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An example of proper deck flashing and water sealing.

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Here we see vinyl deck flashing with a short return down the face of the ledger joist (the first board attached to the home), the siding was cut and removed and the ledger attached directly to the house framing and sheathing. adhesive flashing was also placed behind the ledger and extends down and just over the next siding board so that any possible moisture penetration is routed outside the siding again. The vinyl flashing extends up under the door and the siding adjacent to it. You can also see how a small notch was cut into the outside joist so that the 3/8″ return on the vinyl flashing can extend down through it so no water can travel across the top of the joist.

   It is important that the flashing either be vinyl, stainless steel or that Vycor deck protector either covers the pressure treated wood or is used in place of traditional flashing. Standard painted or galvanized flashing will rust away in short order.

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Incorrect stain application will yield unstiafactory results.

I received a call today from a homeowner that was concerned that a stain they had purchased had damaged the wood on their deck. They used Cabot Australian wood oil, which is actually a pretty good product. The wood was darkening and looking stained. After having them send pictures and asking questions it was clear that the problem was  the application methods. One other problem that doesn’t help is that doing the project on the cheap and using Douglas Fir 2×6 instead of an actual decking is never going to last. First the deck was stained right after installation not allowing the wood to “cure”, dry and and be ready to accept stain deep into the material. Second, the stain was applied way too thick. Both of these things allowed stain to stay on the surface of the wood rather than penetrate. When stain remains on the surface it gathers contaminants and undergoes a chemical change and darkens and looks horrible. This also frequently happens when people re-stain a deck without adequately removing all of the old stain. The old stain will block the new from penetrating yielding the same unpleasant results. I recommend leting a deck or fence dry for 4-6 weeks and then make sure to wipe away any excess stain with a tack free cloth or apply more sparingly.

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Timbertech Earthwood Evolutions, maybe not so evolutionary…

Although Timbertech has been a solid performer for some time their “wood look” options have been problematic. The original Earthwood, a conventional wood/plastic composite was one of the better looking boards available and the first with a decent hidden fastener solution. Unfortunately it scratched very easy and it’s smooth finish did little to hide any damage that occurred. Presumably Evolutions hoped to address this issue adding a co-extruded construction to the board and deeper colors with a textured finish. I’m afraid the R&D department dropped the ball on this one. The polymer layer (the co-extruded part) is both too thin and not nearly hard enough and the textured finish is not enough so. I found during the install process that it was difficult to not incur incidental damage. Impacts from tools or as fine as a piece of gravel in a boot would leave significant marring on the surface and the light texture did little to obscure this. I find it hard to imagine it looking very good down the road even under typical home wear conditions.Decking solutions from Azek, Trex and Fiberon all have much harder polymer layers and resist damage much better. I’m afraid that as a professional I would have to decline the opportunity to install this product again, too bad bacause it does have a nice appearance.

   Timbertech has many other fine products but, I cannot recommend Earthwood Evolutions.

New wood top rail option for Alumarail systems.

Alumarail has been the top choice for deck railing for years but, sometimes a more organic look is desirable.

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Series 400 top rail allows you to attach a wood of your choice to your aluminum railing so you can keep the character of your wood deck but have the strength and easy maintenance of the Alumarail system. This railing also incorporates stainless steel cables for the infill. The deck is Brazilian Ipe and the rail cap is Dark Red Meranti from Indonesia.

Vinyl Fence with the look of real wood!

Vinyl fencing has been a reliable alternative to wood for years. Crisp white finishes always look brand new if kept clean. Some homes and situations are not a good match for that bright white appearance. I just performed an install in just such a situation. The job was further complicated by the desire to have a fence nearly 8 feet tall. A real wood solution was what was originally requested but I suggested the owner look at vinyl, at first they hesitated because white would reflect so much light onto their living space as the backyard was quite small. I showed them some samples of a tan colored vinyl and tongue and groove infill of a product called “Peak”. Peak fencing has a real wood look but all the desirable attributes of vinyl.

One complication with 8 foot fencing is that you must have a permit and engineering, we were able to obtain loading calculations direct from the vendor rather than hire an engineer for the task. This saved us hundreds of dollars in the permitting process. We were able to use a metal insert inside the vinyl posts to obtain the required loading limits for this area.

The customer is very happy with the installation and product, they have the height, privacy and ease of maintenance they were hoping for.

Mixed Review on Elite Deck

I recently installed a deck using a treated lumber product, Elite Deck. I have avoided treated decking in the past because of the tendency of the the fir lumber it is made from to split, cup, and check as it dries. This product comes in three colors and grey was chosen for this project. I was very concerned about this material because of my past experiences with similar products.

My general impression of the material is mixed, I liked the color, it is pleasing and goes good with the color of the home and was uniform. The overall quality of the lumber was below average in my opinion, I can pick a little better grade out of framing lumber at the yard, knot content and straightness was slightly below average for fir lumber. I would expect a decking material to be above average. The efficiency during install was a little low, the material had a tendency to split on the butt joints even when pre-drilled so you will want to budget a little extra lumber if  you choose this product. This sounds overly negative I think but, considering the cost and the lack of needed maintenance down the road it may be worth it. The proof will be if it resists the splitting and cupping that this type of product has been prone to. This particular installation will get a deck cover and that played into the decision for the customer, the sun and UV radiation is the primary problem for this family of decking product.

I took several steps to safeguard this installation. First I tried whenever possible to use the factory butt joint as it has been treated with the chemical solution already. When it was necessary to use a site cut edge I treated it with a end-cut solution as in the installation instructions and followed that with an application of Anchor-Seal. Anchor-Seal is a product that is often used during the installation of hardwoods. It is a liquid paraffin that absorbs into the end grain of lumber. The rapid gain and loss of of moisture through the end grain of lumber is what is responsible for cracking and checking at the end of boards, stopping this by sealing it is an effective way to prevent this type of damage. Lastly, immediately after install I applied a coat of Wolman clear deck sealer to trap the moisture inside the boards to slow the drying. Rapid drying can also lead to surface checking and cracking. This is the opposite technique than that of un-treated decking which you would want to dry completely before you applied a sealer.

If you do not want any maintenance on your deck and are on a budget, treated decking may be a good choice for you, you just should not expect a perfectly defect free surface. Treated decking is excellent in longevity just not high in appearance.