At the crossroads and convenience and conscious is the industry of wood preservatives, which exists to keep our houses, porches, treehouses and decks standing stronger and longer. By treating wood with preservatives, rot, fungi growth and insect infestation are deterred for many year and even decades. On the other hand, Todd Shupe says that these products more often than not end up in a landfill and the chemicals used in the treatment process are left to seep into the earth. It’s a thin line to tread and the topic is gaining more attention as concerns surrounding pollution are given more consideration.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, even chemically-treated wood can rot. In a July 2017 article that explores the topic, it’s revealed that the chemical mixtures applied at the point of manufacturing could have been defective or insufficiently applied. It’s also possible that a misstep during the construction process – like a screw that caused a major crack in the wood of a now-rotting deck – helped to accelerate the rot recently discovered by the owner. The author of the article goes on to note that the unearthing of 15-year-old playset supports revealed termite infestation despite the use of treated wood. These examples go to show that even use of preservative-treated wood won’t guarantee life-long health of any structure.

Todd Shupe, a former LSU professor who earned his Ph.D. in wood science from Louisiana State University, predicts that the majority of the aforementioned wood ended up in the trash and thus, a landfill. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) periodically reviews the preservatives that are often used in the treatment process. Todd Shupe says that the use of metal-free preservatives during the treatment process must be seriously explored if the EPA wants to make a dent on this issue, given the potential hazards and possible human health and environmental impacts. Closed loop recycling of spent treated wood is essential and Shupe has been issued two US Patents in this area.

The Columbus Dispatch article goes on to note a number of other steps taken to deter rot. While more preservative-treated wood could likely be purchased to make repairs, former LSU professor Todd Shupe says prevention is worth a pound of the cure in this case. One of the measures that owners of rotting wood can take is to purchase tape that has a special rubber adhesive designed to seal up screws and keep water out. There are also thin rolls of stainless steel that can be used to cover wood joists and keep water out. The article notes that this product, despite being made of stainless steel, can still be cut with scissors. Also, remedial wood preservatives can be applied in field to extend service life and are widely used for utility poles.