When it comes to your new tropical hardwood deck, be sure to plan for an acclimation period! How long should you plan for? That question may seem simple, but its answer is far from straight forward. There are many factors that influence the amount of time that your decking lumber requires to come to an equilibrium with its environment. From installation method to seasonal moisture levels and finishing techniques, our former posts in this series have hopefully given you a good starting point for figuring out how long your unique situation will require your boards to sit before being installed. Now we’ll look at just a couple more factors to consider before you make your final plans.
Factor #4: Installation Site
Two aspects of your job site are significant in helping come up with an acclimation period. First, you need to consider the difference in climate between your lumber supplier and your job site. Second, you need to consider the characteristics of the job site itself. Is there plenty of ventilation, especially beneath the deck? Will the deck be exposed to a lot of direct sunlight during the day?
The more significant the shift in temperature (and moisture level) between the lumber supplier's location and the actual job site, the more time will be needed for the boards to come into an equilibrium with their new environment. And the more significant the swing throughout the day, the more time will be needed.
Factor #5: When In Doubt
At the end of the day, the point of an acclimation period isn’t to check one more step off your list: it’s to ensure that your decking boards get any movement out of their system before they’re screwed down. While these principles apply to all decking species, they’re especially signficant when you’re dealing with Ipe.
Because of its extreme density, this popular species can be even more significantly affected by changes in moisture content. For most situations, a week will be the minimum timeframe; ideally, boards should be stacked and stickered, with shipping banding still in place. But especially if there are added factors such as insufficient ventilation, excess amounts of direct sunlight, or an environment with a particularly high degree of moisture, it’s best to give your lumber a little extra time to come to an equilibrium with its surroundings. A full 2-week timeframe would be helpful, but if you can let it sit stacked and covered for even longer, you simply won’t go wrong.
One more issue to consider is that all 5 of the factors we’ve considered relate only to decking boards actually used for decking applications. If you’re planning to use tropical hardwood lumber to build outdoor furniture or use as rainscreen siding, the precise milling used when there’s a need for interlocking joinery can make waiting problematic. So make sure you realize that the ideas here are for decking lumber used in decking applications — with gaps between boards and no tight tolerances or joinery.