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 or was there a licensing deal? 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]
Update December 2021: See the comments below for possible developments.
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. This is all speculation.
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.]
i did some digging and i think i found the company that took over the intellectual property for blu-wood. so far this is the only dirt i can dig up on it. https://www.safeguardxfr.com/other-products interesting read. i still don’t know what it fully means, but it’s the only thing i’ve found that comes close. i started searching months ago for more info on the product and it’s demise after seeing it featured on old episodes from mike holmes and also after seeing your post. =] thank you.
Apologies for the late response.
That’s some decent detective work. It looks like the common thread is Michael E. Reed who owns the Bluwood trademark and is president of UltraSolutions LLC, which incorporates the Bluwood technology in their SafeGuard products (the link you provided).
Michael Reed is also listed the only agent for Woodsmart Solutions, which incorporated in 2018. Not sure what the business structure would have been prior to that or what his affiliation was with the company. But it looks like his truss company started using the Bluwood technology around 2004. Bluwood was developed in 2001 by Woodsmart Solutions
There is a Twitter account for UltraSolutions (@safeguardxfr) which was created in December of 2019, has 5 posts, with the most recent being in December 2019, and only 1 follower). Also a YouTube channel with one video with only 3 views posted in 2019.
So all of that is quite an interesting rabbit hole, but what is missing is information on the manufacture and distribution of the Safeguard products. There is, however, an invitation on the home page of the website for “investors for product development.” Read into that what you will.
We all know what happened in early 2020 so it isn’t surprising that the business would stall. The question remains what we can expect in the future.
My entire basement is framed with this product, and the bedrooms are in the basement. I’m getting worried that they found some negative health implications and shut it down.
From what I have read, the reason BluWood wasn’t successful had to do with the cost. There just weren’t enough customers convinced that it was worth the higher price point. I have not seen anything about negative health implications. Entire houses were built with this stuff. I’m sure if there was a health concern, we would be able to find something about it. That’s not the case. Everything points to a failed business venture.
When you build a deck with treated wood, you need specefic screws to build with the type of wood to prevent chemical reaction… thus your installation process was the problem for those rusty screws. Sorry to bring you the news. Yet the hype is legit, installed properly, this product is way better than raw wood. There even are fire-retardant treatments added to the bluwood to take it to the next level. Even joists!
I wish they could restart production soon but as we all know the global economy is wacky since march 2020… gotta be patient, or do it youself!
Have a good one!
After the 2007 San Diego wildfire destroyed our home in Rancho Bernardo, we rebuilt the new home out of Bluwood. The Material Safety Data Sheet listed borate compounds as the active ingredient in the membrane wood treatment. I had a 5-gallon bucket of hte liquid to treat all the cut surfaces as construction progressed. It was a fine product and cost me $3,600 over conventional douglas fir lumber in 2008. I rationalized it would save me the cost of tenting for termites. We had a 1-inch rain in San Diego when the frame was complete and it rained on the lumber, including all the plywood subfloors. No warping or peteration by water of the lumber at all.
I was looking for bluwood for a commercial project and after failing, I found your site. Borate treated lumber is not a new thing. Borate treated plywood is commonly used where non-combustible construction is required and I have never heard of corrosion with this product. Most fasteners I have pulled out of walls over the years show some signs of corrosion. Even kiln dry wood is still 19% moisture. Bluwood is typically used where there is danger of mold and you never ever have mold without moisture. Your wall assembly (some assumptions made here) is exterior water barrier-concrete-studs/insulation-interior vapour barrier-drywall. If there is water anywhere within that sandwich bag it’s trapped. Mold will grow on any untreated surface, the wood will absorb a higher moisture content, and steel will rust. Some moisture absorption by wood is not a bad thing but you will you see some light corrosion. Steel stud construction is worse because steel does not absorb moisture and you get condensation with the result the bottom tracks rust out. Using pressure treated material inside any wall cavity that is supposed to stay dry is an admission of possible failure by those constructing the assembly. Its great for reno work because you don’t know the work done by others.
Thank you for your comments and insights. The reason I used BluWood was because it had been marketed as an ideal material for basements. From what I have read, the copper in ACQ pressure treated lumber does cause a chemical reaction with standard drywall screws. If that was present in the formulation of BluWood, then it was likely a contributing factor to what happened in my case. Or perhaps it was a reaction to another ingredient of the BluWood formulation. And, as you point out, the presence of moisture could have also contributed. I tried to make it clear that the chemical reaction explanation came from just about everyone I had asked. I had originally assumed that the cause of the corrosion had been moisture. I do clearly state that it was all speculation.