It’s summertime and the living is easy—except that your deck is warped and the finish is peeling. You envision tedious labour ahead. Is there something you could have done differently to maximize the life of your wood deck?
Rod Stirling, FPInnovations manager of New Construction Materials and Gabrielle Boivin, researcher, Secondary Manufacturing, recently presented a webinar on “Maximizing the Service Life of Wood Decking,” with support from Natural Resources Canada and FPInnovations’ Value to Wood program. Here are the highlights:
- Boards that are kerfed underneath (cuts the width of a saw blade along the board) reduce cupping, while profiled boards (grooved texture on the upper surface of the board) reduce checking.
- Decks should be sloped two per cent to drain the surface water and well ventilated to prevent the accumulation of excess moisture.
Building a deck
- Wood decks can be made from naturally durable heartwood from western redcedar, eastern white cedar, yellow cedar, or from preservative-treated wood.
- Copper-based preservatives dominate the residential preserved-wood market and offer long-term protection against decay and termites, as well as added protection against the sun’s rays.
- End cuts and drill holes should be protected with an approved field-cut preservative.
- Select the right fasteners for the wood used. Stainless steel and hot-dipped galvanized fasteners are widely used. Screws are removable and resist popping. Nails that have spiral or ribbed shanks also resist popping.
- Overdriving fasteners causes a depression in the wood creating a water trap, speeding decay.
- Soap and water is a good deck cleaner for dirt but not for fungi. Oxygen bleaches are effective against dirt and staining fungi. You should always scrub in the direction of the grain.
- Chlorine bleach is not recommended. It will loosen fibres and accelerate discolouration.
- Pressure washing can damage a deck if not done with extreme care. Scrubbing is the safest and most effective cleaning method.
- Stripping off a previous coating is necessary before applying a new one if the coating has bubbled, cracked, or peeled.
- Avoid applying a coating or sealant in direct sunlight and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure you have two dry days and the temperature is between 10 and 32 degrees Celsius.
Climate conditions that favour wood decay have increased in several parts of Canada since the 1970s, according to the Scheffer Index, which uses climate data to predict the potential for wood to decay above ground.
“Central Alberta and Saskatchewan went from low to moderate risk, while the hypermaritime region of B.C. went from moderate to high risk of decay,” says Stirling. “Decking needs to be better than ever to withstand the changing weather patterns and to meet consumer expectations. Fortunately, this has led manufacturers to develop a greater variety of wood-deck protection and maintenance products. However, that means it can be difficult for the average homeowner to figure out which products are best for their deck.”
There is more useful information in the webinar that will help you get decked out for summer, such as choosing the right finish and the results of an ongoing maintenance test. The webinar is available in English and in French. For more information on extending the life of wood decking, contact Rod Stirling or Gabrielle Boivin.