Acetylation alters the cellular structure of wood in a process involving heat, pressure, and acetic anhydride - a compound found in a variety of products, including artificial sweeteners. Until recently, acetylated wood wasn't produced in the U.S. and could only be imported from Europe.

But now Eastman Chemical Co. is using the process to treat southern pine for a new line of decking dubbed Perennial Wood. The treatment minimizes water absorption and increases stability, says Eastman, while making the treated wood less susceptible to rot and decay and 25 percent harder than untreated wood.

The 5/4 by 6-inch deck boards - grooved to accommodate hidden fasteners - come in lengths of 8 feet, 12 feet, and 16 feet, and can be installed over framing 24 inches on-center.

Decking comes prefinished in four colors - cedar, redwood, mahogany, and Cape Cod (gray); matching railing kits, posts, fascia, balusters, and stair treads also are available. The decking, which has a 25-year warranty, can be purchased in the Northeast at Lowe's stores and at specialty deck dealers for about $3 a lineal foot; for an interactive map to locate a nearby retailer, go to the Perennial Wood website.

Scott Gibson is a freelance writer in East Waterboro, Maine.

Perennial Wood, 800/530-7495,