Types of Wood used in Wooden Cooling Towers

Types of Wood used in Wooden Cooling Towers

Wooden cooling towers have been an old construction mechanism but over the period of time due to environmental concerns and the introduction of new materials, fiber reinforced plastics have commonly become available.  Although at this stage, FRP is the preferred choice for building material, wooden cooling towers were the best choice until fiberglass came into production.

Still, there are many companies that use wood as the main source of construction of cooling towers.

The beginning history of wooden cooling towers:

Cooling towers were once made with redwood.  Redwood was lightweight, durable and inhibited decay over a long period of time thus preferred for cooling tower construction.

Since wood is comprised of cellulose, lignin, and natural extractives, it becomes a fit for this purpose. While the fibrous grains of cellulose give strength to wood, lignin supports cellulose binding and the extractives make it resistant to decay.  Redwood fit the bill since this type of wood was selected for cooling tower construction because it was highly durable and strong. Redwood was also easily availability, had low maintenance and would not decay easily.

But with the passage of time, the cost of redwood increased and Wooden Cooling Tower Manufacturers could no more get it available like before.  Hence, Douglas fir started coming in and this pressure treated wood became the norm of cooling tower components.  But the problem with Douglas fir was its resistance. It did not work well like redwood and indeed, decayed much faster than Redwood.  Ergo, lumbar pressure treatment came into effect to enhance the life of Douglas fir.

Pressure treatment calls for a vacuum and pressure cycle wherein CCA type aqueous solution is smeared over the wood and it is left to dry.  During the process, the oxide mixture dissuades leaching and preserving wood for the better against increasing levels of attack.

Leaching does make wood prone to decay faster although its strength does not go away so fast.  This way the efficiency of wooden cooling towers is hampered and repairs become frequent with replacement.  The circulating water leaches wood faster in a cooling tower.

With environment concerns and industrial norms becoming stricter about the leaching effects from wooden towers into the water, metal towers were seen as a substitute to wooden constructions as these were more sturdy and didn’t cause environmental concerns.


Preventive maintenance for the flooded parts of the tower is done through a water treatment program by using chlorine which can be supplemented by nonoxidizing antimicrobials that control slime and prevent biological surface attack.

In the non-flooded areas, internal decay is the principal problem.  Do a thorough inspection of the cooling tower at least once a year and do a blunt probe to check for its soundness or check sagging or softness of the tower wood. Microscope can be used to detect the presence of fungi.

Replacement of wood is one more option to keep other wood channels healthy because a weak flank will shift additional weight to other sections and the spread of internal decay.  Healty pretreated wood can replace a decaying wooden part.

Periodic antifungal spraying and then microscopic examination can bring about a close examination of the wood condition and to determine fungal growth.  Some wood preservatives like ammoniacal copper arsenite, fluoride chromate arsenate phenol or chlorinated paraffin can be applied to the wood for its longer life and workability.



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