Timber Treatment - why do we do it?

Another massive con, perpetuated by the Property Care Association, and their Chemical Company members - is Timber Treatment.

Hundreds of thousands of homes are smothered with toxic chemicals every year.  These shadowy con-artists turn up at your home, and declare it necessary to 'treat' your timbers to prevent 'woodworm' and 'rot'.  They tell you that woodworm are going to line up at the doors of your home and gobble timbers unless they are soaked in toxic chemicals supplied by PCA member companies, including Peter Cox, Rentokil, Timberwise, Kenwood, Kenway.  This stuff is particularly nasty chemistry - and you are surrounded by it.  Your roof timbers, staircase, floors - anything these con merchants can get at is covered with toxic chemicals.

The simple truth is that you do NOT need to treat timber.

Beetle will only attack timber if it is above about 17% total moisture content.  That's quite wet.  The same goes for actual rot by fungus - timber is simply NOT going to rot if it is kept dry.

This chemical treatment of timber has become so much of a problem that uneducated Chartered Building Surveyors - you know, those supposedly very intelligent and highly qualified members of RICS, are stabbing timbers with a 'damp meter' and proclaiming them to be wet.  They aren't.  They are soaked to the core with toxic chemicals which are highly conductive, and reading off the scale on the damp meter.  I know - I have one, and use it to measure the moisture content of my firewood - it works very well in clean, untreated timber, so long as you follow the manufacturers instructions.

To use a 'damp meter' for the purpose they were made, you stick it in the timber, and read off the number on the scale.  THEN, you take out the manufacturers tables, that come with the meter.  First, you have to identify the species of timber. That's right - we need to know what tree it was.  Can you tell the difference between oak and elm?  Most people find it hard.  Is that beam Chestnut?  Or perhaps it's a bit of Ash.  Once we have identified the timber, we can take the reading from the 'damp meter' and correct the reading for the individual timber species.  THEN, we know what moisture content is.  Or do we?  Actually not - it's only a 'Wood Moisture Equivalent' - or WME - which is a number that's calculated as being roughly equivalent to the total moisture content, if you took that bit of timber and heated it up to drive off the contained moisture and weighed it.  Not a very exact science at the best of times.

The manufacturers - usually someone like 'Protimeter' actually state that these things can't be used for building materials. You have seen how hard it is to measure moisture in a bit of timber - and that's what they are designed for.  Can you imagine how hard it is to calibrate it to give a decent reading in salt soaked concrete, granite, lime plaster, sandstone, limestone - erm - in your dreams!  

The bottom line:  If timber is dry, it won't rot, and beetle won't eat it.

The new British Standard in Old Building Conservation - BS7913 states categorically that timber treatment should not be undertaken.  It clearly states that the best treatment for beetle infestation or rot is to DRY THE TIMBER OUT!  Simple. Cheap. Non Toxic!

What to do if you think you have a problem with timber:

Don't panic.  The bottom line:  If you dry the timber, the problem will stop.  Even the worst cases of dry rot can be cured very easily, by drying the area.  You don't need to treat, spray, or otherwise soak anything in toxic chemicals which just wet the area down.  Dry it out.  DIAGNOSE the source of moisture and tackle it.  One of the worst cases of timber rot I have ever seen was a house that had every window lintel rotting.  Removing cement render allowed the house walls to dry out immediately, and within a month the rot had stopped.

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