• BS 8417 requires that preservative treatment is tailored to the species, desired service life and end use.
• The WPA has launched an initiative to raise awareness.
• The Make Sure It’s 4 logo is available for companies’ use.
• The WPA has three new publications.

The emergence of mass markets for decking and fencing, in which components are bought from stock and a range of outlets, has meant that

supply chain knowledge has dissipated greatly. And recent research by the Wood Protection Association (WPA) confirms that awareness levels about treated wood are low, with a common view being that, if it looks green, it’s treated and suitable for use anywhere.

British Standards (BS 8417) require that preservative treatment is tailored to the species, desired service life and, most importantly, the end use of the component. This means wood destined for permanent in-ground contact requires a much higher level of protection than timber used inside a building. There are four construction Use Classes defined by BS EN 335:1, ranging from Class 1 for internal timber to Class 4 covering outdoor uses where wood is in permanent ground contact.

Educational challenge

Ensuring that customers buy wood that not only looks treated, but which is also fit for purpose, is the educational challenge that needs addressing. Failure to get to grips with these quality fundamentals will inevitably lead to costly consequences for all involved and a lost opportunity for wood. The WPA is rising to this challenge in a number of ways.

First we have launched an educational initiative to raise awareness about specifying and buying wood for Use Class 4 applications. “Make Sure It’s 4” is the slogan we are using as the core message to buyers and at the heart of the campaign is a pocket-sized key-facts card providing concise guidance on buying treated wood for ground contact applications, such as fence posts and strainers, deck posts, beams and joists.

The Make Sure It’s 4 logo is available for companies that want to add it to their own documentation and product labels. And both it and the key-fact cards are available for use by all treaters and distributors of treated wood, not just WPA members, as it’s in the interests of the entire supply chain to get the message over that there is more to treated wood than just its colour.

At the same time, the WPA is committed to a number of other activities aimed at raising quality standards. For many years the Highways Agency has recognised the need to place quality at the heart of its buying policy and the WPA played a key role in helping to develop a National Highways Sector Scheme for fencing and still sits on the advisory panel.

Quality guidance note

Last month we also published a new version of our Timber Treatment Quality Guidance Note: QGN2 – one of the key controlled documents in the quality management schemes of treaters that are accredited to supply highways fencing. The publication has prompted renewed interest in the highways fencing sector scheme and in quality procedures in general.

One of our key aims is to convince other organisations, like CPET, Defra and the Environment Agency, that more prescriptive guidance on timber treatments should be included in procurement policy in order to ensure value for taxpayers and minimise waste.

As part of its 2010 plans, the WPA board has also approved an initiative to develop a quality scheme for treated wood in the UK. A number of our treater members are keen to see the introduction of a scheme that can be nationally recognised and our aim is to provide specifiers, contractors and consumers with independent corroboration that the treated wood they buy is fit for the purpose required.

Members’ survey

We are embarking on a survey of members to establish the criteria that a third-party treated wood quality scheme should cover. Included in the plans is the launch of a pilot scheme involving a small number of those WPA treaters who are enthusiastic to proceed on a quality scheme focused initially on redwood.

This is much more than the rhetoric about quality that has gone before. Our members see a real climate for change and there is real commitment to lead by example.

As part of its development strategy the WPA is reviewing the quality schemes that operate in other countries too, in particular Sweden. We are grateful to our colleagues in the Swedish Wood Preserving Association for their encouragement as we endeavour to develop a scheme appropriate for the UK.