Posted on October 14th, 2015 by Aaron Presley
Because they are resistant to water damage, rot, fungal decay and insect damage, treated wood pilings are used in many applications where natural wood would quickly decay, causing structural problems and other damage. They can be used both on land and in the water, and are available in a variety of sizes, both in the traditional round cross-section and square cross-section, with or without tapering. Traditionally, wood pilings are cut from the trunks of trees, and they are called pilings when they are driven into the ground with the small tapered end, or tip, facing down; but they are called poles when the larger end, or butt, is placed into the ground.
Here are just a few of the projects that treated pilings can be used for:
1. Pole Barns
In a traditional pole barn, the larger-diameter butt end of the wood is buried several feet in the ground, and the hole is filled with soil, gravel or concrete. Poles are placed every 8 to 12 feet, and horizontal pieces of lumber, or girts, are placed between them every few feet from the ground level to the top of the poles to support the barn’s siding. On top of the poles, plates are added to support a roof structure made from rafters, a ridge beam, purlins and a roof deck. Because a pole barn is often open to the elements and the poles are partially buried, treated pilings will last longer than untreated ones.
2. Fences or Corrals
Treated pilings of varying diameters are often used to build property fences corrals. Larger diameter pilings are driving into the ground vertically or buried, creating posts. Long sections of smaller diameter pilings are placed horizontally between the posts, with often two or three between each pair of posts. This creates a strong fence that is capable of containing livestock such as cattle or horses, and it provides a relatively secure perimeter around a piece of property or a specific section. By using treated pilings, the need for periodic repainting of the fence can be eliminated.
3. Roof Beams or Vigas
Another common area where treated pilings are found is in roof structures. They can be used for the ridge beam or for rafters in utility buildings, barns or even in rustic homes, where the wood will be left exposed. They can also be used as traditional vigas, or roof beams, in southwestern-style adobe homes, where they are in contact with not only rain where they are left exposed, but also the natural soil used in adobe blocks. By using treated pilings instead of natural wood, the chances of rot and insect infestation can be significantly reduced.
4. House Piers
Where soil conditions prevent the use of a regular concrete footing, along with a slab, crawlspace or basement, pier and beam construction is often used. Wooden piers are driven into the ground, drilled or buried, leaving anywhere from a few inches to several feet above ground. Beams are attached horizontally between the piirs, and the rest of the building’s structure is assembled on top of the beams. Pier and beam homes are common on beaches, where the surface soil is loose and prone to erosion, but more secure soil or rock can easily be reached with piers. They are also found where the soil is rocky, and it is easier to drill a hole and add a pier than to excavate a large area for a standard footing. Treated piers prevent problems associated with moisture exposure, fungal decay and rot.
5. Decks or Porches
Treated pilings, especially ones with a square cross-section, are often used for the construction of decks or porches on houses. Poles are driven or buried into the ground vertically, and connected horizontally with beams. Floor joists and rim joists are added to form the deck’s structure, then covered with weather-resistant treated or composite deck flooring. Treated pilings ensure that the deck will remain structurally sound for many years and they help to minimize the amount of maintenance necessary for the homeowner.
6. Dock or Pier Pilings
One of the most common uses of treated pilings is for docks or piers located on rivers, lakes or the ocean. The pilings are treated with special marine coatings to stand up to constant immersion in water, as well as the damage that exposure to salt can create. They are driven into the sea floor, river bed or lake bed vertically until they reach a solid surface, and then beams and joists are added to support a walkway. Docks and piers provide easy access to watercraft, as well as a place to fish, climb into the water or to simply see the sights.
7. Bulkheads or Retaining Walls
Bulkheads are often found along shorelines where erosion must be controlled. They can also be called retaining walls, especially when they are found on land, where the bulkhead prevents soil from falling down a slope or hill. Both bulkheads and retaining walls can be constructed with treated pilings that are driven into the ground, with sheets of metal or vinyl running horizontally between them. This forms a wall behind which the shoreline or soil is contained, preventing it from eroding into the sea or being washed down a slope.
8. Telephone or Utility Poles
Treated pilings are often used as utility poles for running electric, telephone and cable lines to homes or businesses. They are often fitted with cross-braces to hold multiple cables and they can also serve as mounting points for transformers, distribution boxes and power meters. Utility poles must be extremely strong and resilient to the elements, as replacing them can be expensive and downed poles can be extremely dangerous.
9. Light Poles
Similar to utility poles, treated wood pilings are also used for light poles, often around businesses to illuminate walkways, store fronts and parking lots. Around homes they can provide yard lighting or security lighting. To avoid constant maintenance, it is best to use treated lumber for light poles.
There are many other uses for treated pilings as well, such as to mark parking areas, to use in fitness courses or for building outdoor playsets. Choosing quality treated lumber for your poles, pilings and other building elements ensures that your project will last for many years and that maintenance costs will be greatly reduce compared to natural, untreated lumber.