Why don't you use Pine?
In this article we discuss the pro's and con's of using 'pine' for wooden climbing frames. We also discuss why we have decided NOT to use pine for any of our outdoor play equipment.
Please click on any of the links below to just to that section of the article.
- What is Pine?
- How to Tell the Difference Between Treated and Untreated Wood?
- Untreated Pine
- Treated Pine
- Do other companies use pine for their garden play equipment?
- Alternative Lumber Types
- What do you recommend?
What is Pine?
Pine is abundant in Europe and whilst not as durable as some wood such as Oak, it is a good choice for those looking for a more budget, rustic or country style product.
Pine is an affordable, renewable source which is strong and durable enough for many DIY construction projects. It's also a soft wood, making it malleable and easy to work with.
How to Tell the Difference Between Treated and Untreated Wood?
For someone newer to some of these woodworking skills or DIY projects, it may be somewhat difficult to distinguish if the wood you plan on using would be considered pressure treated or not. One of the biggest things to look for is the green tint to the wood. In many circumstances, the wood is also going to contain a marking if it has been pressure treated.
Lastly, you can always smell the wood. Non-pressure treated wood will smell more natural like the outdoors. Pressure-treated wood should be easier to pick up on the smell of the chemicals and other additives used to preserve the wood.
The obvious advantage of using untreated lumber is because of the reduced health risks. Untreated wood is as close to wood in it's original form as you can get, so it'll also look and small more natural. It'll likely also be slightly cheaper than treated wood, although it will not be as durable.
When working with untreated wood, you don't have to worry so mcuh about protecting your skin. It would be advisable to wear a mask to keep from breathing in sawdust, but you can work in short sleeves and/or shorts without any fear of endangering yourself.
Will it really only last 2-3 years?
It's impossible to say exactly how long untreated wood will last when exposed to the elements. There are so many variables such as moisture, UV, uses etc. Some say that untreated 5cm×10cm beam can last up to two years before showing signs of rot. However, this is not long if you're expecting it to be safe to use as children's play equipment for many years.
Pine timber can be pressure treated to resist mould, decay and rotting. It cost's more, but is necessary to ensure the timber will last. Stopping it from rotting will increase the longevity of the product. Essential if being used as structural beams.
when working with treated lumber, you should be adequately covered -- long sleeves, long pants and eye goggles are all a good idea. Afterward, make sure to clean any sawdust from you or your clothing thoroughly. And, of course, you want to avoid breathing in any sawdust particles from treated lumber [source: home.howstuffworks.com].
Pressure Treatment Process
It is the process used to force chemicals into wood to aid the preservation process. This process includes the below steps where the wood is placed within a sealed cylinder, chemical treatment is forced (under extreme pressure) into the wood and then drained.
Treated Wood History
Historically, if you're building anything that people will regularly be coming in contact with - such as kids play equipment, lawn furniture or benches - it's been advised you should ideally use 'untreated wood' [source: Houlihan and Wiles].
Up until the European Directive 2003/2/EC companies were using CCA chemical treatment – sounds pretty innocuous until you find out CCA is an abbreviation for Chromated Copper Arsenate - Copper is a fungicide, arsenic is a fungicide and pesticide, and chromium is a fixative which also adds ultraviolet (UV) resistance.
Treated Wood Health Hazard Warnings
Even with the clear health risks involved with the use of CCA, most companies were forced to switch to another chemical treatment when the European Commission had to take action to ban CCA treated wood, so it was no longer permitted to be used in residential or domestic constructions. Users of pressure treated pine have moved to various wood preservative chemical treatments such as Tanalith E & Tanalith M, however, these products still come with handling precautions including:
|Wear gloves to protect from abrasions and splinters|
|Keep wood stored in well ventilated areas|
|Avoid accumulations of airborne sawdust|
|After handling treated timber all exposed skin should be washed before commencing other activities|
|If sawdust accumulates on clothes, wash before re-use|
|Treated timber should not be used where it may come into contact with drinking water or food preparation surfaces|
|If planning to use near a fish pond seek advice first|
|Sawdust & off-cuts should never be used as animal litter or bedding|
|Pressure treated timber should never be burned as fuel for BBQ, cooking stoves or grates|
[Source: Lonza Wood Protection PDF]
Do other companies use pine for their garden play equipment?
Yes, many of our competitors use pine or other pressure treated lumber for their wooden climbing frames because it is cheap and easily available. This has the advantage for many smaller retailers that pine can be purchased in smaller volumes, and transported less distance, often only from Poland or Estonia. Retailers and manufacturers who use cedar or redwood have to import their products from China. this means they have to large enough to afford to buy in volume.
Alternative Lumber Types
There are many types of wood available for garden play equipment, as there is for other garden products. As an example, if you were to buy a garden table, fence, shed, or outdoor building, it could be manufactured from Pine, Spruce, Cedar, Redwood or Teak. All have pro's and con's, but primarily the considerations will be down to durability and price.
All wooden garden products will need oil, sealant or stain applying to keep them protected from weathering, reduce the risk of splits and splinters, and keep the vibrancy in appearance. These products are frequently used to maintain appearance of pine, cedar, redwood or teak products, such as sheds, fencing, decking or climbing frames. However pine will also requires pressure treating before it can be used outdoors for any period of time.
What wood do we recommend?
Cedar. Pine is great if you’re looking for something simple, cheap and rustic, but cedar is the best choice for a product that is going to look attractive in your garden and provide your children with many, many years of fun, safe and enjoyable play.
Selwood Climbing Frames has the advantage of economies of scale, we make thousands of play sets a year so our prices are cheaper than our competitors who sell far less products with similar (or lower) specification, and that are manufactured from cheaper wood.
Selwood Climbing Frames have been manufactured from cedar (cunninghamia lanceolata) for many years due to the wood’s natural beneficial characteristics which make it ideal for outdoor play equipment. The wood is strongly resistant to rot, is not eaten by termites, and is easily worked, which is why it’s been used for hundreds of years to make buildings, bridges, ships, furniture, and now climbing frames!
However, we do believe there is a place for pressure treated pine, but it is at the bottom (cheap) end of the market, where pine is the only wood that is cheap enough to be commercially competitive for such basic structures. This is because the pressure treated pine is prone to cracks, splits, and splinters which don't affect the structural integrity but aren't good for children's soft skin. The pole sets are not intended to be touched, rubbed against or climbed on, so there is no fear of you children coming into prolonged contact with chemical treatments.
Our play equipment is constructed from cedar due to the natural advantages, of:
|Natural resistance to rot|
|Naturally resistant to insect attack|
|Less prone to cracks, splits and splinters|
|Gentle on small hands|
|No chemical treatment with fungicide or pesticide|
|Easy and quick to re-stain|