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What Is Thermo-Treated Wood, and Is It Right for Your Project?

Thermo-treated wood is part of a new trend for construction. However, the process of using high heat to preserve and protect wood has been around for many centuries. Let’s take a closer look at thermo-treated wood and see whether it’s a good fit for your construction project.

The process

Essentially, the thermal modification process bakes wood at 400-plus degrees in an anoxic (oxygen-free) environment. It is crucial to keep oxygen out of the process; otherwise, the wood will combust as soon as it reaches 300 degrees.

Wood can be treated using oil, nitrogen, or water vapor; the latter is touted as the most effective. The wood is first dried out completely before it’s exposed to the high heat. Once the heating process is complete, the wood is cooled off by condensation. Steam helps to prevent the wood from catching fire or splintering. The process results in a wood that’s highly water-resistant and will not warp.

Thermo-treated wood is not only strong, but it looks beautiful, too. The high heat brings out a natural dark brown color in the wood with a rich grain. Chemical treatments might get the same results, but thermo-treated wood is an eco-friendly method perfect for green projects.

Applications for thermo-treated wood

Thermo-treated wood can be used for a variety of indoor and outdoor applications, including:

This material is a good option in areas where water/moisture is prevalent, like boardwalks, swimming pools, yacht trims, gardens and landscaping, floors, and bathrooms.

The advantages and disadvantages of thermo-treated wood

As with all building materials, there are pros and cons to its application. Consider the following when determining whether thermo-treated wood is a good choice for your construction project.

Advantages

  • Because it’s moisture-resistant, thermo-treated wood is an excellent choice for the outdoors and in moisture-heavy settings. It’s even used in some musical instruments to prevent warping.
  • The rich brown color achieved by the thermal modification process is beautiful, especially when used for exterior applications.
  • Unlike with pressure-treated wood, there are no chemicals used, making thermo-treated wood a lightweight, eco-friendly alternative.
  • When properly maintained, thermo-treated wood can last for 25 years in exterior applications.
  • It is much less likely to warp, swell, or crack than untreated wood.
  • It keeps fungus, decay, and insects at bay.

Disadvantages

  • Thermo-treated wood is more expensive than untreated wood because of the processing. It can cost around $8 to $10 per square foot (not including installation).
  • As a newer product, it must be ordered directly from manufacturers. It’s easier to get untreated and pressure-treated wood without a special order.
  • Because of the drying process it undergoes, thermo-treated wood does not have good bending strength. When used in an exterior application, thermo-treated wood must be sealed and maintained every few years to protect it from UV rays to keep the rich brown look. Otherwise, the wood will fade to gray.

The bottom line

Thermo-treated wood is an eco-friendly option for your construction project. While more expensive than untreated wood, it will pay off in the end with its ability to last for many years.

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