What Equipment Do I Need to Preserve Wood?

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 8/9/18 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehension.

You want to get into the wood preservation business, but you’re not sure what’s involved.

Successfully launching into the wood treatment industry and being profitable require a few things.

To keep production high and avoid setbacks, you need an in-depth knowledge of the process, experts to guide you and a whole lot of specialized equipment to preserve the wood.

Over the years, our company, Tank Fab, Inc., has helped many people get their start in the wood preserving industry by providing them with the necessary equipment used to pressure treat wood.

More often than not though, those individuals had no idea what was really needed to get into the business of treating wood with a chemical wood preservative.

Here’s a rundown of what you need to know before you decide to jump into wood preservation.

How to preserve the wood

How does the wood preservation process work?

Though it’s a complicated process, understanding it can help you get the right wood preservation equipment for your needs.

These are the steps it takes to inject preservative into the wood:

  1. The unpreserved wood is loaded onto a wheeled cart, which is then rolled into the autoclave.
  2. The autoclave door is closed, and a vacuum is pulled inside the autoclave. The vacuum opens up the unpreserved wood’s cells.
  3. While the autoclave is under vacuum, it’s filled with the liquid wood preservative. As the unpreserved wood cells are open, they act like a sponge and absorb the wood preservative.
  4. The vacuum inside the autoclave is released, and then air pressure is applied inside the vessel. This pressure presses the preservative further into the wood.
  5. After a certain amount of time, the air pressure inside the autoclave is released, and the wood preservative is drained from the autoclave.
  6. The autoclave door is opened, and the now-preserved wood is rolled out of the autoclave.

The process to preserve wood seems simple enough, right?

But did you notice how many different types of wood preservation equipment are involved?

Wood preservation equipment

What equipment do I need to preserve wood?

The equipment you’ll need to preserve wood includes:

  1. Tram cart
  2. Autoclave
  3. Storage tanks
  4. Wood preservative mix system
  5. Pumps
  6. Piping valve system
  7. Automation software and instrumentation

There are quite a few pieces of machinery necessary to pressure treat wood.

Let’s take a look at what’s needed to get the job done efficiently and effectively.

1. Tram cart

This is the wheeled cart (also called a tram car) that the wood is loaded onto.

2. Autoclave

  • The untreated wood is loaded into the autoclave, also referred to as an ASME Code tank.

3. Storage tanks

The wood preservative is usually delivered to your facility in a concentrated form. Once at your facility you’ll need to mix it with either water – for water-based wood preservatives or oil (for oil-based preservatives).

You’ll need three storage tanks: one for the wood-preservative concentrate, one for either water or oil, and one for the storage of the diluted (what we refer to as “work solution”) wood preservative.

But wait – which work-solution strength will you use to preserve your wood products? Above ground? Ground contact? Industrial use?

Depending on your choice, or multiple choices, you may need additional storage tanks. At a minimum, these tanks need to be built to either the UL or API code requirements – as well as your state or local code requirements.

4. Wood Preservative Mix System

The wood-preservative concentrate won’t be the only thing you’ll need to mix into your wood preservative’s work solution. Depending on which wood preservative you choose to use (CCA, ACQ, MCQ, MCA, ACZA, CA-C) you’ll need to add additional biocides to the solution.

These biocides will be delivered to your facility in industrial totes. You’ll then need the equipment to measure the amount of biocide needed for each work solution and deliver it to the appropriate storage tank.

5. Pumps

What kinds of pumps do I need to preserve wood?

These are the kinds of pumps you’ll need to preserve wood:

  • Vacuum pump
  • Air compressor or pressure pump
  • Transfer pump
  • Additional pumps, depending on the type of preservative used

At the minimum you will need:

  • Vacuum pump. The two main ways to create a vacuum in the wood preserving industry are with a vacuum pump or an eductor.
  • Air compressor or pressure pump. Either of these are used to create the necessary air pressure in the autoclave when preserving the wood.
  • Transfer pump. This piece of equipment fills the autoclave with the wood preservative. It’s also used at the end of the process to drain the excess preservative back to the appropriate storage tank.
  • Other pumps that may be needed depending on what you use to preserve wood include biocide transfer pump(s), water transfer pump, oil transfer pump, storage tank mix pump, heat exchanger circulation pump(s), and/or cooling tower water pump.

6. Piping valve system

All the tanks and pumps will need a variety of piping and valves to move things between them.

These pipes and valves need to be sized for the optimum efficiency of your preserved wood production output.

7. Automation software and instrumentation

We discussed how you could possibly have more than one wood preservative solution strength and the possibility of needing additional biocides for each of those. Each solution strength must be mixed to an exact measured ratio of preservative concentrate and biocide(s) injection rates. If you are going to use more than one solution strength, you’ll want to invest in automation to handle these mix processes for you.

In addition to this, the automation will also take over the process of preserving the wood for you once it is placed in the autoclave. Even if you choose not to automate your facility, you will need instrumentation for recording the wood-preservation process as required by the AWPA wood-preservation standards.

These instruments must be calibrated at regular intervals to remain compliant with the AWPA standards.

Other equipment you may need

It’s possible you could require these additional systems to pressure treat wood:

  • A wastewater-treatment system. Any wastewater not re-used in the wood preservation process must be treated before it is disposed of.
  • An air-scrubber system. All air exhausted to the atmosphere and the air pressure released from the autoclave after pressurization, for example, must be cleaned prior to its release.
  • Boiler, heat exchangers, condensers and cooling towers. If you’re treating industrial wood products, you will also need this equipment.

These are the essential pieces of equipment needed to preserve wood, but you’re not quite ready to go into the pressure-treated wood business yet. There’s more you need to know.

Additional needs for treating wood

You know the equipment needed for the actual wood preservation process, but there’s a lot more to think about, including these questions:

  • How did you load the unpreserved wood onto the wheeled cart? And where did that unpreserved wood come from?
  • What supports and/or moves the wheeled cart into and out of the autoclave?
  • How do you get a vacuum from the vacuum pump into the autoclave? How about the preservative?
  • An autoclave can hold thousands of gallons of liquid. Where is the preservative stored while it’s not being used in the autoclave?
  • What tells the pumps to turn on and off so they can perform their necessary functions in the wood-treating process?
  • Did you know that once the wood is preserved, there are federal, state, and local laws you must follow for storing the pressure-treated wood while it’s awaiting shipment to your customer?

Each part of the process requires specialized equipment to function the way it should and result in preserved wood that will last for years to come.

The quality of your equipment matters

Saving money is high on your list of priorities.

Doing so by purchasing wood preservation equipment that’s not up to standard isn’t the answer.

In fact, it’ll only cost you more in the long run.

Specialized equipment that’s designed and manufactured with your specific needs in mind will help you to increase your production which will have a positive impact on your revenue.

Preserve wood with the help of the pros

A lot of equipment is required to efficiently and effectively preserve wood.

From tram carts, autoclaves and a variety of pumps to piping valve systems and automation software, each piece plays an important role in the process.

To make sure your systems are running smoothly and production stays high, work with a reputable, seasoned company that has the knowledge and experience to give you guidance throughout the entire process.

Author: Jeffrey Lippincott

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