Frequently Asked Questions about roundwood products

What is roundwood? - Roundwood is wood material finished to either a round or half-round shape and is generally sized from 2″ to 8″ in diameter. Wood material that is finished square or rectangular in shape is called lumber.

What are the typical roundwood species? - Our downloadable brochure, How to recognize quality treated posts and poles, lists Lodgepole pine, Ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, Western hemlock, Western larch and Aspen as roundwood species. The species may vary depending on the region where roundwood products are manufactured. Attributes including strength, the ability to accept pressure treatment and other important quality standards often determine the species used for certain products.

How can I recognize quality treated posts and poles? - Consistent size, minimum taper, little excessive cracking, no bark, etc. are visual attributes of quality treated posts and poles and can be easily assessed.

Determining if the product is properly treated is more difficult. Refer to our brochure for visual examples and make certain the materials you are purchasing have been produced by a reputable manufacturer and treating plant.

How is bark removed from roundwood products? - Bark can be removed by hand or by two types of machines. Hand peeling with a draw knife removes the bark and very little wood from the raw material. This process produces a unique look for untreated architectural purposes.

Machine peeling allows most of the sapwood (the treatable wood) to remain on the raw material, making it the most desirable for pressure treatment. A “doweler” machine produces a product that is exactly the same diameter from one end to the other. This process yields a visually uniform architectural product that can also be treated properly if the right species is used.

A “peeler” machine essentially follows the taper of the raw material. Depending on the type of machine, the operator can determine the amount of material removed and some or most of the taper can be taken out.

The variables in each manufacturer’s peeling process can create a unique “finger print” of sorts for its products.

What is the difference between treated and untreated roundwood? - Treated refers to wood that has had a preservative applied to prevent deterioration when it is subjected to conditions that are conducive to rot. Any wood that will be in contact with the ground or outside in a wet/dry condition should be treated.

Treating wood can increase its life span as much as 10 times. Benefits of treating wood include the cost savings of infrequent replacement, increased safety for structural applications, and the conservation of a natural resource.

How are posts and poles treated? - The majority of roundwood is treated in an enclosed cylinder that uses a series of vacuum and pressure cycles to allow the preservative to penetrate the wood. This process is called “pressure treating”. The American Wood Preservers’ Association (AWPA) sets the standards for this process and constant, and consistent monitoring must be practiced at the treating facility to produce a properly treated product.

Some preservatives can also be applied by non-pressure (dip) methods. AWPA standards allow dip treating to be used for products that will be used in specific applications. Refer to AWPA use standards at

Which wood preservative will work for me? - There are a variety of wood preservatives being used to treat wood. AWPA sets the standards for the treating industry. Any preservative that AWPA lists in their standards and is applied according to those standards for your specific application will offer you a high-quality product.

Is it safe to handle treated wood? - When handled properly, treated wood does not present a health risk. Treated wood products should always be handled according to the appropriate Consumer Safety Information Sheet.

What products are made from roundwood? - A wide range of products are made from roundwood. For a complete list of those produced and sold by IRA members click here.