Week II: Into the Wood(s)

Heads up and boards up…we have walls!

The week began with digging and has ended with securing topboards on our wall frame. We’ve fully transitioned into working with wood for the internal framing.

With all that skeletal wood standing strong and looming stark in the midday heat, it’s gets you thinking about the nature of wood construction, where these materials are coming from and what they’ve endured en route to our home.

One major consideration is wood preservation and treatment. Human societies have been building with wood for eons.  At least as early as the ancient Greeks and Romans, people have been preserving wood for building and other constructive and creative arts. Since the Industrial Revolution, chemical treatment of wood has been widespread in the Western World, and often it has been to the detriment of local ecologies.

As recently as ten years ago, CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate) treatment of wood was banned for domestic and residential building in Europe. In the US, limited banning was put into effect by the EPA but further measures such as the removal of standing structures were not considered.

Why should we care? Cases have been documented all over the world wherein the chemicals used to process the timber have leached into surrounding soil and water systems. In one instance, a deck was constructed almost entirely of CCA treated wood at a residential home in Maryland at a location 150 feet from a nearby stream. Shortly after installation, it was found that a majority of the life in the stream had been killed off and that the waterway itself had become a dead system just a short way downstream from the treated deck. Water tests showed extremely high levels of the toxins found in CCA and the connection was made. In other cases, people suffering splinters of this treated wood have faced life-threatening injuries due to arsenic poisoning. It is no small thing.

So, we at Community Rebuilds are happy to avoid the calamity of this form of treated wood, and instead utilize alternative options for the internal structure of our homes. This week we used borate treated wood to form the baseboards for our walls. Borate is a low toxicity substance which does not contain any of the heavy metals (copper, etc) used in other methods of treatment.

It is another awesome way to regain the trust of our natural world as we learn how to live more peacefully midst the life all around us.

And, while we’re on wood, it fits to mention a little something about the wood we use for our beams. It starts with the unfortunate story of an invasive species: pine beetles. These insects have been ravaging the pine forests of the Rocky Mountain west for many years and their effect is astounding. Whole swaths of forest will die standing if overrun by beetle populations.

Though this is its own ecological disaster, we are able to turn it into an opportunity to sustainably harvest pre-dried timber from these affected forest areas. Our beams were milled just days before being fitted into our frame. And we can anticipate that their removal from the forest will help decrease the danger of wildfires in the Rocky Mountain range. It is one real way to manage the plague of invasive beetles.

(Side Note: For the interested observer, if you are using pine timber and you see trails of an off-color blue running through the grain, what you areseeing are the latent, enduring pathways of the destructive beetles.)

Life finds a way, doesn’t it?

Have a great weekend!

In this cockeyed image, you can see the borate treated baseboards we used.  Check out that CR house across the road!

In this cock-eyed image, the slightly darker boards at bottom are the borate treated baseboards we use.
(Check out that CR house across the street!)

Look at all that gravel.

Look at all that gravel.

Comments
2 Responses to “Week II: Into the Wood(s)”
  1. doug nichols says:

    I wonder if there is too much gravel??? hummm

  2. Robbie Petry says:

    You are making great progress. Are you installing below the flooring heating on the Andrea project?

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