Fasteners, Connectors and Flashing for Wood Treated With Copper-Based Preservatives

The presence of moisture is a precondition for corrosion of metals. Treated wood is typically used in applications where it may be exposed to moisture for considerable periods so any fasteners and connectors used with treated wood must also be resistant to these conditions.  In addition, most wood preservatives designed for exterior use contain copper that may react with the metals used to fabricate fasteners and connectors therefore, it is important to use the right type of fastener and/or connectors. Where treated wood is used in dry environments to prevent damage by wood-destroying insects, including termites, corrosion is of less concern.

Users and specifiers should also be aware that corrosive industrial, or salt air, environments may also require the use of appropriate corrosion resistant metals.

Types of Wood Preserving Treatments

Most copper-based preservatives are corrosive to unprotected fasteners and connectors. More recent systems such as MCA where the copper isn’t introduced in an ionic salt form, are designed to reduce the corrosion of metals, and the preserved wood is approved for use in contact with aluminum (e.g. brackets or outdoor furniture legs). Borate treatments do not increase the risk of corrosion.

Recommendations on Connectors for Treated Wood

Connectors used for wood treated with a copper-based preservative must be manufactured from steel either hot–dipped galvanized in accordance with ASTM A653 or hot dipped galvanized after manufacture in accordance with ASTM A123.  Galvanizing nails and screws is actually a sacrificial coating to protect the structural integrity of the fastener, and the presence of some white corrosion product on the surface is normal. Red rust appearing is an indicator of coating failure. The service life of these components can be extended by using a barrier membrane between the connector and the treated wood surface. Stainless steel connectors (type 304 or 316) should be used for maximum service life, for high preservative retentions (i.e. ground contact products) or severe applications such as salt spray environments.  For borate-treated wood used inside buildings, the same connectors can be used as for untreated wood.

Recommendations on Fasteners for Treated Wood

Fasteners for use in treated wood that will be exposed to the weather should be selected to withstand weathering as long as the treated wood itself

As a minimum, nails for wood treated with a copper-based preservative must be hot-dipped galvanized in accordance with ASTM A153. Hot-dipped galvanized nails should not be fastened using a high pressure nail gun due to the risk of damage to the coating during firing. The protective coating on electroplated galvanized fasteners is too thin and will perform poorly, and common nails will corrode rapidly after fastening most copper-based treated wood.  Stainless steel should be used for maximum service life, for high preservative retentions or severe applications such as salt spray environments. Where appropriate, copper fasteners may also be used. Fasteners used in combination with metal connectors must be the same type of metal to avoid galvanic corrosion caused by dissimilar metals.  For example stainless steel fasteners should not be used in combination with galvanized connectors.

Screws intended for use on wood treated with a copper-based preservative must be hot dipped galvanized in accordance with ASTM A153 or, if recommended by the manufacturer and the preservative supplier, high-quality polymer coated. Stainless steel should be used for maximum service life, for high preservative retentions or severe applications such as salt spray environments.

For borate treated wood used inside buildings, the same fasteners can be used as for untreated wood.

As a general rule aluminum fasteners should not be used with treated wood, except new generation products (MCA treated) specifically tested, approved and labelled as suitable for contact with Aluminum. 

Recommendations on Flashing for Treated Wood

Flashing used in contact with treated wood must be compatible with the treated wood and be last long enough to be suitable for the intended application.  Flashing must also be of the same type of metal as any fasteners that penetrate through them to avoid galvanic corrosion. Copper and stainless steel are the most durable metals for flashing.  Galvanized steel, in accordance with ASTM A653, G185 designation, is also suitable for use as flashing.

Other Fasteners, Connectors or Hardware as Recommended by the Manufacturer

There may be additional products such as polymer or ceramic coatings for fasteners, or vinyl or plastic flashings that are suitable for use with treated wood products.  Consult the individual fastener, connector or flashing manufacturer for recommendations for use of their products with treated wood.

Current Recommendations for Drying and Conditioning of Treated Wood Prior to Construction.

Wood treated with copper-based preservatives should be at the least surface dried at the treating plant, in the store or at the job site before attachment of fasteners, connectors, flashing or other hardware. A moisture meter with a calibration for preservative treated wood should be used to verify that the wood is within a similar moisture content range to untreated construction lumber (i.e. about 12 to 18%) otherwise the treated wood can undergo similar shrinkage related cracking and deformation as incorrectly conditioned untreated lumber.

Canadian Preservation Industry

Canada has had a wood preservation industry for more than 100 years.  Canada is tied with the UK as the world’s second largest producer of treated wood (the USA is first, by a large margin).  In 1999, the most recent year for which we have data, Canada produced 3.5 million cubic metres of treated wood.  There are about 60 treating plants in Canada.

As with most other industrialized countries, Canada developed a wood preservation industry using creosote, initially to service railroads (the ties holding the rails) and then utilities (power poles).  Creosote production began declining by the 1950s, and by the 1970s was being somewhat replaced for these traditional uses by pentachlorophenol.  Today, these oil-borne preservatives only constitute 17% of Canadian treated wood production.

The remaining 83% of production uses water-borne preservatives such as CCA, ACQ, CA and MCA.  The industry began its substantial shift to the water borne products in the 1970s, as consumer interest in decks and other residential outdoor structures dramatically increased.  For many years, CCA was by far the dominant preservative for both residential and industrial applications.

In 2004, CCA regulations were changed such that CCA is no longer available for many residential applications.  Subsequently, Canadian treaters have shifted about 80% of their previous CCA production to ACQ, CA or MCA.

Most of Canada’s treated wood is used domestically; Canada exports only 10% of its production. Canada has its own wood preservation standards, supports several technical and marketing organizations, and maintains a lead position in certain areas of wood preservation research.  A major focus of the industry has been in response to increasing levels of health and environmental protection regulations.

More Information

For information on fasteners:


Simpson Strong Tie

International Staple, Nail, And Tool Association

Preservative supplier links