Treated Wood Goes Green

Coastal Treated Products received FSC chain-of-custody certification of its Oxford, Pa., treating plant in 2008, so it could respond to a number of quote requests for fire retardant treated lumber and plywood.

Coastal Treated Products


Although Pressure treated lumber—at least in the days of residential CCA—was always a favorite target of chemical-averse critics, preserved wood is increasingly being used in environmentally sensitive applications, with the blessing of the Forest Stewardship Council.
To advertise that what they are selling is FSC-certified, treaters must have their sourcing procedures chain-of-custody certified, but not their manufacturing operations. 
“FSC does not look at treatments or any alterations to products during the manufacturing process,” explains Jack Mackin, c.e.o. of F.D. Sterritt Lumber, Watertown, Ma. “FSC only certifies the wood fiber and the forest. The USGBC and other green building organizations, on the other hand, do look at chemicals and additives in products that are used during construction.”
According to Jeff Currier, president of Great Northern Lumber, Blue Island, Il., primary applications for FSC treated wood products include decks, walkways, landscaping, utility poles, exterior structural components, and bridges. Fire retardant uses include commercial roofs, mezzanines, platforms, stages, scaffolding, siding and structural components. In most cases, certified materials are either required, such as in public projects or high-profile commercial jobs, or desired by developers and owners with an environmental bent or a need for LEED building credits.
Dan Haugen, owner of Certified Wood Products, Maple Lake, Mn., notes that more FSC fiber goes into treated plywood than treated lumber—“the uses in Use Category 2, protected from continuous exposure to water.”
Haugen said the price difference between certified and non-certified treated wood is “the difference in the cost of the raw material. It goes up and down, but typically it’s about $30 to $100 per thousand board feet.”
“Generally speaking,” adds F.D. Sterritt’s Mackin, “on an apples-to-apples comparison, you can expect to pay 15% more for FSC pressure treated wood, less on plywood.”
Treaters are wildly mixed on the growth prospects for treated wood that is FSC certified. Mackin predicts sales growing about 20% to 30% per year—a trend that has held for the past eight years.
Similarly, Great Northern’s Currier expects annual growth of 20% to 40%. “The potential is this great primarily because end-users of forest products are generally becoming more aware of environmental responsibility as it affects their daily lives,” he says. 
Pam Turner, marketing manager for Biewer Lumber, St. Clair, is more reserved, but sees steady increases continuing, as more building projects are required to use FSC materials.
Phil Herman, business development manager with Allweather Wood, Washougal, Wa., doesn’t expect a huge increase in demand. “FSC in pressure treated has always been very job-specific,” he says. “However. I think that FSC will continue to grow in other product areas as concerns for green products continues to expand.”
Haugen agrees:  “The FSC is such a small percentage of the overall market, if you were to look at it with some sort of monitor, it wouldn’t be perceptible to the human eye. It’s driven by whatever green demands are out there.”
In sum, says Steve Knauss, sales manager at Coastal Treated Products, Oxford, Pa., “Our experience indicates there to be a limited growth opportunity because of the tight supply and associated raw material costs. The opportunity for growth would be much larger if supply was more available and costs were more closely aligned to non-certified wood.”
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