Copper vs. Pre-painted Steel

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Copper is a natural product that once installed should give you a highly attractive, worry free element to your home. Steel applications will have maintenance responsibilities, fade issues and design limitations due to the tempering of the material itself. You may wonder if architectural accents are worth the money. Most copper roofing applications and accents will far outlast all other exterior trends and details of the home, therefore making it more than worth the money. In our opinion copper is a far superior material that will stay beautiful for many, many years and be an outstanding resale asset if you ever decide to sell.

Clear or STK Cedar?

When starting an outdoor project choosing cedar is your first step in the right direction. Choosing the right cedar for the job should be your second. You should be asking yourself questions like; what look do I want for my home? Is my décor rustic or more contemporary? Do I want clear or STK (select tight knot)? The obvious differences being looks and price. When thinking of looks you have two choices. Clean and contemporary which you would use the clear cedar for or a rustic charm that STK is more suited for. When deciding between these be aware that the price between clear and knotty cedar is double. In some cases more, depending on the size of the dimension needed. Clear is the more sought after wood of the tree and there is less of it, coming from the center of the trunk. The price will reflect this. Both choices are a fragrant and durable choice for any outdoor project.

Iron Stain on Wood



Iron stain, an unsightly blue–black or gray discoloration, can occur on nearly all woods. Oak, redwood, cypress, and cedar are particularly prone to iron stain because these woods contain large amounts of tannin-like extractives. The discoloration is caused by a chemical reaction between extractives in the wood and iron in steel products, such as nails, screws, and other fasteners and appendages. This often occurs the first morning after rain or dew, when water enables the extractives and iron to meet and react. For hundreds of years, ink was made by mixing tannin and iron in solution, where the reaction takes place instantly.

If the wood is kept dry (indoors), no discoloration will occur. Steel used in contact with wood must not corrode. This can be accomplished by using stainless steel or by coating the steel.

Coatings for fasteners, such as galvanizing (zinc) or ceramic coatings, give a wide range of performance. Shiny galvanized fasteners are electroplated with zinc and have the thinnest coating. Dull-gray galvanized fasteners are mechanically coated and can last longer than electroplated fasteners, but the zinc coating contains iron and staining is likely. Hot-dipped (double-dipped) galvanized fasteners, recognized by their “globby” appearance, give the longest protection to the steel; however, the zinc globs can clog the head of a screw, making it difficult to use. Therefore, stainless steel is the best choice for fasteners, particularly screws.

Problems have been associated with traces of iron left on wood from cutting or slicing; cleaning the surface with steel wool, wire brushes, or iron tools; using finishes stored in rusty containers; and using iron containing or iron contaminated finishes. Iron dust from metalworking and even plant fertilizers can be sources of iron. Urine on wood floors will hasten the reaction of iron and wood extractives.

A simple test can determine if wood discoloration is caused by iron: Apply a saturated solution of oxalic acid or sodium hydrogen fluoride (NaHF2, sodium bifluoride) in water to the stained wood surface. If the solution removes the stain, then iron is present on the wood. If the solution does not remove the stain, apply bleach to the stained area. If bleach removes the stain, the discoloration was probably caused by mildew. The appearances of discolorations caused by iron and mildew are distinctly different. After looking at examples of both, many people can identify them by sight.

Discoloration can occur long after finishing if the finish repels water. When water reaches the iron (possibly from the back side), discoloration appears. In this instance, the finish must be removed to access the discoloration, to test it, and to treat it.

If the iron stain is spotty, try viewing the stained wood under a 40× microscope. “Chunky” discoloration is usually a result of molten metal and looks like clinkers from a grinding operation. Particles that resemble slivers or flakes could be from steel wool. An even discoloration throughout the stain indicates that the iron was in solution when it contaminated the wood, probably in a contaminated finish.

Contaminating wood is easy. For example, a wood processor routinely treated wood with a solution of oxalic acid to prevent iron staining, not realizing that the treatment tank itself contained iron, which contaminated the wood. Merely striking wood with a hammer can cause iron stain on some wood. (Covering the head of the hammer when nailing redwood and western redcedar siding is a good idea.)

Iron staining can be removed, at least temporarily. Oxalic acid reacts with iron tannates to form a colorless chemical complex. After treating wood with oxalic acid, thoroughly wash the surface with fresh, warm water to remove excess acid. If all sources of iron are not removed or protected from corrosion, staining will occur again. In other words, oxalic acid treatment is only a temporary solution if iron remains on the wood. In time, oxalic acid breaks down with exposure to sunlight, and if wetted, discoloration occurs.

Aluminum contamination produces a similar stain, although it is usually less dark. Aluminum stain is removed in the same way but with greater difficulty.

 Oxalic acid is usually available at paint supply stores labeled as wood bleach (check ingredients). Always apply a saturated solution, or at least 5% by weight. For oak, a chemical reaction between oxalic acid and extractives can leave a pink stain if the solution is left on the wood too long. Sodium bifluoride appears to not break down with exposure to sunlight and so may be a better choice if rinsing is not practical; start with a 5% solution.

 Use extreme caution when using oxalic acid or sodium bifluoride. Irritation and burns of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes can occur, and ingestion of a few grams can be fatal. Sodium bifluoride (which will dissolve glass) is available only to professionals in retail quantities from Aldrich Chemical (800–558–9160) and will be shipped only to a school or business.

Mark Knaebe
USDA Forest Service
Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison WI 53726 2398
For more information, consult our website

Why choose cedar for my deck?

As we look out our doors and see our gardens coming alive, we begin to envision the nice weather and spending more time outdoors.  It is this time of year that many people begin to think about building, replacing or fixing their decks.  Nothing says summer like cool, refreshing drinks outside on our decks with family and friends.  When you are planning your new deck or maybe siding your home, think cedar.
 Why choose cedar over other types of exterior wood choices?  If you listed the pros for each of the wood types you would find that cedar is the most well rounded and stable choice.  Cedar has a much tighter and therefore stable wood grain that creates a lesser tendency to warp or twist.  Cedar has a built in natural wood preservative whereas other woods need to be chemically treated, making cedar an eco-friendly, green and biodegradable choice.  Cedar decking and siding is lighter and easier to work with yet still extremely durable with the added bonus of the natural cedar fragrance and unsurpassed beauty that can’t be found with other woods.




Jeff Fortushnick
Free: 1.800.263.3653
Local: 905.684.1665
Send PDF drawings via email to Fax: 905.684.4791

Copper Gutters & Down-spouts

Make a statement and become the stand out house in your neighbourhood with copper gutters and down-spouts   Copper is a natural product that will last 80-100 years as it gradually ages, adding architectural charm and great curb appeal to your home.  With normal maintenance such as cleaning the gutters of debris regularly your home will turn heads.  As the copper oxidises it will gradually get darker until it eventually turns a beautiful patina.  Being 100% recyclable also makes copper a great green alternative that adds lasting beauty to your home. Though copper gutters and down-spouts will cost you more they are more durable than traditional gutters and down-spouts and the added beauty makes every cent spent, worth it.


Why buy my Cedar Deck and Fencing Lumber at The Cedar Speciality Shoppe?

Cedar Speciality Shoppe

Why you should shop at Cedar Shoppe for your cedar needs is no mystery. We deal with one thing, CEDAR and we do it well.

Our shop is immaculate and our service is impeccable. Our staff is professional, with cedar experts that will work with you to create your vision for your home. Just imagine entertaining with the beauty and fragrance of cedar all around, we have everything you need to complete your project and the knowledge to assist you.

When you are planning your deck, fence, gazebo, or backyard structure to expand your living space outdoors; you owe it to yourself to visit Cedar Specialty Shoppes. For over 25 years we have been the largest cedar supplier in Southern Ontario and the Niagara Peninsula. We offer quality and service that is second to none.