Alternative Materials Lumber Professional-Level information and how-to-build articles for wood, timber, and lumber professionals and users. Alternative Materials » Lumber Talk
By Chris | October 4, 2011 - 11:45 pm - Posted in Alternative Materials, Decks & Fences, Farm & Ranch, How To, Poles, Posts, Pilings

What is the best fence post depth? That depends (of course) on what type of fence you are building and which post you are putting in the ground. We’ll cover a few here with some general fence builder rules.

Privacy Fence Post Depth — 1/3 of Height

The general rule of thumb for privacy fence posts is to bury them 1/3 the depth of the height of the post. This is easy for your typical privacy fence. Use 8? posts, bury 2? in the ground, and you’re left with a 6? post on which to build a fence.

Concrete is still a good idea (I recommend it), especially if you live in an area with high winds or occasional hurricanes. I’ve even drilled a 9/16? x 8? hole in the bottoms of the posts and driven a piece of re-bar in with about 12? sticking out. The result is a post buried 2 feet in the ground, with re-bar another 12? (driven into the clay soil), surrounded by concrete — very strong posts. Overkill? Whatever, dude.

Farm & Ranch Fence

Your typical farm or ranch fence, especially one with wire stretched, has 2 types of posts — line posts and corner posts.

Use the 1/3 of height rule for the line posts depths. With 6 foot posts, you will probably bury 1.5 to 2 feet and end up with a 4 to 4.5 foot post. For corner posts, you might want to use a rule of 1/2 the height for the fence post depth. So, a 5 foot tall corner post would probably be buried 2.5 feet in the ground — probably more like 3 feet buried of an 8? post.

Press Release…

To offer the cheapest bulkhead materials you will find, Building Products Plus in Houston, TX has developed ( to promote their ultra low-cost vinyl bulkhead materials packages — especially for 3, 4, and 5 feet tall (exposed height) walls.

The prices are actually listed on and include all wood and hardware required to build a basic vinyl bulkhead. The materials are shipped in what they call “ready to build” packages.

Vinyl Sheet Piling Has Become a Commodity

The vinyl sheet piling market has become thoroughly competitive during the last decade. 10 years ago there were only a few producers but now with abundant vinyl sheet manufacturers, advances in technology, and the spread of production knowledge vinyl sheet pilings have essentially become a commodity product.

Building Products Plus keeps prices low by maintaining relationships with multiple vinyl sheet piling producers and by purchasing opportunistically. The resulting low costs are passed to you. The manufacturer of the materials you purchase may vary but all vinyl bulkhead materials quoted on and sold from meet minimum specified requirements for the wall size indicated.

Vinyl Bulkhead Design

To help plan your project, you will find some basic bulkhead design drawings on at The drawings will be helpful for purchasing your bulkhead materials and understanding the basic elements of your wall.

Vinyl Bulkhead Quotes

You can get a quote for your specific wall, including delivery, by phone or online at Your quote will be created by an experienced project consultant who can help you make decisions about the best vinyl sheet piling lengths, best wood treatment levels, and hardware choices.

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Building Products Plus, LLP is a manufacturer and supplier of extended-life building materials for marine and shoreline, high-end commercial, and farm and ranch projects. Based in Houston, TX, Building Products Plus has been supplying long-lasting building materials since 1993.

By Chris | November 23, 2009 - 9:44 am - Posted in Alternative Materials

This is a great project – the straw bale house being built by researchers at the University of Bath a hop and a skip west of London. straw bale walls lined with wood or hemp panels

The straw bale house is called the balehaus@bath and has set out to demonstrate the effectiveness of smart design and the use of renewable materials to decrease a home’s carbon footprint.

Straw – Renewable & Insulating
Straw is exceptionally renewable and has excellent insulating properties so it is a very energy-efficient building material when considering both production and the operation of the home. Additionally, hay (straw) can generally be grown locally (in most places) so carbon emissions from transportation are reduced as well.

Panels Resists Fire
Flammability tests of the pre-fabricated panels showed that they resisted fire very well – 4 times as long as required. Read more about that here.

See for yourself. Here’s the image gallery and you will also see a link to the “straw cam” where you can watch some videos of the construction.

The house is about more than just the straw bales. Design and other factors are considered as well. This might be one of many great options researchers find to develop greener homes for a “carbon-neutral” future.

An industry-changing product is now available in the US. It is “treated” wood without any chemicals. Nature’s Choice Deck, distributed by Building Products Plus, is made of premium grade southern yellow pine, uses no chemicals, and comes with a 20 year warranty.

Think about it – “treated” wood with zero chemicals – 100% natural wood.
thermally modified wood - Nature's Choice

Thermally Modified Wood
Although thermally modified wood has been proven effective in Europe since the mid-90’s, it is new to the US where it took on the brand name Nature’s Choice. Developed in Finland, thermally modified wood is kind of baked (for lack of a better word) until the composition of the wood changes such that it is no longer attractive to termites, fungus, and other forms of decay. Using special kilns, the wood is heated for about a day to just below flash point and cooled using carefully timed applications of water to maximize its strength and longevity.

As Green As It Gets
Nature’s Choice ( is as green as it gets. It is made of easily renewable southern yellow pine from managed forest land and produced in the heart of Amish country in production facilities that use relatively zero electricity. It’s seriously green from start to finish. It contains no chemicals so you don’t have to worry about your gardens, lawn, ground water, or kids. And, finally, since it is long-lasting the wood will not need to be replaced often. However, when you do replace it the wood can be thrown away, re-used, or even burned (unlike chemically pressure-treated wood).

This is the stuff dreams are made of, eco-speaking.

Physical Properties
Its strength is up to par, too. You can cut, drill, nail, screw, and everything just like regular wood. No special fasteners are required but you can use a hidden deck fastener system is you wish. In other words, it is regular wood – except, you know, with no chemicals.

Here are the stats from Nature’s Choice Deck technical info page.

    • Uniformly Darker Color
      Increased Surface Hardness
      Resistant to Decay
      Decreased Absorption of Moisture
      Moisture Deformation Decreased by 30 – 90%
      Splitting Strengths Reduced 0 – 50%
      Bending Strength Changes -15% – +20%
      Resins Dry Out or Evaporate
      Equilibrium Moisture 10 – 50% Smaller than in Untreated Wood
      Overall Increased Stability
      Increased Longevity
  • Beautiful Appearance – Darker Color
    Nature’s Choice is made of premium grade (better than #1) southern yellow pine so the boards are about 100% free of wane and nearly totally free of knots. The faces of the boards are different (one side smooth, the other grooved) and since the wood is so highly selected, the boards are essentially reversible.

    The thermal modification process darkens the wood to a beautiful light-mahogany color. The picture above is unstained pine (really!). See the Nature’s Choice Deck website for more pictures. According to the guys at Building Products Plus, all of the pictures on the site (as of the date of this writing) are southern yellow pine. Hard to believe but see the comparison image here.

    Dimensions & Availability
    Currently, Nature’s Choice thermally modified wood is available in 1″x5″ (actual dimensions) deck boards. They say they will offer more in the future. In fact, they mentioned plans for large timbers made with the stuff and maybe even pilings. Yes, chemical-free pilings. These guys are kind of quietly leading their own green movement.

    Expect to see more Nature’s Choice Deck in the future. People have been looking for this sort of thing and it’s finally here.

    Shortly after it was posted, Claire Guappone of Osmose contacted me regarding “MCQ Shows Signs of Rapid Decay” and asked if I would like to receive a follow up press release on the matter.

    “Sure,” said I. So, here it is.

    Consumer Safety and Product Performance of Micronized Copper Technology Confirmed

    GRIFFIN, Ga., Feb. 11 — On Feb. 9, 2009 in a negative public relations document apparently intended to scare users of treated wood, Charlotte, NC-based Viance criticized the effectiveness of micronized copper wood preservatives. “Viance is once again attempting to create unfounded concerns about consumer safety and product performance, using statistically insignificant and suspect data,” said Paul Goydan, President of Osmose, Inc.

    Extensive laboratory and extended field testing have confirmed the effectiveness of micronized preservatives. Several world renowned scientists have confirmed the strong performance of this technically advanced preservative technology and have published their comprehensive findings, which support the micronized technology’s efficacy in providing wood protection for both above ground and ground contact applications.

    So why this unfounded attack by a competitor? An attack based on an insignificant sample of a few posts selected by this competitor — out of the millions of posts in service? One might conclude the competition has not been able to create a viable alternative product to compete with our patent pending technology and the ever-increasing market penetration of the micronized copper preservative systems. Rather than offering similarly advanced technology, they have resorted to needlessly alarming the public.

    MicroPro(R) Treated Wood Facts:

    • Over 5 Billion board feet of MicroPro treated wood has been sold since the product introduction in 2006.
    • Over 10 Million 4 x 4 micronized treated wood posts are presently in service and performing.
    • MicroPro copper based preservative systems have been independently tested and evaluated in accordance with AWPA, ASTM and other internationally recognized laboratory and field test procedures.
    • Micronized copper preservative systems are certified by the International Code Council Evaluation Service, Inc. (ICC-ES).
    • Osmose’s micronized technologies have earned the Environmentally Preferable Product (EPP) certification from Scientific Certification Systems (SCS).
    • Osmose provides a Residential and Agricultural Limited Warranty on MicroPro treated wood products.

    Bottom Line

    Extensive laboratory and field testing has confirmed the effectiveness of micronized preservatives. International experts have confirmed the legitimacy of this technically advanced preservative technology and published their findings in support of it. Billions of board feet of micronized treated lumber are in service and performing. Since the introduction of micronized copper technology, Viance, the only copper based preservative manufacturer that does not have the micronized technology to offer, has waged a desperate campaign against it in an effort to discredit it. Meanwhile, more and more consumers and retailers continue to embrace the environmental and performance benefits offered by our technically advanced micronized products.

    Since 1934, Osmose has produced quality, tested, reliable wood preservatives such as MicroPro. We fully stand behind our products and back them with industry leading warranties.

    For additional information regarding MicroPro, please contact Osmose at (800) 241-0240 or visit