Life after installation

Mastering the art of longevity with pressure treated wood.

Pressure treated southern yellow pine has been a staple product in outdoor living for over half a century. Contractors are able to let their creativity shine with brilliant designs all while following current “best building practices” set forth by industry professionals. Quality starts with buying the right product and hiring the right builder but consumers bear the responsibility for protecting their investment long-term.

If a homeowner does not follow through with a plan for routine maintenance, money spent on quality workmanship is futile. We see it repeatedly in the world of treated lumber. The initial homeowner expectation is to pay the upfront cost and enjoy—but there is more to it than that. The auto industry does a great job of setting the expectation that cars require routine maintenance- a good detail every once and a while, an oil change, and even new tires comes naturally without hesitation. While recommended upkeep and maintenance is standard procedure for building industry professionals, it is not common knowledge or practice for homeowners. What happens next? A few years of no TLC and they step out one spring morning to find a tanked investment. Here at Madison Wood, we are working hard with multiple programs for retailers and contractors to send a clear message to consumers. Wood is a great “low cost” alternative for outdoor projects but it requires upkeep during the entire lifespan to preserve its aesthetic and structural value, just like anything else.

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We’ve compiled a list of our favorite tips from industry professionals that homeowners should keep in mind throughout the life of future treated projects:

1. Choose the right treated wood for the application (they aren’t all the same). Warranties only protect consumers when the wood is used properly. If the tags on the end of the board say “Above Ground” proceed with caution. “Above Ground” has several rules on what is considered proper application such as being at least six inches off of the ground and being clear from debris. We recommend that homeowners do their research. Or, take the safe route and buy all Ground Contact treated lumber.

2. Wood Screws…. Wood screws… and more wood screws. Southern yellow pine is a natural product. It will swell and shrink as it accepts/releases moisture. Although nails may save you money initially, it isn’t worth coming outside to find that some of your deck boards have pulled through the fastener and cupped. The same theory applies to hidden fastener systems. Remember, natural characteristics of southern yellow pine such as checking and cracking aren’t covered under warranties.

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3. End Coat Solutions. Experienced builders that remember the Chromated Copper Arsenate “CCA” formulation (no longer permitted in residential use) may say this step isn’t necessary, but we disagree. Coating the ends of cut boards gives added protection against pockets of heartwood and areas with decreased penetration. Although not required, there is a huge value in users taking this extra step.

4. Staining at the right time is crucial. Consider applying a Clear UV Light Protecting Water Repellent product immediately, regardless of moisture content, to help minimize checking and cupping while you wait for your deck to dry. The industry pumps out generic information saying to wait nine months before putting any type of colored sealant on your treated southern yellow pine. Geographically, climates vary vastly in dry times. These instructions were written vaguely in efforts to cover a majority instead of being specific. We recommend using a moisture meter to help determine if your wood reaches that critical 19% or less moisture content; the point at which it is ready for paint or stain. You will need to test several sections of your deck, especially shady or damp areas in order to get an accurate reading.

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5. Make a maintenance schedule. We know this sounds cheesy but hear us out. You schedule oil changes by knowing how many miles you have left, your deck should not be much different. Cleaning, inspecting and repairing! Expect and schedule time for maintenance. Don’t let the leaves and debris build up or the mold grow— fix that broken step! Continual upkeep is critical during the life of your project.

Creating a dreamy outdoor living space can get expensive but has also been known to significantly increase the value of a home. Following best practices from day one can save you time and money. With a little know how and routine maintenance, you can protect your investment for the long-haul. Your wallet will thank you.

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