What is Treated Lumber and Why Should You Use It?

You may have heard the term treated lumber. But what is treated lumber? Is it a product you should use? What makes it special? Let’s explore the answers to these questions together!

What We Mean by Treated Lumber

When most contractors (including us) say treated lumber, we are actually meaning pressure treated lumber. But who wants to keep putting the word “pressure” into every sentence?

The “pressure” part is important, though, because it means the treatment of the wood isn’t simply someone applying a coat of stain and calling it treated. That would be just someone covering up to make it look like it’s been treated. The actual process goes much deeper into the fibers of the wood using our favorite word: pressure.

Pressure treated wood is made by taking a regular pine board (or similar species), placing it inside a pressurized tank, and then forcing chemicals into the fibers of the board. These chemicals are designed to help preserve the wood, keep it from rotting when left outside, and even resist termites and other mites! Pretty cool, huh?

Basically Steve Rogers goes into the tank and Captain America comes out.

Where Treated Lumber is Used

Since pressure treated wood is designed to resist rot and pests, the best use is for the outdoors. Common projects where we will use treated lumber are decks, pole barns, sheds, pergolas, and fencing. All of these projects experience weather and the treated wood helps it endure much, much longer than untreated wood.

Pros of Treated Wood

There are quite a few benefits for using treated materials. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Treated wood can last outside for a lifetime if properly cared for.
  • Treated wood is termite resistant. So those pesky little buggers can find somewhere else to live!
  • It is usually much cheaper than composite materials.
  • It still has a natural wood look because it is wood.

Cons of Treated Wood

After we just talked up the product to you, we have to be honest: there are some downsides to using treated wood. Here are some that come to mind:

  • Treated wood is not waterproof. It is only rot resistant.
  • The wood will require maintenance (usually annually) if you’re going to see its full life span potential.
  • It costs more than regular wood. So don’t build your whole house with it unless it’s a tree house or something.
  • The treated lumber has chemicals in it and for some people that may be a big no-no.
  • There is a green look to the lumber at first but it will wear out over time.

Treated Lumber Alternatives

If you don’t like the pressure treated lumber idea, we have some other options for you. But of course, each of these options will have their own list of pros and cons so do your research. Here are some alternatives:

  • Cedar wood is naturally resistant to rot. However, woodpeckers love cedar and you’ll still need to maintenance the wood.
  • PVC boards (yep, great for more than just your plumbing)
  • Composite wood (usually made up of saw dust and recycled plastics)
  • Steel (could be an option depending on the project)
  • Aluminum (our personal favorite for replacing treated deck handrail)

Leave Some Feedback

Hopefully that helps give you an idea of what “treated wood” is! Let me know if you have any questions or what your own experience has been with the product in the comment section below!

Ethan McNeil

Ethan McNeil has worked in the office of T&H Keith Inc since 2008. He currently takes care of all things office, from estimating to scheduling to accounting. He also has his realtor license and helps individuals sell and buy their homes.

2 thoughts on “What is Treated Lumber and Why Should You Use It?

  • July 1, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    Thanks for pointing out that treated timber can be good for outdoor projects since it can resist the weather for a lot longer than untreated wood. My husband and I are thinking about getting a treated pine deck because we really like the style of it. I think it would also be nice that it is more resistant to the weather because I think that would help it last longer and look better longer too.

  • October 10, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    I didn’t know that treated wood is termite resistant, let alone that it is usually cheaper than composite materials. We’re thinking about remodeling our house exterior and we were unsure of what material we should use for the deck, but now I know that treated lumber will be the right choice. It’s comforting to know that this material will help the deck endure longer. Thanks for the information!


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