If you have an old wood fence on your property made from pressure-treated lumber, you might want to replace it with cedar when it's time to put up a new fence. If you have dogs and kids, pressure-treated lumber could possibly pose a health threat to them. Here's a look at why old pressure-treated lumber could be dangerous and why cedar is a good alternative.
Why Pressure-Treated Wood Is Potentially Dangerous
For many years, pressure-treated wood was made with a chemical that contained arsenic. This chemical treatment was very effective at protecting the wood from insects and preserving the wood, but it was eventually discovered that the arsenic posed a cancer risk because arsenic is absorbed easily by the body. That means kids that got splinters, rubbed against the fence, or played in the contaminated soil near the fence were exposed to a health threat. Since the arsenic compound was so effective at preserving wood, it's possible an old wood fence on your property still has arsenic and could be a threat to your kids or your pet.
Once it was realized that arsenic was a health threat, arsenic was replaced with a different copper-based chemical that your body can't absorb as easily, so it is supposed to be safer. Pressure treating wood wasn't stopped as a practice because inexpensive wood like pine wouldn't last long at all without the treatment.
If you don't feel comfortable with chemically-treated wood on your property, even if it doesn't contain arsenic, you can choose cedar instead. Cedar has natural oils that protect the wood and keeps bugs away so it doesn't need to be pressure treated.
Why Cedar Is A Good Material For A Fence
In addition to having protective oils, cedar is a strong type of wood. It's harder than the pine that's commonly used in wood fences. That means a cedar fence won't scratch as easily if your dog paws at it and it will stand up to rough treatment by kids and dogs much better than softer types of wood. As a side benefit, cedar has a pleasant aroma you'll enjoy when you spend time outdoors.
One other small advantage of a cedar fence is you don't have to worry about the type of nails, screws, hinges, and other metal parts that are used for the fence installation. The chemicals used in pressure-treated wood can speed up the corrosion of certain types of metal, so the fence installer needs to be careful about the metal parts chosen, and you'll have to make repairs with corrosion-resistant parts so you don't have to deal with a weak or ugly fence caused by rust.
A cedar fence is beautiful and durable, and it's a good choice when you have your heart set on a wood fence, but you're concerned about the chemicals used in pressure-treated lumber.