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Dispute over Greenville SC's TimberSIL wood products

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TimberSIL® fusion wood products are made in Greenville, South Carolina with a patented sodium-silicate-based process for infusing a soluble solution in wood into a microscopic layer of amorphous glass throughout the wood. It sounds like a green product but there have been some disputes about certain uses.

Some of the reported benefits of TimberSIL are:

  • it is "breathtakingly beautiful and astonishingly well made" according to Metropolitan Home Magazine
  • it is "the most highly rated and respected dimension lumber material on the market" per the company website
  • it is harder than all softwoods and becomes harder than most hardwoods, twice as hard as the wood to which the glass is fused
  • it is a non-toxic, odorless, nonvolatile, natural clear color alternative to pressure-treated lumber
  • it is not corrosive to fasteners so ordinary exterior grade connectors and fasteners can be used
  • it accepts paints and stains when applied as directed
  • it does not cause excessive wear on tools and when cut or sawn, crumbles to harmless flakes
  • because of the increased fiber and wood face strength and the protective barrier, it is much more resistant to attack by organisms like termites. Where pesticides leach out of treated lumber, the glassy portion of TimberSIL surrounds and is locked inside the wood part and cannot be removed, so protection never ends
  • it maintains the properties of glass in that it is Class A Fire Retardant, an insulator, unaffected by seawater or heat, and a barrier to rot and decay. TimberSIL protects roofs, sides and walls from catching fire and prevents fires from jumping from house to house, allowing fires to "sweep around and pass TimberSIL-protected homes."
  • it is healthier for indoor air quality since it is designed to be Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) free with the silicate-based formula being entirely mineral based. Not a single VOC molecule is produced. This eliminates VOC immune responses in the human body which can trigger disease in most people.
  • structures built with it last longer while resisting wind, water, earth tremors and fire better and needing only touch up where other products need complete replacement
  • docks made with it not only survived but still look great after Hurricane Sandy's direct hit on Somers Point, New Jersey in October 2012 with 80 mph winds and a devastating storm surge, whereas neighboring docks were destroyed
  • it does not contain chlorine and prevents or replaces vinyl-associated greenhouse gas emissions when TimberSIL products are used instead of vinyl
  • it is durable, sustainable, and helps fight global warming. While a composite product deck like Trex® made of petroleum and tiny wood fibers decomposes releasing thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and worsens global warming, a TimberSIL deck can prevent all of that. Vinyl decking and siding are 60 percent chlorine which breaks down into Cl radicals and ions, chlorine gas, OCl (bleaches), chloroform, and hundreds of organochlorine compounds. These "are some of the most predatory, most harmful, most aggressive greenhouse gases, and some are as much as 15,000 times more harmful than plain carbon dioxide."
  • it is Cradle to Cradle sm Certified for Green Building Programs and LEED Projects By MBDC
  • it is registered with the Federal Government's System For Award Management (SAM) as Timber Treatment Technologies, LLC
  • it is cheaper than composite alternatives, most plastics, is cost comparable to cedar, and when the 40-year life span is considered is a better value than treated wood. Although it comes with a 40-year warranty, its lifespan is "essentially indefinite."
  • it is the material of choice in decking, siding, roofing, docks, fences, and children's playground equipment, and is safe for indoor use.

The process was developed by environmental toxicologist, Founder and CEO of Timber Treatment Technologies LLC Karen Slimak, an expert who has studied the relationship between human health and chemical exposure for over 30 years. Her special interest in human effects of chronic exposure to volatile substances in the environment and developing innocuous products resulted from a dire need to save her son’s life at an early age from severe allergies.

One report of problems with the product comes from Brad Pitt's Make It Right foundation which is building 150 homes in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. It is now spending $150,000 to replace the TimberSIL wood used in exterior stairs and decks because some, even installed as recently as three years ago, showed signs of decay. The December 30, 2013 New Orleans Advocate said Make It Right is considering legal action against TimberSIL's maker Timber Treatment Technologies.

The state of Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, in its renovation of the historic Summit House former hotel in J.A. Skinner State Park, is ripping out recently installed front porch railings and balusters where TimberSIL wood will not hold paint, expected to add over $100,000 to its renovation cost. The GazetteNet reported, "After concluding with a consultant’s help that the TimberSIL product is unsuitable, that material will be replaced with a different pressure-treated wood."

Read a report by Mike Guertin on Fine Homebuilding where he writes about the pros and cons in his experience building a TimberSIL deck. Steven Doggett, Ph.D discussed TimberSIL products “Silver” certification according to Cradle to Cradle’s scorecard and its AWPA performance testing in The Building Enclosure.

Halunen & Associates law firm is seeking input from users of TimberSIL decking for a possible defective product lawsuit. Share concerns on the website or phone 612.605.4098.

Hopefully more research will confirm the uses for TimberSIL and solutions to issues reported about moisture, warping and paint. The situation is a reminder that ICC evaluation reports, acceptance criteria for new technologies like glass-infused wood, and performance test reports are vital in professional choices of green building materials.

The TimberSIL Corporate Offices are at 4 Augusta Arbor Way, Greenville, South Carolina 29605, telephone 864.277.7007, email info@timbersil.com. View the TimberSIL website for more detailed information on the product.

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