Nasty old creasote

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Forum topic by mcoyfrog posted 07-20-2011 05:37 PM 5562 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View mcoyfrog's profile


4145 posts in 3620 days

07-20-2011 05:37 PM

Hoping someone has some idea’s for me.

I got some old bridge planks and made a deck with them. My friend gave them to me and said he remembers them laying around the farm since the early 70’s which makes him think the bridge they came from was from the 40’s or 50’s. Yup I’m one lucky dude. These planks were 3” thick by 7” wide by 16feet long soaked in creasote. That is where my question comes from. I cut them down to make a 10foot by 7foot deck. I want to close it in with half walls and screen. But the creasote on some of the planks are obnoxious.

So my question is there something I can do to these to cover up the creasote, some kind of treatment maybe. I was thinking skinning it with thin plywood but that takes away from the rustic plank look and it might not get rid of the smell. The smell isn’t that big of a deal to me but it would be nice for it to go away (hee hee), mostly I want the dog and us to stop tracking in the beautiful black color to our carpet.

Anyway any idea’s would be great. Thanks to all

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

16 replies so far

View jack1's profile


2107 posts in 4053 days

#1 posted 07-20-2011 07:29 PM

How about a sealer made from some kind of epoxy. I know it’s available.

-- jack -- ...measure once, curse twice!

View Tim Kindrick's profile

Tim Kindrick

369 posts in 2580 days

#2 posted 07-20-2011 08:00 PM

I hate to tell you this but Creasote is VERY CARCINOGENIC upon contact with the skin!!!! I would recommend that you tear it out immediately!!!!!!! I would also suggest that you check with your local CODE ENFORCEMENT department because it may actually be illegal to use that kind of wood as decking!!!! Good luck!!!

-- I have metal in my neck but wood in my blood!!

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3094 days

#3 posted 07-20-2011 08:11 PM

Totally agreeing with Tim about this. Get rid of that crap ASAP. Have you ever had a creosote splinter? Do you want yor grandkids to pick up one?

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4244 days

#4 posted 07-20-2011 08:33 PM

I wouldn’t run out in a panic with my crowbar to tear up the deck, but I would definitely do something to limit direct contact with the stuff. Prime with Kilz and paint it with a good quality deck paint.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2716 days

#5 posted 07-21-2011 04:12 AM

Creosote used to be used to stop horses from chewing wood until we learned that it is TOXIC [by contact, inhalation, or ingestion]. I have seen horses killed by chronic exposure to creosote and they are not a pretty picture. We also had a client who was hospitalized following exposure from painting chewed areas of her horse stalls. Please get rid of it. Charlie, this stuff is almost impossible to seal over. Im not positive, but I think the toxin is PCB but you could call a poison control center or University toxicologist at a veterinary school to get more info.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3009 days

#6 posted 07-21-2011 04:36 AM

Here are some facts from the EPA.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Kent's profile


42 posts in 3861 days

#7 posted 07-21-2011 04:43 AM

if you haven’t spent the hours making it yet, consider using the planks in a manner that will not be exposed to animals or people.

your idea of covering them with ply sounds good, or sealing them and painting might work, but I wonder if the creoste might penetrate it eventually. Here is some information:


Health effects of coal tar creosote
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), eating food or drinking water contaminated with high levels of coal tar creosote may cause a burning in the mouth and throat, and stomach pains.

ATSDR also states that brief direct contact with large amounts of coal tar creosote may result in a rash or severe irritation of the skin, chemical burns of the surfaces of the eyes, convulsions and mental confusion, kidney or liver problems, unconsciousness, and even death. Longer direct skin contact with low levels of creosote mixtures or their vapors can result in increased light sensitivity, damage to the cornea, and skin damage. Longer exposure to creosote vapors can cause irritation of the respiratory tract.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that coal tar creosote is probably carcinogenic to humans, based on adequate animal evidence and limited human evidence. It is instructive to note that the animal testing relied upon by IARC involved the continuous application of creosote to the shaved skin of rodents. After weeks of creosote application, the animals developed cancerous skin lesions and in one test, lesions of the lung. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has stated that coal tar creosote is a probable human carcinogen based on both human and animal studies.[6] As such, the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a permissible exposure limit of 0.2 milligrams of coal tar creosote per cubic meter of air (0.2 mg/m3) in the workplace during an 8-hour day, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that spills or accidental releases into the environment of one pound (0.454 kg) or more of creosote be reported to them.[7]

There is no unique exposure pathway of children to creosote. Children exposed to creosote will probably experience the same health effects seen in adults exposed to creosote. It is unknown whether children differ from adults in their susceptibility to health effects from creosote.

A 2005 mortality study of creosote workers found no evidence supporting an increased risk of cancer death, as a result of exposure to creosote. Based on the findings of the largest mortality study to date of workers employed in creosote wood treating plants, there is no evidence that employment at creosote wood-treating plants or exposure to creosote-based preservatives was associated with any significant mortality increase from either site-specific cancers or non-malignant diseases. The study consisted of 2,179 employees at eleven plants in the United States where wood was treated with creosote preservatives. Some workers began work in the 1940s to 1950s. The observation period of the study covered 1979- 2001. The average length of employment was 12.5 years. One third of the study subjects were employed for over 15 years.[8]

The largest health effect of creosote is deaths caused by residential fires.[5]

[edit] References1.^ Directive 2001/90/EC,
2.^ Directive 76/769/EEC,
3.^ Revocation of approvals for amateur creosote/coal tar creosote wood preservatives,
4.^ “Creosote Council”. Retrieved 2011-02-05.
5.^ a b c U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Topical Fire Research Series, “Heating Fires in Residential Buildings”, Volume 6, Issue 3, November 2006, [1]
6.^ Creosote (CASRN 8001-58-9)
7.^ Creosote, What You Need To Know
8.^ Wong O, Harris F (July 2005). “Retrospective cohort mortality study and nested case-control study of workers exposed to creosote at 11 wood-treating plants in the United States”. J. Occup. Environ. Med. 47 (7): 683–97. PMID 16010195.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 2996 days

#8 posted 07-21-2011 06:50 AM

Quote from the post by Kent, “The largest health effect of creosote is deaths caused by residential fires.[5]”

Sounds to me like all the gloom and doom warnings are maybe a little bit of a “knee jerk reaction”.

I would think , like Charlie, that “Kilz” white shelac primer would pretty much seal it. If you don’t want to go white, just use regular shellac. Then top either one with the finish you want. Shellac is good stuff.

View mcoyfrog's profile


4145 posts in 3620 days

#9 posted 07-21-2011 05:18 PM

WOW I didn’t have any idea, thanks for all the input. I’m gonna have to do some research and figure this out.

Thanks again for all the input..

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

View Razorbak91313's profile


89 posts in 2670 days

#10 posted 07-21-2011 08:11 PM

That creosote is definately something to be worried about it think. Especially if it was done that long ago when they would have been using much harsher chemicals then they use today (and the stuff used today isn’t exactly flowers and sunshine if you know what i mean). As for sealing it, I would go for a wood sealer with epoxy in it. On a couple of wood projects I have done I used a mix of epoxy, paint thinner and lacquer thinner – ratio i have been using is around 4 parts paint thinner, 4 parts lacquer thinner and 2 parts epoxy. The more pourous the wood, the thicker you can mix it, and vice-versa. It soaks in pretty good into most wood and the thinners evaporate and leave the epoxy behind. It can take several days to completely dry/set and sometimes you may get some spots of gummy epoxy on the surface.

-- Turning good wood into even better wood jewelry.

View mcoyfrog's profile


4145 posts in 3620 days

#11 posted 07-22-2011 08:32 PM

cr1— not much and like I said its outdoors, I’m going to do a bit of research this weekend and weigh out wether to keep it or not, but if I do I’ll try that out.

Razor—if I keep them I’ll prolly use some form of sealer like epoxy to seal it after I scrap off the little bit thats there.

Out of the 15-16 boards there are only a couple with really bad spots the rest of them have worn off over the years I guess….

Thanks again for the help and concern, its much appreciated..

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

View mcoyfrog's profile


4145 posts in 3620 days

#12 posted 07-25-2011 05:53 PM

Just thought I would update in case anyone is wondering. I did some research and found a cool product Restore for decks. I put down 3 oil based coats of killzit then this Restore stuff over the top of that. It kind of reminds me of the rhino bed-liner but for decks, it comes in about 50 different colors (we choose granite) and it completely in-case’s the wood and leaves a finish somewhat like stucco.

So in the end no creasote smell or exposure woot woot…

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

View Tim Kindrick's profile

Tim Kindrick

369 posts in 2580 days

#13 posted 07-27-2011 12:53 AM

Sorry cr1 but I have to strongly disagree with you on this topic. I’m not just your average eco-freak either. I speak from experience as a former professional with a wood preservers license for over ten years in Texas. I also held licenses in all of the pest control categories including fumigation for over 20 years so I’m not “afraid” of dangerous chemicals. It’s true, creosote won’t kill you right away by handling it or coming into contact with it. BUT it does cause cancer that kills.

You should go to a creosote plant some day and ask the workers about the numerous employees that have died from accidental exposure to creosote. I HAVE!!

-- I have metal in my neck but wood in my blood!!

View Towtruck's profile


70 posts in 2635 days

#14 posted 07-27-2011 01:53 AM

I would think clear epoxy would be the easiest solution, if it didn’t cause a slippery surface problem.

-- I cut it off 3 times and it's still too short!

View Tim Kindrick's profile

Tim Kindrick

369 posts in 2580 days

#15 posted 07-27-2011 07:22 PM

”They were swimming in the stuff every day breathing the vapors getting it all over them”

Again, you couldn’t be more wrong!!! They are wearing haz-mat garments with air supplied respirators ect…. (similar to the suits worn for asbestos removal with clean rooms and everything)

As for your situation with cancer, I can’t and won’t comment because I don’t know anything about 111 trichlorethane. I just wish that other people wouldn’t comment about things they know nothing about!

Sorry to hear about you having (and/or had) cancer!!! THAT is my original point, I don’t want to see anyone taking unnecessary risks when it comes to cancerous exposures!!!!!!

In any case, it sounds like he came up with a reasonable solution for covering up his deck so I think this thread has played out. Maybe someone with more knowledge on this subject should start a new topic about cancer risks in woodworking.

-- I have metal in my neck but wood in my blood!!

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