Tropical Decking Boards Are Not Finished Lumber Products.
Perhaps you’ve never contemplated the question of what exactly is a tropical decking board, but if you’re involved in the installation of decking in any way (including wanting it installed for you at your residence or business), you should probably find out.
Most importantly, a tropical decking board is not a finished lumber product. When you purchase a decking board, it’s not yet ready to install; a decking board is an unfinished building product that requires work in order to make it usable and able to be installed; it also requires ongoing care to keep it maintained throughout its lifetime.
Knowing exactly what a decking board is (and isn’t) will help you adjust your expectations accordingly, so you can get the most out of your decking board dollar — and each of your decking boards.
A tropical decking board is not rough-cut lumber or just a log, of course; in fact, it may appear as if it’s ready to go. Decking boards come S4S, already planed on 4 faces, and E4E, with all sharp corners eased.
If you’re using a clip system, the decking board may come with a groove routed along the edges, as well. These aspects of a decking board may lead you to believe it is a finished product, when in fact, it is not.
Typically, tropical decking boards are sawn from trees felled in the Amazon forests and sawn and milled locally before enduring miles and months of rigorous travel. The decking boards are taken by trucks to port cities where the boards are loaded into metal containers and shipped across the ocean.
Every aspect of the tropical decking’s journey will take its toll on the already-milled boards, and you’ll be able to see and feel (maybe even smell!) the results on the product that you purchase.
Boards are stacked and unstacked repeatedly, often by hand. They can often experience having mud and dirt compacted and ground into the wood fibers themselves.
In addition, the moisture content will have fluctuated several times, due to the change in climate as well as the variable environment during shipment across the ocean. Typically air-dried to approximately 18% moisture content, the boards experience significant changes while being shipped via the metal container. The container can act as a kiln by day and then can soak in pooled water from condensation, at night. The next day, evaporation occurs, causing mineral deposits that appear as water stain.
When the tropical decking arrives in the U.S. and at a distribution yard, it can still wait months to be pulled for a particular order. During that time, added dirt and grime can accumulate. Cleaning or sanding before shipment typically proves useless, since more dirt will accumulate anyway, during transit to your job site.
Once at the job site (which might be your home or business), the lumber will likely be stacked in the dirt, where it will add further dirt, stains, and moisture fluctuations. Even the installer himself will likely add muddy boot prints to the mix.
In the end, a lumber dealer’s taking the time and effort to clean up the decking boards would only add to the cost and lead time for your order with little benefit on your part.
In Part 2, we’ll look at other issues that keep decking boards from being considered finished products as well as the steps you can take to get them to that point.