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Best way to treat wood construction materials?  RSS feed

 
Kirk Hockin
Posts: 67
Location: Merville, BC
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Once again, this seems to be the best catch-all, generic forum for this question:

I'll soon be building numerous outbuildings on our new acreage. Tool sheds, wood sheds, a lean-to for storing our trailer and other sundry structures. Being as I'm on the west coast of Canada, a region with plenty of wood and plenty of rain, what is the best option for treating said wood? I realize keeping the wooden structure isolated from moisture sources, via larger overhangs and soil moisture barriers, is important. That being a given, what is the best wood treatment?

Considering the various factors of price, toxicity, longevity, ease of application, what is the best way to treat wooden siding. I'd like to avoid toxins. I'd like to minimize my cyclical workload. I'd prefer to save money, where possible. All that being said, what's my best option for treating outbuildings?

My current landlord uses old diesel motor oil (from his boat and 'circa 1980s' Mercedes) to treat wooden structures... seriously?? this makes my skin crawl! Help me find a better option.

Cheers!
 
Zachary Morris
Posts: 28
Location: Southern Oregon, 6a/6b
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Kirk Hockin wrote:Once again, this seems to be the best catch-all, generic forum for this question:

I'll soon be building numerous outbuildings on our new acreage. Tool sheds, wood sheds, a lean-to for storing our trailer and other sundry structures. Being as I'm on the west coast of Canada, a region with plenty of wood and plenty of rain, what is the best option for treating said wood? I realize keeping the wooden structure isolated from moisture sources, via larger overhangs and soil moisture barriers, is important. That being a given, what is the best wood treatment?

Considering the various factors of price, toxicity, longevity, ease of application, what is the best way to treat wooden siding. I'd like to avoid toxins. I'd like to minimize my cyclical workload. I'd prefer to save money, where possible. All that being said, what's my best option for treating outbuildings?

My current landlord uses old diesel motor oil (from his boat and 'circa 1980s' Mercedes) to treat wooden structures... seriously?? this makes my skin crawl! Help me find a better option.

Cheers!


I'd like to be told otherwise, and with good logic, but my feeling is that going beyond natural circumstances to slow decomposition is kind of anti-permaculture. In other words my feeling is that the best solution is to keep things as dry and sealed as possible. On a side note, using the best rot resistant wood is a great start.
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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Zachary Morris wrote:

I'd like to be told otherwise, and with good logic, but my feeling is that going beyond natural circumstances to slow decomposition is kind of anti-permaculture. In other words my feeling is that the best solution is to keep things as dry and sealed as possible. On a side note, using the best rot resistant wood is a great start.


My sense is that the first step is to select wood that naturally is highly resistant to rot and other degradation, so we're certainly in partial agreement

But (of course there is one) I don't get the position that "going beyond natural circumstances....is kind of anti-permaculture". Maybe I'm not understanding quite what you mean by "going beyond natural circumstances", but I'm getting the sense that you're suggesting treating the wood - with anything - is somehow "anti-permaculture".

Seems to me that permaculture does many things that go beyond natural circumstances as part of the fundamental tool kit. For example, building swales on contour where there were none. The natural circumstances had no swales, swales are not really a natural formation (erosion tending to go downhill, creating gullies and such, not any formation on contour) - but who would argue that using swales to hold water on the land is anti-permaculture?

Sure, treating the wood with petroleum products, creosote, arsenic, etc. is pretty indefensible and not "permie". But what about a lime based whitewash? It's a treatment, not exactly what our op is looking for due to maintenance, but relatively environmentally friendly and all that. I would expect that there are some paint choices that are not outrageously toxic and might be no more energy demanding than having to replace the wood with greater frequency. There might even be some sort of way of getting an oil from one of the really rot resistant trees and using it to treat less resistant wood - I don't know - but if it's out there, is it "going beyond natural circumstances" and "anti-permaculture"?

In part, I'm looking for where the line is drawn as to what is, and what is not, acceptable within the permaculture community. And I recognize that it's unlikely to be a bright line, and that people will vary in just what is, and is not, acceptable to them.
 
Zachary Morris
Posts: 28
Location: Southern Oregon, 6a/6b
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Peter Ellis wrote:
Zachary Morris wrote:

I'd like to be told otherwise, and with good logic, but my feeling is that going beyond natural circumstances to slow decomposition is kind of anti-permaculture. In other words my feeling is that the best solution is to keep things as dry and sealed as possible. On a side note, using the best rot resistant wood is a great start.


My sense is that the first step is to select wood that naturally is highly resistant to rot and other degradation, so we're certainly in partial agreement

But (of course there is one) I don't get the position that "going beyond natural circumstances....is kind of anti-permaculture". Maybe I'm not understanding quite what you mean by "going beyond natural circumstances", but I'm getting the sense that you're suggesting treating the wood - with anything - is somehow "anti-permaculture".

Seems to me that permaculture does many things that go beyond natural circumstances as part of the fundamental tool kit. For example, building swales on contour where there were none. The natural circumstances had no swales, swales are not really a natural formation (erosion tending to go downhill, creating gullies and such, not any formation on contour) - but who would argue that using swales to hold water on the land is anti-permaculture?

Sure, treating the wood with petroleum products, creosote, arsenic, etc. is pretty indefensible and not "permie". But what about a lime based whitewash? It's a treatment, not exactly what our op is looking for due to maintenance, but relatively environmentally friendly and all that. I would expect that there are some paint choices that are not outrageously toxic and might be no more energy demanding than having to replace the wood with greater frequency. There might even be some sort of way of getting an oil from one of the really rot resistant trees and using it to treat less resistant wood - I don't know - but if it's out there, is it "going beyond natural circumstances" and "anti-permaculture"?

In part, I'm looking for where the line is drawn as to what is, and what is not, acceptable within the permaculture community. And I recognize that it's unlikely to be a bright line, and that people will vary in just what is, and is not, acceptable to them.


I'll try to reword it, so I feel like generally speaking, the concept of trying to stop decomposition beyond natural circumstances i.e (Dry, Wet, Cold, Hot, Alkaline, Acidic) is going to put you in a position where the only options are inevitably against permaculture ethic. But again I'd like to be proven wrong as I'd like for my structures and fence posts to last longer as well!

my feeling with landscape features is that they do occur naturally, and quite often the only reason the healthiest feature doesn't exist is because other humans came before it and scarred it. The area I'm in is naturally terraced for example.

Edit: The other line to be weary of is the one you came to, how much work is it worth. If you're having to apply anything more than once the work you'd spend doing it will quickly exceed what it'd take to repost a fence for example
 
Kirk Hockin
Posts: 67
Location: Merville, BC
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Zachary Morris wrote:

I'd like to be told otherwise, and with good logic, but my feeling is that going beyond natural circumstances to slow decomposition is kind of anti-permaculture. In other words my feeling is that the best solution is to keep things as dry and sealed as possible. On a side note, using the best rot resistant wood is a great start.


I don't agree that using technologies to slow decomposition of built structures is automatically 'anti-permaculture'... If the 'perma' in permaculture stems from permanent, what's wrong with wanting to increase the longevity of built structures? Obviously the least toxic manner of preserving wood is best (so as to increase the good perma while decreasing the bad perma), by how is letting a built structure degrade asap inline with the permaculture ethos? To me, that's merely a form of the disposable culture that chooses the convenience of plastic spoons over the 'hard labour' of reusable spoons.

If we consider the amount of effort and time (which could be applied elsewhere to achieve good things) as well as the embodied energy to rebuild decayed structures, including the transportation of materials, the fasteners, the foundations, etc... How is building one structure and maintaining it for decades less 'permaculture' than building something that rots out quickly and needs rebuilding once every few years. Take, for example, European buildings that have been standing for centuries... seems pretty 'perma' to me.

That being said, part of my criteria was 'least toxic' treatment. I'd also like to minimize cyclical work load (is not laziness the mother of invention?). In my area, cedar is the best rot resistant wood, but even so, I'm wondering if there isn't some non-toxic stain or oil I could treat the cedar with, letting it stand and be functional for decades. In fact part of keeping it dry and sealed is treating the outside surface to create a moisture barrier.

I'm familiar with lime based coverings, I'm wondering if there is something more penetrative that can be applied, even if it's twice a decade...

Cheers!
 
Zachary Morris
Posts: 28
Location: Southern Oregon, 6a/6b
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Kirk Hockin wrote:
Zachary Morris wrote:

I'd like to be told otherwise, and with good logic, but my feeling is that going beyond natural circumstances to slow decomposition is kind of anti-permaculture. In other words my feeling is that the best solution is to keep things as dry and sealed as possible. On a side note, using the best rot resistant wood is a great start.


I don't agree that using technologies to slow decomposition of built structures is automatically 'anti-permaculture'... If the 'perma' in permaculture stems from permanent, what's wrong with wanting to increase the longevity of built structures? Obviously the least toxic manner of preserving wood is best (so as to increase the good perma while decreasing the bad perma), by how is letting a built structure degrade asap inline with the permaculture ethos? To me, that's merely a form of the disposable culture that chooses the convenience of plastic spoons over the 'hard labour' of reusable spoons.

If we consider the amount of effort and time (which could be applied elsewhere to achieve good things) as well as the embodied energy to rebuild decayed structures, including the transportation of materials, the fasteners, the foundations, etc... How is building one structure and maintaining it for decades less 'permaculture' than building something that rots out quickly and needs rebuilding once every few years. Take, for example, European buildings that have been standing for centuries... seems pretty 'perma' to me.

That being said, part of my criteria was 'least toxic' treatment. I'd also like to minimize cyclical work load (is not laziness the mother of invention?). In my area, cedar is the best rot resistant wood, but even so, I'm wondering if there isn't some non-toxic stain or oil I could treat the cedar with, letting it stand and be functional for decades. In fact part of keeping it dry and sealed is treating the outside surface to create a moisture barrier.

I'm familiar with lime based coverings, I'm wondering if there is something more penetrative that can be applied, even if it's twice a decade...

Cheers!


I tried to reword it, but now it's just been taken and twisted to something I didn't say at all. I never said to let it degrade asap, or that keeping things from decomposition is anti permaculture, in addition, the idea of a permanence regarding to structures is hardly the root of the word permaculture. One could potentially live far more sustainably, and contribute far more to a permanent culture by living in a home that required regular maintenance with found materials. If your product is produced in a factory on one continent, then shipped too another, then trucked across that continent and stored in an air conditioned store etc. etc. It doesn't matter if the label says "least toxic" or "environmentally safe" anymore.

What I did say, is that going out of your way to make things resist decomposition is going to quickly bring you to the line of sustainable and non sustainable. People seem to hear/read what they want to, rather than what's being said, or they read the first 3 lines and are so caught up in thinking of a "good" response they don't even bother to finish the reading. If you're going to benefit from any differing opinions you'll have to get past that.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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OK, an attempt to get back "on track"

One natural builder I follow online swears by this stuff: https://www.heritagenaturalfinishes.com/SearchResults.asp?Cat=3

Except when he has to buy it, then he swears at the price a little.

The opposite end of the spectrum (free) is using biodiesel and/or filtered WVO. The bio thins it, acting like kerosene in old-school recipes and soaks in for a first coat. It will turn rancid if not careful, though, so choose your source carefully.
 
Ben Plummer
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Gonna throw this out there:
paul wheaton wrote:Another thing is that some folks are certain that their path is the only path and that other paths are unacceptable. That sort of thing is unacceptable to me.
 
Alder Burns
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One technique that is traditional in several cultures is to char the surface of the wood in a fire until a thin layer of charcoal is created a fraction of an inch deep. According to one source, this will double the life of an untreated post in the ground of the same species. I read somewhere that in Japan, wooden siding is thus treated also.....
Another point is that, especially with posts, if you have logs large enough, to split out the heartwood (usually darker and denser) and use only that in decay-prone situations like ground contact. In the Southeast, fence posts made of black-locust heartwood splits enjoy a lifespan comparable to pressure-treated posts.
 
Kirk Hockin
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Zachary Morris wrote:

I tried to reword it, but now it's just been taken and twisted to something I didn't say at all. I never said to let it degrade asap, or that keeping things from decomposition is anti permaculture, in addition, the idea of a permanence regarding to structures is hardly the root of the word permaculture. One could potentially live far more sustainably, and contribute far more to a permanent culture by living in a home that required regular maintenance with found materials. If your product is produced in a factory on one continent, then shipped too another, then trucked across that continent and stored in an air conditioned store etc. etc. It doesn't matter if the label says "least toxic" or "environmentally safe" anymore.

What I did say, is that going out of your way to make things resist decomposition is going to quickly bring you to the line of sustainable and non sustainable. People seem to hear/read what they want to, rather than what's being said, or they read the first 3 lines and are so caught up in thinking of a "good" response they don't even bother to finish the reading. If you're going to benefit from any differing opinions you'll have to get past that.


I'm sorry if you felt I misunderstood your postings, Zachary. I originally posted seeking other folk's experiences and recommendations for treating the wood of built structures. Your responses seemed to suggest I not bother treating wooden structures. Feel free to leave your own structures untreated as you like. I'd prefer to treat mine as I feel that will prolong the lifespan of said structures. That being said, I am using mostly found and salvaged materials for building.

As such I am seeking advice the on most effective best practices for treating wooden structures to slow weathering effects.

Can anyone speak to boiled linseed oil on exterior wooden surfaces?
 
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