If you use decking boards made from domestic hardwoods, such as Pine or Red Cedar, they require acclimation once they reach their destination (see Parts 1, 2 & 3 in our series). This is even truer if you go with tropical decking boards that originate in the Amazon, such as Ipe or Cumaru. They come from such a faraway distance and from trees that grow in such a completely different climate than what we experience in the United States.
Throughout their journey from the forest to the mill, then on trucks and across the ocean, these boards experience dramatic environmental changes. As an organic material, wood is strongly impacted by the environment around it. Wood will always move, and that movement is directly linked to things like temperature and moisture content. That’s why the next step in the process of preparing your decking boards is so essential.
Leave Plenty of Time for the Decking Boards to Acclimate to Their New Surrounding
Sometimes an inexperienced homeowner who hasn’t worked with wood very much will be eager to begin their deck installation right away. They’ll become impatient with their contractor, because they don’t understand why the contractors would delay starting on the project as soon as the materials arrive at the job site. Any experienced contractor should know better, however. If the one you’re working with doesn’t think it’s important to let your boards acclimate, that should be a huge red flag suggesting that they don’t know what they’re doing.
Acclimation time is an important part of getting your boards ready to install. How long you should wait will depend on how similar or different your local climate is to the wood’s region of origin, as well as what conditions the wood faced along the way throughout its long voyage. In some cases, you can get away with just waiting for a few days. In other cases, you’ll want to wait for a week or even a couple of weeks.
How to Store Your Decking Boards While They Acclimate to Their Environment
Keep your decking boards covered up and as close as possible to their final destination if at all possible. This will help them to reach an environmental state of equilibrium.
What Happens if You Don’t Wait for Boards to Acclimate?
If you try to cut corners and don’t allow time for acclimation, or you don’t cover the boards, you’ll likely come to regret it in the future. Rushing into the job could lead to buckling, cracking, and warping later on. If you start with boards that are properly rested, they’ll be less likely to experience these types of serious problems after installation.
What Else Can You Do to Avoid Future Problems?
Along with waiting for the wood to acclimate before you install your boards, you should always leave room between them for the boards to expand and shrink. Because they’re organic, your boards are bound to move a little bit as the seasons and weather conditions change throughout the year. The right amount of spacing varies from species to species, and it will also depend on the type of fastening method you use, whether it be with clips or face screws.
A little bit of bending and bowing is to be expected, particularly with boards that are extra wide or long. You can use special tools like a hardwood wrench to mitigate these types of issues.
As you can see, it’s crucial to be sure to plan for some extra time for your boards to rest before you install them. In our final article in this series, we’ll consider one more step you’ll want to take to prepare and maintain your decking boards: cleaning.