Smelly lauan

The Wood Doctor is quizzed about bad-smelling lauan in a commercial bar. Diagnosis: anaerobic bacteria. Prognosis: terminal. Prescription: replacement. 1998.

by Professor Gene Wengert

We built a bar for a restaurant - lauan ribs,lauan ply and bending ply, p-lam interior, with foam padded vinyl exterior. The problem is that the owners are saying it smells like someone threw-up on it. The bar has been in place since Apr. The odor has been narrowed down to the lauan. Any thoughts?

The odor is caused by anaerobic bacteria that were in the living tree or that developed because the logs were stored in stagnant water. It is a well known phenomenon. The bacteria create fatty acids while they are alive (they are dead now) and then these acids turn rancid. With moisture, the smell returns. There is no cure other than replacement. Do you want more detailed information about this or is this enough? I could talk about this for an hour or more!

Professor Gene Wengert is Extension Specialist in Wood Processing at the Department of Forestry, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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