Wood protection techniques and natural weathering: their effect on aesthetics and preference of people
D Lipovac, M D Burnard, A Sandak, J Sandak
Current research successfully contributes to improving wood protection techniques. However, the vast majority of research on preventing degradation of wood ignores a critical aspect of making successful products and processes – user selection of materials, which may largely depend on the aesthetical qualities. Wood treatments change the tactile and visual properties of wood substantially and they are further altered by weathering. No matter how useful the wood treatment is, people will be reluctant to select materials they do not find appealing. For this reason, many valuable wood protection techniques may find it hard to reach their full potential on the market. To confront this challenge, we must carefully analyse how the visual and tactile qualities of treated (and weathered) wood influence human preference and material selection. To investigate this, we prepared 30 wood samples from several species that are either untreated or treated. As a first step, we assessed several sensory (i.e., colour CIE L*a*b*, gloss) and evaluative (e.g., naturalness) attributes of the materials. After this, we conducted a study in two phases. In the first phase, we presented all 30 samples simultaneously to 25 participants and asked them to choose their favourite five materials to be used as an outdoor table top surface based on their combined tactile and visual inspection (and rank these five favourite materials from most to least favourite). From the initial group of 30 materials, we selected the 10 wood samples that received the highest rankings. These 10 samples were then ranked from the most to least favourite by a new group of 50 participants. Following this, we carried out both phases once again with yet another two groups of participants (another 75 persons), except here, we used the naturally weathered versions of the initial 30 wood samples. The results demonstrate how preference and selection of wood vary with treatment types, species, weathering, and sensory and evaluative properties. As such, they can guide future research in creating and adapting materials and treatment techniques in line with human preference. With this, effective materials and treatments can become more widespread and thus ensure long-term protection of wood as well as economic and environmental sustainability.