If you search online, there are academic journals and online articles that can answer the question 'what is acetylation' in a very scientific way. But instead of spinning stories about hydroxyls, hydrogen atoms and other chemistry jargon, we can explain acetylation in the simplest terms (in the context of our wood) like this: Add vinegar to a softwood and it turns into a “hardwood,” and this prevents the cell walls in the wood from absorbing water.

So acetylated wood is…preserved wood? More or less. Yes.

Okay the chemistry behind 'it turns into' is a bit complex and the vinegar is acetic anhydride. But the principle is there. (The liquid is removed from the wood and recycled into vinegar for the food industry) If you want to know the chemistry behind acetylation, please feel free to contact with us!

Acetic anhydride? Is that a toxic chemical?

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Don't be put off by the chemical name. Since acetic anhydride is actually a composition of the reactive organic components carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. For example, table salt is also called sodium chloride and water, dihydrogen monoxide. Unfortunately, no one has come up with a sexy name for this vinegar yet.

Okay, so acetylation is not toxic.

Why are you going to attempt to acetylate your wood?

To understand the benefits of using acetylated wood, we must point out the importance of acetylated wood that does not absorb water into the cell walls. When you make something out of wood, one of the biggest problem makers is water!

When the wood is dry and well maintained, it is one of the best materials of all time. But if moisture/water is added, the problems pile up. With untreated, poorly treated or unmodified wood, water can cause a whole host of problems, including rotting, warping, swelling, shrinking and being food for hungry insects.

Acetylation prevents the problem at the source; instead of treating wood with a toxic chemical that tries to keep moisture out.

The result is wood that does not rot. It does not deform, swell or shrink and it is not insect food. The acetylated wood offers even more advantages than just preventing traditional problems. It is so dimensionally stable (retains its original shape and dimensions) that it is perfect for coating and has excellent durability. This wood bears the brand Accoya®. Accoya® is acetylated wood. In fact Accoya® the only acetylated wood and in our opinion the only wood for all your future challenging projects with wood.

So you no longer have the traditional risks with wood applications, for example wooden decking boardscladding, windows, doors, boats, tables, fences, porches, giant wooden sculptures, or whatever you want to make of them. It lasts so much longer than any traditional alternative. Accoya® wood is an investment in the future.

No rot. No shrinking or swelling. No problem!

Sounds great, what does this new technology deliver?

Actually, the technology is not new at all. Acetylation had existed for most of the 20th century. The problem is that it is relatively easy to do on a small scale, but very difficult to produce on a large scale. It is only recently that we have been able to acetylate larger volumes of wood consistently. So it was only commercially viable and available from mid-2007.

It's a wonder material! Reliable, environmentally friendly and sustainable.

How can wood be sustainable? Don't we cut down the rainforests to get this wood?

All wood is purchased from sustainable forestry. So all the wood used is purposefully planted. This means that fast-growing non-tropical wood with enormous biomass is used; the acetylated wood reduces/decreases CO2, and therefore good for the environment.

Clearing rainforests is a problem with unsustainable forest management. Boogaerdt will never accept such wood!

An exotic hardwood tree can take hundreds of years to grow. Vast swaths of rainforest are being cleared to extract these ancient trees to be turned into someone's wooden decking. This has resulted in a huge loss of CO2 storage and destruction of natural resources.

Despite responsible, sustainably produced forest management or not, most types of wood have a higher CO2footprint than Accoya®. Acetylated wood has an exceptionally low CO2footprint compared to alternatives. And much lower than products made from finite raw materials, such as concrete, steel, aluminum and plastic/plastic.

When I grow up I want to work with sustainable Accoya® wood

So coming back to the original question of what is acetylation? Technically it is a chemical process. But we can say that you use acetylated wood (Cradle to Cradle gold certified Accoya® wood) with confidence in all your projects involving wood. This way you invest in a sustainable product and protect our planet.

Request a free sample here.