Wood used in gardens and outdoor construction

Nanotech greatly reduces leaching in pressure-treated lumber. Gardeners with raised beds rejoice! Deck builders sigh with relief.

railroad ties in their natural environmentIt has long been known that railroad ties, which typically were soaked in creosote topreserve them, is not a safe choice of wood to use in or around a garden. Indeed it really isn't a good solution anywhere as the substances that make up creosote will leach out of the wood and into the soil. Some of these sub-compounds are not dangerous, but others are known carcinogens and/or have demonstrable ill effects on plant life. Creosote is made from the left-oversduring industrial production. It is basically acoal-tar derivative. Not very pleasant stuff. No wonder it preserves the wood!

A custom wood deck View a sample of the custom decks, arbors, and fences built by Environmental Construction Inc.

Are you planning to use wood in outdoor construction? Have you thought about your wood selection?

Even modern pressure treated wood, which uses copper (alkaline copper quaternary and copper azole) as a fungicide/insecticide will leach small amounts but it is considered negligible for the most part. Older decks and raised garden beds that use wood in their construction which contain "CCA" (a copper/arsenic compound) will leach arsenic and copper into the soil. Copper is toxic but arsenic is quite a bit more so. Avoid building garden beds with these woods or growing plants you intend to eat near decks or outdoor structures using these woods.

Recently a University Of Michigan research project has determined that wood can be treated using nano-technology to make the preservatives remain in the wood with a 90% reduction in leaching. This is really good news and the future will find us using wood treated with these materials. The less leaching that happens the better!

Juniper timbers have become increasingly available and harvested for production. Juniper grows like weeds and is quite plentiful. The juniper is very similar to Cedar in its composition to natural resist bugs and weather without any chemical treatments. The clear difference is that juniper is a hard wood while cedar is a soft wood. Therefore, the juniper timber has a much longer lifespan in the natural elements and does not break down. One study has shown a juniper timber post in place for over 25 years with no signs of decay or breaking down. ( See Oregon State's information for more details)

Meanwhile, what you can do is to follow us and do the best you can. Use brick, rock,or other more natural materials to contain garden beds. Ensure that you use best practises in building garden beds around edible plants and in treating the soils within them. Keep wood away from direct contact with soil. Use natural materials as much as possible.

We, at Environmental Construction, are staunch believers in doing things the right way, but there are economic and practical constraints that need to be considered. Using pressure treated wood as framing for decks is a cost effective way of getting a sturdy, long-lasting structure started. The wood is not generally in contact with the soil but is generally supported by a metal post or concrete and we design it so that this wood is not exposed to the elements directly. We try to keep things as environmentally friendly as possible within your budget. If the environment is your driving goal in a landscape, please tell us, and we will list out what options you have to have the smallest footprint on the earth while getting the most out of your landscape as possible.

Our goal is to work within budget while, at the same time, use building materials and wood construction methods that are as environmentally-friendly as possible. If protecting the environment is also your driving goal while designing a landscape, please let us know. We will provide a list of what options you have in order to leave the smallest footprint on the earth while getting the most out of your landscape.

Category: Landscape Construction

Environmental Construction, Inc.

It's not simply about designing and building beautiful garden spaces, it's about providing a landscape oasis where you can relax from the daily grind and recharge. Let us create an outdoor space that will enhance your home and quality of life.

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