Protecting wood with recycled materials

By: Rachael Rees - Aug 08, 2013
Source: The Bulletin
To maximize the life of wood posts and poles, Ken Carhart developed Rotbloc, a wrap made from recycled rubber and plastic that protects the wood from decay.


The Bend resident started Rotbloc LLC in January, began manufacturing in July and launched the product online about two weeks ago. The patent is pending, he said.

“The weakest link in any fencing system is right where the post enters the ground," he said, calling it the critical rot zone.

In the first few inches of soil, oxygen levels are higher and the agents of decay — fungi, bacteria and organic matter — are at their highest levels, Carhart said. Rotbloc serves as a barrier between the post and the surrounding soil, which protects the wood from the critical rot zone.

To apply Rotbloc takes under a minute, he said. The product is wrapped around the wood, cut to fit and secured with nails, staples, banding or zip ties. Rotbloc costs about $35 per 20-foot roll.

“It's been designed to be extremely versatile and easy to use," he said, noting it fits over square and round poles. “This product is designed to fit into specialty markets like utility poles, but you might also see it in the Home Depot aisle or that type of thing, for the do-it-yourselfer."

In addition to protecting the wood, he said, Rotbloc also prevents chemicals in treated wood from leeching into the soil.

Carhart first experimented with ways to slow down wood decay while studying at University of Oregon in the 1990s.

His research was geared at finding a sustainable way to reduce wood decay that didn't involve adding additional harsh chemicals. But his efforts were unsuccessful.

After graduation he pursued a career in sales and distribution of wood products, and through that experience, he said, he got more familiar with the way wood-treating facilities operate, as well as the frustrations people had when the posts in their $100,000 fencing would fail. This led Carhart back to the drawing board, and after several years of research he found a solution.

“Rotbloc is essentially an add-on to a treated post," he said. “There's lots of variances to how long a post is going to last, and (Rotbloc) essentially evens all of that out ... Rotbloc eliminates the early-stage problems and maximizes the life of the entire system."

He said he's been financing everything on his own, but was recently awarded a business loan through Craft3, a nonprofit lender, that he expects to come through next week. Right now he said he doesn't have the demand to build a local manufacturing plant, so a contract manufacturer in the Midwest makes Rotbloc. But he hopes to eventually manufacture in Central Oregon.

“The big vision is to produce Rotbloc in multiple regions, including Central Oregon," he said. “In a perfect world we would be developing and manufacturing closer to home and using our local recycled tires and water bottles."

— Reporter: 541-617-7818, rrees@bendbulletin.com

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