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37ford 04-10-2013 08:13 AM

Covering the Creosote Smell in Old Timbers
I have a bunch of old railroad timbers that I plan to make a short retaining wall with in my back yard. I'm pretty sensitive to smells, and I am concerned that the creosote smell might be too strong for me or anyone else. Is there something I can spray them with that will reduce or eliminate the smell? How about something like Thompson's water seal?

joecaption 04-10-2013 08:50 AM

Poor choise of materials for a retaining wall.
The reason you even see them for sale is they have been removed because they were at the end of there expected life.
And no I can not see anything covering them up that going to stay stuck on them.
There already coated so nothings going to soak in.
Also Thompsons comes in dead last year after year according to consumers report.

jagans 04-10-2013 09:05 AM

Creosote is a coal tar derivative. It is carcengenic, and it will burn the heck out of your skin. There is no way that you want this stuff where your kids might come into contact with it. Also, as Joe said, they removed them because they were shot. Dont waste your time.

37ford 04-10-2013 09:27 AM

Well, they were free and in really good condition. I just wanted to make good use of them.

jagans 04-10-2013 09:48 AM

Well you cant cover the smell up because pitch will bleed through anything you throw at it. Wait till your wife leans on them when they are bleeding pitch on a hot day and burns her skin, and ruins her new dress, then tell me how free they were. Pitch has a softening point of 140 degrees. Add sun, and they are going to dribble pitch down on your patio.

The low softening point was used as a sales tool on roofs, claiming that a Coal Tar Pitch roof was "self healing".

A multi ply coal tar pitch roof with targlass felts is arguably the very best low slope roof that anyone can install on a low slope roof, because pitch is not emulsified by water. The problem is that you cannot find anyone to install pitch anymore, as nobody wants to work with it. Union roofers were paid more per hour to work with it.

How are you going to cut them? Your chain saw will turn to goo. Maybe you can use them as a backer, and face them with pressure treated lumber, but I would not leave them exposed. The smell occurs when the pitch is activated by heat. If you bury them that should not be a problem.

hand drive 04-10-2013 07:17 PM

back in 1999 I installed one of those retaining walls and the city that I installed it in awarded me yard of the month with it! they look good if you like that look but just like the black asphalt driveways will let off a smell in the heat. at the end of those days I was a nasty looking dude with soot to boot! a chainsaw blade lasted about 5 cuts and if sharpened got one more cut out of it before it was toast.

37ford 04-10-2013 08:17 PM

I think I may take Jagan's advice and cover it. How about a double layer of 6 mil poly and face it with cedar planks.

As for cutting, I don't want to ruin a chain saw blade. Maybe I can make an initial cut with an old circular saw and finish it with a recip saw.

jagans 04-10-2013 08:42 PM

You cant use poly. Pitch will eat through it in a new york minute. You need a heavy aluminum foil product. Tar based organic felt should work too, the only reasonable tool to cut the ties is a chain saw. You are going to go through a few blades so get used to it. This is going to sound nuts but you may want to try and run it with water flowing over the blade to keep it cool. its worth a try. Make sure you put in buckeyes (Tie backs) that T into the main wall, and drill down through with a decent drill to tie together with No. 6 rebar. You are going to want a serious 1/2 inch reduction drive big amp drill with auger bits that have a lead screw, like a Milwaukee Hole Hawg, or RA drill.

Hand Drive can surely give you some good advice re the particulars, as he has produced an award winner.

As I said before pitch is a b***h get some zinc oxide on your skin and face before you start. And cover your eyes with goggles It will chemically burn you, and if you get pitch dust in your eyes you will be going to the hospital. It is like having glass shards in your eyes.

37ford 04-11-2013 07:26 AM

Organic felt? I guess I'm not familiar. How about 15# roofing felt over the timbers, then poly to seal and extend the life of the felt, then face?

jagans 04-11-2013 07:55 AM

Tar Based Organic Felt, as opposed to fiberglass felt. Asphalt and pitch do not mix but in this case #15 ASTM D-226 Type 1 felt should work OK Then Poly. If there is a builing wrap with foil that would probably work well. Again, wear gloves, long sleeves etc.

Let up know if water cooling the chain saw works.

hand drive 04-11-2013 08:21 AM

I'm reminded of getting cut with copper lined felt paper at a job long ago not knowing the felt had copper in it, would that work to cover up the logs?

jagans 04-11-2013 09:01 AM

Hey Hand. Yeah that probably would, but it would be pretty darned expensive. That material was used as a through wall flashing in masonry, and not cheap.

37ford 07-13-2013 05:19 PM

I figured I would post an update.

I have been working on my wall and have about 75% of the creosote timbers installed. I have used a chain saw to cut them all, and the blade hasn't gummed up or anything. Most of the timbers are silvered from weathering and aren't the black oozing chemical sponges that many you see are. Just the same, I know they are still potentially dangerous, so I want to take precautions. I am still unsure of what to wrap them with. I found some ASTM 226 felt at Lowes, but I wanted to be sure that would be compatible. I haven't found much info on it. I have been looking for some foil wrap, but most seem really thin and prone to tearing. Can anyone suggest any alternatives.

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