Thursday, March 11, 2010

Treating Wood

When we started this project, much of what we did was hit & miss & just doing what we were told to do. We've made some mistakes & I'm hoping this sharing will help someone else.

We have so much to learn about wood in the tropics, but we're having to learn fast! We'd heard about termites & what they can do, but until you've seen them in action, it's hard to fathom. It seems that the minute you lay a soft wood board down, they start eating it. You'll see what looks like a mud trail on the board and the wood just starts to disintegrate.

When building you have a couple of options (when building a wooden structure). One is to build with hardwood. The Mennonite houses from Spanish Lookout are built of hardwoods. Frankly, I'm not sure of which ones each uses. Many have very funky names - Santa Maria, Billy Web, Bullet Tree & Cabbage Bark to mention a few. I don't mention Mahogany because it's much more expensive, even down here. Our little Mennonite house is Santa Maria, which is a fairly uniform color of red.

When we built our house & guest house, we were extremely aware of costs & chose to use mtn. pine. The appearance is somewhat similar to our northern pines. They tell you it's "pressure treated" but I understand that it's actually dipped in what looks like a Penta solution. The wood takes on a slight greenish tinge & when you get it it's usually still dripping wet. Ick! The surprise is that, once it's dry, it becomes really hard. We like the look of it as it has more character than the hardwoods.

Besides bugs, the sun is very intense & can turn a board into a "C" shape in the course of a day. You have to keep it out of the sun if possible and treat it once your structure is up. We've used two different products for the siding. CWF & Maxim's. (I'll get the exact name & edit this later). One hint I learned long ago, clear finish looks nice, but to get UV protection you're better off with some color. The more color, the more protection. We actually used a cedar color on the pine to counteract the greenish tinge & to make them coordinate with the Mennonite house.

OK, we're terrific, we've painted our brains out & can now relax - WRONG! The termites are making tracts up our concrete piers, heading towards the wood. We've sprayed, but that's pretty short term. According to Rene, they won't eat the treated wood, but will travel, looking for furniture or whatever isn't treated. He told us that they apply a band about one foot wide of grease at the base of every board or pier which traps the bugs. Sounds messy to me. We've seen trees painted white & wondered about that. Had this discussion with our British friend, Jane, & she told us that they use a "lime wash." Inquired & ended up buying a 50# bag to try. You can mix with water to paint the bottom of trees or spread the dry mixture on the ground. We'll probably do both under the house. Wow we have a lot to learn.

I also want to touch on my dilemma about our decks (verandas down here). I'm using Thompsons Water Seal, which I've never liked, but it's all they seem to sell down here, for all the decks around our house. As an alternative, on the guest house & little house I used linseed oil and diesel. I Googled this & found very mixed reviews. Some said it didn't do any good at all. I was also trying to find a % mixture, with no luck. I thought, what the heck, & used half & half. So far, we're really pleased with the results of this mix. It goes on very easily, the diesel helps the oil penetrate, it looks good and seems to be holding up well. The slight diesel smell disappeared in a day. We wanted this mostly as a wood dressing, but the diesel is also a good bug repellent.

Over time we'll be able to judge the two products & will share our observations. I'm hoping this helps someone. These two "old dogs" are sure learning new tricks & I love to share.


Sandy A said...

There is another product besides Thompson's, but I forget the name. It is expensive, and something that is used for Marine areas (decks, boats, etc.) I think they sell it in Belize City at Bennie's or Builders Supply

Jeanie said...

Yep, everything you post Gail, helps me! Keep up the good work!