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Formaldehyde is colorless gas comprised of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon.  In higher concentrations, it has a pungent smell.  Small amounts of formaldehyde are naturally produced by humans, animals and plants and may be emitted by fruits, vegetables, trees, and raw wood. 

Formaldehyde is also produced from combustion associated with the burning of kerosene and natural gas, automobile emissions, and cigarettes.  It is also an important industrial chemical used in the manufacture of numerous consumer products including permanent press fabrics and even toothpaste. 

Low levels of formaldehyde are generally considered to be harmless.  When formaldehyde is emitted into air, it is broken down into carbon dioxide, usually within hours.  Formaldehyde is naturally attracted to water, where it is readily absorbed and breaks down.  Formaldehyde does not build up in humans or plants. 

High levels of formaldehyde may cause serious health concerns.  At high levels, formaldehyde can cause symptoms including itchy eyes, bloody nose, sore throat, and a persistent cough.  Long-term exposure to high concentrations may increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.

When considering formaldehyde emissions from wood products, it is important to understand that different types of adhesives are used in the manufacture of wood products.   

Urea formaldehyde adhesives are not waterproof; they are typically used in products which are used indoors where high moisture resistance is not required.  Such products include decorative hardwood plywood, particleboard and medium-density fiberboard which are commonly used for decorative wall paneling, kitchen cabinets, furniture, shelving, and underlayment.

Phenol-formaldehyde (phenolic) adhesives are highly durable and waterproof; they are typically used in engineered wood product applications recognized by North American building codes for structural applications.  Because the vast majority of North American construction involves site-built conditions where exposure to weather is expected, product standards require a moisture-resistant adhesive system.  The inherent structural and moisture durability of phenolic adhesives naturally results in very low formaldehyde emissions. 

Formaldehyde problems have been associated with certain urea-formaldehyde adhesives but not with phenol-formaldehyde adhesives.  Richply uses only phenol-formaldehyde resin adhesives in 100% of the plywood we manufacture.

NAUF is an acronym that stands for “No Added Urea Formaldehyde”.  It is a term used in the construction industry to describe products manufactured by the wood industry that specifically eliminate the use of urea formaldehyde resin adhesives from the laminating and bonding phase of the manufacturing process.

Urea Formaldehyde is a reference to the type of resin that is used as a bonding agent in hardwood decorative plywood and composite wood panels such as Particleboard and Medium Density Fibreboard.  Formaldehyde emission problems have been associated with urea formaldehyde adhesives.

Phenol Formaldehyde is a reference to the type of resin that is used as a bonding agent in engineered wood products recognized by North American building codes for structural applications.  The inherent structural and moisture durability of phenolic resin adhesives results in very low formaldehyde emissions. 

Richply uses only phenol formaldehyde resin adhesives in 100% of the plywood we manufacture.  Richply plywood contains No Added Urea Formaldehyde (NAUF).

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) formaldehyde regulations of composite wood products began in the early 1980s for particleboard and decorative plywood panels used in manufactured homes.  Upper limits for formaldehyde emission rates have been established for wood panel building products made with urea-formaldehyde adhesives and permanently installed in homes or used as components in kitchen cabinets and similar industrial products.  

Testing used to monitor products for compliance confirms the emission levels from moisture resistant phenol formaldehyde adhesives used to make engineered wood products, including structural plywood, are very low and readily meet the plywood emission limits; therefore, the HUD regulations explicitly exempt phenolic bonded plywood from ongoing testing and certification. 

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) formaldehyde regulations for composite wood products accepts the demonstrated low emission levels of engineered wood products recognized in US and Canadian building codes for structural applications and explicitly exempts certified structural plywood specified to product standards PS-1, CSA-0121, and CSA-0151.

The implementation of the national formaldehyde emissions regulations within the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) Title VI is aligned with the requirements of CARB.  The scope of both these regulations is specific to particleboard, medium density fiberboard (MDF) and hardwood/decorative plywood and finished goods manufactured from them.  The U.S. Formaldehyde Standards from Composite Wood Products Act explicitly exempts certified structural plywood specified to product standard PS-1, CSA-0121, and CSA-0151.

Richply uses only phenol formaldehyde resin adhesives in 100% of the plywood we manufacture.  All plywood manufactured by Richply contain No Added Urea Formaldehyde (NAUF) and are exempt from US HUD, CARB, and TSCA Title VI formaldehyde regulations due to very low emission rates.

The IPPC, or International Plant Protection Convention, is a globally ratified treaty that aims to reduce the spread of diseases and pests that threaten plants.  Member nations have worked to produce the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures 15 (ISPM 15) for the purpose of protecting the health of the world’s forests by restricting the inadvertent transportation of forest pests in wood used for packaging and dunnage in international shipments. 

According to ISPM 15 standards, wood packaging materials requires solid wood to be debarked and treated with heat, or fumigated, and marked with a seal of compliance.  Pallets, boxes and crates made entirely with engineered wood products (including plywood) are exempt from the ISPM 15 regulations.  This is because the process of manufacturing plywood/engineered wood products destroys any live organisms in the wood.

Accordingly, we do not mark our panels or packages with the IPPC mark.  However, the solid wood (lumber) dunnage that we use for packaging our panels has indeed been treated in accordance with the Canadian Heat-Treated Wood Products Certification Program to meet the ISPM 15 requirements.

Plywood is the original engineered wood product. 

Plywood is an engineered building panel manufactured by laminating thin layers or “plies” of wood veneer that are arranged with grain direction rotated 90 degrees to adjacent layers and bonded together with thermo-setting phenolic resin adhesive under heat and pressure in a hot press to form a panel.  

Plywood may have an even number of plies, but it always has an odd number of layers, each layer consisting of one or more veneer layers.

By alternating grain direction between adjacent layers, strength and stiffness in both directions are maximized, and shrinking and swelling are minimized.

Glue bond classification is a function of veneer grade and adhesive performance.  The bond classification is related to the moisture resistance of the adhesive bond under intended end-use conditions and does not relate to the physical (erosion, ultraviolet, etc.) or biological (mold, fungal decay, insect, etc.) resistance of the panel.

Plywood panels with an Exterior glue bond rating are suitable for repeated wetting and drying or long-term exposure to weather, moisture, or other conditions of similar severity. 

Plywood panels with an Exposure 1 rating are suitable for uses not permanently exposed to weather and are intended to resist the effects of moisture on structural performance as may occur due to construction delays or other conditions of similar severity.

Douglas-Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is one of the world’s best-known and most widely used wood species.  The sapwood is light in colour and of narrow width.  The heartwood ranges from yellowish to reddish-brown.  Earlywood and latewood have a pronounced difference in colour, the latewood having darker, more sharply defined bands.  This colour difference results in a distinctive grain pattern when rotary peeled that will “redden” over time when exposed to light.  It is also tight knotted and close-grained, adding the bonus of beauty to its structural capabilities.

Due to its strength, Douglas Fir is primarily used for building and construction.  It is one of the finest species for heavy structural purposes, including glulam beams and roof trusses.  Structurally, it is used in the form of plywood, lumber, timbers and pilings.  It is hard durable and resistant to abrasion, making it ideal for uses where wear is a factor, as in concrete forming applications.  Even in wet service conditions such as concrete formwork, Douglas Fir is one of the strongest softwood species available; stable, stiff, with high strength values in bending, tension, horizontal sheer and compression.

The rich visual quality, fine texture and straight attractive grain pattern make Douglas Fir ideal for use in fine craftsmanship and joinery such as for custom cabinets, doors, window and door casings, mantels, stairs, baseboards and furniture.  This species is well known for its workability and machining qualities. It provides a tough surface that will hold a finish, maintain its appearance under extreme wear.

Douglas Fir’s strength, beauty and toughness are all prime reasons for choosing this long-lasting species for plywood.

Richply strongly recommends that any wood exposed by cut edges or holes should be re-sealed or painted.  Re-sealing cut edges helps inhibit the absorption and migration of moisture and alkalis from the concrete mix into the panel edges.  Without re-sealing, cut edges typically swell, break down faster, and become weaker which serves ultimately to shorten the expected service life of the panel.

As a recommendation, 100% acrylic house paint works well for this application.  The solids content of the paint is important as the more solids you have the better holdout you get per application.  Since most edge sealing that takes place in the field or at the mill level is done in a single coat application, it is better to have a higher solids content product that will provide sufficient single coat coverage.  Lower cost acrylic house paints tend to have lower solids contents in the range of 25 to 35% by weight, and these products are not capable of good single coat coverage, particularly when they are roll or brush applied.  Paints with solids contents closer to 50% provide the best single coat coverage.

Buying on price is false economy.  Formwork materials represent only a small portion of the total installed concrete cost.  Any attempt to cut corners on materials costs, particularly concrete form MDO and HDO, needs to factor the corresponding effects on labor and productivity costs.  Oftentimes, the upfront savings disappear quickly because the cheaper material did not last, and the forms needed to be reskinned or resurfaced. 

It has been estimated that formwork, including materials and labor, accounts for between 35 to 60 percent of the total installed concrete cost.  For example, in a typical wall form, installed concrete costs are comprised of 40% labor, 30% steel, 20% concrete, and only 10% for the form material including plywood and lumber supports.1  Although these allocations may vary from job to job, the overall proportions remain fundamental in today’s commercial construction markets. 

Buying a low-durability low-use formwork panel on the basis of price actually costs more in the end.  For every low-durability panel purchased, it will require replacement more frequently incurring labor costs in a $4 to $1 ratio every time that material is changed out.  Any anticipated up-front savings anticipated from the low sticker price of the formwork panels is quickly wiped out; not only by the need for additional quantities of formwork panels, but also the unanticipated additional labor cost associated with its repeated installation, removal and disposal. 

Using a durable concrete form panel that lasts can help control formwork costs and reduce the overall installed concrete cost.

1 “A Guide to Specifying Formwork for Concrete”, M.K. Hurd, Copyright 1979.

Consumers are constantly choosing between the quality and price of a product or service.  All too often, consumers are forced to accept lower quality because of budget constraints.  And unfortunately, imported plywood panels coming into North America are not always what they seem despite manufacturer’s or distributor’s claims.

APA – The Engineered Wood Association has cautioned the marketplace to beware of imported panels from China and Brazil that are either unmarked or improperly or fraudulently labeled.  APA conducted tests to benchmark the adhesive, mechanical and connection properties of uncertified Imported plywood relative to North American plywood certified to U.S. Product Standards PS 1.  The results indicated that many Imported uncertified plywood panels exhibited inferior mechanical and connection properties and had excessive levels of formaldehyde.  

For Industrial applications, Imported plywood’s reputation for widespread quality and performance issues demonstrates that it is a difficult product to work with.  APA adhesive test results revealed the Chinese plywood tested failed the boil-cycle and vacuum-soak tests indicating the use of non-moisture resistant adhesives that emitted high levels of formaldehyde in excess of CARB limits.  All APA certified PS 1 panels are explicitly exempt from formaldehyde regulations.  APA edge and face screw withdrawal test results revealed values for Chinese plywood averaged 75% and 81% of PS 1 plywood for edge and face screw withdrawal values respectively.

In Concrete Forming applications, the most prevalent formwork activities associated with construction worker safety are concrete pouring, formwork erection, and formwork stripping.  Uncertainties and randomness in material properties of Imported plywood make it difficult to assess the safety risk associated with the strength of the concrete form panels and the reliability of the formwork designs to safely withstand the levels of loading without failure.  APA bending test results revealed the Chinese plywood tested had lower bending strength along the strength axis; bending stiffness (EI) and maximum moment (MM) were 55% and 71% respectively of PS 1 conforming panels.

Richply manufactures plywood to North American Product Standards under Quality Assurance by APA – The Engineered Wood Association.  All plywood manufactured by Richply is stamped with APA trademarks and grade stamps that simplify the specification, identification and use of plywood structural panels.  Consumers can be confident that Richply panels provide consistent and reliable performance. 

APA Product Advisory: Imported Hardwood Plywood vs. Domestic PS 1, Form SP-1136. (2007)

APA Product Advisory: Imported Plywood Panels from Brazil Form SP-1185. (2018)

Customers worldwide can trust Richply as a reliable supplier of plywood from legal and sustainable sources.  Plywood panels from Richply are made from wood sourced through a system that is third-party certified to international standards such as the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). 

Forest Certification is a voluntary practice that provides assurance to customers that the forest products they are buying come from well-managed forests.  Third-party independent auditors verify that Richply is in compliance with sustainable forest management (SFM) standards, requirements and objectives that meet public expectations and ensure the conservation of wildlife habitat, biodiversity and water quality, as well as ensuring all harvested areas are promptly regenerated.

With an extensive and rigorous system of forest governance, Canada has negligible risk of illegal logging.  British Columbia (B.C.) Canada has some of the toughest regulations backed by well-developed enforcement regimes and is a trusted supplier of legal forest products from sustainable sources.

Ultraform can be manufactured using either a High Flow paper (maroon edge-seal) or a Matte paper (blue edge-seal).  Both are medium density overlays using a kraft base paper.  The Matte opaque paper is treated with a glue line that cures and bonds to the wood veneer in our hot press.  High Flow describes how the resin adhesive impregnated into the paper flows and cures under the heat and pressure of our hot press.  High Flow tends to densify on the faces better with the resin flowing to where it’s needed most, ultimately giving High Flow better bonds with the plywood substrate and more durability or longevity.  This resin flow and densification also yields the translucent appearance of the paper on the panel surface; you will be able to see the underlying grain of the face veneer with Ultraform High Flow, which is good because it keeps us (Richply) honest as there’s no hiding panel defects or blemishes.  The merit of regular Matte paper is that it tends to mask the grain transfer or impart a slightly better finish to the concrete surface than a High Flow paper does in the early pours of the panel service life.

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