Dealers are instituting a major reduction in the amount of treated wood they stock that's rated for above-ground contact, primarily because of changes instituted by the American Wood Protection Association (AWPA) but also because of performance issues they're seeing, a new survey by ProSales indicates.

The week-long online poll generated responses by 140 dealers from 28 states plus Ontario. Currently, 54.3% said they stock two types of treated wood: one rated for above-ground contact and one for ground contact:

ProSales Decking Survey April 2016 -- Current Stock Activity

It's possible that the percentage for dual stocking was even higher a few months ago, as roughly a quarter of the respondents said they already had eliminated above-ground-contact lumber from their inventory or were nearly completed.

We then asked the dealers to tell us their future stocking plans. Here's how they replied:

ProSales Decking Survey April 2016 -- stocking plans

We then asked what prompted the changes. This is what the respondents said:

ProSales Decking Survey April 2016 -- Why changes are occuring

The changes come as AWPA is getting set to publish a revision to the standard for preservative-treated lumber used in deck construction. It's the same standard that regulators use to set codes for deck building. The final version of the changes, which should arrive in May or June, are expected to continue to permit use of above-ground-contact treated wood in appropriate situations, but complaints abound that AWPA used vague language when it revised the standard.

Wood treaters aren't in agreement on what they recommend deck builders do. That diversity can be found among dealers, too. While a majority of dealers answering the survey said they're going to stop selling above-ground-contact decking, 17 of the 140 said they plan to continue doing so until their supplies run out, while four said they'll react as the market and competitors demand, and two said they won't make any changes unless forced.

The survey invited dealers to comment on the situation and identify themselves if they wanted. Here's some of what they wrote:

  • A confusing issue unsupported by codes.
  • A date needs to be set and enforced. Too much screwing around!!!
  • Above ground treated wood is not good quality anymore and we are seeing many issues so we are changing to 100% ground contact
  • Different retentions of treated lumber made it confusing for customers to identify which retention should be used in certain applications, regardless of how much information is pumped into the marketplace. After decades of using CCA, customers are looking for a return to a treated product they can use in either above-ground or ground-contact applications. (Chris Purdy, TW Perry)
  • For the industry's sake, it is a positive move.
  • Ground contact in critical structure use is a good practice, and will add value.
  • Ground contact should have always been what everybody was buying and selling.
  • I have never had a deck failure because of above ground treated wood failure
  • if we would have never been forced to change from CCA, this would not have become an issue.
  • It is quite an increase in price for the ground contact, but consumers' expectations for treated lumber are that it's never going to rot and has a warranty that lasts forever. We have just had to many problems with the above ground products.
  • My two major treaters will only sell us ground-contact. They made the decision for us.
  • Not only is the treating not as good, but the material being treated is not as good as the slower growth pine and arsenic.
  • Our customers absolutely need access to both treating options, and our SKU also indicates in the product description what each is to be used for.
  • Still too much grey area, ie post, railing, etc.
  • Stocking a ground-treated product protects you, your customers, and the end customer’s investment. The cost is worth the "insurance”, ease of mind, and makes selling and inventory control easier.
  • The best products for above-ground applications are stabilized products designed specifically for the unique exposure conditions of above ground. Ground contact formulations do not perform well in sun/rain exposure cycles.
  • This isn't a treated lumber industry problem, this is an MCA problem. If you treat with MCA, buyer beware!!!
  • This probably should have been addressed years ago.
  • Though our competition may or may not switch, providing the recommended product type for application purposes is purely the right thing to do for the customer.
  • Until EVERY treating plant is required to belong to the AWPA, and required to obtain a third-party test inspection, and the third party has to report directly to the AWPA, there will always be inequities.
  • We are converting all our treated lumber to ground contact with the exception of decking boards and 1x boards.
  • We decided in June of 2015 to make the change to ground contact on all our treated lumber. This decision was based on numerous problems we had with above ground treated lumber. We have not lost any sales based off price. We have had to explain to a few why the price difference vs our competition was noticeable and the response has been very good. (Jon Dasher, Howard Lumber & Hardware, Statesboro Ga.)
  • We have already heard of inspectors saying they will shut jobs down if ground contact is not on the job as soon as April 1. Crazy!
  • We have been selling ground contact lumber exclusively since before I started in 1998. We no longer sell landscape timbers because our suppliers no longer offer it in G.C..
  • We have stocked No. 1 ground contact for years. This takes all the guesswork out of what product to recommend. Also distinguishes us from the big boxes. We can sell a product, not a price.
  • We likely will continue to offer above-ground treated material in 5/4x6 decking, 2x4 & 2x6 only. 2x8 & wider and timbers will be stocked only in ground-contact material.
  • We only stock 2X and 4X4 material for the framework. For decking we sell Ipe, cumaru and Tigerwood.
  • We service professional builders. It is our responsibility to provide them with the best performing products readily available.
  • We switched to ground contact beginning of 2015. Seeing to many issues or failures due to what the industry deems as the wrong application for the product, Never should of changed treatment standards when they switched from CCA years ago.
  • We will not stock both. I do not see it worth stocking dual inventory.
  • We wouldn't be selling any above ground if the big boxes hadn't forced it into the treated market for a price differential, forcing independents to follow, or lose.
  • We've always stocked and will continue to stock ground contact treated framing lumber, and above ground treated 5/4 decking boards. We are continuing with this moving forward as well .

You have no control over how the end user is going to be using this product, therefore you must protect yourself and the end user by going with all ground contact. (Kevin Potter, purchasing manager, Tague Lumber, Philadelphia)