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STRUCTURAL INSPECTIONS & DEFECTS
ARCHITECTURE & BUILDING COMPONENT ID
CHIMNEY INSPECTION DIAGNOSIS REPAIR
COLUMNS & POSTS, DEFECTS
CONNECTORS, FASTENERS, TIES
DECK & PORCH CONSTRUCTION
DEFINITIONS of MOBILE HOME, DOUBLEWIDE, MODULAR, PANELIZED CONSTRUCTION
DEFINITIONS of ENGINEERED WOOD OSB LVL etc
DISASTER BUILDING INSPECTION & REPAIR
EARTHQUAKE DAMAGED FOUNDATIONS
FIRE DAMAGE vs MOLD DAMAGE
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FOOTING & FOUNDATION DRAINS
FOUNDATION CRACKS & DAMAGE GUIDE
FRAMING DAMAGE, INSPECTION, REPAIR
GRADING, DRAINAGE & SITE WORK
HOUSE PARTS, DEFINITIONS
INSECT INFESTATION / DAMAGE
KIT HOMES, Aladdin, Sears, Wards, Others
LOG HOME GUIDE
MOBILE HOMES, DOUBLEWIDES, TRAILERS
MODULAR HOME CONSTRUCTION
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
PORCH CONSTRUCTION & SCREENING
PRE-CUT & KIT HOMES
RETAINING WALL DESIGNS, TYPES, DAMAGE
ROT, FUNGUS, INSECT DAMAGE
SINKHOLES, WARNING SIGNS
STAIRS, RAILINGS, LANDINGS, RAMPS
STRAW BALE CONSTRUCTION
STRESS SKIN INSULATED PANELS
STRUCTURAL WOOD ASSESSMENT
TIMBER FRAMING, ROT
TRUSSES, Floor & Roof
WATER ENTRY in BUILDINGS
WOOD STRUCTURE ASSESSMENT
This article discusses the selection and application of deck stains, water repellents, paints, or other coatings. Our page top photo shows a weathered-gray deck that was the subject of owner-complaints concerning black "mold" spots. It was determined that wax from citronella candles spilling on the surface was the culprit.
This article series discuss best porch & deck construction practices, including choice of framing materials, decking or flooring choices & installation, how to select and use deck and porch structural and flooring fasteners, actual deck & porch framing construction details & connections, deck joist & beam span tables, how to build leak-proof rooftop decks, construction of covered & screened porches, deck & porch railing construction & materials, choices of finishes and stains for decks & porches, and past & current deck lumber preservative treatments with related health & environmental concerns. This article series includes excerpts or adaptations from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, by Steven Bliss, courtesy of Wiley & Sons. Also see ourreview of that book.
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All wood decking, whether pressure-treated or not, needs to be sealed at installation and periodically thereafter to prevent checking, warping, and deterioration of the surface due to exposure to water and sunlight. The chemicals in treated wood and the natural tannins in redwood and cedar resist decay and insect attack, but they will not stop checking and warping. There are a wide array of deck finishes on the market, but they all consist of one or more of the following: water repellants, preservatives, UV blockers, pigments, and a drying oil or varnish base (see Table 4-9.) [Click any image for an enlarged, detailed version.]
Water Repellants for Wood Decks
Also called “sealers,” these formulations typically contain a water-repelling wax and a varnish or drying oil, such as linseed or tung oil. The finish penetrates and seals the wood surface, reducing the amount of water absorption and thereby protecting against checking, splitting, and warping. After application, water should bead up as on a newly waxed car.
Some water repellants contain a small amount of wax (about 1% by volume) and are intended as a pretreatment for other finishes. Others contain up to 3% wax and are intended as a final coating. Some of these cannot be stained or painted over, so it is important to read the label.
WRPs, which have an added mildewcide [really it's a fungicide since mildew grows only on living plants], help prevent dark stains on natural woods like redwood and cedar, and on pressure-treated lumber as well. In addition, WRPs provide some protection against decay in the sapwood of redwood and cedar and in the cut ends of pressure-treated decking.
Some sealers and WRPs also have UV-inhibitors, an important addition if the sealer is the final coating, since this will help protect against deterioration of the wood surface from sunlight.
If a sealer or WRP is the only treatment used, the homeowner should plan to recoat every one to two years or whenever water on the surface no longer beads up and is quickly absorbed. WRPs also make an excellent undercoat for semitransparent stains. The combination of a semitransparent stain over a WRP base coat provides the best long-term protection for decks. However, not all WRPs are suitable for use as an undercoat—so check the label or ask the manufacturer before proceeding.
Semitransparent Stains for Wood Decks
Oil-based semitransparent stains contain many of the same ingredients as a WRP and penetrate the wood in the same manner. The main difference is the addition of pigments, which provide some color and help protect against UV radiation.
[The stained exterior deck shown at left has no guardrailings. Fortunately that's because its construction was incomplete - railings were added later. Until the guardrails were installed this was an unsafe structure and should have had appropriately restricted access.
Some, such as Penofin (Performance Coatings Inc.), are very lightly pigmented but add UV inhibitors to achieve a similar level of protection. Since oil based stains penetrate the wood surface, they will not peel, blister, or chip like paint. Stains formulated specifically for decks may have improved resistance against abrasion as well.
Stains are a good finish for either treated wood or naturally decay-resistant species. The pigment provides good protection against UV radiation and extends the life of the finish beyond that of a simple water-repellant or WRP. Light-colored finishes will reflect more light and, therefore, tend to outlast darker colors on exposed surfaces.
For the stain to penetrate properly, the wood surface must be fairly dry when the stain is applied. If the decking material was factory-treated with a sealer or was recently sealed on-site, it may be necessary to wait two weeks or longer before staining. For best results, apply two coats of stain, with the second applied before the first coat completely dries. Once dried, the first coat will block the proper penetration of the second coat.
Paints and Solid-Color Stains for Use on Wood Decks
While these provide excellent protection against water penetration and UV degradation, they are not recommended for decking (flooring) for two main reasons:
While not recommended for the decking, paint may be applied successfully to other deck components, such as railings.
If the job calls for paint, take the following precautions: First, seal the wood with a water-repellant preservative formulated to serve as an undercoat. Make sure all end grain is sealed and primed prior to assembly, when it may become inaccessible.
After two to three weeks, when the surface is dry enough to paint, prime and paint the rest of the wood. A better alternative, if the budget allows, is to buy kiln-dried pressure-treated lumber, which can be sealed, primed, and painted immediately. Kiln-dried pressure-treated lumber is marked KDAT (kiln-dried after treatment).
Woods such as redwood and cedar, which have a high level of extractives, require special stain-blocking primers, or the dark-colored extractives will bleed through and stain the painted surface. While painters have traditionally preferred oil-based primers on wood species prone to extractive bleeding, new latex primers specially formulated for stain blocking may also do the job.
Deck & Porch Resources, Products, Manufacturers: Where to Buy
See Deck & Porch Products, Manufacturers for our complete/updated listings of manufacturers of porch & deck products, materials, coatings, fasteners, lumber, tools.
Sources of Deck Finishes, Stains, Preservative Coatings
Amteco www.mfgsealants.com/amteco.htm Sealers, preservatives, and deck stains
Cabot www.cabotstain.com Clear sealers and deck stains
Cuprinol, a division of Sherwin Williams www.cuprinol.com Sealers, preservatives, and deck stains
The Flood Company www.floodco.com Clear sealers and deck stains
Penofin www.penofin.com Lightly tinted oil-based sealers and stains
Olympic, PPG Architectural Finishes www.olympic.com Clear sealers and deck stains
Wolman Wood Care Products, division of Zinsser Co. www.wolman.com Wolman sealers and deck stains and DAP Woodlife clear sealers
Deck & Porch Industry Associations
American Wood Preservers Association (AWPI) www.awpa.com
California Redwood Association www.calredwood.org
Deck Industry Association www.deckindustry.org
Forest Stewardship Council www.fscus.org Information on certified tropical hardwoods
Rainforest Alliance, Smartwood Program www.rainforest-alliance.org Information on certified tropical hardwoods
Southern Forest Products Association www.sfpa.org
Southern Pine Council www.southernpine.com
Western Wood Products Association www.wwpa.org
Western Wood Preservers Institute www.wwpinstitute.org
-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.
see CODES for STAIRS & RAILINGS for details about stair building codes and specifications.
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