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Rustic or dangerous? Why keeping treated wood materials indoors can be a bad idea

Telephone poles, ties, and other wood materials can be treated with hazardous chemicals to keep indoors.

The below is a guest article by Mike Honeycutt, director of toxicology at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The Environmental Defense Fund appreciates the agency’s efforts to alert the public to a serious indoor air health issue.

At the Toxicology Division of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), we often receive phone calls from citizens with questions about various environmental concerns. Over the past few months, we have received several calls asking whether it is safe to use old wood materials inside homes, the most concerning coming last week from a Dallas-Ft real estate agent. . Value area. She had recently shown several homes she suspected of using treated wood materials from telephone poles and sleepers as rustic accents. The real estate agent was concerned with the use of these materials indoors where people could be displayed – and his intuition was perfect.[Tweet “Rustic or Dangerous? Why Keeping Treated Wood Materials Indoors Can be a Bad Idea”]

Telephone poles, sleepers and other wooden materials intended for outdoor use can be treated with chemicals to prevent damage from insects and weathering. One of the most common wood preservatives is creosote, which can contain chemicals such as phenols, cresols, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that can volatilize into the air.

In enclosed spaces like homes, especially today’s homes that are hermetically sealed for energy efficiency, these chemicals can build up to levels of health concern. These chemicals are respiratory irritants, and prolonged exposure can lead to other serious health problems, possibly even cancer. There are no government approved uses of creosote to treat wood for interior and residential purposes.

Some wooden pallets have been treated with chemicals, so do-it-yourselfers should be careful of the source of the wood. Even if they are not chemically treated, the pallets may have transported food or materials sprayed with pesticides or other toxic chemicals.

The TCEQ is a strong supporter of the recycling and reuse of materials. However, using treated lumber inside your home can be a bad idea. Treated wood should be sold with end tags or stamps that identify the type of preservative used on the wood. If you don’t see a label or stamp, ask the retailer or builder.

More information on creosote: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=18

Photo source: flickr / Jessica Wilson


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Hazz Design Upholstery Materials Intensive Course: Part 3 – Wood Materials: Laminate, MDF, Particle Board


Tracey and Tom Hazzard

Imagine a typical furniture buying experience: a saleswoman approaches a customer and asks her what she is looking for. The customer gives a specific answer, such as “Cherry” or “Leather”. The saleswoman immediately takes her to the solid wood where the leather shows her the best-selling collections. Soon after, she walks straight for the door, wondering in frustration, “Did he even hear me?” The sales clerk shakes her head, saying, “Typically she doesn’t really know what she wants. “

You’ve probably spent hours training your sales force on the products, techniques, and skills to avoid this situation. So what is working? In this series, we redefine industry jargon regarding materials, furniture design and construction. In each part, we’ll dig deeper into terms commonly used by savvy and expert salespeople, but we often end up confusing customers.

Even if you’ve been selling wood furniture for years, it’s time to take a refresher course in layman’s (or woman’s) perception of industry terms. It often helps to dig a little deeper to find out what the customer really wants, even when they think they are specific.

Is wood really wood? One hundred percent solid wood is typically reserved for bespoke and very high-end pieces. Manufacturers typically mix solid wood and veneers with one of the many wood core composite materials. The selection and use of composites is primarily for manufacturing cost needs, but composites can also be used for structural or durability reasons.


Advice: Consumers perceive most composite materials as “cardboard,” so there’s a fine line between disclosure and confusion if that’s what you have to sell.


Laminate is not a wooden surface; it is an image of wood. Laminates are made from paper printed to resemble wood grain and then glued to plywood, MDF or chipboard. Many are embossed with patterns and textures that resemble real wood and then covered with melamine (plastic), or combined with other plastics under heat and pressure. Laminates are more durable and can take a lot of abuse from scratching, temperature and humidity. Note – calling it wood laminate is misleading; the paper laminate is more precise.

Main defense forces, medium density fiberboard, is a heavyweight composite material made from finely ground sawdust particles that are glued and pressed together into a flat panel. MDF surfaces are very smooth even after being cut and shaped. Many furniture manufacturers use painted MDF or with wood veneer and shape the edge of the MDF board with a nice shape. The edge of the board receives a thicker coat of stain and sometimes a decorative painted treatment to resemble wood. MDF is softer, so it shows, especially in the edges, faster wear than other materials.

Particle boards is made from larger and coarser wood particles. The particles are glued and pressed into a board. While the large side is smooth, the edges are very open and should be covered with veneer or other material. Particleboard is the cheapest composite wood material used for furniture manufacturing, hence its main advantage.

Wood is the most confusing aspect of modern retail furniture. Worse, it is full of misconceptions as most consumers think they understand. So choose carefully the industry terms you use with clients. Ultimately, you want to sell furniture today. The fastest way is to build a relationship by understanding and communicating what is relevant and important to a client’s needs without lecturing or scaring them into doing more research. As always, listen twice as much as speak. Asking him questions will increase your chances of a sale.



About Hazz Design: Graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design, product designers Tracy and Tom Hazzard have worked together for most of their two decades of marriage and professional life. Their shared vision that a good design should never cost more, that there is always a solution and that one plus one can have an exponential result has earned them career development projects, multiple design awards, more a dozen patents, two children and a keen sense of what consumers want and need from well-designed products. Visit them at www.hazzdesign.com. They can be contacted by email at [email protected] or call 714-673-6541 for more information.


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Hazz Design Upholstery Material Intensive Course: Part 2 – Wood Materials: Solids, Veneers, Plywood

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Tracey and Tom Hazzard

Imagine a typical furniture buying experience: a saleswoman approaches a customer and asks her what she is looking for. The customer gives a specific answer, such as “Cherry” or “Leather”. The saleswoman immediately takes her to the solid wood where the leather shows her the best-selling collections. Soon after, she walks straight for the door, wondering in frustration, “Did he even hear me?” The sales clerk shakes her head, saying, “Typically she doesn’t really know what she wants. “

You’ve probably spent hours training your sales force on the products, techniques, and skills to avoid this situation. So what is working? In this series, we redefine industry jargon regarding materials, furniture design and construction. In each part, we’ll dig deeper into terms commonly used by savvy and expert salespeople, but we often end up confusing customers.

Even if you’ve been selling wood furniture for years, it’s time to take a refresher course in layman’s (or woman’s) perception of industry terms. It often helps to dig a little deeper to find out what the customer really wants, even when they think they are specific.

Is wood really wood? Historically, manufactured furniture is rarely 100% solid wood. Most often, solid wood and veneers are mixed with one of the many wood core composite materials. The selection and use of composites is primarily for manufacturing cost requirements, but composites can also be used for structural or durability reasons.


Advice: Consumers perceive most composite core materials as “cardboard,” so there’s a fine line between disclosure and confusion if that’s what you need to sell.


Solid wood is exactly what it sounds like: wood cut from a tree, milled and shaped into pieces. Solid wood furniture is stronger and more durable than furniture made from other wood materials. Note – only very high end wood furniture is all solid wood. Most are a mixture of solids and veneers due to economics, construction or design.

Veneer can look the same as solid wood, but is only on the surface. Wood veneers are thin slices of real wood that are bonded to the surfaces of a base wood material. The base material is usually a cheaper grade of solid wood, plywood, particle board, or MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard). Veneer furniture is much more economical than solid wood. It is also a much more efficient use of the wood raw material – less waste.

Plywood is made up of thinner layers of wood that are glued together. There are many different grades of plywood and only a very high quality material is suitable for use in furniture. It’s not the plywood you see in Home Depot. The advantage of plywood is that it is extremely strong and costs less than solid wood. Because the surface and edges of plywood do not end well, plywood is usually veneered.

Conversations over wood can easily confuse the customer. Mainly because she often thinks that she knows what she wants. Choose your language carefully and make sure you understand its needs before walking around the showroom.


About Hazz Design: Graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design, product designers Tracy and Tom Hazzard have worked together for most of their two decades of marriage and professional life. Their shared vision that a good design should never cost more, that there is always a solution and that one plus one can have an exponential result has earned them career development projects, multiple design awards, more a dozen patents, two children and a keen sense of what consumers want and need from well-designed products. Visit them at www.hazzdesign.com. They can be contacted by email at [email protected] or call 714-673-6541 for more information.


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