because of their interference in
envi ronmental food chai ns when used i n
agri cul ture or horti cul ture. Wood preservati on
treatments do not normal l y i nterfere i n the
envi ronment i n thi s way because wood
preservation insecticides are designed to achieve
compl ete control of borers wi thi n the treated
wood. In contrast, in agriculture and horticulture,
killed insects and treated survivors may be eaten
and enter food chains. Lindane is still permitted
for many wood preservation purposes but much
safer pyrethroid insecticides have been introduced
and are now preferred, particularly Permethrin;
various natural and synthetic pyrethroids have
been approved for many years for use in the food
industries for insect control.
Organotins
The organotin compound tri-n-butyltin oxide has
been in use in wood preservation since about 1960
without any serious health problems being reported,
other than dermal and respiratory irritation which
can be attributed to poor operative technique and
i nadequate personal hygi ene, al though other
organotin compounds are exceedingly toxic. This is
a further example of the situation that has been
encountered in relation to chlorophenol dioxins—
although there may be some exceedingly toxic
compounds within a group, that does not mean that
all compounds in that group are similarly toxic and
some may be virtually non-toxic.
Copper and zinc soaps
Copper and zinc naphthenates have been used for
many years i n the wood preservati on i ndustry
wi thout reports of unusual heal th probl ems,
although the naphthenic acid liberated from these
treatments has a distinct musty pungent odour
whi ch i s unpl easant and i rri tati ng. A l eadi ng
manufacturer of preservati ves of thi s type has
repl aced the napthenates i n recent years wi th
acypetacs compounds whi ch avoi d thi s musty
odour, al though they produce i nstead a sl i ght
sickly odour to which some individuals seem to be
parti cul arl y sensi ti ve, and whi ch has caused
difficulty in houses where excessive preservative
has been applied.
Remedial treatments
Clearly, remedial treatment contractors have a
duty to ensure the good health and safety of their
Practical preservation
174
own operati ves as wel l as the occupi ers of
treated bui l di ngs. Proper protecti ve cl othi ng
must be provi ded, al though i t i s di ffi cul t to
ensure that i t i s worn at al l ti mes. For exampl e,
during the spring roof spaces may become rather
warm i n contrast to the wi nter peri od and
operatives may be tempted to remove clothing,
perhaps duri ng sprayi ng. The operati ve then
l eaves the roof and perhaps si ts i n the sun
wi thout a shi rt or vest and there i s then a danger
of mild sunburn, accompanied by considerable
i rri tati on i f the ski n i s affected by organi c
sol vents. Nose bl eedi ng can al so occur when
some preservati ve vapours are encountered i n
hi gh temperature condi ti ons, but i t must be
appreci ated that some operati ves are more
sensi ti ve than others, and parti cul arl y sensi ti ve
persons should never be employed for this type
of work. Masks and barri er creams are often
recommended but nei ther i s real l y advi sabl e.
Si mpl e gauze masks tend to absorb treatment
fl ui ds, perhaps exposi ng the user to abnormal
concentrati ons of toxi cant vapours; wi thout a
mask, the operative would probably take more
car e to avoi d unnecessar y br eathi ng of
preservative spray or vapour. Barrier creams can
also give operatives unjustified confidence and it
i s far better to trai n operati ves to take the
necessary care. Obvi ousl y al l operati ve gangs
must be aware of the heal th and fi re dangers,
and must be aware of the acti on that shoul d be
taken i n an emergency; a fi rst ai d ki t and fi re
ex ti ngui shers shoul d al ways be avai l abl e to
remedial treatment operatives.
Ther e ar e sever al i mpor tant poi nts that
shoul d be borne i n mi nd when carryi ng out
remedi al treatment i n bui l di ngs usi ng organi c
sol vent pr eser vati ves. Low-pr essur e spr ays
should be used with coarse jets to ensure that the
maximum volume can be applied to the timber
surface wi thout the excessi ve vol ati l i zati on of
sol vents that occurs i f hi gh pressures and fi ne
jets or air-entrained paint sprays are used. Whilst
i t i s essenti al to achi eve the maxi mum l oadi ng of
preservati ve on the wood to ensure maxi mum
penetrati on, dri ppi ng of excess fl ui d must be
avoided and care must be taken to ensure that
el ectri cal cabl es are not treated unnecessari l y
and preservati ve does not enter juncti on boxes
or other electrical fittings. Treated areas must be
freel y venti l ated to di sperse sol vent vapour
whi ch i s a fi re hazard and whi ch may affect
el ectri cal cabl es and cause stai ni ng around
cei l i ng r oses and wal l swi tches. El ectr i cal
i nstal l ati ons i n the treated areas shoul d be
di sconnected duri ng treatment and even for
several days afterwards as there i s a danger that
sparks may i gni te sol vent vapour. Smoki ng,
naked l i ghts and pl umbi ng acti vi ti es must be
prohibited in the area for 7 to 14 days depending
on the nature of the sol vents i nvol ved, and
noti ces to thi s effect shoul d be posted at the
entrances of the property and at the entrances to
roof spaces and other treated areas. Insul ati on
materi al s must al ways be l i fted before treatment
and r epl aced l ater after the sol vent has
compl etel y di spersed, certai nl y not l ess than
seven days after treatment i n any ci rcumstances,
and i nsul ati on must never be spr ayed wi h
preservati ve as there i s then a real danger of
spontaneous combustion.
Some of the phenol i c pr eser vati ves,
par ti cul ar l y the chl or ophenol s, can cause
treatment operati ves severe respi ratory and
dermal i rri tati on, parti cul arl y i f excessi ve spray
pressures are used whi ch resul t i n preservati ve
atomi zati on and spray dri ft. Dermal i rri tati on
problems are often due to the solvents alone and
enquiries usually disclose that the individuals are
sensi ti ve to si mi l ar sol vents such as gasol i ne,
kerosene, whi te spi ri t and turpenti ne; such
probl ems are usual l y associ ated wi th fai r ski n
and are aggravated by exposure to sunl i ght. Thi s
dermal i rri tati on i s al so aggravated by some
preservati ve bi oci des, parti cul arl y chl orophenol s
such as pentachlorophenol (PCP) and organotin
compounds such as tri-n-butyltin oxide (TBTO),
al though sensi ti vi ty to these bi oci des vari es
enormousl y and, i f normal precauti ons are
observed in use, problems are only encountered
Health and the environment
175
by parti cul arl y sensi ti ve i ndi vi dual s. In extreme
cases, respi ratory i rri tati on can occur and cause
coughing and bleeding from the nose but such
reactions are usually related to extreme exposure
such as sprayi ng preservati ves i n roof spaces
duri ng very hot weather; these probl ems can be
reduced by usi ng coarse l ow pressure spray
application to flood the surface of the wood with
preservati ve whi ch can then be absorbed by
capi l l ari ty, avoi di ng hi gh pressure sprays whi ch
cause atomi zati on and rapi d vol ati l i zati on, but
improved ventilation may also be necessary.
I f suffi ci ent venti l ati on i s provi ded fol l owi ng
treatment the sol vents wi l l rapi dl y di sperse,
l eavi ng onl y pr eser vati ve deposi ts of l ow
vol ati l i ty whi ch do not nor mal l y cause
persi stant odours. There have been vari ous
suggesti ons i n recent years that these treatments
are dangerous to heal th but treatments must be
approved by the heal th and safety authori ti es i n
most countri es. The heal th ri sks associ ated wi th
cur r ent pr eser vati ves have ther efor e been
careful l y assessed and there i s no reason to
suppose that they present si gni fi cant ri sks,
ei ther to treatment operati ves or to persons
r esi dent i n tr eated bui l di ngs. Obvi ousl y,
treatment operati ves are severel y exposed and
woul d be expected to suffer most seri ousl y from
any heal th hazards but, al though there are
perhaps 5000 to 10 000 operati ves empl oyed i n
the remedi al ti mber treatment i n the Bri ti sh
I sl es, reports of heal th probl ems are very few
i ndeed, despi te the fact that most operati ves
work wi thi n the i ndustry for many years; on the
contrary i t seems that operati ves suffer l ess
from some common i l l nesses such as col ds and
i nfl uenza!
There were several propri etary remedi al
treatment preservatives some years ago which were
based on o-di chl orobenzene or on monoor
dichloronaphthalene. These biocides are oils which
can be readily absorbed through the skin and they
certainly presented a danger of liver damage to
treatment operatives. The dangers were much less
with the solid polychloronaphthalene waxes which
could not be absorbed in this way and no illnesses
were reported despite their extensive use at very
hi gh concentrati ons over many years.
Pentachlorophenol attracted attention in the past
because of its pungent and irritating odour when
appl i ed, but i n recent years attenti on has
concentrated on the dioxin impurities that may be
present in chlorophenols, as described earlier in
this section.
Heal th probl ems are not confi ned, of course,
to remedi al treatment wood preservati on but
obvi ousl y sprayi ng i n confi ned spaces represents
the most i ntensi ve exposure that i s l i kel y to be
encountered. The other common problems that
ari se are dermal and respi ratory probl ems due to
handl i ng ti mber treated wi th organi c sol vent
preservati ves, parti cul arl y i n hot weather, and
carel ess operati on of treatment pl ants i nvol vi ng
preservative spillage, vacuum pumps discharging
i nto worki ng spaces, and ti mber dri ed after
treatment i n worki ng spaces, al l probl ems that
are associ ated wi th carel ess handl i ng rather than
any defect in the preservative system. However,
there are peri ods when a seri es of compl ai nts
ari se, apparentl y associ ated wi th a parti cul ar
pr eser vati ve bi oci de. Obvi ousl y, r epor ts of
pr obl ems can pr ompt fur ther unj usti fi abl e
compl ai nts, but a seri es of i nci dents usual l y have
some common cause whi ch i s often very di ffi cul t
to i denti fy. Some of the compl ai nts i n recent
year s seem to be associ ated wi th Li ndane
treatments and others wi th TBTO treatments. In
both cases unusual vol ati l i ty seems to be
i nvol ved whi ch someti mes affects treatment
operati ves but whi ch i s al so readi l y apparent to
the occupi ers of treated bui l di ngs. In such cases
i t must be suspected that the Li ndane and TBTO
were poor quality products containing impurities
whi ch have caused these probl ems as such
probl ems are not associ ated wi th the pure
compounds. Lindane is defined as 99% pure γ-
i somer of hexachl orocycl ohexane, previ ousl y
known as gamma-benzenehexachl ori de, and i t
seems that some material contains much higher
concentrati ons of other i somers. TBTO often
Practical preservation
176
contai ns a stabi l i zer, and some stabi l i zer
compounds i nterfere wi th the fi xati on of the
TBTO to the treated wood so that the TBTO
r emai ns vol ati l e. Such pr obl ems may be
i ndi cati ons of i nadequate qual i ty control but
they ar e ver y r ar e; when compl ai nts ar e
i nvesti gated i t i s gener al l y di scover ed that
normal precauti ons have not been observed,
parti cul arl y i n rel ati on to excessi ve treatment
l evel s and venti l ati on fol l owi ng treatment.
177
Wood preservati on i s conti nuousl y devel opi ng i n
response to new research findings and economic and
safety pressures. Any list for suggested further reading
woul d be l argel y obsol ete and i t i s therefore more
appropri ate to gi ve gui dance on sources of further
i nformati on.
Guidance on current approval requirements can be
obtained from national organizations responsible for
standards and regulations.
Any r eader of thi s book can obtai n cur r ent
i nfor mati on on wood pr eser vati on fr om paper s
presented duri ng the proceedi ngs of the fol l owi ng
organisations:
The International Research Group on Wood
Preservation,
Box 5607,
S-114 86 Stockholm,
Sweden.
American Wood Preservers’ Association,
P.O. Box 849,
Stevensville,
MD 21666,
U.S.A.
British Wood Preserving and Damp-proofing
Associ ati on,
Building 6,
The Office Village,
4 Romford Road,
Stratford,
London,
E15 4EA,
England.
The reference l i sts at the ends of the papers wi l l
suggest further reading.
Further reading
179
Decay hazard
Throughout the world the most important risk
si tuati on i nvol ves the use of wood i n ground
contact, where there is a severe danger of fungal
decay, parti cul arl y by Basi di omycetes. These
fungi are generally unable to develop when wood
is immersed in water, although there is then a
danger of Soft rot and borer attack in marine
si tuati ons. Above ground l evel there i s sti l l a
danger of decay where rai nwater may remai n
trapped in joints or splits in wood exposed to the
weather, and thi s danger can be consi derabl y
hei ghtened where a spl i t occurs through a
relatively impermeable coating such as paint or
varnish, which will tend to restrict the dispersion
of the water by evaporation. In structures, the
framing or carcassing components are generally
protected from the weather and there is no risk of
decay provided care is taken to avoid leaks and
the structure is designed to avoid condensation.
Borer hazard
In most temperate areas the sapwood of many
hardwoods and softwoods i s suscepti bl e to
Common Furniture beetle infestation but a much
greater structural ri sk occurs i n temperate and
tr opi cal ar eas wher e ther e i s a danger of
i nfestati on by the House Longhorn beetl e and
Dry Wood termites. Many termites are, however,
unabl e to fl y and they ar e mor e r eadi l y
controlled by soil poisoning around a structure
or the i nstal l ati on of termi te shi el ds rather than
by treatment of the suscepti bl e wood.
Permanence—penetration
In all preservation processes there is a need for
permanence. Thus al l preservati ves must have
adequate resi stance to vol ati l i zati on and
ox i dati on, dependi ng on thei r parti cul ar
conditions of use, and also resistance to leaching
if they are likely to be exposed to a high moisture
content in ground contact conditions or in marine
environments. Whilst it may appear adequate to
encl ose wood i n a superfi ci al envel ope of
protective treatment it must be appreciated that
deeper penetration significantly improves the life
of treatments which are slightly volatile or water
sol ubl e, and i t must al so be appreci ated that
natural splits or accidental damage may penetrate
through a superfi ci al treatment, perhaps
permi tti ng i nternal decay to occur. Al l the
treatments considered in this appendix must be
appl i ed by a techni que that wi l l ensure deep
impregnation, usually one which involves the use
of vacuum and pressure cycles in closed cylinders.
Wood properties
Tabl e A.1 gi ves a schedul e of some of the most
wi del y used preservati ve systems and typi cal
Appendix A
Selection of a
preservation
system
Appendix
180
TABLE A.1 Typical preservative retentions for Baltic redwood*
Appendix
181
recommended retentions on European redwood
or Scots pi ne. These retenti ons al so appl y on
most other softwoods, al though actual
preservation processes may vary depending upon
the properti es of an i ndi vi dual wood speci es, as
shown in Table A.2. For example, Corsican pine,
Pinus nigra. South Afri can pi ne, Pinus patula,
and Shortl eaf of Southern pi ne, Pinus echinata,
al l possess non-dur abl e hear twood and
sapwood. However, both hear twood and
sapwood are al so permeabl e and these speci es
can therefore be readi l y preserved, but i t wi l l be
appreci ated that the sapwood retenti ons shown
i n Tabl e A.1 must be achi eved throughout i n
such woods. European redwood or Scots pine,
Pinus sylvestris, possesses r ather si mi l ar
properti es when fast grown, but i n sl ow-grown
wood the heartwood is much less permeable and
al most compl etel y resi stant to penetrati on. Thi s
slow-grown heartwood also possesses moderate
natural durabi l i ty and i t i s therefore general l y
consi dered that adequate protecti on can be
achi eved by treati ng the permeabl e sapwood
alone. In Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, the
heartwood again has good natural durability but
the non-durabl e sapwood i s al so resi stant to
i mpregnati on. However, adequate penetrati on
can be achi eved i f the sapwood i s i nci sed to gi ve
access to routes for tangenti al penetrati on.
Unfortunatel y, the same pri nci pl e i s l ess effecti ve
on European spruce, Picea abies—al though
i nci si ng enabl es the sapwood to be treated the
heartwood i s non-durabl e, and there i s thus a
danger that the outer sapwood coul d spl i t
through shri nkage fol l owi ng peri odi c wetti ng
and dryi ng, ex posi ng unprotected and non-
durable heartwood.
Spruce
In fact, however, the development of splits is not
very common wi th spruce as i t possesses l ow
movement, as shown i n Tabl e A.2, and i t i s
therefore more suitable for superficial treatment
than woods with medium or large movement. If
deep penetration into spruce can be achieved with
a non-fi x ed preservati ve, such as the boron
component in a copper-chromium-boron (CCB)
preservative or a simple borate preservative applied
by diffusion, leaching is unlikely once initial drying
has occurred, in view of the impermeability of this
wood and its natural resistance to re-wetting.
TABLE A.1 (continued)
Appendix
182
TABLE A.2 Properties of principal construction woods used in northern and southern hemisphere temperate
zones
Appendix
183
TABLE A.2 (continued)
Appendix
184
Round or sawn
Round pol es typi cal l y i nvol ve r el ati vel y
i mpermeabl e heartwood, perhaps wi th some
natural durabi l i ty, surrounded by rel ati vel y
per meabl e sapwood, whi ch enabl es a deep
preserved zone to be achi eved. I n sawn wood
the surface possesses a random di stri buti on of
sapwood and hear twood and, whi l st the
heartwood may be moderatel y durabl e as i n
TABLE A.2 (continued)
sl ow-grown European redwood, i t cannot be
readi l y treated and deteri orati on wi l l occur
when i t i s exposed to a conti nuous decay ri sk,
as i n ground contact, Thus pi l es, transmi ssi on
pol es and posts i n gr ound contact shoul d
al ways be made of r ound wood wi th a
generous zone of permeabl e sapwood, unl ess i t
i s possi bl e to use one of the pr evi ousl y-
menti oned compl etel y permeabl e speci es, such
as Southern pi ne.
185
A person i nvol ved i n the wood preservati on
i ndustry i s normal l y wel l acquai nted wi th the
wood-borers of l ocal si gni fi cance but may know
l i ttl e of rare speci es, parti cul arl y i f they are
found in wood imported from another country.
I f preservati ves or preserved wood are to be
exported the habi ts of parti cul ar borers i n the
destination country may also have considerable
i mportance. The purpose of thi s appendi x i s
therefore to provi de a reasonabl y thorough
descri pti on of the borers that are of si gni fi cance
to the European wood preservation industry. It
does not, however, include a description of the
many other i nsects whi ch are found, parti cul arl y
i n domesti c premi ses, and confused wi th wood-
borers; a descri pti on of these i nsects appears i n
Remedial Treatments in Buildings by the present
author, a book whi ch al so i ncl udes a more
detai l ed account of the methods for i denti fyi ng
borer damage.
Classification
Before descri bi ng the i ndi vi dual borers i t i s
necessary to expl ai n the method of cl assi fi cati on
that is used by zoologists. The animal kingdom is
divided into three sub-kingdoms, the protozoa,
the parazoa and the metazoa, but wood-borers
are confi ned to onl y two of the twenty phyl a
that comprise the metazoa. The most important
phyl um i s the Arthropoda whi ch i ncl udes the
most i mportant group, the terresti al i nsect
borers, as wel l as the mari ne crustacean borers.
The phyl um Mol l usca i ncl udes onl y a few
mari ne borers. In fact, wi th the excepti on of the
mari ne crustacean and mol l uscan borers, al l
other wood-borers are terresti al i nsects.
Insects—beetles
The cl ass i nsecta i ncl udes fi ve orders contai ni ng
wood-borers. Al l i nsects possess si x l egs and one
or two pai rs of wi ngs. The l i fe cycl e commences
wi th an egg whi ch hatches to produce a l arva
whi ch feeds and grows, eventual l y pupati ng and
metamorphosing into an adult insect. The most
i mportant order i s the Col eoptera, the beetl es. In
thi s order the fore-wi ngs are modi fi ed to form
hard el ytra or cases over the fol ded hi nd-wi ngs.
The beetl es i ncl ude the most i mportant borers
and these can be cl assi fi ed i nto ten fami l i es. The
Pl atypodi dae represent one of the two major
groups of pi nhol e borers, the other bei ng the
Scol yti dae. The Bostrychi dae i ncl ude two very
important sub-families, the Lyctidae or Powder
Post beetl es and the Anobi i dae or Furni ture
beetles. The Cerambycidae or Longhorn beetles
are al so very i mportant i n two ways; many
speci es cause damage to freshl y fel l ed green
wood and si ckl y trees i n the forest but a si ngl e
species, Hylotrupes bajulus, represents one of the
most seri ous wood-borer pests, i n that i t i nfests
dry softwood i n the warmer temperate zones.
The other six families are far less important; they
are the Curculionidae or weevils, the Buprestidae
or fl at-headed borers, the Oedemeri dae, whi ch
i ncl ude the whar f bor er, and the mi nor
Lymexylonidae, Dermestidae and Tenebrionidae
families.
Termites
The termites, order Isoptera, are the most serious
wood-borer pests in all tropical and sub-tropical
zones. These are all social species living in large
communities which include both the winged and the
Appendix B
Wood-borers
Appendix
186
non-winged forms. Although they are known as
white ants they are not directly related to the true
ants, which are in the order Hymenoptera. The most
important Isoptera families are the Kalotermitidae
or Powder Post termites, the Rhinotermitidae or
Moist Wood termites and the Termitidae, which
include both subterranean and mound species. The
Hodotermitidae are a semi-desert species known as
harvester or forager ants, whilst the Termopsidae
are of minor importance and the Mastotermitidae
consist of only one species in tropical Australia.
Wasps, bees, ants—moths—flies
The order Hymenoptera, the wasps, bees and ants,
i ncl udes the Wood wasps, Carpenter bees and
Carpenter ants, which bore into wood, as well as
vari ous predators whi ch are found i n borer
galleries. The order Lepidoptera consists of the
butterflies and moths, whose larvae, or caterpillars,
someti mes bore i nto wood, usual l y when i t i s
softened by decay, in order to obtain protection
during pupation. The Carpenter moths, however,
are true wood-borers as the larvae hatch from eggs
laid on the bark, producing galleries in the wood,
in which they feed and develop until they pupate
and emerge as adult moths. The order Diptera, the
true flies possessing only a single pair of fore-
wi ngs, the hi nd-wi ngs bei ng represented by
halteres or lumps on the thorax, contains only a
few mi nute speci es whi ch can be cl assi fi ed as
wood-borers, these attacking the cambium of some
trees when the bark is damaged.
Marine borers
The class Crustacea includes a number of wood-
borers i n the order Peracari da. They are al l
mari ne borers, si mi l ar i n appearance to wood
l i ce or fl eas. The sub-order I sopoda are the
gri bbl es, whi ch are true wood-borers whereas
the sub-order Amphipoda do not damage wood
but are often found i n gri bbl e burrows.
Wi thi n the phyl um Mol l usca the wood-borers
are confi ned to the cl ass Lamel l i branchi ata,
mol l uscs wi th a symmetri cal body whi ch i s
normally enclosed by a shell that develops in two
parts or val ves. In the fami l y Teredi ni dae, whi ch
i ncl udes the shi pworms and pi l eworms, these
val ves or shel l s are used as cutters to form a
burrow, and the body grows progressi vel y to fi l l
the bur r ow as i t i s for med. The fami l y
Phol adi dae, the bori ng mussel s, tend to form
rather more shal l ow burrows than those of the
Teredinidae, usually attacking sedimentary rocks
rather than wood.
Al though there are a great number of speci es
whi ch can be cl assi fi ed as wood-borers there are
only a few of serious economic importance, yet it
i s necessary to consi der the mi nor speci es as they
are sure to create i nterest and perhaps probl ems
when encountered, and thei r i denti fi cati on i s
natural l y more di ffi cul t than that of the wel l -
known speci es. Lati n names are del i beratel y
quoted as these wi l l enabl e readers to search for
further i nformati on i f they wi sh; common names
frequentl y vary i n di fferent countri es. It must,
however, be appreci ated that thi s does not
attempt to be a comprehensi ve account of al l
wood-borers. Onl y the borers of si gni fi cance i n
wood preservati on are descri bed i n detai l and
others are menti oned onl y i n passi ng so that the
reader i s aware of thei r exi stence.
Ambrosia beetles
Accordi ng to the systemati c approach bri efl y
outl i ned earl i er i n thi s appendi x the fi rst wood-
borers that must be consi dered are the Ambrosi a
beetl es, members of the Scol yti dae and
Pl atypodi dae, whi ch are al so known as pi nhol e
or shothol e borers after the damage that they
cause. The adul t beetl es are general l y 3–6 mm
(1/8 in-1/4 in) long and bore round holes through
the bar k of fr esh, gr een l ogs, par ti cul ar l y i n
hardwoods rather than softwoods. These hol es
sometimes penetrate deep into the wood, forming
ex tensi ve br anched gal l er i es (Fi g. B.1), the
shape often bei ng characteri sti c of the speci es.
Eggs are l ai d i n the gal l eri es and the ‘ambrosi a’
Appendix
187
fungus introduced through spores carried by the
adul t. The devel opment of thi s fungus i s, of
course, dependent upon the presence of sugar,
starch and a hi gh moi sture content i n freshl y
fel l ed wood and thi s i s, i n fact, a condi ti on for
infestation by these beetles as the larvae hatching
from the eggs browse on the fungus. Some larvae
extend the gal l eri es to form ni ches i n whi ch they
pupate.
Pinhole, Shothole
The damage consi sts of gal l eri es whi ch are
someti mes j ust beneath the bar k and thus
commerci al l y i nsi gni fi cant but i n some speci es
the gal l er i es penetr ate i nto the sapwood,
parti cul arl y i n tropi cal hardwoods and, for
example, in European oak attacked by Platypus
cylindrus. The bore hol es vary i n si ze, the
smal l er ones bei ng descri bed as pi nhol es and the
l arger ones i n tropi cal speci es bei ng someti mes
known as shothol es. The gal l eri es are free from
bore dust and stai ned brown or bl ack i nternal l y
by the Ambrosi a fungus, and thi s i nfecti on can
al so extend al ong that grai n adjacent to the
gal l eri es to form a characteri sti c candl e-shaped
stai n. Pi nhol e or shothol e damage i s never
structural l y si gni fi cant but frequentl y occurs i n
decorati ve woods and resul ts i n l ower gradi ng.
I nfestati on ceases as the wood dri es and
damage can be avoided only by treatment of the
l ogs i mmedi atel y after fel l i ng. Some speci es of
Ambrosia beetles are dependent upon bark and
can be readily controlled by its removal. Damage
by other speci es can be prevented to some extent
by rapi dl y dryi ng l ogs or i mmersi ng them i n
water, or, i n the case of temperate cl i mates, by
ex tracti on duri ng the wi nter months. These
pr ecauti ons ar e not al ways possi bl e and
treatment of freshl y fel l ed l ogs wi th sui tabl e
i nsecti ci des i s frequentl y empl oyed, perhaps
coupl ed wi th a fungi ci dal treatment to prevent
the development of Ambrosia and other staining
fungi. A few Platypodids have been found boring
i n l i vi ng trees. Thi s rarel y happens but some
damage to tropical hardwoods may be caused in
thi s way and cannot therefore be control l ed by
l og treatments. Onl y a few hol es may be present
i n the bark of an apparentl y sound tree so that
the damage cannot be detected unti l after fel l i ng
and conversion of the wood.
Oak and chestnut from North Ameri ca i s
often damaged and graded as ‘sound wormy’,
whereas damaged mahogany from Afri ca i s
graded as ‘pi n wormy’, both gradi ngs i ndi cati ng
that the wood i s str uctur al l y sound but
unsui tabl e for use i n sol i d furni ture or veneer.
Damage i s normal l y caused by Scol yti ds, but
some Pl atypodi ds ar e al so i mpor tant, and
damage i s most severe i n sub-tropi cal and
tropi cal cl i mates. The most i mportant Scol yti d
genera are Trypodendron, Pterocyclon, Webbia,
Anisandrus and, parti cul arl y Xyleborus (Fi g.
B.2). The most i mportant Pl atypodi d genera
are Platypus, Crossotarsus and Diapus. Seventy
Scol yti d speci es have now been i denti fi ed i n
the Bri ti sh I sl es al one, but the most seri ous
damage i n Europe can be attri buted to a si ngl e
FIGURE B.1 Ambrosia beetle galleries beneath bark.
(Wykamol Ltd)
Appendix
188
Platypodid, Platypus cylindrus (Fig. B.3), which is
found parti cul arl y i n more southerl y, oak
woodl ands. Thi s speci es, whi ch can often be
found i n wi nd-bl own trees, stumps and l ogs,
pri nci pal l y i nfests oak but al so occasi onal l y
beech, ash and elm. Graphium spp of fungi are
al ways found i n the gal l er i es and often
Cephalosporium and Ceratostomella spp i n
addition, the latter being well known as a cause of
sapstain, even in the absence of Ambrosia beetle
attack. Al though several other non-i ndi genous
Platypodids are now found in Europe, almost all
other damage can be attri buted to Scol yti ds.
Scolytus (Hylesinus) fraxini frequentl y causes
damage i n ash l ogs, l argel y i n the cambi um
i mmedi atel y under the bark, whi l st Scolytus
destructor causes similar damage in elm.
A beetl e that has attr acted consi der abl e
attenti on i n r ecent year s i s Scolytus
multistriatus, as heavy i nfestati ons are al ways
found i n trees i nfected by the Dutch El m di sease
fungus, Ceratocystis ulmi. As spores of thi s
fungus are al ways found on these beetl es they
have been frequentl y descri bed as the cause of
the di sease, yet Scol yti ds do not normal l y attack
heal thy trees and i t i s far more l i kel y that the
beetl es are attracted to a tree whi ch i s al ready
i nfected and whi ch wi l l thus provi de a good si te
for bori ng and egg l ayi ng. Thi s i s perhaps
confi rmed by the observati on that thi s speci es i s
found throughout Europe and North America, as
wel l as i n Austr al i a, wher e the di sease i s
unknown. General l y, the speci es forms a verti cal
gal l ery under the bark of a standi ng tree, wi th
l ar val gal l er i es br anchi ng off to for m a
characteri sti c fan shape.
Other Scol yti ds causi ng damage to
hardwoods in Europe are Xyloterus signatus and
domesticus, Xyleborus saxeseni and
monographus, and Anisandrus dispar.
Scolytids also cause damage to softwoods, for
ex ampl e Ips typographus and Pityogenes
bidentatus i n spruce and Myelophilus spp i n
pi nes i n the Bri ti sh I sl es. Occasi onal l y, severe
l ocal i nfestati ons have occurred, such as that of
Trypodendron lineatum i n Argyl l shi re, but i n
Europe general l y Xyloterus lineatus probabl y
represents the most seri ous Ambrosi a beetl e
probl em i n softwood. I n North Ameri ca the
most seri ous damage i s caused by Dendroctonus
spp, D. frontalis bei ng known as the Southern
pi ne beetl e, D. breviconis as the Western pi ne
beetl e and D. ponderosae as the Mountai n pi ne
beetle respectively; damage by all of these species
FIGURE B.2 A Scolytid, Xyleborus saxesini.
FIGURE B.3 A Platypodid, Platypus cylindrus.
Appendix
189
occasionally being observed in wood imported
i nto Europe. General l y, a wi de vari ety of speci es
i s i nvol ved i n damage caused i n i mpor ted
tr opi cal har dwood, but occasi onal l y an
i ndi vi dual speci es may attract parti cul ar i nterest,
such as Diapus furtivus, whi ch was at one ti me a
particular problem in hardwood imported from
Malaysia.
Melandryid bark-borers
The family Melandryidae are bark-borers, and
are often confused wi th the Ambrosi a beetl es or
the Anobi d bark-borer, Ernobius mollis, whi ch
wi l l be descri bed l ater. Thi rteen genera of very
variable form and habits have been reported in
the Bri ti sh Isl es but they are al l rare and the onl y
speci es l i kel y to be observed as a bark-borer i s
Serropalpus barbatus.
Bostrychid family
The family Bostrychidae includes a number of
important species which can be most conveniently
divided into two groups, the Powder Post beetles
and the Furni ture beetl es. The Powder Post
beetl es can be di vi ded i n turn i nto two sub-
families, the Bostrychids and the Lyctids.
Bostrychid Powder Post beetles
The Bostrychi ds, the Auger beetl es, are al so
known as Shothole borers in some areas such as
South Afri ca and thi s can l ead to confusi on wi th
the Ambrosi a beetl es. However, i n the areas
concerned the Ambrosi a beetl es, the Scol yti ds
and Platypodids, are invariably small and known
as Pi nhol e borers so that the possi bl e confusi on
i s confi ned onl y to the l arger borers. Most Auger
beetl es are smal l , 3–6 mm (1/8 i n-1/4 i n) l ong,
al though one speci es, Bostrychopsis jesuita, i s
about 20 mm (3/4 i n) l ong. The beetl es are
cyl i ndri cal i n secti on wi th spi nes on the front
edge of the thorax, whi ch i s hooded so that i s
conceals the head from above, the bostrychoid
form, from whi ch thi s sub-fami l y and fami l y
deri ve thei r name. These features and the three-
joi nted antennae enabl e the Bostrychi ds to be
readi l y i denti fi ed. The European Bostrychi ds are
dark brown or bl ack i n col our wi th the si ngl e
ex cepti on of a speci es attacki ng oak, Apate
caputina, whi ch has brown or red el ytra.
Adult Bostrychids tunnel in bark in order to lay
eggs, producing tunnels which are free of dust.
The hatching larvae then bore in the sapwood in
search of starch, produci ng tunnel s whi ch are
packed with fine bore dust, as is the case with the
Lycti d Powder Post beetl es. Thi s pattern of
tunnelling and the four-jointed legs of the curved
l arvae enabl e thi s damage to be di sti ngui shed
from that of the Lycti ds. I n fact, Bostrychi d
damage i s not so common as Lycti d damage,
probably because infestation commences with a
tunnel bored by the adul t i n contrast wi th a
Lyctus infestation which is initially completely
invisible. Damage is principally confined to the
sapwood of green hardwoods, al though
softwoods are occasionally found to be attacked,
particularly if they have bark adhering. The adult
beetles are able to bore into wood treated with
some preservatives, such as creosote and copper-
chromium-arsenic salts, but the egg larvae die and
are unable to cause further damage.
The most common Bostrychi d damage i n
tropical hardwoods is caused by Heterobostrychus
brunneus, Xylopertha crinitarsis and
Bostrychoplites cornutus i n West Afri can woods
and Heterobostrychus aequalis i n woods from
I ndi a, Mal aysi a and the Phi l i ppi nes. North
American hardwoods are infested by Schistoceros
hamatus and occasi onal l y Xylobiops basilare i n
ash, hickory and persimmon. The only Bostrychid
common i n Europe i s Apate capucina (Fi g. B.4),
whi ch attacks oak. Dinoderus spp, parti cul arl y
D. minutus, are sometimes found in bamboo and
basketwork. I n Austral i a Mesoxylion collaris,
a red-brown Bostrychi d about 6mm (1/4 i n) l ong
i s someti mes found i n the south-east, attacki ng
the sapwood of sawn wood i n bui l di ngs, and
Mesoxylion cylindricus, a l ar ger and deeper
Appendix
190
brown Bostrychid about 12 mm (1/2 in) long is
someti mes found i n pol es and mi ni ng ti mber.
The very l arge Bostrychopsis jesuita, a dark
brown or black beetle 20 mm (3/4 in) long and
produci ng 6 mm (1/4 i n) di ameter hol es i s often
found in Australia. It is not common in sawn
wood but i s occasi onal l y found i n sub-fl oor
structures, where the rel ati vel y hi gh moi sture
content permits its continuing development.
Lyctid Powder Post beetles
The Lycti d beetl es are al l smal l wi th a l ength of
onl y about 4 mm (1/6 i n). These beetl es are
el ongate but fl attened i n appearance and, from
above, the head i s cl earl y apparent, protrudi ng
i n front of the thorax. The col our for the vari ous
speci es vari es from mi d-brown to bl ack and the
antennae possess a distinct two-jointed club. The
beetl es are acti ve fl i ers, parti cul arl y on warm
ni ghts. After mati ng the femal e l ays 30–50 eggs
i n l arge pores on the end-grai n of sui tabl e
hardwoods containing adequate starch. The eggs
are el ongate, oval or cyl i ndri cal wi th a strand at
one end and they hatch after 8–14 days. The
l arvae feed on the yol k at fi rst unti l they grow
suffi ci entl y to gai n a purchase on the si de of the
pore. At thi s stage the l arva i s strai ght-bodi ed
and moves al ong the grai n but, after an i ni ti al
moul t, i t becomes curved and commences to
burrow across the grain, and eventually grows to
a l ength of about 6 mm (1/4 i n). I t can be
di sti ngui shed from other si mi l ar l arvae by the
promi nent spi racl e on ei ther si de of the ei ghth
segment, i mmedi atel y before the l ast segment,
and the three pai rs of mi nute three-joi nted l egs.
Pupati on occurs i n a chamber i mmedi atel y
beneath the surface and an adul t beetl e emerges
after 1 or 2 years i n the spri ng, summer or
autumn, usual l y between l ate May and earl y
September i n Europe, l eavi ng a fl i ght hol e 0.8–
1.5mm (1/32 i n-1/16 i n) i n di ameter. The l i fe
cycl e i s shorter i n warmer condi ti ons. The
gal l eri es are packed wi th soft, fi ne bore-dust but
the tunnel s are not di sti nctl y separate as are
those of the Fur ni tur e beetl es and al l the
sapwood may be compl etel y destroyed except
for a surface veneer, accounting for the name of
Powder Post beetl e. As the i ni ti al attack consi sts
onl y of an egg l ai d i n an open pore i t wi l l be
appreci ated that the fi rst si gn of damage i s
col l apse or al ternati vel y the appearance of a
fl i ght hol e, whi ch i s an i ndi cati on of extensi ve
damage wi thi n the wood.
It is unlikely that Lyctid beetles are indigenous
i n Europe and new speci es are bei ng conti nual l y
i ntroduced i n i nfested wood. The two most
important species are Lyctus brunneus (Fi g. B.5)
and L. linearis, the l atter bei ng r eadi l y
di sti ngui shabl e by the l ong rows of hai rs on the
el ytra. Lyctus planicollis and L. parallelopipedus
were ori gi nal l y confi ned to North Ameri ca but
have been i denti fi ed extensi vel y i n Europe si nce
World War I, whilst L. cavicollis from the United
States and L. sinensis from Japan have al so now
been introduced in imported oak. Minthea spp,
whi ch ar e l ar gel y confi ned to tr opi cal
hardwoods, are di ffi cul t to di sti ngui sh from
Lyctus spp and cause exactl y the same damage;
M. rugicollis i s most common. However,
Minthea adul t beetl es burrow, as does Lyctus
africanus, whereas onl y the l arvae of other
Lyctids do so.
The Bostrychi d Powder Post beetl es wi l l at-
FIGURE B.4 A Bostrychid, Apate capucina.
Appendix
191
tack most freshly felled hardwoods, preferably
those with bark adhering, provided the moisture
content remains reasonably high and stable. In
contrast, the Lyctid Powder Post beetles confine
their infestations to dry, felled wood still retaining
starch but only of those species which have large
pores, such as oak, ash, walnut, elm and hickory
in temperate climates. Numerous tropical woods
ar e suscepti bl e, par ti cul ar l y l i ght-col our ed
speci es. Suscepti bl e Afri can speci es are obeche
(wawa), agba, afara (limba), African mahogany,
anti ari s, i roko, afzel i a, al bi zi a, panga panga,
gaboon (okoume), Rhodesian teak and, in South
Africa, black wattle. In the Far East susceptible
woods include ramin and the many Shorea spp,
such as seraya, meranti and lauan. In Australia
many of the Eucalypts are susceptible.
Starch is essential to the development of all
Powder Post beetl es, whether Lycti ds or
Bostrychids. In temperate forests the felling of
hardwoods in early winter when the starch content
i s hi gher wi l l obvi ousl y encourage i nfestati on.
Starch is confined to the sapwood so that sapwood
removal represents one method of control, but
usually insecticide treatment is applied if wood is
to be ai r-seasoned. The starch degenerates
progressively and wood becomes immune to attack
after a period of several years. Air-seasoned wood
is, in fact, less susceptible as the cells remain alive
during the early stages of seasoning, reducing the
starch reserves. Ki l n-seasoni ng i s someti mes
advocated as a means of controlling Powder Post
beetles but, whilst it achieves complete control of
Bostrychi ds, the wood cel l s are ki l ned at
temperatures in excess of 40°C (104°F) allowing
the starch to remain so that kiln-dried wood is
particularly susceptible to a new infestation.
Heavy Powder Post beetl e i nfestati ons are
gener al l y accompani ed by par asi tes and
pr edator s, i ncl udi ng the mi te, Pyemotes
(Pediculoides) ventricosus, the Cl eri d beetl es,
Tarsostenus univitartus and Paratillus carus, as
wel l as ant-l i ke Hymenoptera, the wi ngl ess
Sclerodermus domesticus and S. macrogaster,
and the wi nged Eubadizon pallipes, predators
are menti oned l ater i n thi s appendi x.
Anobid Furniture beetles
The Furni ture beetl es, compri si ng the sub-fami l y
Anobi i dae, are probabl y the best known wood-
borers i n temperate areas, probabl y because
damage occurs i n furni shi ngs and i s thus readi l y
apparent to the househol der. Thi s sub-fami l y
can be further di vi ded i nto the Anobi i nae, whi ch
produce el ongated ovoi d or rod-shaped pel l ets,
and the Ernobi i nae, consi sti ng of Ernobius,
Xestobium and Ochina spp, whi ch produce bun-
shaped pel l ets, a useful di agnosti c feature when
only damaged wood is available. All the Furniture
beetl es possess the hooded bostrychoi d thorax
conceal i ng the head from above. The l ast three
joi nts of the antennae are al ways l arger than
the other joi nts, except i n Ptilinus pectinicornis
and Lasioderma serricornia, whi ch are readi l y
i denti fi ed by thei r comb-shaped antennae. Al l
the l arvae are curved and the l i fe cycl es tend
to be l ong, wi th a ver y sl ow bui l d-up of
infestation over many years. All Furniture beetles
l ay eggs i n cracks or open pores and consi d-
FIGURE B.5 A Lyctid, Lyctus brunneus.
Appendix
192
arabl e damage may occur before the i nfestati on
becomes apparent through the development of
fl i ght hol es and bore dust di scharges.
Anobium punctatum (domesticum, striatum),
the Common Fur ni tur e beetl e (Fi g. B.6),
probabl y ori gi nates i n the northern temperate
zones but i t i s now wi del y di str i buted
throughout the worl d, i nfesti ng sapwood of
har dwoods and softwoods, as wel l as
heartwoods of some l i ght-col oured hardwoods
and hear twood of most speci es i n damp
condi ti ons. The beetl e i s 2.5–5.0 mm (1/10 i n-1/
5 i n) l ong—the femal e tendi ng to be l arger—
reddi sh to bl acki sh brown i n col our and wi th a
fi ne cover of short, yel l ow hai rs over the thorax
and el ytra, parti cul arl y on freshl y emerged
speci mens. When vi ewed from the si de the
hooded thorax has a distinct hump and there are
al so rows of pi ts on the el ytra whi ch account for
the names punctatum and striatum.
The beetles emerge from the wood in northern
temperate cl i mates between l ate May and earl y
August and can often be seen crawl i ng on wal l s
and wi ndows. The beetl es are strong fl i ers on
warm days and l i ve for 3–4 weeks duri ng whi ch
they mate and the femal e l ays up to 80 l emon-
shaped, white eggs about 0.3 mm (1/80 in) long
i n cracks, crevi ces, open joi nts and ol d fl i ght
hol es, usual l y i n smal l groups. The eggs hatch
after 4–5 weeks, the l arva breaki ng through the
base of the egg and then tunnel l i ng wi thi n the
wood i n the di recti on of the grai n. The gal l ery
i ncr eases i n di ameter as the l ar va gr ows,
occasi onal l y runni ng across the grai n. The
gal l eri es are fi l l ed wi th l oosel y-packed, gri tty
bore dust consi sti ng of granul ar debri s pl us oval
or cyl i ndri cal pel l ets, compared wi th the fi ne
powder i n the case of Powder Post beetl e attack.
When ful l y grown the curved l arva i s about 6
mm (1/4 i n) l ong wi th fi ve-j oi nted l egs.
Eventually the larva forms a pupal chamber near
the surface about 6–8 weeks before emergence
through a fl i ght hol e about 1.5 mm (1/16 i n) i n
di ameter, l arger than a Lycti d fl i ght hol e but
smal l er than that of the Death Watch beetl e.
Under opti mum condi ti ons the l i fe cycl e can be
as short as one year but i t i s usual l y l onger and
up to four years.
As i nfestati on i s l argel y confi ned to sapwood
the damage i s not usual l y structural l y i mportant,
except where i ndi vi dual components i n furni ture
are composed entirely of sapwood or where old
types of bl ood or casei n adhesi ves have been
used, as these consi der abl y encour age
i nfestati on. I nfestati on i s al so encouraged by
dampness, sl i ght fungal or bacteri al acti vi ty
enabl i ng the i nfestati on to extend i nto normal l y
resi stant heartwood. Al l these si tuati ons tendi ng
to favour Common Furni ture beetl e attack
appear to be rel ated to ni trogen avai l abi l i ty and
result in shorter life cycles; such an exaggeration
of acti vi ty i s parti cul arl y noti ceabl e i n stabl es
and byres, whi ch are often extensi vel y damaged.
As i n the case of other Anobi ds, acti vi ty i s
i ndi cated onl y when a bore dust di scharge
suggests recent emergence. It i s therefore often
di ffi cul t to deci de whether a remedi al treatment
i s necessary or, i f i t has been compl eted, whether
i t has been effecti ve.
Common Furni ture beetl es (Fi g. B.7(a)) suf-
FI GURE B.6 Common Furni ture beetl e, Anobium
punctatum.
Appendix
193
fer a very high natural mortality, perhaps only
60% reachi ng the l arval stage, where they may
be further reduced i n numbers by the acti on of
predators. The most common predators are two
Hymenoptera, the fl yi ng, ant-l i ke Theocolax
formiciformis and Spathius exarator, whi ch can
often be seen expl ori ng fl i ght hol es. Predatory
beetl es are al so someti mes found, such as Opilio
mollis (domesticus) and Korynetes coeruleus, but
the latter is more often associated with the Death
Watch beetl e; predators are descri bed l ater i n
this appendix.
I n New Zeal and Anobium punctatum i s
known as the Common Housebor er, an
unfortunate name as i t l eads to confusi on wi th
the House Longhorn beetle, which is known in
Northern Europe and many other countries, such
as South Afr i ca, as the Housebor er. The
Common Fur ni tur e beetl e i s a par ti cul ar l y
seri ous probl em i n New Zeal and as i t can cause
extensi ve structural damage to the l i ght-framed,
softwood bui l di ngs that are so often used. The
cl osel y rel ated Anobium pertinax i s someti mes
found, parti cul arl y i n bui l di ngs i n Scandi navi a,
but only in association with fungal attack so that
severe i nfestati ons are normal l y confi ned to
poorl y venti l ated cel l ars or sub-fl oor spaces, or
i n ti mber subj ect to per i odi c r ai nwater or
plumbing leaks.
Xestobium rufovillosum (tesselatum) , the
Death Watch beetle, (Figs B.7(b) and B.8), is the
largest Anobid, with a length of 6–8 mm (1/4 in-
1/3 i n). The Death Watch beetl e attacks onl y
wood that is subject to dampness and some decay;
indeed, a common characteristic feature of Death
Watch beetle attack is a brown colouration in the
i nfested wood, ari si ng from the fungal decay.
I nfestati ons i n the Bri ti sh I sl es occur most
commonly in oak, probably because this wood
used to be extensively employed in construction,
but infestations can also occur in elm, walnut,
chestnut, al der and beech. Sapwood and
heartwood can be infested if previously infected
by decay, and the i nfestati on can spread i nto
adjacent softwoods, though infestation is always
confined to damp or decayed areas. It frequently
appears that this insect favours churches but this
is really a combination of circumstances which
resul ts i n church ti mbers bei ng parti cul arl y
suitable; the roofing frequently consists of sheets
of lead or other metals and the periodic heating
results in condensation, which causes the incipient
decay that encourages infestation.
The Death Watch beetl e i s chocol ate brown i n
col our and has patches of short, yel l ow hai rs,
whi ch gi ve a mottl ed appearance. The thorax
FIGURE B.7 Side views of (a) Common Furniture and
(b) Death Watch beetles, showing distinctive shapes of
the hooded thorax.
FI GURE B.8 Death Watch beetl e, Xestobium
rufovillosum.
Appendix
194
conceal s the head but i s very broad, appeari ng
from above to form a hood over the front ends
of the el ytra, whereas other Anobi ds have a
di sti nct wai st between the thorax and the el ytra.
The l arvae are very si mi l ar to those of the
Common Furni ture beetl e but attai n a far l arger
si ze, eventual l y growi ng to about 8 mm (1/3 i n).
The l ength of the l i fe cycl e depends upon the
quanti ty of ni trogen avai l abl e i n the form of
fungal attack and can be a si ngl e year under
opti mum condi ti ons, but i t i s usual l y far l onger
and perhaps as much as ten years. In northern
temperate cl i mates the adul t emerges between
the end of March and the beginning of June and,
after mati ng, the femal e l ays about 40–60 whi te,
l emon-shaped eggs 0.6 mm (1/40 i n) l ong i n
cracks, crevi ces and ol d exi t hol es. The l arvae
hatch after 2–8 weeks and explore the surface of
the wood before commenci ng to bore. Where
l onger l i fe cycl es are i nvol ved the ful l y-grown
l ar va pupates i n Jul y or August, meta-
morphosing into an adult after only 2–3 weeks,
but i t r emai ns i n the wood and gr adual l y
darkens i n col our unti l i t emerges the fol l owi ng
spri ng, l eavi ng a fl i ght hol e 3mm (1/8 i n) i n
diameter.
The adul t i s not a free fl i er and tends to mate
wi th other beetl es emergi ng from the same pi ece
of wood, attracti ng thei r attenti on by movi ng
the l egs so that the head i s struck on the wood
surface, produci ng a seri es of 8–11 taps i n a
peri od of about 2 seconds. Tappi ng wi th the ti p
of a penci l can generate a si mi l ar noi se and can
sti mul ate a r esponse. Thi s tappi ng noi se
probably accounts for the name of Death Watch
beetl e, perhaps because the sound i s apparent i n
a house whi ch i s qui et through a recent death.
The tappi ng shoul d not be confused wi th the
sound produced by Psocids such as the book lice,
Trogium pulsatorium, whi ch i s more l i ke a
watch ti ck than a tap. Al though the i nsects can
fl y reasonabl y wel l when the weather i s very
warm, i t i s probabl e that thi s pest i s spread
l argel y by re-use of ol d i nfested wood.
The Death Watch beetl e has a much more
limited distribution than the Common Furniture
beetl e and i n the Bri ti h I sl es i t i s confi ned to
England, Wales and part of southern Ireland. In
some areas, such as Germany, the Death Watch
beetl e i s frequentl y confused wi th the Common
Furni ture beetl e al though the fl i ght hol es are
much l arger and the gal l eri es are packed wi th
much coarser bore dust wi th di sti nct bun-shaped
pel l ets, as opposed to the oval or cyl i ndri cal
pel l ets of the Common Furni ture beetl e. The
Death Watch beetl e i s al ways associ ated wi th
dampness and decay and can therefore be readily
di sti ngui shed fr om Ernobius mollis, whi ch
produces a si mi l ar si zed fl i ght hol e, as the l atter
i s confi ned to softwoods wi th adheri ng bark.
Wood i nfested by the Death Watch beetl e may
al so be attacked by other i nsects, such as the
Common Furniture beetle and the Wood weevils,
and perhaps Helops coeruleus i n the damper
zones of the wood. Predators may al so be
present, parti cul arl y Korynetes coeruleus, a
distinctive blue beetle which is an active flier and
often the fi rst si gn that a Death Watch beetl e
i nfestati on i s present i n conceal ed damp ti mbers.
Ernobius mollis, someti mes known si mpl y as
the Barkborer (Fi g. B.9), i s an Anobi d beetl e 3–6
mm (1/8 i n-1/4 i n) l ong, mi dway i n si ze between
the Common Furni ture and the Death Watch
beetles. It is reddish brown in colour with yellow
hai rs. Compared wi th that of the Common
Furni ture beetl e the thorax forms a di sti nct
FIGURE B.9 The Barkborer, Ernobius mollis.
Appendix
195
tri angl e and i s not so hooded so that the head
protrudes sl i ghtl y when seen from above. The
antennae are al so proporti onatel y l onger. The
l arvae are si mi l ar i n appearance and eventual l y
grow to about 6mm (1/4 i n) l ong.
Eggs are l ai d i n cracks i n the bark of freshl y
fel l ed softwood, the l arvae tunnel l i ng through
the bark and up to about 1 cm (1/2 i n) i nto the
sapwoods. Thi s i s typi cal of Eur opean
observati ons but thi s beetl e al so occurs i n
South Afri ca, Austral i a and New Zeal and,
wher e i t i s r epor ted to bor e r ather mor e
deepl y, perhaps because the softwood speci es
i n these countr i es have a deeper sapwood
zone. The gal l eri es are fi l l ed wi th bore dust
whi ch contai ns bun-shaped pel l ets whi ch are
ei ther brown or whi te i n col our, dependi ng
upon whether the l arva has been feedi ng on
bark or xyl em. The l i fe cycl e i s typi cal l y one
year, the adul t beetl e emergi ng i n northern
temperate cl i mates between May and August
from a fl i ght hol e 2.5 mm (1/10 i n) i n di ameter
usual l y cl ose to an area of retai ned bark. Thi s
beetl e i s wi del y di stri buted throughout Europe
but attacks onl y softwood wi th bark adheri ng
to i t, often causi ng the bark to stri p away from
rusti c pol es and posts. I t i s dependent upon
starch and, j ust as the Lycti d Powder Post
beetl es, can attack wood onl y for a few years
after i t has been fel l ed. I n remedi al treatments
damage by thi s beetl e i s often confused wi th
that by the Common Furni ture beetl e.
The Anobid beetle Ptilinus pectinicornis (Fi g.
B.10) i s readi l y i denti fi ed as i t has a di sti nctl y
globular thorax and the antennae are comb-like
i n the mal e and serrated or saw-l i ke i n the
femal e. The adul t beetl es ar e di sti nctl y
cyl i ndri cal , about 3–5 mm (1/8 i n-1/5 i n) l ong,
wi th a dark brown prothorax and reddi sh el ytra.
The larvae are similar to those of the Common
Furniture beetle, but identification can be achieved
if it is essential. In many respects the behaviour of
this insect is similar to that of the Lyctid and
Bostrychi d Powder Post beetl es. Adul t beetl es
emerge from the wood i n Europe between May
and July through exit holes about 1.5mm (1/16 in)
i n di ameter, the same as Common Furni ture
beetles. The adult female beetles are often found
wi thi n the wood, apparentl y ex tendi ng ol d
galleries or excavating new ones from which to lay
their long, thin, pointed eggs in adjacent vessels or
pores. The l i fe cycl e can be onl y one year i n
optimum conditions but it is usually 3–4 years.
This beetle is found in beech, sycamore, maple
and el m and can be a nui sance when i t occurs i n
furni ture. I t i s rarel y observed i n softwoods,
cl earl y because of the l i mi ted si ze of the pores,
but i t appears that i t may occasi onal l y l ay eggs
i n spl i ts. The bore dust i s fi ner than that of the
other Anobi d beetl es and si mi l ar to that
produced by the Lyctid beetles but more densely
packed. Thi s beetl e i s fr equentl y found i n
association with the Common Furniture beetle
when i nfesti ng woods attracti ve to both speci es,
such as beech.
There are a number of other Anobid beetles
whi ch ar e found i n natur e but r ar el y i n
structural or decorati ve wood, for ex ampl e
Nicobium castaneum, whi ch i s found i nfesti ng
wood i n Medi terranean countri es, Anobium
denticolle and Hedobia imperialis, whi ch are
found i n hawthor n, and Ochina hederae
FIGURE B.10 Ptilinus pectinicornis.
Appendix
196
(ptinoides), whi ch i s found i n i vy. Stegobium
panaceum (Sitrodrepa panicea), the Drug Store,
Bi scui t or Bread beetl e, i s found i n dri ed, woody,
natural drugs, cork, dog bi scui ts and other
si mi l ar mater i al s, often appear i ng i n l ar ge
numbers in buildings and producing fears of an
extensive Common Furniture beetle infestation;
the beetl e i s, i n fact, l ess el ongate, more reddi sh
brown and smal l er, and l acks the di sti nct hump
whi ch i s a feature of the thorax of the Common
Furni ture beetl e. Si mi l ar fears may ari se i n
warehouses where stored tobacco i s i nfested by
the Ci garette beetl e, Lasioderma serricornia,
al though thi s Anobi d beetl e i s r eadi l y
di sti ngui shed by i ts serrated antennae. The
cl osel y rel ated Pti ni ds or Spi der beetl es are al so
sometimes confused with Anobids, although they
possess an abdomen whi ch i s di sti nctl y more
rounded, and much longer legs; household pests
that ar e confused wi th wood-bor er s ar e
described more fully in Remedial Treatments in
Buildings by the present author.
Cerambycid Longhorn beetles
The Cerambycidae, the Longhorn beetles, are a
very l arge fami l y wi th wi del y varyi ng habi ts.
Thei r name ari ses from the fact that thei r
antennae are someti mes l onger than the rest of
the body. These beetl es vary i n l ength from 6 to
75 mm (1/4 i n to 3 i n) and some speci es are
bri ghtl y col oured. The eggs are whi te, oval or
spi ndl e-shaped, and normal l y l ai d i n crevi ces i n
bark. Al l the l arvae are strai ght, wi th a sl i ght
taper towards the rear. Larvae can be up to
100mm (4 i n) l ong when ful l y grown, l egl ess or
wi th very short, usel ess l egs. The fl i ght hol es are
characteri sti cal l y oval . Al though there are many
speci es there are onl y a l i mi ted number of
economi c si gni fi cance as they are mai nl y forest
scavengers i nfesti ng damp, rotted wood.
Some Longhorn beetl es, such as Callidium,
Phymatodes, and Trinophylum spp, bore as
larvae under the bark and then penetrate up to
100 mm (4 in) into the wood in order to pupate.
Others, such as Ergates, Macrotoma, Cerambyx,
Monohammus and Batocera spp, bore entirely in
wood, often into heartwood in species such as
hickory and ash where there is relatively little
differentiation between heartwood and sapwood.
Onl y a few speci es, such as Hylotrupes,
Stromatium and Oemida are able to bore in dry
wood after removal of the bark. Often the form
of the galleries enables the infesting Longhorn to
be i denti fi ed, so that damage by Hylotrupes,
Phymatodes and Monohammus can be readi l y
distinguished in this way. However, the thickness
of the bark and girth of the tree can influence the
shape and nature of galleries and chambers. For
example, the larvae of Leiopus nebulosus form a
pupal cel l as an oval excavati on i mmedi atel y
beneath the moderatel y thi ck bark i n oak but
penetrate deep i nto the sapwood i n chestnut,
which has a thin bark.
When Longhorn damage i s di scovered i t i s
most important to decide whether the infestation
i s confi ned to the forest or whether i t i s abl e to
progress and spread i n wood i n servi ce. As wood
dr i es the l i fe cycl e of some of the for est
Longhorns increases and many species are able
to survi ve, occasi onal l y for excepti onal l y l ong
periods of 25 years or more, eventually emerging
and per haps establ i shi ng a new Longhor n
i nfestati on probl em i n adjacent sui tabl e forests.
Most of the seri ous Longhorn forest pests i n
Europe have been introduced in this way.
I n Europe hardwoods are attacked by a
number of Longhorn beetl es, but i nfestati ons i n
heal thy trees are rare and i n most cases the trees
are si ckl y or the wood even dead or decayed.
Oak sapwood i s someti mes attacked by the Oak
Longhorn beetl e, Phymatodes testaceus (Fi g.
B.11). Eggs are l ai d i n cracks wi thi n the bark
and the l arvae bore between the bark and the
wood i n standi ng, si ckl y tr ees, eventual l y
pupati ng i n chambers wi thi n the wood. Thi s
speci es i s al so someti mes found i n beech. Oak
i s al so attacked by Cerambyx cerdo, Clytus
arcuatus and C. ari etus, the l atter bei ng
known as the Wasp beetle because of its distinctive
Appendix
197
bl ack and yel l ow bands. If oak i s decayed i t can
be attacked by Rhagium mordax and Leiopus
nebulosus.
Someti mes, speci es associ ated wi th softwoods
ar e r epor ted i n har dwoods, for ex ampl e
Hylotrupes bajulus and Callidium violaceum i n
oak sapwood and Molorchus minor under the
bark of bi rch. Aspen, wi del y used i n Scandi navi a
for the manufacture of matches and sauna
furni ture, i s someti mes attacked by Clytus
rusticus, whi l st Saperda carcharias i s found i n
popl ar and wi l l ow. The l atter speci es i s rather
unusual as the adul ts feed on the l eaves, tendi ng
to ki l l the tree. The eggs are eventual l y l ai d at
the base of the young, sickly trees and the larvae
bore wi thi n the wood, pri nci pal l y al ong the
gr ai n; thei r gal l er i es ar e often eventual l y
di scl osed by woodpeckers.
The most i mportant Longhorn speci es to
attack North Ameri can oak are Smodicum
cucujiforme, Chion cinctus and Romaleum
rufulum, these often penetrati ng the heartwood
as wel l as the sapwood. Eburia quadrigeminata,
which is yellow or pale brown and 18–24 mm (3/
4 i n-1 i n) l ong, i s al so occasi onal l y found and
can survi ve for many years i n servi ce before i t
emerges; i t has been found emergi ng from a
bedpost 25 years after manufacture and has been
reported as emerging from other items as much
as forty years often thei r manufacture. North
Amer i can hi ckor y and ash ar e someti mes
i nfested by the ash borer, Neoclytus caprea or
the red-headed ash borer, N. erythrocephalus.
Longhorn i nfestati ons are l ess common i n
softwoods, the most ser i ous bei ng that of
Hylotrupes bajulus, the House Longhorn beetl e,
whi ch wi l l be consi dered i n detai l separatel y i n
vi ew of i ts abi l i ty to i nfest dry softwood i n
servi ce. Occasi onal l y Tetropium castaneum and
T. fuscum are found i n spruce and si l ver fi r from
Pol and, and Callidium violaceum and
Monohammus spp i n pi ne and spruce from
Scandi navi a and Russi a; such i nfestati ons i n
i mported wood have now resul ted i n these pests
becomi ng establ i shed i n the Bri ti sh Isl es. Other
Longhorns introduced in this way are Tetropium
gabrieli, whi ch i s found i n Engl and and Wal es
attacki ng si ckl y l arch trees and l ogs whi ch are
also attacked by the Spruce Longhorn, Callidium
violaceum. Acanthocinus aedilis i s a cause of
damage i n pi ne i n Scotl and onl y; thi s wood i s
more often attacked by Criocephalus rusticus,
Asemum striatum and Rhagium bifasciatum, the
latter being one of the commonest Longhorns in
Britain, though it has little economic significance
as i t attacks onl y decayed softwoods.
Longhorn i nfestati ons are rare i n softwood
imported from North America, but occasionally
Dougl as fi r or Si tka spruce may be i nfested by
Monohammus titillator, M. scutellatus or
Ergates spiculatus; the l atter speci es i s abl e to
survi ve i n wood i n servi ce for many years and
has been found by the author emergi ng from
Dougl as fi r fl oor boar ds thi r ty year s after
i nstal l ati on. Another speci es that i s abl e to
survive in service is the Two-toothed Longhorn
from New Zealand, Ambeodontus tristus, which
i s descri bed i n more detai l l ater.
Longhorns are not confi ned to temperate
areas. Oemida gahani i s often found i n soft-
wood, such as Cupressus, i n Kenya, where
Androeme plagiata, whi ch i s very si mi l ar i n
FI GURE B.11 Oak Longhorn beetl e, Phymatodes
testaceus.
Appendix
198
appearance, i s found i n both hardwoods and
softwoods. By about 1958 Longhorn damage had
become so extensive in Kenya in some woods such
as Isoberlinia that felling had to be abandoned as
uneconomi c. The I ndi an Dry-wood borer
Stromatium barbatum i s remarkabl e as i t i s
known to attack over three hundred wood
speci es. One I ndi an Longhorn, Trinophylum
cribratum, was r epor ted to have become
establ i shed i n Engl and i n 1947 on hardwoods
such as beech; it was apparently introduced on
i mported wood and causes damage si mi l ar i n
appearance to that by Phymatodes testaceus
except that the galleries penetrate 50 mm (2 in) or
more into the wood and it is therefore of greater
economic importance. Longhorn damage is rarely
found in tropical African hardwoods and then it is
usual l y caused by Coptops aedificator or
Plocaederus spp, the l atter speci es bei ng
characterized by calcareous cocoons which line
the pupal chambers in the bark of woods such as
mahogany, a feature that is characteristic also of
another Longhorn, Xystrocera.
I t wi l l be appreci ated that many of these
forest Longhorns are scavengers whi ch i nfest
decayi ng wood and whi ch are of no si gni fi cance
for wood i n servi ce, where the decay probl em i s
far more seri ous than any new borer i nfestati on.
Most of the other speci es menti oned are bark-
borers whi ch attack si ckl y trees or fel l ed l ogs
and cause l i ttl e damage unl ess thei r pupal
chambers penetrate deepl y. A few speci es bore
much more deeply in wood but infested wood is
usual l y readi l y detected and rejected, al though
occasi onal l y i nfestati ons survi ve i n shi pments.
The principal significance of any such survival is
that i t can enabl e i nfestati ons to spread to new
forest areas; these borers are not general l y abl e
to re-i nfest dry wood. Onl y a very few speci es
are therefore l i kel y to be encountered as acti ve
i nfestati ons i n wood i n servi ce.
Occasi onal l y, acti ve i nfestati ons of Eburia
quadrigeminata and Ergates spiculatus may be
found i n North Ameri can oak and Dougl as fi r,
respecti vel y, many years after conversi on but
these are exampl es of excepti onal survi val rather
than re-i nfestati on. The Oak Longhorn beetl e,
Phymatodes testaceus, i s abl e to attack
European hardwoods, parti cul arl y oak, after
they are dry but onl y provi ded the bark remai ns.
The eggs are l ai d i n the bark and the l arvae
tunnel between the bark and the wood, making
deeper tunnels to provide a pupation chamber.
Thi s speci es consti tutes a probl em pri nci pal l y
duri ng ai r-seasoni ng, but emergence can al so
occasi onal l y occur from new oak boards i n
service; North American Longhorn species may
sometimes emerge from imported oak. The two
smal l est Longhor ns, Cracilia minuta and
Leptidea brevipennis, can al so attack dry wood,
but they are confi ned to wi cker work and are
therefore of l i mi ted i mportance. In fact, the onl y
Longhorn species of real economic significance is
the House Longhorn beetl e (Fi g. B.12).
The House Longhorn beetl e, Hylotrupes
bajulus (Callidium bajulum), is known in many
areas as the European Houseborer. Al though
ori gi nal l y confi ned to central and southern
Europe this species has now been introduced on
imported wood to North America, South Africa
and Australia, it apparently reaching the latter
conti nent through the i mportati on of i nfested
prefabricated buildings in 1948. Even in Europe
i ts di stri buti on has been i nfl uenced by the
FI GURE B.12 House Longhorn beetl e, Hylotrupes
bajulus.
Appendix
199
establ i shment of tradi ng routes and l ocal
conditions. For example, it was first reported in
London i n 1795, perhaps bei ng i mported i n
orange boxes from Spai n, but the i nfestati ons
apparently died out, probably through pollution
in the nineteenth century. It is now confined to the
less polluted areas to the south-west of London,
where it is known as the Camberley borer, and
spread to other parts of Engl and has not
occurred, perhaps through climatic restrictions. In
Scandinavia it is found throughout Denmark, the
Baltic Islands and in the south of Sweden and
Norway around the major trading areas such as
Oslofjord, Stavanger and Bergen.
House Longhorn beetle attacks the sapwood
of dry softwoods. It i s not as wi despread as the
Common Furni ture beetl e but the damage i t
causes i s much more rapi d and more severe so i t
can be consi dered the most i mportant wood-
borer i n temperate areas free from termi tes. The
adul t beetl e i s somewhat fl at and (10–20 mm)
(2/5 i n-4/5 i n) l ong, the mal e bei ng smal l er than
the femal e. The beetl es are brown to bl ack i n
col our except that they have thi ck, grey hai rs on
the head and prothorax (the front secti on of the
thorax), and the femal e has a central bl ack l i ne
and a black nodule on either side and the male
whi te marks. There are al so di sti nct, shaped
whi te spots on the el ytra.
I n Eur ope the beetl es emer ge i n Jul y to
September and a si ngl e femal e can l ay as many
as 200 eggs, whi ch hatch wi thi n 1–3 weeks,
these eggs being spindle-shaped and 2mm (1/12
i n) l ong. In a roof structure the l arvae from a
si ngl e cl utch of eggs can cause substanti al
damage wi thi n a peri od of 3–11 years before
they pupate and emerge as adul ts, perhaps
entirely destroying the sapwood and leaving only
a thi n surface veneer, thi s sl i ghtl y di storted by
the presence of the oval gal l eri es beneath. The
fi r st si gn of damage may ther efor e be the
collapse of a largely sapwood member, though in
warm weather the gnawi ng of the i nsects can be
cl earl y heard. When ful l y grown the l arva i s
about 30mm (1¼ in) long, straight-bodied and
distinctly segmented, with a slight taper and very
smal l l egs. Pupati on occurs i n a chamber just
bel ow the surface and i s compl ete i n three
weeks, the emergi ng beetl e l eavi ng an oval fl i ght
hol e about 1 cm (3/8 i n) across.
The appearance of even a si ngl e fl i ght hol e
indicates that severe damage has already occurred
and that the condition of the structure should be
checked by thorough probi ng. Because of the
seriousness of the damage this beetle causes, the
building regulations in England now require all
structural wood to be preserved against this pest
in the areas to the south-west of London where it
is known to occur. Similar regulations have been
introduced in other European countries and in
South Afri ca, whi l st the Austral i an quaranti ne
regul ati ons are desi gned to prevent further
infestations being introduced.
Two-toothed Longhorn beetle
The Two-toothed Longhor n, Ambeodontus
tristus, causes seri ous damage to softwoods i n
servi ce i n New Zeal and. I t thri ves i n si mi l ar
condi ti ons to the House Longhorn beetl e and
causes si mi l ar damage, but the oval exi t hol es
are di sti nctl y smal l er, bei ng onl y about 5 mm (1/
5 i n) across. In 1974 thi s i nsect was found to
have caused severe damage to joi sts i n a cel l ar i n
Lei cestershi re, Engl and. The i nfestati on was
i ntroduced i n the joi sts, whi ch were found to be
made from the wood of a Dacrydium pi ne,
common in New Zealand.
Curculionid weevils
As wood becomes damp or decayed the activity
of many wood-borers, such as the Common
Furni ture beetl e, i s encouraged and the wood
may become infested by other species dependent
upon decay, such as the Death Watch beetl e and
par ti cul ar l y the wood-bor i ng weevi l s,
Curcul i oni dae (Cossoni dae). The weevi l i s a
shi ny, cyl i ndri cal beetl e, 3–5 mm (1/8 i n-1/5 i n)
l ong and brown to bl ack i n col our, i ts head
Appendix
200
protrudi ng i nto a l ong snout wi th ‘el bowed’
antennae about hal fway al ong i ts l ength. The
l arvae are curved and l egl ess.
Both the adul ts and the l arvae bore, causi ng
damage whi ch i s superfi ci al l y si mi l ar to that
made by the Common Furniture beetle but the
hol es are smal l er, contai n fi ner bore dust, are
often l ami nar i n patter n and ar e per haps
confi ned to the spri ng wood. The attack i s often
limited to sapwood but extends into heartwood
i f fungal decay i s more severe; however vi si bl e
fungal decay does not al ways appear to be
necessary. Eggs are l ai d si ngl y, ei ther i n smal l
hol es i n the surface or i n ni ches wi thi n the
gal l eri es, at any ti me of the year and they are
hatched wi thi n 2–3 weeks, the l arvae then
boring for 6–12 months before metamorphosing
i nto adul ts, usual l y duri ng June to October.
Unl i ke most wood-bori ng beetl es the adul ts can
survi ve for a very l ong peri od, perhaps 12
months or more, acti vel y tunnel l i ng wi thi n the
wood.
I n Bri tai n Pentarthrum huttoni (Fi g. B.13) i s
a nati ve speci es usual l y found i n bui l di ngs i n
decayed fl oorboards and panel l i ng, as wel l as i n
ol d casei n-gl ued pl ywood. Caulotrupis
aeneopiceus, another nati ve speci es, i s more
rarel y i denti fi ed i n bui l di ngs and i s then onl y
found i n associ ati on wi th very decayed wet
wood i n cel l ars and under-fl oor spaces. Very
rarel y i nfestati ons may be found to be due to
Cossonus ferrugineus and Rhyncolus lignarius.
However, i n recent years the weevi l that has
attracted most attenti on i s Euophryum confine.
Thi s speci es was appar entl y i ntr oduced to
Bri tai n from New Zeal and i n about 1935 and i t
has si nce spr ead ver y wi del y, appar entl y
because i t i s abl e to i nfest wood whi ch i s not
si gni fi cantl y decayed and whi ch may have a
moi sture content as l ow as 20%. Thi s speci es i s
therefore of greater si gni fi cance. Adul t beetl es
of Euophryum confine can be di sti ngui shed
from those of Pentarthrum huttoni by the sharp
constri cti on of the head behi nd the eyes, as
i l l ustrated i n Fi g. B.13.
Oedermerid beetles
The Wharf borer, Nacerda melanura (Fi g. B.14),
a member of the fami l y Oeder mer i dae, i s
superfi ci al l y si mi l ar to a Longhorn beetl e. I t i s a
free fl i er and has someti mes been found i n great
numbers i n streets and bui l di ngs cl ose to dock
areas i n, for exampl e, London and Copenhagen.
The beetl e attacks both softwoods and
hardwoods whi ch are decayed and apparentl y
favours wood which is wetted by sea water, brine
or uri ne, and the l arge numbers whi ch are
someti mes found ori gi nate from pi l es, groi ns,
quays and pi ers i n sea or ri ver areas. One of the
mysteri es i s that, at other ti mes, thi s i nsect i s
rarel y observed and i t i s therefore someti mes
FIGURE B.13 Wood weevils, Euophryum confine and
the head of Pentarthrum huttoni.
Appendix
201
confused wi th the carni verous sol di er beetl es,
Rhagonycha fulva, whi ch ar e common i n
summer on garden flowers.
The Wharf borer i s 6–12 mm (1/4 i n-1/2 i n)
l ong, el ongate and reddi sh brown wi th di sti nct
bl ack ti ps to the el ytra and l ong antennae. The
sol di er beetl es are much redder wi th a wi der
prothorax, l ess fl attened and wi thout the l ateral
flanges possessed by the Wharf borer. The Wharf
borer l arvae are r ather sl ender, eventual l y
achi evi ng a l ength of 12–30 mm (l /2i n-l ¼ i n),
di rty whi te i n col our, and have a l arge yel l ow
head and three pai rs of fai rl y l ong l egs. The fi rst
segment behind the head has a distinct hump or
knob in the centre of the back. Damaged wood is
usually brown in colour through decay but also
di sti nctl y l ami nar as most of the attack takes
pl ace al ong the grai n.
Other beetles
Another i nsect associ ated wi th damp, decayed
wood i s Helops coeruleus, one of the
Tenebri oni dae. Attack by thi s i nsect i s rare, at
l east i n the Bri ti sh Isl es, where i t i s confi ned to a
few areas in southern and eastern England. In
str uctur al woodwor k i t i s al most al ways
associ ated wi th the Death Watch beetl e i n oak or
chestnut, the Death Watch beetl e usual l y
attacking areas which are reasonably sound but
i nfected wi th fungi such as Merulius lacrymans,
Coniophora cerebella and Phellinus
megaloporous, wher eas Helops i s usual l y
associ ated wi th more fri abl e wood i n wetter
areas, perhaps supporting Paxillus panuoides.
The larvae are long and slender, 25 mm (1 in)
or more i n l ength and cyl i ndri cal , wi th a tough
ski n, typi cal of thi s ‘cl i ck’ beetl e fami l y. The l ast
segment i s equi pped wi th a pai r of l ar ge,
power ful spi nes cur ved towar ds the head,
whereas the adjacent segment has two smal l
spi nes curved towards the rear so that the l arva
i s capabl e of gri ppi ng wi th these appendages.
The l i fe cycl e appears to be about 2 years, wi th a
short period of pupation and emergence in May
to June. At fi rst the adul t beetl es are brown but
later become deep black with a metallic blue tint.
These are particularly handsome beetles 12–25
mm (l /2i n-1 i n) l ong and very acti ve fl i ers on
warm ni ghts.
There are a number of other beetl es that are
of minor importance. In the family Buprestidae
Buprestis aurulenta i s someti mes found i n North
Ameri can softwoods even 25 years or more after
conversi on of the wood, apparentl y because
dryi ng has retarded devel opment, as i s the case
wi th some Longhorn beetl es, as previ ousl y
descri bed. Thi s handsome beetl e from western
North America, 15–22 mm (5/8 in-7/8 in) long,
i s a bri l l i ant metal l i c green ex cept that the
margins of the prothorax and elytra are coppery
or red. Other Burpresti ds someti mes cause
damage, parti cul arl y i n the Uni ted States, for
ex ampl e the Tur penti ne bor er, Buprestis
apricans.
The Dermesti dae are another fami l y that
shoul d be menti oned as the Hi de beetl e,
Dermestes maculata, i s someti mes reported as
bori ng i nto wood i n order to pupate; there have
been several recent reports i n Engl and of i ts
causi ng damage i n hen houses, for thi s beetl e
frequentl y i nfests hen l i tter. There are many
other Dermesti ds, such as the Carpet beetl es,
whi ch are frequentl y confused wi th wood-
borers, as are so many beetl es found i n domes-
FIGURE B.14 Wharf borer, Nacerda melanura.
Appendix
202
tic premises; these are described in more detail in
Remedial Treatments in Buildings by the present
author.
Predators
A more important beetle is Korynetes coeruleus
(Fi g. B.15), a very acti ve metal l i c bl ue Cl eri d
6mm (1/4 i n) l ong, whi ch i s a predator on the
Death Watch beetl e and whose presence i s often
an i ndi cati on of a substanti al i nfestati on. The
rel ated Opilio mollis i s associ ated wi th the
Common Furni ture beetl e, whi l st the smal l er
Tarsostenus univitartus and Paratillus carus,
bl ue bl ack i n col our ex cept for a whi te
transverse band on the el ytra, are often found
associ ated wi th Lycti d i nfestati ons. The l arvae,
whi ch feed on the wood-borer l arvae, are whi te
and have a strai ght, cyl i ndri cal form wi th a pai r
of hooks at the posterior end.
Lycti d i nfestati ons al so attract smal l
Hymenoptera predators, such as the minute, ant-
like, wingless Bethylidae, Sclerodermus domesticus
and S. macrogaster, and the mi nute wi nged fl i es
of the Braconidae, Eubadizon pallipes (Fig. B.16).
Other Hymenoptera are associ ated wi th the
Common Furni ture beetl e, for exampl e the smal l
wi ngl ess, ant-l i ke Chal cydi dae, Theocolax
formiciformis (Fi g. B.17) and Spathius exarata.
Al l wood-bori ng beetl e i nfestati ons al so attract
the ver y mi nute mi te Peymotes ventricosus,
the femal e becomes permanentl y attached to the
host l arva by i ts mouth parts, swel l i ng to form a
ball about 1 mm (1/24 in) in diameter, whilst the
mal e l i ves on the body of the femal e.
Termites
Al though var i ous wood-bor i ng beetl e
i nfestati ons occur throughout the worl d the
damage caused by termi tes i s general l y far more
seri ous where these i nsects occur i n tropi cal and
subtr opi cal ar eas. Al though ter mi tes ar e
someti mes known as whi te ants they are, i n fact,
FI GURE B.15 Korynetes coeruleus, a predator on
Death Watch beetle.
FI GURE B.16 Eubadizon pallipes, a predator on
Lyctid Powder Post beetles.
FIGURE B.17 Theocolax formiciformis, a predator on
Common Furniture beetle.
Appendix
203
members of the order Isoptera, whereas the true
ants are Hymenoptera. However, they have
many si mi l ari ti es wi th ants as they are soci al
i nsects formi ng communi ti es whi ch i ncl ude the
mal e and femal e reproducti ve i ndi vi dual s as wel l
as speci al i zed steri l e forms or ‘castes’, the
workers and sol di ers. General l y the workers are
soft-bodied and wingless, confined to the ground
or wood, where they devote thei r energy to
feedi ng, foragi ng and bui l di ng. Sol di ers serve a
defensi ve rol e al one and are equi pped wi th l arge
heads and jaws. In the Dry Wood termi tes of the
Kal otermi ti dae there are no true workers but
nymphs instead. A female queen may produce
thousands of eggs each day, and the manner of
feedi ng after hatchi ng i nfl uences the ul ti mate
di fferenti ati on of the forms. Reproducti ve forms
are produced at certai n ti mes of the year and
di sperse to found new col oni es.
About 2000 speci es of termi tes have been
i denti fi ed, of whi ch more than 150 are known
to damage wood i n bui l di ngs and other
structures. Termi tes are pri nci pal l y tropi cal but
extend i nto Austral i a and New Zeal and and are
common i n North Ameri ca, though rare i n
Canada (Fi g. B.18). Thei r i ntroducti on i nto
certai n parts of France and Germany i s cl earl y
rel ated to trade; for ex ampl e the termi te of
Sai ntonge, Reticulitermes santonensis (Fi g.
B.19), whi ch was establ i shed on the west coast
of France between the rivers Garonne and Loire,
i s now found i n Pari s around the Austerl i tz
stati on, whi ch serves thi s regi on. Si mi l arl y,
Reticulitermes flavipes from the Uni ted States i s
concentrated around Hamburg. Neither species
can spread wi del y as they are evi dentl y sensi ti ve
to temperature and tend to survi ve i n central
heating ducts and other permanently warm areas
i n bui l di ngs.
A common feature of the si x fami l i es of
termites is the lack of a cellulase digestive enzyme,
al though al l these fami l i es i ncl ude wood-
FIGURE B.19 Worker (a) and soldier (b), the most
common castes of the termite Reticulitermes santonensis.
FIGURE B.18 World distribution of termites (after W.V.Harris).
Appendix
204
destroyers that are dependent upon i ntesti nal
symbionts or prior fungal decay in order to digest
cellulose. Identification is difficult in view of the
large number of species, yet some classification is
necessary in order to decide whether a particular
speci es represents a si gni fi cant ri sk justi fyi ng
some form of preservation. It is also necessary to
have a knowledge of the areas in which wood-
destroying termites occur, again in order to decide
whether preservati on treatment i s necessary;
Table B.1 attempts to summarize this situation.
The damage by the Dry Wood termi tes of the
Kal otermi ti dae i s si mi l ar to that caused by the
l arger wood-bori ng beetl e l arvae, such as the
House Longhorn beetle, Hylotrupes bajulus. In
some areas, such as South Afri ca, both these
i nsects are found i nfesti ng wood but the termi te
damage can be di sti ngui shed as the l i ni ng of the
gal l er i es i s smooth, and the gal l er i es ar e
rel ati vel y l arge wi th di sti nct, smal l -di ameter
connecti ng tunnel s. The faecal pel l ets are smal l
and cylindrical with rounded or pointed ends but
di sti nct grooves down the si des. In fact, as the
Dry Wood termites spread through flying, egg-
l ayi ng femal es, as does the House Longhorn
beetl e, onl y the use of natural l y durabl e or
adequately preserved wood will avoid damage.
Al most al l other wood-destroyi ng termi tes are
subterranean, formi ng nest cavi ti es i n soi l or
very rotten wood, or mound-bui l di ng, most
constr ucti ng cover ed wal kways and al l
contr ol l abl e by poi soni ng the soi l of the
foundati ons of a bui l di ng and a surroundi ng
zone. Termi te shi el ds have been wi del y used i n
supported bui l di ngs to i sol ate the wooden parts
of the structure from the soi l but i t i s di ffi cul t to
construct shi el ds that are compl etel y rel i abl e and
most termi tes are abl e to fi nd ways round by
constructi ng mounds or covered wal kways;
perhaps the mai n val ue of the shi el ds i s to make
the tubul ar wal kways cl earl y apparent so that
they can de destroyed during regular inspections.
European termites
There are onl y three speci es of termi tes whi ch
can be descri bed as typi cal l y and excl usi vel y
Eur opean. Kalotermes flavicollis occur s
throughout the Medi terranean and Bl ack Sea
areas, usual l y i n ol d stumps and dyi ng trees. It
has also been reported in vine stock but it appears
TABLE B.1 Wood-destroying termites
TABLE B.1 (continued)
Appendix
206
that i t i s actual l y occupyi ng gal l eri es bored by
the Longhor n beetl e Chlorophorus varius;
termi tes are sel dom a pri mary cause of damage
i n l i vi ng pl ants. Thi s speci es does not appear to
be a true Dry Wood termi te i n the sense that i t i s
not usually found in dry wood but is apparently
dependent upon at l east i nci pi ent decay.
Reticulitermes lucifugus i s found i n the same
area, approxi matel y south of the Gi ronde ri ver
i n France, but there appear to be several races or
strai ns of thi s; the Iberi an, French, Si ci l i an and
Bal kan i nsects are al l di sti nctl y di fferent i n
behavi our. However, they are al l subterranean
ter mi tes whi ch cause ex tensi ve damage to
i nteri or and exteri or woodwork, and they are
perhaps the most seri ous wood-destroyi ng pests
in southern Europe.
Reticulitermes santonensis was ori gi nal l y
cl assi fi ed as a vari ety of R. lucifugus but i t i s
now consi dered to be a true speci es, di sti nctl y
more acti ve and more resi stant to adverse dry
and cold conditions. It is found attacking wood
i n the open and i n bui l di ngs i n the western
coastal ar ea of Fr ance between the r i ver s
Garonne and Loi re, and has spread al ong the
connecti ng rai l way to Pari s where i nfestati ons
are now noti fi abl e. In 1956 i t was confi ned to
thr ee ar eas, wi th onl y 55 bui l di ngs bei ng
affected, but by 1965 86 buildings were known
to be i nfested. Two years l ater an addi ti onal area
was di scover ed and the i nfested bui l di ngs
increased to 120, and by 1972 there were a total
of 384 known i nfested bui l di ngs and thi s speci es
was cl earl y becomi ng fi rml y establ i shed as a
serious wood-destroying pest. This species is also
found in Yugoslavia.
Reticulitermes flavipes has been i denti fi ed
around Hamburg and i n Vi enna but the
i nfestati ons are very confi ned i n ex tent and
apparently introduced from the eastern United
States, where this species, R. virginicus and R.
hageni are the three major subterranean termites.
I n fact, i t i s general l y true to say that the
subterranean termites represent the major problem
in the warmer temperate areas, while Dry Wood
termi tes, parti cul arl y Cryptotermes spp, form
the major ri sk i n most tropi cal areas, and the
Kalotermes spp, perhaps not true Dry Wood
termi tes, are promi nent i n sub-tropi cal areas.
Carpenter ants
I n many respects the i nsects of the order
Hymenoptera are becomi ng of i ncreasi ng
significance as wood-borers. The Carpenter ants,
Camponotus herculeanus (Fi g. B.20) and C.
ligniperda, have been causing increasing damage in
buildings in Scandinavia in recent years. In nature
these i nsects tunnel i nto ol d trees affected by
interior decay in order to establish nests. Modern
forestry, however, leaves only very few suitable
trees and stumps, and the search for sui tabl e
nesti ng si tes probabl y expl ai ns the i ncreasi ng
i nci dence of i nfestati ons i n bui l di ngs. Summer
homes are much more frequently attacked than
permanent homes, probably because they are often
situated within or close to the forest.
It has been reported that Carpenter ants will
attack only wood which has already decayed but this
certainly appears to have been discounted in recent
years. It has also been suggested that they do not
swallow or digest the wood in which they are boring
and that they are therefore able to damage wood
treated wi th preservati ves contai ni ng stomach
i nsecti ci des, such as copper-chromi um-arseni c
formulations. The probable explanation for these
conflicting reports is the habit of describing both
FIGURE B.20 Worker of Carpenter ant, Camponotus
herculeanus; reproductive castes are winged.
Appendix
207
species collectively whereas they are, in fact, distinctly
different in behaviour; it certainly appears that C.
ligniperda is able to attack and utilize dry wood.
Damage is typically internal, being an irregular cavity
in soft, decayed wood, but it is laminar and follows
the growth rings in sound wood.
Camponotus vagus i s occasi onal l y found i n
southern Europe and C. pennsylvanicus in North
Ameri ca. Other Ameri can speci es are Lasius
brunneus, whi ch causes si mi l ar damage to
Camponotus, and L. fuliginosus, whi ch attacks
wood to obtain material for constructing its nest.
There i s an i ncreasi ng danger that these i nsects
wi l l be i ntroduced to other countri es i n wood
shi pments and there are al ready reports of
i sol ated i nfestati ons i n the Bri ti sh Isl es.
Carpenter bees
The order Hymenoptera also includes the family
Xylocopidae, the Carpenter bees. These are the
largest known bees, black with dark and often
i ri descent wi ngs, the fi ne hai rs over the body
frequently being yellow, white or brown. They
generally resemble the Bumble bees, Bombus spp,
but they are more flattened and less hairy. They are
wi del y di stri buted i n tropi cal and subtropi cal
areas, but four species have also been reported in
France, where the adults have been found boring in
beams, rafters and other structural timbers; these
bees penetrate very deepl y and di vi de thei r
burrows into a series of cells using fragments of
wood. A si ngl e egg i s deposi ted i n each cel l ,
together with a supply of pollen, and the purpose
of the boring appears to be to provide a completely
safe egg-laying site. Hesperophanes cinereus and
Xylocopa violacea are frequentl y reported as
causing limited structural damage, principally in
central France and along the valley of the Loire but
also as far north as Paris; however, the damage is
of very limited economic importance.
Saw files
Of si mi l ar l i mi ted i mportance i s the fami l y
Cephi dae, the Saw fl i es, sl ender-bodi ed, fl yi ng
insects which frequently case damage to standing
cr ops. However, one speci es, Ametastegia
glabrata, i s occasi onal l y found bori ng i n wood
and has recently been reported to have caused
damage i n Engl and to creosote and copper-
chromi um-arseni c sal t-treated posts i n motor-
way fenci ng. The attack takes the form of a
ci rcul ar entry hol e about 3 mm (1/8 i n) i n
di ameter l eadi ng to unbranched bl i nd tunnel s
whi ch can be 30mm (1 1/4i n) i n l ength.
Wood wasps
The most i mpor tant Hymenopter a ar e the
Si ri ci dae, the Wood wasps. The femal es use thei r
ovi posi ters to bore i nto the bark, l ayi ng thei r
eggs bel ow thi s i n the phl oem. The l atter then
becomes infected with a fungus, such as Stereum
sanguinolentuns, on whi ch the l arvae feed. The
l arvae of Sirex noctilio, whi ch are often found i n
Scots pine, eventually reach a length of 25 mm (1
i n) or more before pupati ng. I n the meanti me
they wi l l have formed an extensi ve seri es of
gal l eri es whi ch tend to l oosen the bark—an
i mportant stage i n the destructi on of si ckl y and
dead trees i n the forest. Adul ts may emerge from
wood i n servi ce; however, thei r gal l eri es can be
readily distinguished from those of the Longhorn
beetl es as the fl i ght hol es are ci rcul ar.
Urocerus (Sirex) gigas, the Gi ant Wood wasp,
i s found i n Scots pi ne, l arch, spruce and fi r,
producing tunnels up to 6–9 mm (1/4 in-3/8 in)
i n di ameter ti ghtl y packed wi th bore dust. The
eggs may be l ai d as much as 25 mm (1 i n) bel ow
the surface and the gal l eri es may penetrate i nto
the heartwood, but onl y si ckl y trees or fel l ed
l ogs are attacked. The adul ts, up to 50 mm (2 i n)
l ong, are stri ped yel l ow and bl ack and often
confused with hornets. Trees killed by forest fires
can attract great numbers of these i nsects; they
have al so been reported as bori ng i n rafters, but
i t seems most l i kel y that they are i ntroduced i n
the wood i n the forest. Si mi l ar damage i s caused
by other speci es, for exampl e the bl ue Sirex
cyaneus, which infests larch, and also S. juvencus
and Xeris spectrum.
Appendix
208
None of these Wood wasps are considered to
be of economi c si gni fi cance i n Europe as they
attack onl y si ckl y or dead trees i n the forest.
However, i t appear s that they have been
i ntroduced i nto New Zeal and and Tasmani a,
where they are consi dered to cause damage to
heal thy tr ees. As a r esul t the Austr al i an
authori ti es i ntroduced quaranti ne regul ati ons,
these ori gi nal l y bei ng confi ned to European
softwood, whi ch was requi red to be treated to
ensur e that i t di d not i ntr oduce fur ther
i nfestati ons. The regul ati ons have now been
extended to al l wood i mported to Austral i a, so
that al l wood shi pments must be i nspected and
al l wooden components i n packagi ng and
contai ner s must be tr eated by appr oved
methods, as i t has been appreci ated that there
ar e many other far mor e ser i ous wood-
destroyi ng pests that coul d be i ntroduced.
The onl y other Hymenoptera that are of
si gni fi cance i n wood pr eser vati on ar e the
predators on Col eoptera, the beetl es; these have
al ready been descri bed as thei r si gni fi cance l i es
i n the fact that thei r presence i ndi cates the
exi stence of a substanti al i nfestati on by a wood-
bori ng beetl e.
Wood-boring moths
The onl y other i nsect group of si gni fi cance i s the
order Lepi doptera, the butterfl i es and moths, as
two fami l i es have wood-bori ng caterpi l l ars. The
Sesi i dae, the Cl ear wi ngs, ar e not r eadi l y
i denti fi abl e as types of moths as they more
cl osel y resembl e wasps or bees i n that they have
rather sl ender bodi es; however, they can be
i denti fi ed by the narrow band of scal es around
the edges of the wi ngs. The Cossi dae are the
Goat moths; Cossus cossus (ligniperda) can be
found bori ng i nto the base of oak, el m, wi l l ow
and popl ar trees. The l arvae bore l arge gal l eri es,
frequentl y causi ng seri ous damage to standi ng
trees, pri nci pal l y because many of the speci es are
very l arge, some Austral i an adul ts achi evi ng a
wi ng span of 180mm (7 i n). I n Europe and
North America the most important species is the
Wood Leopard moth, Zeuzera pyrina (coesculi),
whi ch bores i n upper branches, usual l y i n frui t
trees. Thi s speci es has a wi ng span of about 45
mm (1
3/4
i n) and i s general l y consi dered to be an
occasi onal seri ous pest of frui t trees, al though i t
has someti mes been suggested that i t may be the
cause of damage i n structural wood.
The fami l y Pyr al i dae shoul d al so be
menti oned for, al though these soci al moths are
not wood-borers, their webs and pupal chambers
are often found i n deep, open joi nts i n ol d roof
timbers, where they are sometimes confused with
fungal growth by inexperienced surveyors. The
two most i mportant speci es are the Bee moth,
Aphomia sociella, and the Honeycomb moth,
Galleria mellonella.
Marine borers—Gribble
The most important marine borers are Crustacea
of the sub-order Isoposa. They are all superficially
similar to the common wood louse, which is also
i ncl uded i n thi s sub-order. Limnoria spp, the
gribbles, are 3–5 mm (1/8 in-1/5 in) long and
strong swi mmers; however water currents
general l y have a greater i nfl uence over thei r
di stri buti on. They settl e on wood, formi ng
superficial burrows less than 12 mm (1/2 in) deep
with small entrance holes of less than 2.5 mm (1/10
in) diameter. The galleries follow the early wood,
giving it a laminar appearance, until the weakened
zone breaks away, exposing a fresh surface to
attack. Gribble actually attacks wood at all depths
bel ow the mi d-ti de l evel but damage i s most
apparent in the tidal zone where the wave action
steadi l y removes damaged wood, permi tti ng
progressive erosion to occur. Eggs are held by the
female in a brood pouch beneath the body until
they eventually hatch and the young gribble are
released into the parent’s burrow. These eventually
bore on their own and also swim freely in warm
weather in search of suitable settlement sites.
Vari ous speci es of Limnoria occur throughout
the world, and in tropical areas Sphaeroma spp,
Appendix
209
whi ch are si mi l ar i n habi ts but about 15 mm (3/
5 i n) l ong, are al so found, as wel l as the rel ated
Exosphaeroma spp. Chelura spp, members of the
sub-or der Amphi poda, may al so be found
i nfesti ng wood; however, they do not appear to
cause damage, but simply occupy vacant gribble
tunnels.
Shipworm
The mol l uscan borers are al l i ncl uded wi thi n the
order Eul amel l i branchi ata, but are i n two
fami l i es. The Teredi ni dae i ncl ude pi l e worms,
shipworms and cobra. The best known genus is
Teredo, the shi pworms. The mi nute l arvae swi m
freel y and eventual l y settl e on wood where they
bore holes about 0.5 mm (1/50 in) in diameter.
Throughout the rest of its life the Teredo remains
wi thi n the wood, the onl y vi si bl e evi dence of i ts
presence bei ng two syphons projecti ng from the
burrow, whi ch enabl e water to be drawn i n and
discharged. If the burrow becomes exposed to
the air, perhaps during low tide, the syphons are
wi thdrawn and the hol e seal ed wi th the pal l et.
The Teredo grows, and extends i ts tunnel i n
order to accommodate i ts enl argi ng body by
usi ng i ts shel l s as cutters, bori ng pri nci pal l y
al ong the gr ai n. The bur r ows have a
characteri sti c cal careous l i ni ng but the extensi ve
damage that may be caused i n sui tabl e
condi ti ons i s al most enti rel y conceal ed, unl ess i t
is exposed by gribble damage causing the surface
to break away.
Var i ous speci es of Teredo are wi del y
di stri buted throughout the worl d, al though
confi ned to sal i ne waters whi ch are reasonabl y
warm; i n Europe i nfestati ons are general l y
confined to southern and western coasts exposed
to the Gul f stream. Bankia spp are general l y far
l arger than Teredo and are confi ned to the
tropics.
The fami l y Phol adi dae, the bori ng mussel s, i s
of mi nor i mportance as the damage caused i s
rel ati vel y superfi ci al . Martesia i s someti mes
found boring in wood, usually after this has been
softened by decay, but other speci es are usual l y
found boring in stone or soft mud.
The purpose of thi s appendi x has been to
i l l ustrate the wi de vari ety of borers that exi st so
that the reader can be aware of the need for
preservati on. The i denti fi cati on of adul t i nsects
can be attempted by reference to the descriptions
gi ven i n the tex t and the fi gur es, but the
i denti fi cati on of borer damage i s rather more
compl ex and outsi de the scope of thi s book,
whi ch i s concerned si mpl y wi th the preservati on
of wood i n or der to pr event attack; the
i denti fi cati on of damage i s consi dered i n more
detai l i n the book Remedial Treatments in
Buildings by the present author.
211
Sapstain
Damp wood i s abl e to support a wi de vari ety of
fungal i nfecti ons. I n fresh commerci al wood
sapstai n i s the fi rst defect that may occur,
Ascomycetes and Fungi Imperfecti developing in
the resi dual moi sture of the tree, where both a
hi gh moi sture content and the presence of sugars
are ensured. Sapstain, which, as its name implies,
i s general l y confi ned to sapwood, resul ts from
deepl y penetr ati ng fungi whi ch cause
di scol ourati on through thei r dark-col oured
hyphae or occasionally through staining of the
cel l wal l s. The di scol ourati on may be bl ack,
green, purple, pink or, very occasionally, brown,
but i t i s most commonl y gr eyi sh-bl ue,
parti cul arl y on softwoods, and i s frequentl y
descri bed as ‘bl uestai n’. The hyphae that cause
thi s bl uestai n can, i n fact, be seen to be dark
brown when examined microscopically and the
bl ue col ourati on resul ts from refracti on of
i nci dent l i ght by these hyphae. The stai ned areas
tend to fol l ow porous routes, spreadi ng al ong
the grai n and radi al l y to form patches whi ch are
wedge-shaped i n cross-secti on.
Most bl uestai ni ng appears to be caused by
Ascomycetes of the genus Ceratocystis
(Ceratostomella) but a number of Fungi Imperfecti
also cause staining in coniferous wood, the most
i mportant bei ng Aureobasidium (Pullularia)
pullulans, Hormiscium gelatinosum, Cladosporium
herbarum, Cadophora fastigiata, Diplodia spp and
Graphium spp. Sapstain in Scots pine or European
redwood appears to be due, in decreasing order of
i mportance, to Ceratocystis pilifera, C.
coerulescens, C. piceae, Aureobasidium pullulans
and C. minor. These fungi accounted for 90% of
bl uestai n hyphae i sol ated from pi ne i n
i nvesti gati ons by Professor Henni ngsson i s
Sweden. In spruce the order was slightly different,
but the same pri nci pal fungi were i nvol ved:
Ceratocystis piceae, C. coerulescens, C. pilifera and
Aureobasidium pullulans.
Mould
Sapstai n i s al most i nvari abl y associ ated wi th
superfi ci al di scol ourati on caused by moul ds
forming greenish or black, occasionally yellow,
powdery growths, whi ch are easi l y brushed or
pl aned away. A very wi de range of speci es i s abl e
to devel op i n thi s way on damp surfaces of
wood, these speci es i ncl udi ng common genera
such as Penicillium, Aspergillus and
Trichoderma, none of whi ch causes si gni fi cant
deteri orati on or deepl y penetrati ng stai n. These
moul d growths occur onl y when the wood i s
freshl y fel l ed as dampness and sugars are then
both available.
The superficial darkening of weathered wood is
usual l y caused by Aureobasidium (Pullularia)
pullulans, Cladosporium herbarum, Alternaria spp
or Stemphylium spp, all of which develop minute
dark pustules. Aureobasidium pullulans does not
confine its activities to exposed wooden surfaces
but is also commonly isolated from painted or
varnished surfaces, together with Phoma spp. It is
Appendix C
Wood-destroying
fungi
Appendix
212
often said that this growth results from applying
paints or varnishes on top of sapstained wood but
this cannot explain how these fungi also occur
when finishes are applied to metal surfaces. In fact,
it appears that these fungi are able to attack the
coating, perhaps forming bore holes and spreading
into the wood beneath, where they can then cause
‘stain in service’ in contrast with the better known
‘sapstain on freshly felled wood’.
Bacteria
Generally, the moulds and staining fungi have no
si gni fi cant effect on wood, ex cept that the
stai ni ng fungi , i n common wi th some bacteri a,
are abl e to uti l i ze cel l contents, parti cul arl y
materi al s tendi ng to bl ock the pi ts, so that thei r
acti vi ti es resul t i n a di sti nct i ncrease i n porosi ty,
parti cul arl y i n the sapwood of i mpermeabl e
speci es such as spruce. Some of the Ascomycetes
and Fungi I mperfecti can, however, cause
damage to the cel l wal l s, resul ti ng i n a form of
deteri orati on commonl y known as Soft rot.
Soft rot
The rel ati onshi p between thi s damage and fungi
was establ i shed onl y comparati vel y recentl y by
Mr Savory i n Engl and and new speci es of Soft
rotti ng fungi are bei ng progressi vel y i denti fi ed.
At the present ti me Soft rot i s consi dered to be
associ ated wi th wood at very hi gh moi sture
contents, per haps satur ated but i n aer obi c
condi ti ons, such as i n water-cool i ng towers,
where damage of thi s type was fi rst i denti fi ed.
The deteri orati on takes the form of surface
softeni ng whi ch becomes progressi vel y deeper,
smal l cuboi d cracks devel opi ng i f the affected
wood i s dri ed. If decay becomes very deep the
wood breaks wi th a di sti nct brash or cross-grai n
fracture. I t seems l i kel y that Soft rots may be
responsible for unexplained brashness in wood
which is apparently unaffected by fungal attacks.
Soft rotting fungi are often termed microfungi
as they are able to progress through wood within
the cell walls, where they are not readily identified,
as compared wi th the Basi di omycetes, whi ch
normally progress through the cell lumen and pits.
As some preservative toxicants are deposited on
the lumen surfaces of the cell walls it is hardly
surprising that many Soft rots are very resistant to
such preservati ve systems and are readi l y
controlled only by toxicants that penetrate into the
cel l -wal l structure. Al though thi s preservati ve
tolerance is insignificant in softwoods it is a matter
of great concern i n hardwoods, parti cul arl y
tropical species, in which Soft rot may progress in
ground contact condi ti ons, despi te very hi gh
retentions of otherwise effective preservatives such
as creosote and copper-chromium-arsenic salts.
Basidiomycete classification
The pri nci pal wood-destroyi ng fungi are
Basidiomycetes, the spores of which are borne on
small, club-shaped structures known as basidia,
which are normally formed in a compact layer
called the hymenium. The wood-destroying fungi,
Hymenomycetes, consist of four families, which
di ffer i n the form of the hymeni um. The
Thelephoraceae, a family that includes Coniophora,
have the hymenium freely exposed on a flat, skin-
like surface. In the Hydnaceae family the hymenium
is on a surface of spine-like outgrowths, whilst that
of the Polyporaceae family, which includes Fomes,
Lenzites, Serpula, Polyporus, Coriclis, Poria and
Trametes, lines the inside of pores or tubes. The
Agaricaceae, which include Lentinus and Paxillus,
are quite distinctive as the hymenium is on plate-like
gills underneath a cap-shaped pileus (or mushroom).
Brown and White rots
If a wood-destroying fungus is producing spores
i t i s possi bl e to i denti fy i ts fami l y, but i n the
wood-pr eser vati on i ndustr y i t i s usual l y
necessary to rel y upon the nature of the decay
and the superfi ci al appearance of the hyphae, as
spor el ati on i s compar ati vel y r ar e i n most
i mportant speci es. One of the most useful i denti -
Appendix
213
fi cati on featur es i s the di vi si on of these
Basi di omycetes i nto Brown rots and Whi te rots,
dependi ng upon the manner i n whi ch they
destroy wood.
In a Brown rot, such as Coniophora puteana,
the fungal enzymes destroy the cel l ul ose but
l eave the l i gni n l argel y unal tered so that the
wood acqui res a di sti nct brown col our and the
structural strength i s al most enti rel y l ost. As
decay progresses the wood becomes very dry and
shrinkage cracks appear both across and along
the grai n, the si ze and shape of the resul ti ng
r ectangl es often bei ng a useful featur e i n
i denti fi cati on. In contrast, the Whi te rots, such
as Coriolus (Polystictus) versicolor, destroy both
cel l ul ose and l i gni n, l eavi ng the col our of the
wood l argel y unal tered but gi vi ng a soft fel ty or
stri ngy texture.
Most of the wood-destr oyi ng fungi ar e
confi ned to forest si tuati ons but those whi ch are
descri bed bel ow are often found i n structural
wood, parti cul arl y i n bui l di ngs, and occur
wi del y throughout the worl d, al though certai n
speci es tend to domi nate i n parti cul ar areas.
Dry rot fungus, Serpula lacrymans
The best known wood-destroyi ng fungus i s
certainly Serpula (Merulius) lacrymans, the Dry
rot fungus (Fig. C.1). This species is usually found
in buildings, and sometimes in mines, in places
where ventilation is restricted and it thus tends to
develop in completely concealed areas. It appears
to have originated as a north European species
but it is now found in other parts of the world
with similar climatic conditions, such as North
America and parts of South Africa, Australia and
New Zealand. It is comparatively rare in warmer
cl i mates, ex cept wher e i t i s associ ated i n
structures with condensation caused by the air
conditioning system.
The condi ti ons for germi nati on and growth
FIGURE C.1 Advanced decay by Dry rot, Serpula lacrymans, showing typical cuboidal cracking and fungal
growth. (Cementone Beaver Ltd)
Appendix
214
are extremel y cri ti cal , requi ri ng a narrow range
of atmospheri c rel ati ve humi di ty and wood
moisture content. Spore germination appears to
occur most readi l y i n aci d condi ti ons and i t i s
these features that perhaps account for the fact
that Serpula lacrymans i s frequentl y associ ated
wi th other fungi abl e to germi nate and devel op
i n wetter condi ti ons. I f wood becomes
acci dental l y wetted one of the Wet rot fungi ,
such as Poria vaporaria, may devel op but as
dryi ng progresses condi ti ons may ari se i n whi ch
Serpula lacrymans spor es may ger mi nate,
encouraged by the acid conditions caused by the
pr evi ous Wet r ot. Si mi l ar l y a sour ce of
conti nui ng dampness may support a Wet rot
such as Coniophora puteana but at a further
di stance from the source the moi sture content
may be opti mum for Serpula lacrymans spore
germi nati on, agai n encouraged by the aci di ty
gener ated at the fr i nge of the Coniophora
puteana attack.
Serpula lacrymans produces whi te hyphae
whi ch are, i n fact, very fi ne tubes or hol l ow
threads, progressively branching and increasing in
length so that they spread in all directions from
the initial point of germination, provided that a
food source is available. As food is exhausted
some hyphae are absorbed whi l st others are
devel oped i nto much l arger rhi zomorphs or
conducting strands, which are able to transport
food and water. Thus exploring hyphae finding no
nouri shment are absorbed to form food for
growth in more promising directions, giving the
fungus the appearance of sensing the direction in
which to spread towards a food source. Seasonal
changes sometimes inhibit growth, which then
resumes when suitable conditions return. In this
way hyphae contract on drying to form layers or
mycel i um, each successi ve l ayer i ndi cati ng a
season of growth.
Acti ve growth i s i ndi cated by hyphae l i ke
cotton wood, perhaps covered wi th ‘tears’ or
water drops i n unventi l ated condi ti ons, thi s
bei ng the way the fungus r egul ates the
atmospheri c rel ati ve humi di ty and accounti ng
for the name of ‘lacrymans’. Rhizomorphs may
be up to 6 mm (1/4 i n) i n di ameter, they are
r el ati vel y br i ttl e when dr y and ex tend for
consi der abl e di stances over and thr ough
br i ckwor k, masonr y and behi nd pl aster,
spr eadi ng thr ough wal l s between adj acent
bui l di ngs and ensuri ng a resi due of i nfecti on,
even i f al l decayed wood i s removed; treatment
of adjacent sound wood and repl acement of
decayed wood wi th preserved wood shoul d
al ways be accompani ed by ster i l i zati on
treatment of infected brickwork and masonry.
Mycel i um i s greyi sh and l ater yel l owi sh wi th
l i l ac ti nges when exposed to l i ght, and often
subsequentl y gr een i n col our thr ough the
devel opment of moul d growth. Sporophores
generally develop when the fungus is under stress
through the food suppl y bei ng exhaused, the
temperature i ncreasi ng or the moi sture content
decreasi ng. Sporophores are shaped l i ke fl at
pl ates or br ackets and var y fr om a few
centimetres to a metre or more across, being grey
at fi rst wi th a surroundi ng whi te margi n but
then the sl i ghtl y corrugated hymeni um or spore-
bearing surface develops to become covered in
mi l l i ons of rust-red spores whi ch are eventual l y
l i berated and cover the surroundi ngs wi th red
dust. As fungal growth i n bui l di ngs i s general l y
concealed the sporophore may be the first sign of
damage, though a characteristic mushroom smell
may be noti ced i f an i nfected bui l di ng i s cl osed
for several days.
Serpula lacrymans can cause severe Brown rot
wi th pronounced cuboi dal cracki ng, the cubes
being up to 50 mm (2 in) along and across the
grai n. Decayed wood crumbl es easi l y between
the fi ngers to a soft powder. Two i mportant
features of the decay are the fact that i t can be
enti rel y i nternal and conceal ed i n beams, and
that i t can spread to dry wood i n unventi l ated
condi ti ons, as the fungus i s abl e to transport
adequate water for decay thr ough the
r hi zomor phs. A r el ated speci es, Merulius
himantioides, is sometimes found causing similar
decay in Scotland, Denmark and southern Sweden.
Appendix
215
Cellar fungus, Coniophora puteana
The Cel l ar rot fungus, Coniophora puteana
(cerebella) (Fi g. C.2), i s the most common cause
of Wet rot i n bui l di ngs and el sewhere where
persi stentl y damp condi ti ons ari se through, for
example, soil moisture or plumbing leaks. Spores
germi nate readi l y and thi s fungus i s l i kel y to
occur whenever sui tabl e condi ti ons ari se. The
hyphae are i ni ti al l y whi te, but growth i s not as
generous as for Serpula lacrymans. In addition
there i s l i ttl e devel opment of mycel i um and onl y
thi n r hi zomor phs ar e for med. These
r hi zomor phs, whi ch become br own and
eventual l y bl ack, are not so extensi ve as those of
Serpula lacrymans and never extend far from the
wood. The sporophore occurs onl y rarel y i n
buildings and consists of a thin skin covered with
smal l i rregul ar l umps. The hymeni um i s i ni ti al l y
yel l ow but darkens to ol i ve and then brown as
the spores mature. Wood i n contact wi th a
source of moi sture such as bri ckwork often
consi sts of a thi n sur face fi l m conceal i ng
extensi ve i nternal decay. The rotted wood i s
dark brown with dominant longitudinal cracks
and i nfrequent cross-grai n cracks. The easi est
method for controlling Coniophora cerebella i n
bui l di ngs i s to i sol ate wood from the source of
dampness.
White Pore fungus, Poria placenta
The Whi te Pore fungus, Poria placenta (Fi g.
C.3) is common in mines and occasionally occurs
i n bui l di ngs. I t r equi r es a hi gher moi stur e
content than Serpula lacrymans but, i n contrast
to Coniophora puteana, i t i s tol er ant to
occasi onal dryi ng and i s therefore the normal
fungus associ ated wi th roof l eaks. Growth i s
general l y si mi l ar to Serpula lacrymans but
strands remai n whi te, compared wi th yel l ow
FIGURE C.2 Advanced decay by the Wet rot, Coniophora puteana, showing dark fungal strands. (Cementone
Beaver Ltd)
Appendix
216
or l i l ac for Serpula and brown or bl ack for
Coniophora. The rhizomorphs may be up to 3
mm (1/8 i n) i n di ameter but are not so wel l
developed as those of Serpula and are fl exi bl e
when dry. When examined on the surface of a
piece of wood or adjacent masonry they appear
to be di sti nctl y fl attened or to have a fl at margi n
on ei ther si de of the strand, and they do not
ex tend far from thei r source of wood. The
spor ophor e i s r ar e i n bui l di ngs but i t i s
sometimes observed in greenhouses when severe
decay occurs. It i s a whi te i rregul ar pl ate, 1.5–12
mm (1/16 i n-1/2 i n) thi ck and covered wi th
di sti nct pores, someti mes wi th strands emergi ng
from its margins. The decay damage to wood is
si mi l ar to that caused by Serpula but the cubi ng
i s somewhat smal l er and l ess deep. When
decayed wood is crumbled between the fingers it
i s not so powdery as that attacked by Serpula
but sl i ghtl y more fi brous or gri tty.
Other Poria species—dote
Poria xantha i s a si mi l ar Brown rot, bei ng
frequently found in greenhouses but usually with
no vi si bl e surface growth, al though mycel i um
may be found i n cracks, even i n the cubi ng
cr acks on decayed wood. A thi n ski n of
yel l owi sh whi te mycel i um occasi onal l y occurs.
The sporophore i s a thi n, yel l owi sh l ayer of
pores, di sti nctl y l umpy when si tuated on a
verti cal surface. Poria monticola i s someti mes
found both in buildings and as dote on softwood
imported from North America, where it is one of
the most i mportant wood-destroyi ng fungi . Dote
i s a form of pocket rot whi ch can devel op when
unseasoned wood i s cl ose stacked and i t i s not
easy to detect. It may, however, be visible as faint
streaks or el ongated patches of yel l owi sh or
pi nki sh-brown on most softwoods, or of a
purplish colour on Douglas fir. When tested with
the poi nt of a kni fe the wood i s found to be
brash wi thi n these patches. As decay progresses
the wood acqui res a typi cal brown col our wi th
cracks al ong and across the grai n, as when
attacked by the other Poria spp.
Stringy Oak rot, Phellinus megaloporus
The Stri ngy Oak rot, Phellinus megaloporus
(cryptarum), occurs in Europe on oak in conditions
in which Coniophora puteana or Poria placenta is
normal l y found on softwoods, such as i n
association with roof leaks or masonry affected by
soil moisture and it is able to resist the relatively
high temperatures that frequently occur in roof
FIGURE C.3 Strands of a wet rot, a Poria species. (Cementore Beaver Ltd)
Appendix
217
spaces. As this fungus prefers oak it is largely
associated with older buildings constructed with
this wood. It is a white rot causing no distinct
col our change i n the decayed wood, but thi s
becomes much softer, with a longitudinal fibrous
texture, and does not powder in the same way as
wood decayed by Serpula or other Brown rots.
Yellow or brown mycelium is sometimes formed
on the surface of wood. The sporophore is a thick,
tough pl ate or bracket, fawn col oured but
darkening as the spores develop. Poria medulla-
panis causes very similar decay in oak, particularly
in timber-framed buildings where oak is exposed to
the weather, but there is no practical reason in
terms of preservation or treatment why these two
species should be differentiated.
Coriolus versicolor
Coriolus (Polystictus) versicolor i s the
commonest cause of Whi te rot i n hardwoods,
especi al l y i n ground contact, but i s usual l y
confi ned to the sapwood i n durabl e speci es. It
causes decay on hardwood props in mines and
has been occasi onal l y reported as causi ng decay
i n sapwood of softwoods, par ti cul ar l y i n
ex ternal , pai nted joi nery (mi l l work) such as
wi ndow and door frames. The sporophore i s
rarel y seen but consi sts of a thi n bracket up to
75 mm (3 in) across, grey and brown on top with
concentri c, hai ry zones and a cream pore surface
underneath from whi ch the spores are rel eased.
Infected wood initially suffers white flecking and
eventual l y bl eaches i n col our. Shri nkage i s rare
and the decayed wood si mpl y appears to be
lighter and much weaker than sound wood.
Lentinus lepideus
Lentinus lepideus (squamosus) i s the pri nci pal
decay found i n r ai l way sl eeper s (ti es) and
transmi ssi on pol es, perhaps because i t i s
comparati vel y tol erant to creosote and can
therefore devel op when treatment wi th thi s
preservative is inadequate. A brown cuboidal rot
is caused and the white mycelium, perhaps with
brown or purple tinges, can often be observed
within the shrinkage cracks. The sporophore is on
a stem, woody and brownish with a gill extending
down the stem when it develops in normal light.
In limited light the form is abnormal, perhaps
lacking the cap or having branched, cylindrical,
white or purplish-brown outgrowths.
Lenzites sepiaria
Lenzites sepiaria i s comparati vel y rare i n Europe
but occurs on imported wood which has been
i nfected i n the forest and conti nues to devel op i f
the wood i s used for fenci ng, bri dgi ng, pol es or
si tuati ons i n bui l di ngs wher e ther e i s an
adequate moi sture content. The fi rst evi dence of
i nfecti on i s a pal e yel l ow zone accompani ed by
softeni ng and brashness of the fi bres. The wood
becomes progressively darker brown and slight
cuboi dal cracki ng occurs. Superfi ci al hyphae are
rarel y observed but orange-yel l ow mycel i um
may occur on decayed wood i n conceal ed
si tuati ons. The sporophore i s a bracket, up to
50×100 mm (2 in×4 in) in size, tough and with a
hairy upper surface and distinct gills underneath.
It i s tawny yel l ow at fi rst but l ater dark brown
wi th a yel l ow margi n and brown gi l l s.
Lenzites trabea—dote
Lenzites trabea appears to have ori gi nated i n
North Ameri ca, but i t i s now wel l establ i shed i n
central and southern Europe. I t i s someti mes
found in the British Isles and northern Europe on
imported wood, frequently as a dote or pocket
rot ori gi nati ng as a decay of softwood i n the
for est. The r ot can devel op i n sui tabl e
conditions, causing a brown cuboidal decay. The
sporophore i s a thi n bracket, tough and wi th
gi l l s on i ts undersi de, yel l ow-brown at fi rst but
becomi ng darker and then bl eachi ng on the
upper sur face. Thi s speci es appear s to be
parti cul arl y attracti ve to some termi tes, such as
Reticulitermes flavipes.
Appendix
218
Paxillus panuoides
Paxillus panuoides causes decay similar to that
caused by Coniophora cerebella but tends to occur
in much wetter conditions. The hyphae develop into
fine, branching strands which are yellowish, never
becoming darker, and a rather fibrous, yellowish
mycelium, perhaps with lilac tints, may occur. The
wood is stained bright yellow in the early stages, but
darkens to a deep reddi sh-brown and shal l ow
cracking occurs. The sporophore has no distinct
stalk but is attached at a particular point, tending to
curl around the edges and eventually becoming
rather irregular in shape. The branching gills on the
upper surface radiate from the point of attachment.
The colour is dingy yellow but darkens as the spores
develop; the texture is soft and fleshy.
Dote or pocket rot
Dote consi sts of narrow pockets of i nci pi ent
decay and i s someti mes descri bed as pi pe or
pocket rot. The rot in the pocket is brown and
cuboidal and hyphae like cotton wool may be
present. I f a pocket i s absent, except for the
appearance of a brown stai n, dote may be
confirmed by brashness when the stained area is
probed with the point of a knife. Dote is observed
usual l y i n softwood i mported from North
Ameri ca; Lenzites and Poria spp have al ready
been descri bed as two of the possi bl e causes.
Another is Trametes serialis, which is usually a
cause of heart rot i n standi ng trees or cl osel y
stacked, unseasoned boards. Thi s fungus wi l l
continue to develop and the decay will spread if
the wood remains damp; in South Africa
Trametes serialis on imported wood has been
able to develop locally and is now as serious as
Coniophora puteana or Poria placenta. Trametes
serialis was at one ti me confused wi th Poria
monticola, which can cause similar dote; this is
the way in which infections of this fungus are
generally introduced into Europe. Fomes annosus,
a parasite of sickly trees in which it can cause
heart rot, turning the wood into long, brown,
fi brous strands, can conti nue to devel op and
slowly decay wood after this has been felled if the
moisture content is maintained, as in pit props.
This species is another form of dote, the decay
pocket ori gi nati ng as a bl ack spot and then
enlarging progressively and becoming filled with
hyphae which have the appearance of white lint.
North American species
The di stri buti on of i ndi vi dual fungi i s more
extensi ve than that of wood-borers, al though i n
many cases the fungi evi dentl y ori gi nated i n one
parti cul ar country and spread to other areas
wi th wood ex ports. Certai nl y the pri nci pal
wood-destroyi ng fungi i n bui l di ngs i n North
Ameri ca have a di sti nctl y di fferent bal ance to
those found i n Europe, but i t i s cl ear that trade
i n both di recti ons i s progressi vel y exchangi ng
speci es. At the present ti me Coniophora puteana
i s as i mportant i n North Ameri ca as i n Europe.
Serpula lacrymans i s confi ned to the northern
United States and Canada, but Poria incrassata,
whi ch i s si mi l ar i n many ways and whi ch causes
si mi l ar damage, i s found onl y i n the southern
Uni ted States. Coniophora arida i s someti mes
found causi ng decay on preserved pi ne and
Lentinus lepideus i s the major decay fungus on
wood treated wi th creosote, as i n Europe. The
Lenzites spp are perhaps most preval ent of al l ,
wi th L. trabea commonl y occurri ng on both
softwood and har dwood i n ser vi ce. Poria
monticola i s al so a seri ous cause of decay of
wood i n servi ce, but i t appears that i nfecti on i s
probabl y al ways i ntroduced i n standi ng trees or
fel l ed l ogs i n the forest.
This appendix has attempted to review the fungi
that are the most serious causes of decay in wood in
service. However, it will be appreciated that there
are many other forest fungi which may occasionally
be encountered in buildings, though they are not
necessarily associated with wood decay; these latter
fungi are described in more detail in Remedial
Treatments in Buildings by the present author.
219
AAC, see Alkyl ammonium
absorption 78–9
ACA, see Ammoniacal copper-
arsenic
ACB, see Acid copper-boron
ACC, see Acid copper-chromium
acetic anhydride 144
acetylation 144
acid copper-boron 114–15, 158,
159
acid copper-chromium 115, 121–
2, 164
acid zinc-boron 114–15, 159, 185
ACQ, see Ammoniacal copper-
quaternery
acridine 100
Acypetacs copper, zinc 136
ACZA, see Ammoniacal copper-
zinc arsenite
Aczol 114
after-glow suppression 121
agricultural wood 170
Ahic CB, see Wol mani t CB
AHIG 164
Aldrin 133–4
alizarin 10
alkyl ammonium 139–40
alkyl-benzyl-dimethyl-ammonium
140
Allgemaine Holzimprägnierung
GmbH 164
alternating pressure process 86
aluminium, organo 144
Ambrosia beetles 25, 54, 186–7
control of 56
Ambrosia fungus 25
amines 139
Amitermes 32
ammoniacal copper-arsenic 114
ammoniacal copper-boron 114–15
ammoniacal copper-quaternery
114
ammoniacal copper-zinc-arsenic
114
ammoniacal preservatives 114–15,
124, 158, 159
ammoniacal zinc-quaternary 114
ammonium compounds,
quaternary 139–40
ammonium salts 146
Anabol 132, 149
anaerobic deterioration 31
Anobids 26–7, 191–6
Anobium punctatum 26, 192–3
anthracene 10, 100
anthracene oil 102
Anticimexbolagen 166, 169, 170
antimony 107
Antingermin 128–9
Antinonnin 128–9
anti-stain, see Stain control
ants 186, 206–7
white, see Termites
APM, see Alternating pressure
process
application methods 66–92
aqueous preservatives 105–26
Armillaria mellea 28
Arprocarb 134
arsenic (arsenate, arsenite) 115–
17
arsenic toxicity 122–3, 163, 171–
2
arsine 122
Ascomycetes 52
Ascu 117–18
Auger beetles 189–90
Aureobasidium pullulans 54, 149
Australian quarantine 57, 91,
170, 172
azaconazole 134, 148
AZB, see Aci d zi nc-boron
AZQ, see Ammoniacal zinc-
quaternery
Bacillus thuringiensis 58
bacteria 212
Bakenfield oil 102
bandages, pole 109–10
barium naphthenate, see Metal
soaps
bark borers 25, 53–4
control of 56
Barol 102
Basidiomycetes 28–30, 52, 212–
18
Basilit A57 110
Basilit CFK 111–12, 124–5, 180
Basilit U, UA, UAF, UAS 72, 107–
10, 180
Baster 115
Batson 6
bees 186, 207
beetles, wood boring 185–209
Bell Telephones 117
Bellit 107
Benl ate, see Benomyl
Benomyl 53, 134, 148, 154
benzalkonium 140
benzalkyl-trimethyl ammonium
140
benzenehexachloride, see Lindane
Berrit 110
Besemfelder process 88–9
Bethell, John 7–8, 11, 77
Bethell process 77–8, 84, 86, 87
BFCA salts, see boron-fluorine-
chromium-arsenic
bichromate, see Di chromate
bifluorides 110–11
Index
Index
220
bleeding 89, 162–3
bluestain (blueing), see Sapstai n
BMT, see Bodied mayonnaise
boats 169
bodied mayonnaise emulsion 141,
150
boiling under vacuum 86–7
Boissieu, de 6
Boliden 85, 115, 166, 169, 170
BIS, S, S-25 113, 115–16,
120
CCA, K-33, see K33
OPM, see Oscillating pressure
process
P50 124, 180
Boracol 126, 150–1, 141
borate, see Boron
Bordenave 6
borer control 43–54, 57–8
borers
bark 53–4
marine 186, 208–9
parasites 57–8
predators 57–8
wood 185–209
Borester 126–7, 141, 150–1
boron (borate, boric acid) 53, 55,
89–90, 91, 97, 123–4, 125–
6, 130, 139, 141, 145, 146,
147–8, 154, 155, 158, 159,
161, 180
boron esters 126–7, 141, 150–1
boron-fluorine-chromium-arsenic
125
Bostrychid beetles 26, 189–90
Boucherie process 6–7, 71–2, 110,
112, 113, 114, 124
Boulton 3, 7, 9–11
Boulton process 3, 7, 86–7
BP Hylosan, see Hylosan
BP Mykocid, see Mykoci d
Breant 11, 77
bridges 165
broad-leaves trees 15, 16–18
bromophenols 147–8
Bromophos 134
Bryan 106
Bub 106
buildings 165–9
bulking 144–5
Buprestid beetles 201–2
Burnett, William 7, 102, 112
Burnettising 112, 162
Burt 11
butane, solvent 83–4
CAA (copper ammonium
addi ti ve), see Copper-
ammonia-arsenic
CAB, see Copper-ammonium-
boron
CCA, see Copper-chromium-
arsenic
CCB, see Copper-chromium-
boron
CCZC, see Copperized CZC
calcium naphthenate, see Metal
soaps
cambium 15
capillarity 63
Captafol 53, 134, 148, 154
Captan 135, 148–9
carbamates 134
Carbaryl 134
carbolic acid 8
Carbolineum 102
Carbolineum Avenarius 127–8,
131
Carbowax 144–5
Card process 102–3, 112, 162
Caro 10
carrier systems 140–2
cebuconazole 134, 148
Celcure N, F, A, AP, AN, M 115,
117–19, 120–1, 123, 124,
125–6, 139, 146, 180
Cellar rot 12, 29
Cellon process 83–4
cellulose 15–22
Cementone-Beaver Limited 168
Ceramycid beetles 196–9
Ceratostomella spp. 24
charring 3–4, 41
Chateau 88
chemical modification 50–1
Chemonite 114
chinoline 100
Chlordane 91, 133–4
chlorine 139
chlorinated insecticides 132–4
chlorination 50, 102, 127, 129,
131
chlorobenzene 132–3, 149
toxicity 175
chlorocresol 131
chloronaphthalene 131, 149
toxicity 175
chl orophenate, see Chlorophenol
chlorophenol 50–1, 53, 97, 127,
128, 129, 130–1, 136, 137,
145, 147, 150, 154, 155,
180
esters 131
toxicity 130, 172–3, 174
chlorophenylphenol 129
chlorophyll 13, 20
chlorothalonil 134, 148
chromated copper arsenate, see
Copper-chromium-arsenic
chromated zinc chloride 112
Chromel 106
chromium 108, 146
toxicity 172
coal tar 97, 98
coatings
decorati ve 45, 54, 59–63, 97,
142–6
intumescent 64–6
Cobra process 90, 110, 163–4
Coisne 8, 9
Coleoptera 185, 186–209
Common Furniture beetle 26,
192–3
conifers 15, 16–18
Coniophora puteana (cerebella)
12, 29, 48, 52
cooling towers 170–1
copper 113–15, 117–25, 128,
135–7, 149, 158
copper-ammonia-arsenic (copper
ammonium additive) 114
copper borates 124
copper caprylate 180
copper-chlorophenol 180
copper-chromium 51, 52, 115,
180
copper-chromium-arsenic 51, 52,
71, 91, 106, 115–23, 158,
161, 164, 165, 170, 171,
180
fixation 121–2
retention 121
copper-chromium-boron 71, 123–
4, 161, 180
copper-chromium-fluorine 180
copper-chromium-phosphorus 180
copper, detoxification 48
copper 8-hydroxyquinolinolate
137
copperized CZC (CCZC) 112
Index
221
copper naphthenate, see Copper
soaps
copper octoate, see Copper soaps
copper oxinate 137
copper soaps 50, 97, 135–7, 180
copper sulphate 6–7, 71, 112,
113, 162
Coriolus versicolor 12, 29
Cornelisol 104
corrosive sublimate, see Mercuri c
chloride
Corynetes, see Korynetes
crash barriers 164–85
Creofixol 104
Creosite 104
creosol 100
creosote 6, 7–11, 97, 98–102,
112, 162, 180
arsenical 103
fortified 102–3
see also Tar
creosote-petroleum mixture 98–9
creosote toxicity 172
creosoting 7–11
Crepin 8
Crom-Ar-Cu 119
Crustacea 186, 208–9
cumene process 129, 150
Cumullit 131
Cunilate 137
Cuprinol 135, 149–50
Cuprinol, KP, see KP
Cuprinol Tryck (KPN) 124, 137,
180
Cupristat 137
Curculionid beetles 199–200
Curtin 113
cyclodiene insecticides 133–4
Cypermethrin 134
CZC, see Chromated zinc
chloride
Dalton, John 9
Davy, Huymphrey 6
DDT, see Dicophane
dead oi l 7
Death Watch beetle 27, 92–3
de Boissieu 6
Decamethrin 134
decorative treatments, see
Coatings
degradation, wood 23–42
Deltamethrin 134
Dermestid beetles 201–2
Derris 149
Dessemond process 162
deterioration risk 153, 179–84
detoxification of preservatives
135
Diamond Match 114
Diazinon 134
dibutyl phthalate 129
Dichlofluanid 135, 148–9
dichlorobenzene, see
Chl orobenzene
dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane,
see Dicophane
di chl orofl uoromethyl thi o
compounds 135, 148–9
dichloronaphthalene, see
Chl oronaphthal ene
dichlorophenol, see Chlorophenol
Dichlorvos 134, 142
dichromates, see Chromium
Dicophane 92, 133–4, 149, 173
dicotyledons 15, 16–18
Dieldrin 91, 92, 103, 133–4, 141,
167, 173, 180, 181
diffusion 141
double 125
treatment 125–6, 150, 158–9
Diffusol 126
Difolatan, see Captafol
dinitrocresol, see Ni trocresol
dinitrophenol, see Ni trophenol
dinitrophenolanilin 107
dioxins 173
dip, see Treatments, superficial
diphenyl mercury 137
Diptera 186
Diufix 163–4
Domtar 114
Dote 28
double diffusion 125
double vacuum processes 82–3,
158
Dow process 84, 129, 150
Drilon process 83–4
Dry rot 4, 29–30, 43, 47, 92,
213–15
drying wood 37–8
durability, wood 46, 182–3
economics of preservation 1–2
empty-cell processes 11, 78–81,
86–7, 149, 154–5, 158, 162
emulsion preservatives 140–1
Endrin 133–4
energy for impregnation 81–2
environmental factors 171–6
eramacausis 9
Erdalith 117
Ernobius mollis 26, 191, 194–5
Estrade process 89
ethyl mercury compounds 137
ethylene glycol, poly 144–5
Eucalypts 161–2
Eupi on 7
European House borer, see House
Longhorn
European redwood 82, 157, 161,
165
European whitewood 82, 165
Falck 116, 129
Falkamesan 116–17
FCAP, see Fl uori ne-chromi um-
arsenic-phenol
fences 167
Fenchlorphos 134
Fenitrothion 134
Fenthion 134
ferrous sulphate 6
fibre saturation point 21–2, 33
fibres, hardwood 15
fibrils, elementary 19–20
Fibrosithe 104
finishes, see Coatings
fir, Douglas 89, 157, 161, 181
fire 41–2, 64–6, 146
resistance 41
retardants 65–6, 121, 146–7
fixation 105, 108, 121–2
flame spread 41, 42
flies 186, 207
floor blocks 144–5
Flunax 107
Fluoran OG 110
Fluorex VS 111–12
Fluorfolpet 135, 148–9
fluorine-chromium-arsenic-phenol
52, 71, 122, 164, 180
fluorine compounds 89–90, 100,
106–12, 147, 154, 159
fluorising 110
fluorosilicates 107, 111–12
Flouxyth 107
Flurasil 111–12
Folpet 135, 148–9
Index
222
Fomes spp. 28
Forestier 8
formaldehyde 144
fortified creosote 102–3
fortified petroleum 105
foundations 165–7
full-cell process 77–8, 158
fumigation 93, 142, 151
fungal decay 27–30
Fungamin 131
Fungi
Basidiomycetes 212–18
Brown rot 212–13
control 43–54
natural 54
Imperfecti 52
mould 211–12
resistant 52
Soft rot 212
stain 52–4, 211
control 147–9
test 95
White rot 212–13
wood destroying 211–18
Fungitrol, see Fol pet
Furniture beetles 26–7, 191–6
Fyre Prufe 146
Gammexane, see Li ndane
gas treatments 93, 142, 151
Gay-Lussac 146
germanium, organo 137
Gewecke process 71–2
Gloquat C 140
glue-line treatments 91
glycols 84
Gordon, A 114
Gorivac process 76, 81, 83
Graebe 10
greensalt, see Copper-chromium-
arsenic
Greensalt K, S, O 117
Gribble 30–1, 58–9, 186
ground contact 160
Gugel process 72
gun stocks 144–5
Gunn 115
Häger 116, 124, 136, 137, 145
Häger K33, see K-33
Halowax 132
hardwoods 15, 16–1