New solution to prevent plywood delamination

A collaboration between Nicks Timber and Protek has created a range of products designed to prevent moisture ingress into plywood and other sheet materials.

The industry has long been dealing with issues surrounding exterior-use plywood and sheet materials. Although these products are treated to enable them to be used for exterior applications, when they are cut on site, it creates an edge that has not been treated, exposing the board to the elements and allowing moisture ingress that can cause delamination and failure over time.

ESP Panel (Edge Seal Protection) is an eco-friendly, non-toxic, odourless paint designed to prevent water ingress to the edges of plywood and all other sheet materials to protect and stop de-lamination. It creates a watertight seal around the edge of the boards and is suitable for external use and in high-humidity areas.

ESP prevents moisture ingress into plywood and other sheet materials.

Also in the range is ESP Timber (End Seal Preservative) – a topically applied, water-based end grain preservative for the retreatment of cut or bored pressure-treated timber. Once applied, the ESP Timber prevents rotting on cut edges by sealing them against moisture ingress. It can be brushed, low-pressure sprayed on or used as a dip, and also protects against rot, fungi and blue stain. It can also treat cut bare wood to Use Class 2 and Use Class 3 standards.

ESP Timber is coloured to match all widely used pressure treatments, with a brown option for landscaping products, green for decking and ‘Tanalised’ timbers, and a clear option for joinery products where a tint is not needed.

Phil McCormick, Managing Director of Nicks Timber, says: “Merchants have been having problems with delamination of some Chinese plywoods due to the failure of the glue line and core gaps, small air pockets, which allow water ingress and can cause delamination.

“Industry advice has, for years, been to seal the edges to ensure performance on exterior grades, but there was not a suitable product on the market to achieve this – until now.”

ESP Panel has been tested and, Phil says, results show that it works on OSB for jointing and can make cut softwood and hardwood exterior plywoods safe for use outdoors again.

Merchant recommendations

The collaboration between the two businesses has seen Nicks Timber take care of the product testing, while Protek has dealt with the chemistry and manufacturing works. Now, Nicks Timber will be responsible for taking this product to market, with a new subsidiary company – Protek ESP Ltd – being created through which ESP will be sold and supplied.

Merchants are already beginning to stock ESP, with some recommending its use at the point of invoice of every plywood sale. This, Phil says, will protect the supplier against complaints if recommended site practice is not followed and there are problems as a result.

He explains: “In my opinion this is as much the responsibility of the seller as the buyer. Merchants should always ask ‘what is this being used for’ so they can supply the right products for the end use. For a decade we have been telling clients what is required, but without a product that we can recommend that will do the job. Now ESP exists, merchants can confidently point their customers in the right direction and, most importantly, avoid the risk of future claims and complaints.”

Unexpected uses

With almost 27 million sheets sold in the UK each year, Phil says they have received many positive comments from those who have tried ESP, with it also being used in some unexpected places.

Phil says: “It has been used for quick temporary repairs on flat roofs, and a kitchen fitter has started to use it to seal the holes drilled to take taps in worktops so that water stops getting in and blowing the chipboard core. Its ability to form a watertight joint between boards also makes it a must on OSB when used for roofing projects. So, the market is already expanding.”

Reducing site costs

Phil believes that, by using ESP, plywood users can also reduce material costs by being able to use exterior ply instead of the more expensive marine ply grade.

“The problems previously associated with moisture ingress are less likely to occur in higher grade marine ply products, which is why many users have switched to them over the years, but this greatly increases the costs.

“Using ESP ensures that exterior grade Plywood performs in an exterior setting and that its performance and longevity is as it used to be. We hope that when people know about ESP, they will be able to return to specifying exterior grade with ESP Panel applied.”

Phil is Chair of the Timber Development UK committee responsible for timber trading standards and is focused on the need to identify and resolve problems wherever possible, educating the timber supply chain on best practice.