Quality tropical hardwood decking is an excellent investment in your home! As exciting as that is, proper installation is extremely important. Perhaps the #1 mistake some rookies make when installing tropical decking is failing to allow for a proper acclimation period. Between the moisture content of tropical hardwoods, their long journey from their point of origin to your job site, and the general effect of wood movement, failing to allow for acclimation can wreak havoc on even the most fabulous decking products. Hopefully you’re convinced of the importance of acclimation.
Factors Influencing Acclimation Periods
Once you start asking around about how long of an acclimation period you should include in your project timeline, we hate to say it, but you should prepare to be annoyed. If you ask a dozen lumber suppliers, you’ll probably get just as many different answers. Among them, you’re likely to get at least one of those excruciatingly nebulous responses: “it depends.” But there’s a reason for this kind of variance: wood science. There are so many variables when it comes to working with wood that a universal, one-size-fits-all answer simply doesn’t work.
But don’t worry: just because the answer isn’t as simple and straightforward as we all wish it were doesn’t mean there’s no way to come up with any answer. We’ll divulge the details about the various factors that come into play when it comes to determining a reasonable time frame, helping you figure it out for your current tropical decking project as well as for future ones.
Factor #1: Installation Method
Did you know that your choice of face screws or hidden clips will help determine how much time your decking boards need to acclimate prior to installation? When you screw down your boards, they cannot reasonably move as much because of the way they’re restrained. By contrast, when you use hidden clips, boards will be much more prone to movement. Of course, when you use a clip system, there will still be a screw running through the clip and catching the lower tongue of the board, but that kind of restraint isn’t nearly as significant as screws driven through the entire board.
If you choose face screwing, you really won’t have to be concerned about cupping, so you don’t really need to worry about an acclimation period. As long as you use proper gap spacing, you should be fine. If you’re using hidden fasteners, though, you should stack and cover your decking boards as close to the site of your new deck as possible and let them sit for a week or two. During that time period, the boards will have a chance to experience most of the movement they will undergo prior to being put in place.
Continue reading with Part 2.