Treating my untreated lumber??

hengal(z5 / IN)January 10, 2006

Ok, I've found what I think is a pretty good price on 2x6x8 ft untreated lumber at Home Depot (doing happy dance). How can I treat it to extend its life in the garden without harmful stuff going into the soil? I've heard of Linseed oil - but what about just painting them? Or Thompson's water seal? Any thoughts??

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immrlizard(z7)

I would stay away from anything to treat them. The reason that you didn't go for the treated lumber is probably that you didn't want the chemicals leeching into the ground. I have heard (from more than a couple people) that linseed oil actually does very little to stop the wood from rotting and in some cases can actually speed it up. I would think that you would need to replace the untreated boards every 8 or 9 years. I created my raised beds with 1/4 in plywood and they have lasted nearly 5 years. I think I am going to put some 2x10 or 2x12 to replace them this year.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2006 at 1:34PM
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rain1950(W. WA z8)

I can get 1" pine boards free (machine part shipping crates) I plan to use spray adhesive to bond black plastic to the soil side then an outdoor oil stain on the outside.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2006 at 7:24PM
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beeziboy(z5 IN)

I have used treated 2 X 6s & 2 X 8s in my raised beds for years with no adverse affects.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 10:09PM
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Orena(z6a central PA)

Hi--

I used untreated 2x10's for my beds. They have held up fine for going on five years, and I don't see why they won't last at least a few more. I understand that cedar is the wood of choice for longevity, but it's obviously much more expensive. I will be on the lookout for cedar at a decent price when I eventually need to replace the current borders.

I did take the measure of stapling black plastic to the inside surface of the boards. I cut the lengths of plastic long enough to extend over the bottom of the boards, and outward about 8 inches onto the ground. Then I covered the exposed plastic with free mulch (wood chips and/or composted leaves). This extra measure helps keep the bottom of the wood away from the ground moisture, and prevents grass/weeds from growing close around the borders. No more need to weed-wack around the beds.

I'd rather not have the chemicals in pressure-treated lumber or > railroad ties leaching into my plants. I practice organic gardening mainly for "better safe than sorry" reasons. We are exposed to so many questionable chemicals on an almost daily basis that I like to impose reasonable limits on that exposure in every way I can. Whether exposure has any effect on health--now or in the future--is hard to tell, but it just seems logical and it sure makes me feel better. Hey, I guess there IS a real effect then. :)

But that's for another forum.

--Orena

    Bookmark   March 4, 2006 at 11:07PM
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rembetika(austin, TX)

this has been a real grey area for me too... still don't know if there is any solid scientific research done on this issue, or not. some say using treated wood/RR ties is the worst thing in the world, others say it's no big deal. who knows>? but as the previous poster said, i'd rather be safe than sorry. your plants are soaking up whatever's in the soil, and you are consuming a lot of that.... it just seems iffy. and after you spend a lot of work adding good clean organic soil into your beds... you don't want to chance anything messing it up.

anyway, i looked into cedar boards too- and it's WAY out of my price range. if you buy new pine planks, how do you know is it's untreated? even the raw wood, who knows what they spray onto it-- is it really clean??

immrlixard.... hhmmm... i would be concerned about the pressed wood & glue inside of the plywood, that this may leech into the soil as well. of course, if they're still in good shape i guess that's not really an issue.

rain1950- is bonding black plastic to the insides really going to keep them from rotting any sooner? because rain/moisture & mold is going to be trapped within those layers, no?
i would almost rather let the wood breathe (as much as it could breathe in soil)...

but geez, if untreated pine raised beds would last 7-8 or more years....?? that's WAY worth it in my book!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2006 at 2:08PM
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metqa

I used boiled linseed oil on my untreated lumber 5 years ago, and it has stood up to minor flood, ants, weeds, and being thrown down a hill (LOL) I've recently gifted my frames to a friend who wants to try SqFt Gardening and she was impressed with the condition of them. They got darker but the wood itself was not eaten or rotten or icky or anything. It looked as good as the treated lumber that I'd bought the year before, before I heard about avoiding it. It must be good if it compares to that. I was told that linseed is the same as Flax seed, and that boiling it changes the components that make it nutritious, but transforms it into a perfect wood preserver. No chemicals are needed to keep it good. I admit I did line the inside edges with tarp, but the bottoms and sides were exposed directly to the soil, and the next year I pulled up the tarp, and the plants grew fine. It is, I think, a cheaper and safer alternative than treated.

Happy Gardening.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 8:53AM
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barefoot76(z7 VA)

So, not to be completely ignorant here, but is the newer (and outrageously expensive)composite decking safe to use? I believe the bulk of the material is recycled pop bottles and wood chips, but perhaps the way it is formed could be toxic? I wonder if there are any studies or research on this because I imagine they would last forever.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 9:18PM
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authordonnah(SCal 10 /22 sub)

I read recently about sodium silicate as a lumber treatment - it's supposedly safer than at least some other alternatives. Here's a piece on all sorts of different lumber treatments that mentions it (see link).

I understand sodium silicate used to be used to preserve farm fresh eggs in a water bath for nearly a year without refrigeration. For such applications it was called "water glass"... in that, once mixed with water, when you dunked an egg into it, it formed a seal around the egg.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wikipedia on timber treatment

    Bookmark   March 25, 2006 at 2:31PM
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clonezero

Treated lumber is toxic! It contains large amount of arsenic and heavy metals (chromium) such as copper. I don't know what you think is "iffy" about this stuff being bad for you. It won't make you drop dead in one season but chronic exposure to these chemicals will effect your health in an adverse way. There are lots of articles on CCA (chromated copper arsenate) treated wood. Think of the following most of this stuff is coming from overseas now, where quality control might not be as concisions as it should be. Also this industry is worth billions of dollars and as you know big business hates bad press. Why trust a bunch of people out to just make a buck, they don't care much about you slowly poison yourself. Look at asbestos if you belief the press when it was popular it was like mothers milk.

If you think the scientific research is still out on this subject you are naïve. Read a little between the lines and they say that these chemicals donÂt leach very far (which means they are not held in the material like they are supposed to be), and plants take up everything that is in the soil. They say organic & inorganic arsenic are in everything and the FDA gives safe level as 40ppm. However, al the studies I have seen donÂt focus on large amounts of chromium & copper poisoning which we know is bad for you.

Hey this stuff is fine around the flower beds, as long as you donÂt compost it and move it to you vegetables the next year. Hey the day I see the these scientists and industry moguls growing there own food in planted made of this stuff and feeding it to their children & grand kids IÂll think about doing the same. No body is willing to say sure go a head it's safe they only give you conditions and try to chaing the subject.

Why take a risk with your health? Hey if a termite wonÂt eat this stuff or a mold wonÂt grow on it why should I put this stuff in my body? Think about this, it may save you a lot of pain in the long run.

There is an alternative now ACQ®, which stands for alkaline copper quat. Also Trex looks okay, but what's wrong with redoing you beds every few years.

CloneZero

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 4:36PM
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threeducks(z5-MI)

The simplest treatment you can apply to lumber is to paint it. That is cheap, and it will extend its life. Anything more exotic than that is a lot of effort for not much return.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 9:01PM
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bindersbee(6a UT)

I do know that there is one company that produces a completely non-toxic sealer. We bought 55 gallon drums of it to seal the wood on a Children's Playground. It is the only sealer available in the whole country that met the specs. for our project and thus we must order it annually from California. I can probably find out the name of it if you are interested. Might be expensive to get though- I don't know if they sell it in small quantities.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 6:32PM
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hengal(z5 / IN)

Thanks for the offer bindersbee, but I it would be a fairly small quantity that I would need. I've bought the lumber and think I'll just see how long it will last.... maybe a fairly good length of time according to some folks experience. :)

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 9:30AM
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ianjc

My wife recently purchased 2x6 redwood planks to make raised garden beds that she saw it sunset magazine. Sunset's article suggested that we use a wood sealant. When we asked the people at Home Depot about a product that would be safe, they suggested Behr Weatherproofer. I called Behr to ask them their opinion on their products use in the garden and the gentleman said that if it were his garden he would not put anything on the wood. He said that the sealer (which was high quality and very pricey) could start to break down in as little as 1 year and get into the soil. The literature on the produce states that it contains chemical known to cause cancer and birth defects. I know that I will risk having to replace untreated wood before I consider exposing my family to even the potential of that kind of danger!

Also, for those people who are lining their untreated wood with plastic, there is a lot of research out there that says that many plastics have toxic chemicals in them as well. Many plastics contain PVC, which is not something I want to be ingesting. Please be careful out there! As one person has already alluded to in their post, no one is looking out for you and your family better than you.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2006 at 2:08PM
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clermont_ohio

I have seen conclusions by several state agricultural extension offices that using ACQ-treated lumber poses no danger in vegetable garden use.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 4:01PM
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threeducks(z5-MI)

I called Behr to ask them their opinion on their products use in the garden and the gentleman said that if it were his garden he would not put anything on the wood. He said that the sealer (which was high quality and very pricey) could start to break down in as little as 1 year and get into the soil. The literature on the produce states that it contains chemical known to cause cancer and birth defects. I know that I will risk having to replace untreated wood before I consider exposing my family to even the potential of that kind of danger!

Look at any kind of paint, varnish, polyurethane, etc. and you will see the same warning. The warning corresponds to the solvents that are used in the product. Once cured, they pose absolutely no danger. However, you don't want to be breathing the fumes while applying the stuff. I'm sure you don't worry (nor should you) about the finish on your dinning room table jumping up and giving you cancer.

As for Behr, I wouldn't use their products to paint a dog house.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 10:32PM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

Since I do NOT stake my frames to the ground, This year I began simply flipping my frames over. Hoping to extend their useful life from 6 to maybe 12 years. The only problem, I had to remove the trellis supports I had on them. Oh well. Likely would have had to move them anyway.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 2:07AM
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