Wood is the most popular option when building a deck or fence. Beautiful, natural and strong, wood offers design and style versatility and is cost-effective while adding value to your home and lifestyle. In fact, wood decks add more to the value of your home than any other deck type.
Wood offers a warm natural look to any outdoor space, just as wood flooring does inside your home. Wood decks have become a popular way to expand your living space, to enjoy grilling outdoors and eating al fresco. Also, decks provide a place of respite to enjoy fresh air, congregate with family and friends and enjoy backyard views that extend beyond the windows of your home. Outdoor living is the staycation that allows homeowners and families to get away from the everyday work world and spend time enjoying their home.
Ecolife treated wood decking, railing and fencing products are backed by a Lifetime Limited Warranty against fungal decay and termite attack as long as you own your home.
Things to Check Before You Start to Build
Creating and building a project yourself is rewarding. Whether designing your project yourself or working from plans, below you will find a checklist to help you get started.
Before starting a decking or other structural project, check the following:
Local building ordinances and your homeowner’s association to see if a permit is required
Ask the utility company to mark underground utilities
For decks, use design software to estimate and create a detailed material list for your project
Estimate 10% over on lumber materials to account for cutting waste.
Estimate 15% over for deck boards for a deck designed with a diagonal pattern.
Design steps at least three feet wide to meet most building codes.
Most building codes require railings for decks or porches that are 30” or more off the ground.
Most building codes require balusters in the railing to be a maximum of 4” apart.
Wear gloves when handling treated wood as wood may splinter, and always wear eye protection and a dust mask when cutting, sawing or sanding treated wood to reduce inhalation and prevent irritation to the nose, eyes and skin.
When treated wood is burned, the chemical components of the preservative are concentrated and can be released into the ash and in particulates in the smoke. Some of these components can be harmful to the environment. Federal and state regulations mandate that treated wood be disposed of properly.
Picnic tables are used primarily for serving pre-prepared food, while a kitchen countertop is used to prepare food and used as a cutting surface for raw food. Raw food can absorb the preservatives and be ingested.
Copper-based preservatives have been deemed safe to be used in gardening for vegetables. Tests have shown that the amount of preservative leached from pressure-treated wood is so low it is virtually undetectable.
AWPA is primarily a standards developer, much like ASTM, but specific to products and processes which increase the longevity of wood products. As such, our expertise is in wood durability, and NOT human health and safety. We rely on the U.S. EPA to determine product safety during their registration process. It is our understanding that the wood preservatives used in treated wood available to consumers have been registered by EPA for general use, which means that EPA has determined it is relatively safe for most, if not all, consumer applications. Different people perceive safety in different ways. If you're concerned, you could always apply some type of coating or sealer to reduce the amount of soil contact with the preservative treated wood, or perhaps even put a sheet of plastic between the treated wood and the soil if you want to minimize or eliminate contact between wood and soil. Please note that most of the treated wood that’s two inches or less in thickness tends to be treated for above-ground uses, so it may not last very long in a ground-contact application. Be sure to contact the manufacturer of the treated wood product or the manufacturer of the wood preservative chemical for information on product safety. There should be contact information on the end tag of the treated wood at your lumber retailer.
Treated wood is often still damp when delivered, so it is recommended to butt deck boards tightly together during installation as they will shrink slightly in width and length as they dry out. This will create acceptable gaps between the boards for water to drain off the surface. How much a board will shrink will be dependent on how much moisture remains in the wood after it was installed.
If the wood is allowed to dry prior to installation, a small gap should be left between boards.
Ultimately, your deck boards should have an edge gap between ¼ inch and ⅜ inch to allow for proper ventilation, draining and for debris to pass through. Wet or dry, boards should be installed tight end-to-end.
For field-cut ends and drilled holes in treated lumber, use a brush-on wood preservative. Copper naphthenate formulations are available from home centers, lumber dealers and hardware stores. Deck stains and sealers do not provide adequate protection.
You can use nails or screws when you build your deck. However, screws are more secure and don’t pop out of the wood like nails do, making them the superior option for securing the deck and for safety. Nails that pop out of the deck can become a nuisance, not to mention they can injure your feet or those of your loved ones. Additionally, nails don’t fasten the deck as securely or for as long a period of time as screws do.
Viance always recommends that current building codes be consulted for up-to-date lists of approved fasteners. Hot-dipped galvanized and stainless-steel fasteners are recommended for use with preservative treated wood. There are also several new-coated fastener systems available.
Hot-dipped galvanizing is a process of coating zinc over bare steel to provide a protective layer. The bare steel is cleaned, pickled, fluxed and then dipped in a molten bath of zinc and allowed to cool prior to inspection and shipping.
If you remember your high school chemistry, copper is extremely conductive. That means ACQ lumber has a very corrosive effect on most metals — like the nails and screws that are used to hold boards together. The government and lumber industry initially ignored this potential safety hazard. They started paying attention to it after people fell to their deaths when second and third story decks across the country began to collapse due to fastener failures caused by ACQ eroding the nails that held the decks together.
ACQ is still in common usage today. In fact, the majority of treated lumber on the market is ACQ. Because of its corrosive nature, you must take special steps to ensure that any metal touching the ACQ treated wood will not develop corrosion problems. Because the stainless steel and hot-dipped galvanized fasteners are not reactive with the copper, they are the only logical choice to make when it comes to fasteners for your decking or for anything that is made with ACQ treated lumber.
To be compatible with ACQ treated lumber, galvanized fasteners must be “Hot Dipped Galvanized” and display the code “G-185” (which refers to the thickness of the galvanization). Different brands have different designations for this—such as “ZMAX” or “Triple Zinc”—but the brand names will vary by region. It is safest to confirm that the “G-185” code is also present.
Stainless steel fasteners can also be used because good grades of stainless steel are considered virtually corrosion-proof, and in some locations (around salt water, for instance) this may be the preferred fastener material. One downside to stainless steel is the cost because it is substantially more expensive than other options.
Copper fasteners are also immune to corrosion by the ACQ formula but are not a very practical alternative to use in building a home.
Avoid the fasteners that are labeled “electro-galvanized,” or are marked “G-90” or “G-60”. They were designed to be compatible with the old CCA preservative, and won’t hold up to the new ACQ wood.
Treat all field-cut ends of boards and drilled holes with a brush-on wood preservative-- copper naphthenate formulations available from home centers, lumber dealers and hardware stores. Deck stains and sealers do not provide adequate protection.
Butt boards tightly together during installation as they will shrink slightly in width and thickness as they dry out.
Pre-drill holes at the ends of boards to help prevent splitting.
Use screws to improve holding performance.
Install fasteners flush to the wood surface. Do not overdrive fastener.
Install the un-cut end of support posts in ground contact applications.
A diluted solution of soap and water with a stiff brush will remove mildew and dirt.
Wash away the dirt with a hose or a very low setting (below 500 psi) on a pressure washer. The impact of water above a 500 psi setting on a pressure washer, as well as bleaches and oxidizers, can damage the wood fibers and are not recommended for deck cleaning.
For tougher stains, use Oxalic acid-based (sometimes sold as wood bleach) deck cleaners.
Never use household bleach or foaming cleaners as they can strip the preservatives and damage the wood fibers leaving an unnatural whitewashed appearance.
We recommend that the use of a pressure washer be limited to only the highly-experienced and/or professionals. Improper use can damage the wood surface and fibers. If you choose to use a power washer, use the lowest possible pressure setting (keep it under 500 psi) and fan tip only approximately 18 inches from the deck.
Mold that you find on pressure treated wood is not an indication of a fungal attack. Mold can grow on the surface of many products including wood (treated and untreated) due to exposure to moisture. To remove mold from your treated deck, use mild soap and water solution and a stiff brush.
Mold and mildew are present everywhere in our environment, both indoors and outdoors. Mold and mildew need four things to thrive: air, water, temperatures between 32 and 120°F, and a food source, conditions that are common wherever humans live, work, and play.
The best way to minimize mold and mildew growth is to control water and food sources. When it comes to mold or mildew on wood decking, water and organic matter are the primary conditions that enable mold and mildew colonies to thrive. To minimize these conditions, make sure water has the ability to flow away from the deck surface and areas surrounding the deck to lessen the absorption of water. Ensure there is adequate ventilation between deck boards and underneath the deck surface, so water can rapidly evaporate.
And since both mold and mildew feed on dead or decaying organic matter, so it is important to keep your deck clean of leaves and debris.
Cleaning Your Deck
To minimize mold on your decking, clean your deck as often as needed, at least twice each year. Climate conditions vary in different regions of the country and may necessitate more periodic cleaning.
Remove leaves, debris, and other organic materials that provide a food source for mold.
If mold is present, there are many commercial products available for cleaning mold. We recommend commercial cleaners containing oxalic acid. For best results, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use cleaners within their stated shelf life. Do not mix recommended cleaning products together as harmful chemical reactions could occur. To maximize application coverage, remove excessive organic growth or clumps prior to applying the cleaner.
Coatings for High Mold-Prone Environments
For environments prone to high mold growth, there are commercially available coatings and finishes that seal the wood surface when applied and they should be maintained per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Coatings should be applied within one week of cleaning for best results.
Prior to coating, properly clean the decking, rinse thoroughly with water and hose and allow to dry completely.
Sweep off any pollen and debris.
Tips for Minimizing Mold
Maintain a deck that is dry and clean.
Ensure gutters / down-spouts and dryer vents do not discharge directly on decks.
Ensure adequate ventilation under and between decking boards.
Minimize water puddles under decks and the use of wet mulch up against the deck structure.
Cleaning a deck just after the last of the major pollen events (when your car doesn't change color from the pollen anymore) will minimize the seasonal outbreak of mold and mildew.
Periodically rinse off your deck using a garden hose with a spray nozzle, especially after the major pollen events. Skilled professionals may use pressure washers with wide fan tips but in the wrong hands, your deck can be damaged. Exercise extreme caution when using pressure washers.
Ensure the gaps between the decking boards remain free of debris so that regular rain showers can remove pollen and organic debris between cleanings.
Pressure treatment with waterborne preservatives does leave some moisture in the wood that may affect the penetration and drying of stains and paints. Ecolife treated wood can be stained or painted. Ecolife also contains a water repellent so you don’t have to apply a sealant for up to three years after installation.
For optimal performance of paint and stain coatings, allow the treated wood to dry prior to application. To ensure the wood is dry for staining, painting or sealing, test the wood with a few drops of water to see if the wood is dry enough to readily absorb water. As soon as the wood is porous enough to accept the stain, paint or sealant, it is ready for application. Typically, treated wood will dry and be ready for finishing 60 days after installation. However, estimating exactly how long treated lumber will take to dry is hard to predict and will depend on the time elapsed since pressure treatment, sun exposure, local temperature and recent weather conditions.
We recommend a good quality oil-based or water-based stain or exterior wood water sealant product. Always follow the manufacturer’s application and use instructions.
Semi-transparent stains are best for color. Paint or solid-color stains will show wear on frequently used pathways, such as on stairs or entryways. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and the advice of your local paint dealer for best results.
Apply a high-quality oil or water-based finish with UV protection to prevent the wood from turning gray from exposure to the sun.
Take these factors into consideration for your specific installation and use your best judgment. Be sure to follow the stain manufacturer’s instructions for best results.
Most water repellent coating manufacturers recommend an annual application. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Trying to decide if you should even hire a pro or do it yourself is a big decision if you are building a deck, shed, gazebo, pergola or other large projects. So, we have put together some resources to help you consider your options. Go to “Should I hire a Pro” next.