NLT `Mass Timber’ Step

CCA-C `Above Ground’ Preservative Treated Lumber for an NLT Step

© Jeff R. Filler, May 2022, Pell City

This is so fun I can hardly stand it. I’ll edit later. I am working on some NLT steps for my wife’s `Chicken Palace’. The steps will be `massive’, thus NLT. NLT stands for `Nail Laminated Timber’. Some day (soon) I’ll write an article on NLT for the modern small farm. For now let me just say that the idea of NLT is perfect for day-to-day building on a farm, void of heavy equipment (tractors, forklifts, and so on). The idea is this: if you want to make something that has massive, solid chunks of wood, but such chunks are unavailable, unaffordable, or unmanageable, then make them out of smaller (available, affordable, manageable) pieces, laminated (fastened) together.

PT Lumber partially buried in junk pile

Pictured, sticking out of the ground, are preservative treated (PT) 2×6 and 2×4 pieces of lumber. They are sticking out of the dirt of an old garbage dump on my property. The dump, and lumber, are decades old. How do I know? The garbage dump site was at one time a pasture. The pasture was left to nature and was swallowed up by Alabama jungle. From what I know about the history of the property, and the junk, it’s been there for decades. Several years ago I was cutting trails into the jungle, discovered the pile, and pulled from it PT lumber from which I made my wife an NLT bridge for her garden. The idea of using PT wood was driven by the fact that the garden area is outside, subject to the weather, plus the watering of the garden, and plus being a bridge of an intermittent `stream’ that becomes alive with most rainstorms. The idea of using PT lumber from the pile was motivated by: 1) I like to use materials on hand, whenever possible, and avoid a trip to the lumber yard; and, 2) if the lumber has already lasted several decades in the hot, humid, wet, dark, damp, Alabama jungle, it will certainly last a few more in whatever I use it for.

Granted, some of the lumber was indeed rotted, and disintegrating, but there were a surprising number of boards with appreciable integrity. Now, mind you, I’m not using this lumber to span great spaces; on the other hand, for any modest loads to which it might be put to resist, I can always proof test it, and indeed did, for the NLT bridge. (Yeah, I’ll write it up some time.)

… 2 x 6 PT lumber unearthed

Back to the story at hand. The step will be massive and fully bearing. If the board(s) survive excavation, they’ll probably be okay. In fact, I’ll lift on one end, putting some stress into them, for extraction, as kind of a preliminary test. Whoa! They both came out intact! I will next cut the 2×6 board to lengths suitable for the `lams’ (laminations) that will make up the step.

The beauty of this whole process is that I can carry the individual pieces (2 x 6 nominal x 30 inches actual) to the step location quite easily, and construct the step in place. And thus I accomplish the very important fact that I don’t have to carry some whole step, found or made somewhere else, to the place where I am going to use it.

(I’ll write up the NLT Bridge thing later.)

Okay, here it is! Don’t laugh, dammit!  Four 2 x 6’s nail-laminated to a 6 x 6.  All ancient PT pieces found (discarded) on the property.  It only cost me 12 – 16d Sinkers, plus some kW-s of `electricity’ for my cordless saw. But what it saved me was my back! It’s just my wife and I on the farm at present, and I would rather make something in place, than have to get or make it someplace else, carry it.  AND MY WIFE LOVES IT!!!


NLT (PT) Step


1) It is beyond remarkable that the lumber has survived all this time, relatively intact, with portions buried and above ground. I don’t doubt that there might be some strength loss, but the lumber is intact, and just looks `weathered’.

2) The 2 x 4 still has the remains of an end-tag. I can barely make out `CCA-C ABOVE GROUND’. It apparently did pretty good in contact, and below ground, as well. I wonder if I can get enough info off the tag to date it? I don’t think so; it’s partial, and faded, and the staples to attach it quite rusted.