All winter long you have been dreaming of your new deck. Now with summer BBQs fast approaching it is time to make that dream a reality. You have your plans, stainless steel screws, extra batteries for the impact driver, and a big stack of Ipe. Ready to build a deck? Ready, set, WAIT! Have you given your lumber a chance to acclimate? Don’t rush in only to have your beautiful deck, buckle and crack several months later when the summer heat and winter cold have had their way with it.
Here are some things to consider before you start cutting and drilling that Ipe, or any tropical decking:
When the tree is felled in the jungle the moisture content of the wood is 50% and higher depending on the season and the species. Once the wood has been sawn into boards it is air dried to somewhere near 20%. It is then milled into an S4S, E4E (surfaced on 4 sides, eased on 4 edges) product and shipped overseas to Europe or the US. The decking goes through some massive changes in shape and moisture content even before it is stuck in a steel container and baked on the deck of a ship for a month or so during transit.
Whether your local lumber yards imports the decking directly or not, the boards then will go through a series of climate shifts sitting in a storage shed. It may change hands a few times from importer to retailer adding further environmental changes.
Finally you buy your lumber and it is shipped or you pick it up. You will have very little idea how that decking was stored, how long it has dried, how long it has even been in the same zip code. Depending on when the lumber was sawn and how far along the decking season may be, you could be using decking that was a tree 6 months ago, or several years ago.
This is a fact of life when dealing with decking. As an exterior, air dried product this is really the only way it can be done. Your best bet is to take matters into your own hands when you buy the decking and give it time to adjust from the world tour it has just completed. Accept that it will need some time before you try to screw it down into a fixed position. The more the decking can come into an equilibrium the better off you will be in the long run.
So plan ahead on your deck project. When you receive your lumber stack it in a cool, dry place and let it sit ideally for a week, but at least for a few days. Most decking lumber is pretty long so sticking it in a garage is probably out of the question. Cover it with a tarp and “sticker” the lumber so that air can flow in and around the boards. This will speed up that acclimatization and allow you to get to work that much faster. You have invested far too much in Ipe or Cumaru to rush the job and have problems come up later with wood movement.