When it comes to lumber color, many customers have preferences — some stronger than others. Even within a single species, though, lumber color can vary dramatically. When you add to the equation that from the time a log is sawn into a board, its color begins a process of changing color that will continue for years, you have an even more complicated issue. Not only do all lumber species fade in sunlight, but some also undergo significant chemical changes over time. Let’s explore a few species and applications for which color change is an especially significant issue, starting with one of our favorites: Decking Lumber.
Tropical Decking products are definitely customer favorites. Sometimes customers desire to match new decking with interior flooring or outdoor furniture; other times, they aim to coordinate their deck with existing exterior structures such as pergolas or existing decks that have already been exposed to the elements. Most lumber species, if left untreated, will eventually mature to a silvery gray patina, and once weathered to that point will retain the gray color until or unless it is re-cut, sanded, or planed to expose a new layer.
While many tropical decking species contain enough natural oil to allow them to resist this weathering process for a longer period of time than other lumber species, once the tropical decking boards are installed outdoors, bleaching from the sun will speed up the process. Along with bleaching, constant exposure to the sun causes decking lumber to dry out, causing checks, or tiny cracks in the surface. The more intense the sunlight, the more likely these cracks are to occur.
Just like the oil or resin that is naturally part of the wood will help lumber resist the bleaching process, any additional oil you use to treat decking lumber will help prevent graying as well. When decking oil is part of your regular decking maintenance routine, you may be able to stave off major color change indefinitely, but if you prefer truly maintenance-free decking, realize that you will eventually have a deck consisting of gray-colored wood.
On the flip side, bleaching oils can be used to speed up this natural process; however, many lumber experts believe that the effect differs from what you get over time, due to the natural bleaching caused solely by sunshine. Natural weathering is caused by a combination of UV light, longer wavelength light, heat, water, and wind and simply can’t be perfectly mimicked by any chemical solution.
If you have a customer who wants a new deck to match the coloring of indoor flooring, perhaps staining or a consistent maintenance routine including oil would be ideal. If someone desires a new deck to coordinate with existing, silvery gray wood structures, there’s no fast track solution; they will only be able to achieve the look they’re after over time, unless they have their older pieces sanded or planed in order to expose another layer.