The Truth About Pressure Treated Pacific HemFir - Pacific HemFir
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The Truth About Pressure Treated Pacific HemFir

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How to choose the right wood product for heavy construction and marine applications

Image courtesy of Marwood

Truth or fiction? In an age of “alternative facts” cutting through the noise of misinformation is one of the greatest challenges our society faces today. And the world of wood design and heavy construction is no exception. For example, an exciting new scientific discovery recently fell on us…. but did anybody hear? Short answer: a few leading experts sure did. 

After years of rigorous research and advanced testing, the Department of Wood Science at the University of British Columbia discovered that Pacific HemFir’s load bearing capacity is much greater than previously reported. These findings were so compelling, they led to a code upgrade by CSA 086 Technical Committee on Engineering Design in Wood, the Canadian Standard.

This is big news for engineers and developers in need of highly durable wood products for industrial and marine applications. Especially, considering that Pacific HemFir’s cellular structure makes it ideal for pressure treatment.

(Source: CSA 086:19, Engineering design in wood. © 2019 Canadian Standards Association. Please visit

It’s also a plentiful species and harvested from the most sustainably managed forests on the planet. So it’s win/win for the building sector as well as the environment. That’s why as word slowly spreads about Pacific HemFir’s improved strength CSA rating, discerning manufacturers of quality pressure treated wood products are hard at work promoting the species’ many favourable characteristics. 

While there is definitely growing interest in Pacific HemFir’s many uses, word hasn’t reached a lot of people in the lumber industry. A quick Google search of comparative wood blogs finds that a lot of timber ‘experts’ are still downplaying Pacific HemFir’s superior performance properties. 

That’s something that Jay Secord would like to see change. He’s the sales manager of the Treated Wood Products division at CanWel Building Materials whose parent company, Doman Building Materials Group Ltd., is one of North America’s biggest producers of pressure treated lumber products. 

“There’s a lot of outdated information circulating out there,” he says, calling from his company’s headquarters in Vancouver, BC. “So it’s about getting the right info to the right people. It’s just not on everyone’s radar the way other species are. If one of our customers specifies another type of wood for a project that I think is better suited for Pacific HemFir, I’ll make a point of telling them so they can make a more informed decision.”

Image Courtesy of Marwood

The type of projects he’s referring to include docks, public boardwalks and service bridges, as well as residential decks and other hardscape structures. Basically, pressure treated Pacific HemFir is a stable, strong and rot-resistant material you can count on for any outdoor structure that’s going to be exposed to heavy foot traffic, a myriad of climate conditions and/or seawater.

Turning the Tide on Perceptions

Another long-time champion of Pacific HemFir’s many benefits is Tim McIlhargey, the Treated Wood sales manager of the BC region for Taiga Building Products. In his experience, pressure treated HemFir has been overlooked simply because other pressure treated species have been the go-to for engineers for so long. 

“It’s a common misconception that pressure treated Pacific HemFir isn’t as strong as say Doug Fir,” says McIlhargey, calling from his office in Vancouver, BC. “But the reality is it’s actually stronger and incredibly stable, plus it’s got better stick quality when it comes to accepting and holding various wood preservatives. Thus, prolonging the service life of the wood.” 

Image courtesy of Marwood

Pacific HemFir’s exceptional treatability also plays an essential role in sustainable architecture because projects built with properly preserved wood last longer and therefore require replacement less frequently. According to Wood Preservation Canada, “every year the use of pressure treated wood saves a forest area the size of Prince Edward Island.” 

In fact, the environmental benefits of using pressure treated wood in marine applications, in particular, are quite significant. Several Life Cycle Assessment reports point to the fact that when compared to manmade materials (such as concrete, steel and plastic), treated wood uses less energy and water to produce. Additionally, treated wood helps fight climate change by capturing and storing carbon – as opposed to emitting Co2 like non-renewable materials. 

In terms of sustainability, like all lumber harvested from British Columbia forests, Pacific HemFir producers adhere to the most stringent environmental regulations in the world. For example, 200 million new seedlings are planted every year in BC. As such, BC has more forested land than it did 100 years ago. 

But that’s not all. 

Pacific HemFir has the added advantage of being a fast-growing tree. So it’s readily available, making it an even more sustainable choice than some other higher-end lumber products. 

From Sea to Shining Sea 

Image courtesy of Marwood

So to recap, Pacific HemFir is a quality, sustainable wood that’s ideal for pressure treatment. And now, we know for a fact that it’s stronger and even more stable than previously thought. Interest is increasing, with more and more developers specifying Pacific HemFir for heavy construction. But it’s not going to happen overnight. 

In the meantime, industry leaders and champions of wood science across the country are happy to continue promoting pressure treated Pacific HemFir as a great choice for piers, docks, bridges and decks. Whether it’s the awe-inspiring Atlantic Ocean or the beautiful Pacific Ocean, protecting these waters with environmentally sound building materials is paramount when taking on any marine project. Which is why so many pressure treated wood manufacturers are proud to tout the benefits of Pacific HemFir.

There’s Blair MacLeod, VP of international sales and marketing at Marwood – a New Brunswick-based wood manufacturer with more than 100 years of industry knowledge and also Eric Vachon, President and Chief Executive Officer at Stella-Jones – a North American producer of industrial pressure treated wood products.

“As a leading manufacturer of pressure treated wood products, Stella-Jones uses various wood species across its product categories in order to meet its clients’ unique specifications and requirements,” explains Vachon. “HemFir is an integral part of our fibre mix, as it offers a number of characteristics that make it a material of choice for a wide array of lumber applications. 

“HemFir is a very treatable fibre, and is in alignment with applicable North American standards and regulations,” he continues. “Additionally, it produces a long-lasting lumber product once treated, and is widely available in supply, which makes it a valuable species for our treating operations.”

For a more indepth look at why these industry leaders are advocating for greater use of Pacific HemFir and a more technical breakdown of the wood’s performance properties, download the Timbers brochure from or contact

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