At one time, it seemed as though BluWood was everywhere. It was featured on home improvement and renovation shows including Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Mike Holmes in New Orleans, Disaster DIY, Love it or list it, Income properties, Holmes Inspection and House of Bryan (Baeumler). When you had the likes of Mike Holmes, Bryan Baeumler and Scott McGillivray singing its praises, it must have been an exceptional product, right?
I bought BluWood studs at Lowes (in Canada) to frame one of the walls in my basement. But a year later when I was preparing to frame another wall (yes, I work slow), BluWood had disappeared. I asked an associate. He didn’t have an answer, other than to say Lowes had stopped carrying it a year before.
So by my math, I got some of Lowes’ last stock.
I phoned the company. No answer. I fired off an email asking about its availability. No response. This miracle building product with all these wonderful properties had vanished without a trace.
So what happened to Bluwood?
What is (or was) BluWood?
According to the company’s media kit, which can still be found on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine:
BluWood is the name given to a family of wood frame building components with a proprietary factory applied, two-part coating technology. The first part of the technology is an Infusion-Film that forms a water-repellent semi vapor permeable film interlocking with the wood fibers to provide controlled topical and subsurface
The Infusion Film is also specially formulated to resist mould growth on the cured surface of the film.
The second part of this technology is the Perfect Barrier DOT Wood Preservative, a proven fungicide and insecticide that provides protection from rot fungi and wood ingesting insects, including termites. DOT, Disodium Octaborate Tetrahydrate, is a time-tested wood preservative used for the protection and treatment of lumber against fungal decay and wood destroying insects, including termites, widely used in the building industry. Virtually non-corrosive to metal, the DOT wood preservative used in conjunction with the Infusion-Film can also be exposed to harsh environmental job-site conditions for up to six months. [Source]
The infusion film is a “mould-resistant polymer film that bonds to wood at cellular level providing a vapor permeable moisture barrier.” It allows trapped moisture to escape while keeping external moisture from seeping in. The wood preservative protects against decay, as well as termites, carpenter ants and other insects that destroy wood.
In addition, BluWood claimed to have no VOC’s, and to be non-corrosive. It was recognized by LEED and listed in the GreenSpec directory.
While the manufacturer touted the protection of the building materials during the construction phase, when materials would be exposed to weather, it was easy to recognize the long term advantages of the product, especially in kitchens, bathrooms and basements and attics, where moisture and mould can wreak havoc.
Timeline / History
2001: BluWood is developed in the US by Woodsmart Solutions
2006: Featured on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
2007: Shelburne Wood Protection Limited purchased exclusive rights to use the treatment process and sell the product in Canada [Source]. Shelburne Ontario is a little more than an hour’s drive northwest of Toronto.
April 2011: Featured on Income Property with Scott McGillivray
February 2016: US website domain, bluwood.com, expires
July 2017: [Personal] I frame a basement wall with BluWood, not knowing of its imminent demise.
May 2018: [Personal] Date of my email to bluwoodcanada.com when I was unable to find the product at Lowes (stopped selling it a year prior)
June 2018: Last capture of bluwoodcanada.ca on the Internet Archive (Wayback Machine)
May 2019: North American lumber supplier Stella-Jones acquires Shelburne BluWood treatment plant for $9.2M [Source]
September 2019: Stella-Jones planned to double capacity of the plant and create 20 jobs [Source]. Quote from the source article: “Stella-Jones manufactures wood products for Home Depot and will be using a brown treatment chemical for their products instead of the former owner’s trademark blue.”
So did Stella-Jones plan to use the BluWood formulation? Or did they only want to use the equipment to produce their own product? Was the BluWood formulation even part of the sale? Besides color, is there a difference in the formulations? And did the facility ever re-open? I have been unable to find answers to these questions after searching extensively. But currently, as of April 2021, Stella-Jones does not list Shelburne among its 40 North American facilities. [Source]
So how does a product with so much promise just disappear?
The popular speculation is that the BluWood just didn’t sell well, considering its higher price tag over untreated lumber. Perhaps there just weren’t enough builders and DIYers buying into the hype. There were also some legal doings that I won’t get into here, but whatever the result(s) of litigation, lawyers don’t come cheap.
I did buy into the hype. I thought I was doing everything right in my basement by using mold and moisture resistant BluWood for the framing and mold resistant drywall. But now I realize that maybe Bluwood wasn’t so great after all.
Even though I framed that basement wall in 2017, I didn’t hang the drywall until the summer of 2018. This spring, I had to remove some of that drywall when I was reconfiguring the layout of the basement. And I uncovered something quite unexpected. After only 3 years, the drywall screws had rusted significantly. The heads of the screws were fine. But the portion of the screw that penetrated the wood had rusted.
So what was the cause? My wife asked some of her co-workers, I asked an insulation guy and a contractor with over 30 years of experience, and the general consensus is that it is likely a chemical reaction with the wood. In fact, as soon as I showed the contractor the screws, he immediately blamed the corrosion on a chemical reaction.
So, this begs the question. For everyone who jumped on the BluWood bandwagon 15 years ago, what condition are their fasteners in today, if mine look like this after only three years?
I should note here that I did not find reference to this issue on the Internet after an lengthy search.
Yup, I ripped it out
It was painful to disassemble that wall after only 3 years, but I just don’t trust the BluWood any longer. One of the claims was that it was non-corrosive. I have a pile of rusty drywall screws that say otherwise. So how much stock can I put in their other claims?
[I will be repurposing the lumber for some outdoor woodworking projects, so it won’t all be going to the landfill.]