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Study of Household Wood Product Performance + Pollution in a Flooding Scenario 

Material Experiment. Fall 2019.

This case study tested performance and toxicity related to household wood products in a flooding scenario. FEMA’s “Types, Uses, and Classifications of Materials” requires heavily treated and toxic products in an effort to withstand water damage, especially in flood prone areas. This requirement often means that a homeowner cannot obtain flood insurance without the inclusion of harmful product additives. This study finds that not only do these products still not withstand a flooding scenario, the resulting water pollution is exacerbated and increasingly harmful.


Materials tested include: A coated trim accent, 2x4, MDF, 1/4” plywood, 3/4” plywood, and a grouping of flooring options that included both hardwood and engineered wood. The samples were submerged for 14 days, with a ‘whole’ sample and a ‘damaged’ sample for each material type.

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Water + wood samples, left to right: trim, trim 'cut,' 2x4, 2x4 'cut,' MDF, MDF 'cut,' 1/4 plywood, 1.4 plywood 'cut,' 3/4 plywood, 3/4 plywood 'cut,' flooring, flooring 'cut'


Scoring was based on initial observations of physical performance of both the water and wood, followed by an additional chemical test on the water samples. The goal here was to determine which wood product could withstand a flood while remaining in tact and causing the least amount of water contamination. 

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Water Test Results

The data seen here informed the chemical analysis score seen in the chart above. 

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