Can you use pressure treated wood for outdoor furniture? In this article, I will talk about the benefits of pressure-treated wood.
When summer knocks on your door, your backyards and patios beckon. With the pandemic still raging in many places, people have been confined to their homes for over a year. Backyards have become the only way to connect with nature and just get a breath of fresh air outside.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the overall sales of outdoor furniture have increased rapidly during the last summer. With the added time due to WFH policies across industries, people have also started indulging in DIY furniture projects for their backyards.
Whether you want to buy new outdoor furniture or you like to invest time in a DIY project, you must know what type of wood to get. It has to be durable and weather-resistant because outdoor furniture faces water, heat, dust, and many other things.
Many of our readers have asked us: “Can you use pressure-treated wood for outdoor furniture?”. By the end of this article, you will have a definite answer to this question.
What is pressure-treated wood?
Just like any natural substance, wood is also subject to decays, rot, and breakdown after a certain period. There’s not much to do to stop it, but there are ways that can delay the inevitable.
Manufacturers use this method of “pressure treatment” to increase the life of the wood and, as a result, increase the life of the furniture.
In the pressure-treating process, we infuse chemicals under very high pressure into the wood. This process results in preventing decay and also repels insects like termites that are bad for wood.
Pressure-treating is an old process that has been around for over 50 years. However, remember that pressure-treated wood in no way is more robust than non-treated wood. It simply resists rotting but does not increase the strength of the wood.
Now that we know what pressure-treated wood is let’s see which type of wood is most appropriate for pressure treatment.
Best Pressure Treated Wood
There are many types of wood suitable for outdoor furniture, but not all can be pressure treated. Softwoods, like southern yellow pine, are the most famous and commonly used wood for pressure treating.
It is much easier to apply the chemicals into softwood compared to denser wood. The more the chemicals are infused deep in the wood fiber, the more durable it will be.
Two Types Of Pressure Treated Wood
When making furniture, you can divide pressure-treated wood into two parts: Ground Contact and Above Ground.
As I said earlier, chemical preservatives are forced into the wood fibers to make them last longer through the pressure treatment process. Using more chemicals or more intense chemicals means delaying the rotting, breakdown, and decay even more.
Woods with high concentrations of chemicals infused in them are called ground contact pressure-treated wood. It means it will remain effective against most challenges faced by wood on the ground, including insects and water found in dirt and soil.
You should avoid using this kind of treated wood for your outdoor furniture simply because of the high concentration of chemicals, which can harm you. Still, if the wood does not contain Chromated Arsenicals (CCA), you can consider using it for your outdoor furniture.
Above Ground Use pressure-treated wood has a comparatively lower density of chemicals, making it safer for outdoor furniture. But make sure not to overexpose it to the ground so that it maintains its durability.
What is CCA & Why You Should Not Use It In Outdoor Furnitures
Chromated Arsenicals are pesticides used since the 1940s to protect against termites, fungi, and various insects that destroy wood. It contains chemicals like arsenic, copper, and chromium.
Chromated copper arsenate or CCA was also among these chemicals. Scientists later found out that this chemical is harmful to humans and pets, and manufacturers have stopped using it since then.
CCA can cause multiple types of cancers in humans. It also leeches out of wood. It is actually banned now, but it is still present in many existing structures; hence you should always be careful about it when buying reclaimed wood.
Lifetime Of Pressure Treated Wood
How long pressure-treated furniture lasts depends a lot on the area you are living in. If you are staying in a usually dry and hot city, you can bet on the furniture lasting slightly longer than if you are living somewhere where it’s raining most of the time.
Still, to give you a rough estimate, you can expect your furniture to last around 20 years (give or take five years), depending on where you live.
Preservatives With Low Toxicity For Pressure Treatment
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducts regular tests to find the best chemicals for pressure treatment with the least toxicity.
I have listed some of the EPA-approved preservatives with low toxicity.
- Alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ)
- Copper azole
- Copper naphthenate
- Polymeric betaine
- Copper-HDO (Bis-(N Cyclohexyl Diazonium Dioxy-copper))
All these chemicals are well suited for residential use. So the next time you buy outdoor furniture made with pressure-treated wood, make sure they contain one of these chemicals as preservatives.
Alternatives Of Pressure Treated Woods
Many people might not like pressure-treated woods simply because of the chemical used to make them. Don’t worry, as there are many durable non-treated options available as well.
- Acacia: High oil content
- Black Locust: Strong & Stiff
- White Oak
- Western Cedar
The best thing about these woods is that they are naturally durable and more resistant to decay, rotting, and insects. As these are central wood of the trees, also known as heartwood, they are naturally more immune to insects and decay.
One downside of these woods is that they are way more expensive than sapwood (outer part of trees) or pressure-treated woods because they are simply so effective in their natural form.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is pressure-treated lumber safe for outdoor furniture?
Pressure-treated lumber is not only safe but also highly effective outdoor furniture. Such woods are more durable thanks to the chemical infused in them. The pressure-treated furniture works much better, usually in dry and hot places compared to rainy areas.
How long will pressure-treated wood last outside?
The life of the treated wood will depend on the surrounding environment. A treated wood thrives the best in dry and hot surroundings compared to rainy places. But on average, you can expect the treated woods to last around 20 years.
Should I use treated lumber for a picnic table?
Yes, treated lumber is completely fine for outdoor picnic tables and proved to be quite safe. They are also highly durable compared to non-treated woods. ACQ (alkaline copper quaternary) treated woods are the safest in the market for residential use.
So, in conclusion, I can say that pressure-treated woods are effective for outdoor furniture and safe to use. Just make sure to do your research correctly with the help of the guidelines I have provided in this article, and you will be good to go.
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