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What do I do if I have a home treated with Creosote?

I don’t want people to push the panic button when they hear that they may have a home anointed with harsh, carcinogenic wood preservatives. Over the years, some misguided people may have built homes that were constructed from old railroad ties, but this is something that rarely happens. The use of fresh creosote treated timbers is probably non existent. The smell of this chemical and the problems that it would pose to the builders constructing the home would be insurmountable. Creosote is so antagonistic to those using it that it is doubtful that anyone would take on the task of constructing such a home.

It would be the homes that were built with old railroad ties that are the main items of concern If you think that you are living in such a home you should contact the local health department or the local forest service to have it tested for caustic wood preservative even though there isn’t much that you can do to alleviate the problem except vacate the home. Creosote is a carcinogen and it will affect your health. It is a tough call but when your health is in jeopardy, then it is time to take drastic measures.

Other wood preservatives are “penta” which is short for penta-chlorophenol. This is another caustic chemical used in the past to treat lumber and in some cases as a dip treatment for logs.
This and another wood preservative CCA were used either as dip treatments or in some cases as pressure treatments for log homes and other lumber products. Again, contact your local health department or Department of Forestry to have your logs/lumber tested for concentrations of the chemical.

If high levels of these chemicals are present then you need to make a decision of what you want to do with your home.

This article was not written to elicit alarm, but to educate people about homes that were manufactured years ago when these chemicals were embraced b y some home manufacturers as the way prolong the lifespan of the home. If in doubt, have your home checked and then do the prudent choice based on the findings.

To contact Clyde give him a call at 719 547 2135 or visit our site at

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Comment by ChinkerBob on February 26, 2009 at 10:15pm
In the early 90's I was chinking a house on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and was asked by a person who came to the job site if I could give a chinking bid on the log home they were building nearby. I was fairly new to log homes back then, but not so much so that I didn't go into shock when I drove up the the new house they were building only to see that it had been drenched, and I do mean drenched, from top to bottom with creosote. It was a 1200 sq. ft. chink style house with an attached garage, and it was completely ruined. Not only was the outside horrible looking and smelly, but tons of the material had dripped through the unchinked gaps between the logs and run down the inside of the walls,which had not otherwise been sprayed. I was too stunned to say much other than to tell them that the material I use wouldn't stick to the oily log walls.

I've no idea what happened to the house, but I suspect it had to be torn down. If it wasn't, I'm pretty darned sure the shell is still sitting there very well preserved. Hope nobody is living in it though.

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