Terms of the Trade: What Is Pressure-Treated Lumber?

Because wood is a naturally occurring material in the environment, it's subject to rot and decay if exposed to moisture, insects or vermin. Wood doesn’t last forever – unless it’s treated with chemicals to preserve it. This is where pressure treating comes into play. By immersing a piece of lumber (harvested wood) in a liquid preservative within a pressure chamber, chemicals are forced deep into the wood fibers. Up until recently, the chemical most commonly used in this process was chromated copper arsenate, which is considered quite hazardous to humans. (Arsenic, anyone?) Fortunately, there are more human-friendly, copper-based chemicals used now. There are varying levels of treatment depended on the intended application for the boards, which should be posted with either ink or a plastic tag at the end of each piece of lumber.