Treated Poles: CCA (Tanalith) vs. Creosote Pole

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Treated Poles are the best route to follow if you are thinking about fencing, verandas or any construction project that will be exposed to weathering and other wood decaying factors. Congradulations on making the right choice of using treated timber for your project. 

But now you are faced with another dilemma. There are so many available treatment options, how do you choose? We discussed this briefly in a blog post last year : Understanding Timber Preservation.

But today we are going to focus on two of the most common and widely used timber treatments namely Tanalith (CCA) and Creosote. Without any further ado, let’s get into it. 


What is CCA and Creosote?

Basically, Creosote and CCA are treatments that are applied to wooden products to protect them from various wood deteriorating factors such as insects and weathering. There are different wood treatment methods available but these are two of the most commonly used treatments. Therefore, we decided to compare CCA Poles and Creosote Poles so that you can make an informaed decision. 

CCA Treatment

CCA has been widely used in South Africa since the 70’s as an industrial wood preservative. It was developed in 1933. Applying the CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate) treatment also called tanalith or  to timber enhances the durability by preserving it against biological deterioration such as wood destroying fungi, insects and weathering conditions. CCA may only be applied by an industrial high-pressure process in a controlled  facility. Thus the familiar term “pressure treated wood”. 

Pressure Treated Wood

Timber has a distinct green-ish tint after the CCA treatment.  Any type of wood can be treated: Pine, Gum Poles and other commonly used timber are usually treated with CCA when used outdoors. 

Treated Poles are most commonly used in the construction of fences, support structures and log homes. However, they have a wide variety of uses and applications. Therefore, when you are looking at purchasing CCA Treated Poles, it is important that you know what yoou will be using them for as this will indicate which CCA Treatment Class you will require. If you are unfamiliar with these classes, feel free to check out our previous posts like: CCA Classes, Wood Types and Grades Explained to help you figure out what grade and class you will need. 


CCA Treated Poles

The Pros and Cons



CCA Treated Poles are ideal for anyone that is looking to build something that will last without any extra maintenance.These treated poles can last anything from 20 years (minimum, when the correct class is used for it’s application) to longer depending on whether you used the correct class and if you have taken extra precautionary measures like staining and sealing it again before using it. 

Furthermore, the CCA Treated Poles do not leach any harmful chemicals into the soil. Therefore, it is more environmentally friendly and does not contaminate ground water or soil. Additionally, the treated poles last long with no maintenance. That means that by using CCA Treated Wood products you are helping reduce deforestation. 

Lastly, CCA is unique in the fact that it can be used inside, outside or anywhere you are looking to use it. This is due to the fact that there are different classes which controls the amount of product used and the depth penetration into the wood of these chemicals. 



Creosote is a commonly used wood preservative. It is a oil-based preservative that protects the wood against various attacks like fungus, wood borers and other insects. Creosote can also protect against the worst effects of weathering. It is important to not that there are two categories of Creosote treatments available: 

  1. DIY Creosote Paint
  2. Pressure Treated Creosote

“Creosote is a category of carbonaceous chemicals formed by the distillation of various tars and pyrolysis of plant-derived material, such as wood or fossil fuel” – Wikipedia

This treatment may be convenient in certain situations as it is a product that is fire-retardant and the DIY treatment can be applied after structure is already built. The DIY Creosote Treatment is applied by painting the chemical/oil onto any exposed wood surfaces to protect the wood. 

The Pros and Cons



While Creosote is a convenient and relatively easy oil-based preservative to apply on exterior wooden structures, it comes with many warnings. 

Treated Poles (Creosote) leaches into the ground over time. The chemicals in the treatment can then lead to groundwater contamination. Furthermore, for farmers looking to erect fencing or protective netting, creosote can be a difficult product to work with. This is due to the fact that is is harmful to animals and plants. When the creosote drips on plants and fruit, it can damage it to a point where it will no longer be able to be eaten. 

Furthermore, it is rare to use this treatment in the interior of your home due to the strong chemical smell that it gives off. 

CCA vs. Creosote

It is of the utmost importance to note that the information supplied above are general guidelines. 

Both these treatments can last a longer or shorter amount of time depending on environmental factors, treatment class and application of timber, wood treatment process and more. 

Due to this, it is always important that you contact manufacturers of treated timber and discuss your needs and application for these products as they will be able to assist you with all the needed information. 

At Sabie Poles, we strive to keep our clients informed on all areas of Timber Treatment. 

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