Greener lumber

Forest-friendly choices for your next big project



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Time to rebuild a creaky deck or add a new outdoor living space to your cottage? Think twice before you build: Conventional decking lumber is pressure-treated with heavy metals and pesticides to stave off rot, mould, and hungry insects. But if bugs won’t get close to the stuff, why should you? Fortunately, manufacturers are devising alternatives.

All natural

Some timber, including cedar and redwood, is naturally rot- and bug-resistant, as are pricier tropical hardwoods such as iroko, ipe, and teak. While attractive and long-lasting, they’re often harvested from old-growth forests and sensitive habitats. Make sure you buy wood from sustainably managed forests; look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo or another recognized certification.

Under pressure

By choosing homegrown pine and spruce, you’re reducing the carbon footprint that comes with shipping tropical lumber to our shores. However, these cheaper, more porous woods have to be pressure-treated or they’ll decay in no time. The good news is that

companies have replaced arsenic-containing Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) treatments (which are banned in some jurisdictions) with low-toxicity wood preservatives such as those that use copper or borate.

Mixing it up

Composite and plastic decking made almost entirely of recycled materials saves trees, doesn’t require sealing or painting, and won’t warp, crack, or split. Composite lumber mixes wood waste and recycled plastic; it resembles wood and will even grey over time. Plastic lumber uses old shopping bags, milk jugs, and pop bottles. The 100-per-cent recycled material doesn’t have the same load-bearing strength as wood (or the slightly less strong wood composites), but it comes in a rainbow of non-fading colours.

General info

In addition to general info, you can search for specific green decking options: hardwoods [tropical and local], soft woods, recycled, and pressure treated

Green Building Sustainable Building Sourcebook: Outdoor decking materials

Product Options
Sustainably pressure treated: Kebony Products DA
TimberSIL® Glass Wood Products:
Perma-Deck Plastic Lumber:
Bear Board Plastic Lumber:
EcoTiles hardwood decking using sustainable forestry practices:

This article was originally published on April 3, 2009

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