Problems that can happen and how to address them aka Decking Wisdom

According to Wikipedia, Murphy’s law is an adage or epigram that is typically stated as: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. Keeping this in mind, a large deck project, with wood that weights a ton, or several tons, is ripe for Murphy’s attention. We talk to a lot of contractors and homeowners. Here are some of the areas that keep coming up. Some are problems, some are perception. We want you to be able to handle any issue with confidence.

Last Minute orders: Okay, this happens all the time. Customers will research decking and decks. They spend months planning the layout and pricing. When they are ready to buy they want the wood to arrive tomorrow. The reality is that Brazilian Hardwoods are all special ordered. If you were to walk into a big box store and special order any product they would tell you it would take a month. That is the norm and you need to plan for that in your timeline. If the Ipe decking you need is in stock, then it will probably be ready to ship in a week. Then assume the trucker will take a week to get it to you. Let’s be clear, for an instock product you should plan at least two to three weeks. If you need any special milling or grooved wood you should add another week to that or put three to four weeks in your timeline. Your Ipe Decking may come earlier, but you do not want the job shut down due to lack of your Garapa or Cumaru Decking.

Wood Damaged in Shipping: This is not as common but does happen. The wood arrives and due to the weight of the crate it broke. The decking is all over the back of the truck. First off in the words of Arthur Dent, DON’T PANIC. Calmly call ABS and let us know. Take pictures of the decking on the truck. This is very important!!!! A delivery driver will tell you anything you want to hear and then forget as soon as he drives away. Pictures tell the story.

Do not sign the Proof of Delivery (POD) until you have had a chance to do an inventory. If there are damaged boards, mark them on the POD. Always estimate high for the ones you did not see. Then GET A COPY of the POD. Take a picture with a phone if necessary! We have had POD sent that the damage was scribbled out by the delivery driver. Unscrupulous and it makes filing a claim next to impossible. If you do not have a copier, use your phone to take a nice picture.

Now, here is the secret. Ipe, Cumaru, Garapa and Tigerwood are so hard the damage if any, is superficial. Once you look the boards over you will flip over any with damage and the other, nice side, will go up. If you have anything like a scratch, it will rarely if ever be deep. Just hit it with an orbital sander with 80 grit paper and the scratch will vanish. I have literally gotten photos of decking on the back of a truck that looked like a total loss. Once the contractor assessed the boards he used them all. Premium Brazilian Decking hardwoods are that good!

Mis-cut, Mis-measures and Mistakes (oh my). This is a common problem with our homeowner customers. Let me clarify this. Everyone contractor or homeowner has problems with mis-cuts, mis-measures and mistakes. Contractors as a rule order enough ipe decking over that they just continue on the job. Homeowners usually try to order exactly the number of boards they need. When that happens there is one of two results and one solution. Either they do not order enough, or they make a mistake. Both of these result in another order of just a few boards. First, the job is stopped. Second, the shipping on a few boards is extremely high relative to the ipe cost. If we are lucky and the boards are short we can ship UPS Ground and save a few pennies. Contractor always order 5% to 10% more than they need. Then they use it all.. The risk is high, be sure to order an extra 5 to 10% extra Ipe Decking. Remember, if you do end up with a few extra boards you can always make a planter or other accessory.

Weird looking Marks on my Ipe: We get this call from time to time. The light colored marks across the boards are from Stacking Sticks. The sticks are designed to allow air flow around the boards when they are shipped from Brazil. Once we pull your order for shipment we discard them as they are no longer needed. However, the outline remains. The stick marks are normal and will weather out of the decking after it is installed. This is just a normal part of all the various Brazilian decking.

Garapa Black Marks: We get this call on occasion. What happens is iron or steel have been allowed to sit on your Garapa Deck. When that happens black marks will appear. Even just filing from installing an metal handrail can cause this. When using metal around Garapa be sure to first avoid it, and if that is not possible clean the Garapa completely when you are finished.

Special Ado about Tongue and Groove: A tongue and groove deck is a deck but looks like a floor. T&G is blind screwed so no fasteners are visible hence the flooring look. T&G Decking is only recommended on covered porches. Remember that T&G decks are not waterproof – you must always allow for drainage and ventilation. Moisture trapped below the deck or underneath deck boards will cause cupping. Like all deck installations, sloping the soil will help insure no standing water causing high humidity moistuer issues. Freezing winters are hard on exposed T&G due to expansion and contraction. For decks without roofs, standard decking is recommended.

NEVER install subfloor underneath ANY decking. This will cause cupping.
ALWAYS use subfloor adhesive to fasten T&G deck boards to the joists. This prevents sideways and vertical movement.
T&G deck board ends do not need to meet on joists. The hardness and the minimal movement enables the tongues to support the boards.

ACQ MCQ: Always ensure the connection between the floor and the main structure is flashed with MCQ compatible flashing. Always use MCQ Compliant fasteners when installing decking into PT. You cannot use indoor flooring fasteners as the chemicals in PT will quickly destroy them. For best results, stainless steel fasteners are the only ones you should use with Pressure Treated lumber. Pre-drilling is required when installing Brazilian decking as it is so hard you cannot screw or nail it. In addition, apply wax emulsion to the ends of boards when cut to help prevent end checking. This works very well.

Buckling of Decking: All wood will shrink and expand at a far greater rate outside than indoors. So, a deck may end up buckling if boards are jammed together too tightly during installation. T&G decking is not indoor flooring and must not be installed too tightly – this will prevent the deck from warping. Standard decking should also be installed to leave some room for expansion. All wood displays minor shrinkage and expansion after installation. T&G porch flooring will expand and contract in proportion to the width of the boards. Therefore, 5” wide T&G planks will have cracks 65% bigger than 3” wide planks. This is one of the reasons that houses were built with very narrow flooring before we had HVAC to control the climate inside a home. Narrower planks display smaller cracks during times of low humidity like winter.

Wood Imprefections make it unique: The beauty of wood is the unique characteristics between the species and from board to board. For example, Cambara’s mahogany-like grain displays minor checking when dry which closes when humidity returns; long planks of Ipe’ and Cumaru may occasionally have small BB sized holes; and American pine planks have large knots. Products without these characteristics would be extremely expensive and diminish the wood’s appeal.

Finishing or not: Unlike traditional decks and porches, Brazilian hardwood does not need any painting or finishing. Like most woods, if you choose to leave it unfinished, it will weather to a silvery gray. If you desire, you can greatly reduce the graying by treating your Brazilian hardwood with a good sealer. Sealers which include UV protection like Penofin are very effective.

All wood splinters: Wood workers are very familiar with this basic law. Common sense precautions should always be observed. For example, use gloves when handling and do not slide on wood decking or flooring.