Enhancing the Performance of Wood with Protection from Mold – Lumber Co-operator May 2020

May 29th 2020

Enhancing the Performance of Wood with Protection from Mold

By Belinda Remley

Mold, because of all the damage it causes, is considered a four-letter word. Mold likes dark, damp, unlit places like cluttered storage areas, recently flooded areas, basement areas, and areas with poor ventilation. Mold likes wood and as it grows, it makes wood unsightly. It can make homes unsafe for habitation. And, mold is becoming more of an issue even in areas of the country where it previously was not.

“With warmer, longer summers, we have seen a rise in mold issues in the Northeast,” explains Ken Trainor, Northeastern Surface Applied Technologies Territory Manager for Lonza Wood Protection. “The change has created a stronger breeding ground for mold. Frankly, it’s something we haven’t seen much of before.”

This change has caused the industry to stand up and take notice. “During a recent event I attended,” says Ken, “I spoke with several truss manufacturers, lumber dealers, and purchasing agents and all of them expressed concern over the issue of mold in the market.”

Homeowners are noticing it too. “Homeowners are educating themselves about mold, the damage it causes, and the hit to their bottom line when it is found in their homes. They want to know that their home is safe with no hidden dangers behind the walls.”

Protecting what goes behind the walls starts long before the wood ends up at a job site for the construction of a new home or at a treating plant designated for preserved wood for outdoor use. It starts soon after wood is harvested and brought to the sawmill where it is cut and prepared for use.

“Many sawmills prevent the growth of mold by kiln drying the bundles of wood to 19% or less moisture,” says Ken. “Most sawmills carefully store their dried wood under cover so that it does not retain moisture from the elements such as rain and snow.

“However, the problem does not usually occur until after the wood leaves the sawmill,” Ken adds. “Even though wood is dry and clean when it is stacked in packs, moisture can seep in, encouraging mold growth that causes unsightly lumber discolorations that result in massive losses in value.” For example, if framing trusses are found to be moldy upon delivery to a job site, they will be rejected and have to be replaced with trusses that are constructed with clean wood.  

When wood bundles leave the sawmill on trucks and rail cars they are generally not protected from the elements. The wood gets damp overnight and wet during rainstorms. Lumber wraps can get torn and eventually water seeps into the middle of the lumber packs where it sits on inner boards, providing an excellent breeding ground for mold. Those packs could sit for a while at a lumber yard, planing mill, or treater before they arrive at their final destination, giving mold time to flourish.

“Every time a pack is broken, your reputation could be in jeopardy,” Ken says. “If there is mold in the middle of the pack you risk returns and complaints from customers. Costs could mount with every complaint.

“But there is a fairly simple solution. Creating a barrier with a mold inhibitor like one from Lonza’s line on the surface of wood stops the mold spores from sprouting and growing. The mold inhibitor removes the wood as a food source, making it nearly impossible for mold to grow. This results in up to 6 months of clean, bright, beautiful wood, continuing to give the wood that freshly milled look.”

The simple process of spraying or dipping wood in a mold inhibitor is quick and easy and not very costly, especially when compared to the headache and major costs of moldy wood in a lumber yard, on a job site, or even discovered in a home. It is done at the mill after the tree is cut into lumber.

“The reassurance of knowing that wood is protected across the supply chain is invaluable,” says Ken. “Knowing that you are providing a product that the customer will be pleased with gives a certain peace of mind and increases your reputation for quality products that you may not have without mold protection.”