Above Ground Durability of Swedish Softwood

Sammanfattning: This thesis describes aspects of durability of Swedish softwood in above ground applications. The thesis consists of a summary of nine papers, which all aim to explain the existing variation in above ground microbial durability and moisture sensitivity of Norway spruce (Picea abies) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). The methods used were two field tests, one accelerated durability test, and three water permeability tests. The main conclusions made in the study were that Norway spruce sapwood is more susceptible to discolouring fungi than heartwood. With respect to Scots pine, the only important factor for its natural durability above ground was whether the samples consisted of heartwood or of sapwood. There was also no systematic variation between pine heartwood from different stand origins in above ground conditions. Origin had no influence on durability in practice for neither spruce nor pine. Furthermore, in contradiction with traditional thinking, annual ring width and density had no influence on durability in any of the tests. The material came from two different samplings. The ‘old’ material was sampled in the beginning of the 1980s and consisted of Scots pine and Norway spruce from three different origins: the north, the central area, and the south of Sweden. The material was subjected to different handling conditions and surface and end-grain treatments. The ‘old’ material was used in a large above ground field test, carried out between 1985 and 1994. Unfortunately, the spruce sapwood and heartwood was not separated in this field test. In the field trial with the ‘old’ material, the most important factor for the durability of Norway spruce was the samples’ surface- and end-grain treatment. It was also observed that untreated spruce showed better durability than samples that were painted but without proper end-grain treatment. Samples originating from one of the stands were more sensitive towards air-drying than samples from the other two, which was reflected in a higher average moisture content and mass loss for the untreated samples. With respect to Scots pine, the most important factor was whether the sample consisted of heartwood or of sapwood. The heartwood samples were durable irrespective of their previous treatment. The Scots pine sapwood samples, on the other hand, had a very fluctuating moisture content if they were not surface- and end-painted. This was also reflected in higher mass losses in these samples. Even when properly surface- and end grain treated, the sapwood samples did not perform as well as the heartwood samples. The ‘new’ material consisted of Scots pine taken from six different stands, and Norway spruce from five different stands, all from areas in southern Sweden. The sampling was performed in order to achieve a large variation in wood properties. Thus, logs from areas with different climate and growth conditions were collected. This material was used for laboratory tests, and also for the second field test, which was evaluated after a test period of two years. In the second field test untreated Scots pine and Norway spruce samples from the ‘new’ material were investigated. Effects of origin and different tree diameters were examined. Furthermore, Scots pine was separated to heartwood and sapwood, and Norway spruce to mature and juvenile wood. The Norway spruce samples were sawn with vertical or horizontal annual rings. For the Norway spruce in the second field test, vertical annual rings were shown to be very beneficial for avoiding crack formation, while samples with horizontal annual rings displayed a large number of cracks. Despite this, the larger number of cracks did not result in a higher moisture content or more fungal discoloration. Juvenile wood had a slightly higher average discolouring fungal growth grading than the other spruce samples. For Scots pine, the only factor of importance was whether the samples consisted of heartwood or of sapwood. Annual ring width, density and origin had no significant effect on either fungal growth or moisture uptake. This observation held for both Norway spruce samples and Scots pine samples. An accelerated test was run in order to investigate Norway spruce sapwood and heartwood with respect to their differences in durability towards discolouring fungi and moisture uptake. The Mycologg method was used to accelerate fungal growth during a number of forced moisture cycles. The results showed that sapwood was much more sensitive to discolouring fungi than heartwood. Sapwood also recorded a higher average moisture content than heartwood. The differences that were observed between the types of samples were not due to annual ring width, density or origin. It was observed that Norway spruce sapwood samples and heartwood samples showed differences in liquid water permeability. This observation was made especially evident in a droplet absorption test. Water droplets were absorbed much faster on the sapwood samples in comparison with the heartwood samples. This higher affinity to water suggested that a sapwood surface would reach a higher moisture content than a heartwood surface. This observation provides a major explanation of why the sapwood samples showed poorer durability towards discolouring fungi in the Mycologg trials.