Pressure treated wood has been around for over 70 years. It refers to softwood lumber impregnated with chemicals to protect it from decay, rot, and termites. It is featured everywhere in our lives, mostly found in backyards or construction projects.
At one time it was known to be very harmful to the human body. However, since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of chromate copper arsenate, it has lost many of the health risks.
When cutting pressure-treated wood, it is important to consider that many harsh chemicals are still present. Inhalation, ingestion, or contact with the skin may lead to adverse health effects. Wear protective gear at all times. Here is the step by step process to safely and successfully cutting pressure treated wood.
Step 1: Find the right space
Before cutting, make sure you remove any food or drinks nearby. Keeping a clean workstation will help prevent contamination while working.
Make sure you have adequate ventilation when cutting wood if you have to do it indoors. This will prevent the wood dust from leaking into the home ventilation system. To make cleaning easier and to keep the chemicals local, keep the sawdust in a single location while cutting.
Step 2: Wear protective gear
It is imperative to take safety precautions when working with pressure-treated wood. Wear protective clothing, gloves, a dust mask, and safety goggles. Don’t let the PT wood chemicals come into contact with bare skin. Do not smoke when cutting pressure-treated lumber.
- Disposable coveralls (Our pick – Seniorwear Disposable Coveralls – 2XL)
- Chemical resistant gloves (Our pick – UXglove Chemical Resistant Latex Gloves)
- Dust mask + safety goggles (Our pick – TANGS Reusable Half Facepiece Cover Set)
Step 3: Measure and mark
If you intend to cut the lumber, you should measure it with your pencil and ruler. It’s essential to make sure the line is straight and accurate, as this will be the path the blade will take.
Step 4: Secure the wood in place
If you use a work surface such as a sawhorse or table saw, ensure that it will suspend the material. This ensures that the blade comes into proper contact with the pressure treated wood. If you don’t have a sawhorse or table saw, find another way to clamp the wood to your work surface.
Step 5: Select the right blade
Make sure you select the right blade for your material. Blades with more teeth tend to make finer cuts. Use a higher-toothed blade to make very clean, precise cuts. If you need to make rougher cuts, consider a blade with a lower tooth count.
Step 6: Prepare for sawing
Set the required depth for your wood and adjust the tilt if needed. Put the guard on the saw. Next, line up the blade on the right side with the drawn line. This will help to achieve a straight cut. Set the saw at full speed and turn it on. Slowly move the saw along the mark while applying even pressure. Do not press too hard, or the blade will bind.
Step 7: Cut the wood
Most people cut wood by either placing it on the table saw and using the saw to cut the wood, or pulling the wood towards them. Beware that both of these methods can splinter and chip treated lumber. When you use the saw, generate momentum that helps you cut the wood. The treated lumber should be pushed towards the blade rather than pulled toward you.
It is essential to position the blade correctly during the sawing process to avoid wasting materials. Keeping the guide on the line, you should push the blade smoothly through the cut, following the line by sight. You have mastered pencil cutting when you can cut a line twice lengthwise and squarely.
Step 8: Clean up the area
All safety equipment must be worn while sweeping pressure-treated wood debris away. Do your best to gather and contain both wood and sawdust. Throw the debris in the trash can after putting the dust in a plastic bag. You should never mop up the debris in your garden. Put it in a compost bin, or burn it.
Step 9: Clean the blade
After cutting pressure treated lumber, you must clean the blade thorougly. Moisture and chemicals can quickly rust the blade.
Step 10: Protect and seal the ends
The raw ends of the pressure-treated wood remain bare after cutting. They are prone to fungus and mold since the pressure treatment doesn’t often get to the center. Water damage can arise from ignoring the ends of treated lumber during construction.
The copper preservative used in treating dimensional lumber products is forced by gravity into the wood cells, but it doesn’t penetrate 100 percent. As a result, contractors or homeowners get fresh-looking ends whose outer sections are less protected than their inner ones. Resealing the ends is imperative to keep away mold and insects.
Besides, this recommendation has now been officially endorsed by the American Wood Protection Association (AWPA). Treat all cut ends of the pressure-treated wood with a preservative.
Step 11: Wash hands and clothes
After cutting pressure-treated wood, wash your hands immediately. Before washing, avoid using the toilet, eating, or drinking anything. Consider doing separate laundry for the clothes you wore during the cutting process; do not mix them with your other clothes. Take a quick shower and put on fresh clothes directly after.
Tips for Cutting Treated Lumber
How do you minimize chipping when cutting PT wood?
Each cut you make with pressure-treated lumber will likely result in splinters or chips, so pay attention when you cut. You cannot repair the wood piece, so chipping doesn’t bode well for the aesthetics of your project. Use tape to minimize chipping.
Make sure to use tape that is 2-inches wide to minimize the possibility of cracking and chipping. The treated lumber should have clear, cut lines with the tape evenly centered over the lines. Slice through the tape from the other side of the lumber.
How do I protect the ends of pressure-treated wood?
Using treated lumber makes sense since it can resist harsh elements and is relatively waterproof. Mold and insects will not be able to damage treated lumber. But the treated lumber, once cut, becomes equivalent to exterior plywood. After cutting treated lumber, the ends must be sealed. Seal the cut with a waterproof sealer. During the curing process, keep the lumber in a dry place.
Is it hard to cut pressure-treated wood?
Yes. The pressure treatment process for wood entails keeping off insects and mold by adding moisture to it. When the lumber is wet, it can be challenging to cut it. Additionally, the moisture in treated wood can create blade slippage, dirty cuts, and wood that splinters and chips.
For an easier and smoother cutting process, dry the wood before cutting. A dehumidifier, a hairdryer, and a dry area are all you need. You should place it in a room with low humidity and a dehumidifier to dry out the lumber. It will eventually leach moisture from the air as well as the wood. For faster drying, use a hairdryer.
Also, square the blade. When cutting with a saw with bevel guides, they are often off by several degrees, leading to non-square cuts. Ensure that the plate is at 90 degrees to the blade by checking it with a square. You should unplug the saw before making any adjustments.
Which blades should I use with pressure-treated wood?
Use a sharper blade. Sharp saw blades are safer than dull ones. You need to change your blade if you find it binding or resisting. Retract the blade guard after unplugging the saw. Ensure that the blade’s teeth are firmly embedded into a piece of wood and that the board won’t move. Tip the blade out after removing the bolt. Replace the blade by reversing this process.
How do I safely cut pressure-treated wood?
To minimize the risk of injury and produce optimal results, keep the blade from extending past the thickness of the stock by more than 1/4 inch. Then, release the latch on the saw plate so that it is appropriately positioned.
As with any lumber you cut with power equipment, you should wear a respirator when cutting it. When cutting pressure-treated lumber, one should wear a mask to protect their health from exposure to the sawdust that contains anti-rot chemicals and bugs that can be harmful to humans.
Which chemicals are present in pressure treated wood?
Traditionally, the primary wood preservative was CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate). CCA-treated wood was effective and protected against destructive attacks, but it posed severe health and environmental risks. Today, PT wood preservation uses ACQ (Alkaline Copper Quaternary). It endows the wood with a long shelf life, making pressure-treated wood a much more sustainable option for your projects.