Avoiding Potential Problems with Tropical Hardwood Decking.
In Part 1, we looked at ways to avoid warping and encourage stability of tropical hardwood decking. Now, we’ll look at two more potential problems and how to avoid them.
First, these dense hardwoods can be pretty tough on tools. Popular decking species such as Ipe, Tigerwood, Cumaru, and Massaranduba are remarkably hard and dense; they are up to 6 times harder than pressure-treated pines and require pre-drilling and the use of sharp tools. Without those precautions, they can be subject to splitting. For decking, you need to pre-drill large holes in tropical hardwoods with heavy duty cordless drills and drivers. This step takes extra time and labor as well as an extra drill bit or two, and the additional related costs should be figured into your project budget.
Second, you may observe that sometimes the tropical decking hardwood boards on a deck don’t appear to match. Unlike composite decking products, wood is an organic material that displays variations in appearance due to natural conditions relating to growth. Color and grain patterns will vary greatly, even within a single species. For those who love wood, this kind of variation adds to the natural beauty of lumber. At the same time, pressure-treating and sanding the boards can help unify them. Ipe trees, in particular, grow across a wide area, and then the different logs are combined into single loads. Color and growth differences lead to great variation.
An additional consideration regarding the differences in appearances is that freshly sawn lumber looks different than the final product. Once the lumber oxidizes, the color will change over time, usually causing variations to mellow, leading to a more unified look. Teak is particularly prone to such changes in color, but all woods undergo some color change. Unless wood is treated to avoid it, your tropical hardwood decking — like any exterior lumber — will gray due to sun exposure.
One final issue to keep in mind regarding tropical hardwoods is that they’re not coming from your back yard. Instead, they’re being sourced from another continent, and some may even touch a third continent before coming to the US. Due to the distance covered, they’re often cut well in advance of when you’ll receive them at your jobsite and install your deck. The tropical hardwoods will have sat in multiple lumber yards and will have been moved via multiple forklifts, trucks, and cranes. The result may mean that these boards need a little extra TLC before they’re ready to grace your back yard with style.
With such care needed in order to ensure stability, proper tooling, and consistency of appearance, you may be wondering if it’s worthwhile to build a tropical hardwood deck. The answer is a resounding yes. The decades-long lifespan and low maintenance add to their beauty, which helps explain their popularity. Professionals who work regularly with species such as Ipe or Cumaru know how to resolve these potential problems, making a tropical hardwood deck a great additional investment in your home.