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Can I use a PT beam inside?

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  • Can I use a PT beam inside?

    Question for all those experts out there. I am looking to put in a 6x6, about 5 feet long, as a support beam in a new wall opening. I just found a nice beam (at a salvage place) for dirt cheap matching that description but didn't notice until I got it home that it is pressure-treated (and painted over that). Darn! And I was planning on planing it on two sides, so the paint is going to have to come off. From what I've read online, some people say "don't ever use PT wood inside, chemical leakage, etc etc", while others say "just seal it with a few layers of oil-based primer and it can't leach chemicals, it'll be fine". What's your opinion?

    Since the beam hardly cost me anything, if the consensus is that there's some risk to using it inside, then I'll just go get another one (and put this one in the garden somewhere).

    thanks in advance,

    sparky

  • #2
    Re: Can I use a PT beam inside?

    Based on this article from the EPA, I would say better safe than sorry and use it outdoors only.

    edit: I say this based on your comment about getting it from a salvage yard. 2004 laws have changed the way PT wood is made. LINK
    Last edited by OpaDC; 01-07-2009, 10:42 PM.

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    • #3
      Re: Can I use a PT beam inside?

      First off, welcome to the forum. Hope you will enjoy it, lot of good people here.
      Secondly, your question. I'm doing a basement remodel right now and all the base plates HAVE TO BE PT cause it is wood on concrete, and that's where you get moisture build up and supposedly rot. Yes, this is 2009 and the arsenic is out of the PT, but I've done a number of basement remodels prior to the change and they all had PT base plates. And nobody (not even the EPA) is saying to rip those out and replace with the new PT. If it were my house, I wouldn't even give it a second thought. Put it in place, cover it with paint or with a couple coats of sanding sealer or whatever and you should be good to go. The main concern with a lot of the older PT was sawing and sanding it. Once it is in place, it is not going to be disturbed, and anything in that wood should never bother you. A lot of people try to overthink some of this stuff. PT has been around in playgrounds for years and years and we don't see kids from the 1960s growing up with three arms, and an ear growing on their head where their nose should be. Try not to worry and use it if you have it. If you're still concerned, then chalk it up to experience and buy a new clean piece. I'm sure others are going to chime in soon and may play the disaster card and advise against it. So be it. This argument is a lot like the asbestos (and now the fiberglas) argument that have been around -- big thing is, if you don't disturb it, you won't have any problem with it. Cheers,
      Jim Don

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      • #4
        Re: Can I use a PT beam inside?

        I pretty much agree with Jim Don on the PT. However, I would not use a second hand painted beam for a support structure. Paint can hide a lot of defects, like splits, cracks and structurally deficient knots. Because PT wood quite often splits due to drying too fast for the moisture content after treating, that paint could be hiding a lot of filled cracks.

        I am not a trades carpenter, tho, and the above is strictly my opinion.

        Go
        Practicing at practical wood working

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        • #5
          Re: Can I use a PT beam inside?

          Hey folks, thanks for your great replies, Jim Don's comments pretty much jibes with what I've heard from friends that I could just seal it up with several layers of oil-based sealer and as long as it isn't disturbed it should be OK. Interesting thought, Gofor, about the paint hiding structural issues - since I was going to plane the paint off hopefully I'll notice such things, but it does seem to have a few decent cracks in it. Right now the concern I have with the beam is that 10 years down the road I'll forget that it's PT and "disturb" (as Jim Don says) it: saw a chunk out of it or something or bang a few nails or screws into it which will then dissolve (or whatever happens if you put the wrong metal into PT wood) and send a chandelier (or something) crashing onto my head. Also I am generally leery about having this chemical-filled thing, no matter how well sealed and out of the way, around my growing son. I think I'll sleep better at night if I just get a nice clean old beam, and it'll probably look better too!

          cheers

          sparky

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