Wood Deck Framing Regulations Get Tougher and More Expensive

Are you building or replacing a deck? If so, start off on the right foot with this GUIDE and when using treated lumber – use the correct rating.

In 2004 the deck building industry (including lumber treatment companies) negotiated an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agreement stated that the industry would move away from arsenic-containing wood treatments to a predominately copper-based formulas. However, after the change took effect, some end users worried that the new treatment method seemed to be less decay-resistant, especially in hot, moist climates, shaded locations and in ground contact.

Quoting a recent article in the Journal of Light Construction:

The American Wood Protection Association (AWPA) is about to publish an update to its U1 standard for preservative-treated lumber. When the new standard is published as part of the AWPA’s 2016 Book of Standards (probably in May or June), all deck framing lumber, including posts, beams, and joists, will have to be treated to the AWPA’s UC4A Ground Contact preservative retention levels. The International Building Code (IBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC), the basis for state and local building codes in the U.S., both reference the AWPA standard in their rules for deck construction. Sources in the treated wood industry say this means that as soon as the new AWPA rule is published, the requirement for “Ground Contact” deck framing will automatically enter local codes.

For background on the treated wood switch-over, see“Pressure-Treated Wood: The Next Generation,” by Ted Cushman, JLC 4/09.

What The Ground Contact Tag Means To You

Going forward, you should be careful what they buy. As word of the standard change gets around, building inspectors are likely to start looking for the Ground Contact tag (similar to the one pictured above) when they inspect decks.

What does this mean for builders, re-modelers, and deck contractors? Most likely, it means that treated 2×6, 2×8, 2×10, and 2×12 lumber in stock at your local lumber dealer or home center will now carry an end tag that says the material is suitable for Ground Contact. That’s a change: in recent years, almost all the 2x lumber on the shelves has been rated “Above Ground.” It may take a while for the existing supply of “Above Ground” rated lumber to get flushed out of the supply chain. Going forward, end users should be careful about what they buy. As word of the standard change gets around later this year, building inspectors are likely to start looking for the Ground Contact tag when they inspect decks.


So, how will that affect your wallet? You guessed it, ground contact treated lumber will be sold at the premium…we’ve heard as much as 5-8% for the more heavily treated lumber.

Learn how to handle copper based preservatives here.


If you are tearing out and replacing your deck chances are you have the old treated wood. BE CAREFUL! Don’t breath the saw dust and keep pet food away from the deck debris. Learn more about handling arsenic-containing wood treated deck material here.

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