|The Creosote Council, which
represented the interests of manufacturers and suppliers of
industrial and DIY grades of creosote along with timber treatment
companies and users of creosoted timber, was dissolved at its last
Annual General Meeting on 1 May 2002. This followed a decision by
the European Union member states to end the supply of creosote to
the DIY market (Directive 2001/90/EC) with effect from mid 2003. The
Creosote Council had strong reservations about the robustness of the
data used by the EU to justify this development but the Brussels
bureaucrats could not be dissuaded from their course. Use by
professionals (e.g. fencing contractors) and in industrial treatment
plants is not affected. Even when professional and industrial users
carry out treatment there are restrictions on where treated timber
can be used. These restrictions also apply to wood treated with
creosote before the directive came into force in the UK.
The Wood Protection Association's roots go back to the formation of the British Wood Preserving Association in 1930 (known from 1989 as the British Wood Preserving and Damp-proofing Association). It was formed to ensure information on the benefits of protecting wood against rot, insect attack and fire is readily available and to promote best practice in treatment and use of treated timber. Following the closure of the Creosote Council, professional and industrial suppliers and users of creosote and creosote-treated timber have formed the Creosote Group of the WPA to ensure information and guidance on correct use of creosote and treated timber continues to be available to the public and professionals alike. A guidance note on the regulations governing the use of creosote and creosote-treated timber is available to download from the WPA website: http://www.wood-protection.org (see 'Publications for Homeowners')
If you need a preservative to use yourself you will find quite a range of preservatives available on suppliers’ shelves replacing creosote. Creosote protects against rot and insects, colours and provides a degree of water repellency all in one and you should compare products carefully before deciding which is best for your particular requirements. Some products sold for fencing treatment for example are essentially to colour the wood and give some protection against mould growth but don't protect against rot, others are formulated to protect against rotting. In all cases read the label and follow the safety advice carefully.
Pressure treatment of wood with industrial grade creosote in accordance with the Wood Protection Association manual Industrial Wood Preservation - Specifications and Practice or British Standards protects it against all forms of rot and insect attack for decades and is suitable for many uses out of doors and in the ground such as fence posts. Your fencing contractor will be able to supply and erect a good quality wooden fence pre-treated with creosote. Old creosoted railway sleepers are available for landscaping and other uses in parks and gardens and these will give a long life even after having served their purpose on the railways for many years. Avoid contact with freshly creosoted surfaces. Any risk of staining skin or clothing from contact with treated surfaces will normally reduce quickly when treated wood is exposed to the weather but care may be needed especially with old sleepers etc which may continue to ‘bleed’ slightly even after decades of use on the railways.