Friday, May 01, 2009

Treating wood

I'm just enjoying another season of Grand Designs, the UK TV show about unusual houses being built. (I just realized season five has sixteen episodes... sixteen full documentaries in one year! Kevin McCloud is a regular David Pogue.)

One issue I've not heard about: when they build of wood, either a log cabin or post/beam structures or whatever, how is the wood treated? What protects it against excessive drying and wood worms and so on?

I started thinking about it watching one episode about a young couple renovating a 400-year old house where big parts of the old oak beams were just rotted away due to death watch beetles. It was a classified building, so they could not just tear down the roof and start over, and it was very difficult and expensive to shore it up and replace parts.
So is anything being done to make new wooden buildings last four hundred years?


Pascal [P-04referent] said...

I think there are a lot of treatments for wood. All chemical and none environment-friendly.

Just like they use a special paint to keep barnacles and other seashells from attaching themselves to ship hulls and ruining the hydrodynamism like they did with old wooden ships that used only tar. These paints are all very toxic to the environment...

Waterproof varnish, anti-putrefaction dips, fire-proofing... naturally were never designed to be bio-degradable! :-(

Things are slowly changing in the environmentally aware awakening West. Very slowly. Substitute methods are being designed and implemented by "Green freaks".
Things are not changing one bit in the places that still use ancestral building techniques and materials, like Outer Mongolia, Dogon country in Mali, the naked Amazon tribes...
What worries me most, is the in-between. China, India, Brazil... wanting their share of pollution-supported massive industrialization and wild urbanization.

"An unsettling truth."

Power out again. Switching to auxiliary power, back in five. Pascal to Bridge, out.

Initiating political-economical system warp... NOW.

Anonymous said...

Good design and engineering, proper maintenance make for long lasting structures. And Pascal, not to worry, new non-toxic methods, as in Orange Oil treatment for termite infestations, baits that are taken back to kill the nest/colony (boric acid as poison, used on ants this way) are proving effective, as in -they actually work -efficiently and safely. Penofin (excellent Brazilian Rosewood oil based wood finishes) has a new non-petroleum based line -Verdi - which I'd really like to try. Like if I could somehow afford one of these French designed and built wood modular houses: Domespace-Eric

eolake said...

Ooh, looks cool, Domespace.

Somebody mailed me and said it's very rare you have to renovate a 400-year old building. OK, fair point. It was just I was thinking, surely we have learned a lot in 400 years about how to make wood last.

eolake said...

Eric, I thought you were the same person as the young man "Peaceful Blade" who used to comment on this blog? If you are, I wouldn't expect you to know such engineering stuff...?

eolake said...

I forget who mentioned this, this was sort of what I was looking for: