Out­door wood projects de­mand care­ful thought, re­search

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - HOMES - By Mike Holmes

NOW that it’s sum­mer many home­own­ers have out­door projects on their minds. The most pop­u­lar are decks and fences, and the most pop­u­lar ma­te­rial for these types of projects is wood, by a long shot.

When it comes to out­door wood projects and ma­te­ri­als, the three big con­tenders are pres­sure-treated or PT wood, cedar and com­pos­ite. They each have their pros and cons, but what it usu­ally comes down to is what do you have more of? Time or money?

Pres­sure-Treated (PT) Wood

Pres­sure-treated lum­ber is wood that’s been treated with chem­i­cals to make it re­sis­tant to rot and in­sects. Be­tween com­pos­ite and cedar, PT wood costs the least, which is prob­a­bly why it’s so pop­u­lar. The main thing to keep in mind is that you can’t use it in­doors — it’s strictly an ex­te­rior prod­uct — you can’t burn it be­cause of the chem­i­cals in it, and you need spe­cial nails and screws.

Back in the day, ar­senic was used to treat PT wood and make it weather-re­sis­tant, but that was re­placed with cop­per. The prob­lem is that when PT wood gets wet the cop­per in it will start to cor­rode metal fas­ten­ers, in­clud­ing nails, screws and deck hang­ers.

You also need to be care­ful if your project re­quires flash­ing. Most flash­ing is alu­minum, and ex­posed alu­minum will cor­rode if it comes into con­tact with mois­ture, es­pe­cially wet PT wood. Reg­u­lar gal­va­nized nails and screws won’t hold up for long ei­ther. You’ll start to no­tice stain­ing around the screws and hang­ers, but even­tu­ally, they’ll cor­rode com­pletely and could lead to struc­tural fail­ure.

Stain­less steel fas­ten­ers will not cor­rode but they’re ex­pen­sive, which doesn’t make them prac­ti­cal — es­pe­cially if you’re try­ing to save some money by go­ing with PT lum­ber. Your best bet is to use vinyl-coated “green” wood/deck screws. These are re­sis­tant to the chem­i­cals in PT wood and some even have life­time guar­an­tees.

To keep PT wood look­ing good it needs reg­u­lar main­te­nance — sand­ing, seal­ing, paint­ing or stain­ing. It’s less main­te­nance if you stain it rather than paint it, but if you want longevity with lit­tle to no main­te­nance con­sider an­other ma­te­rial.

I didn’t like com­pos­ite wood when it first came out but it’s im­proved over the years. Com­pos­ite wood can be made from a com­bi­na­tion of dif­fer­ent in­gre­di­ents, like poly­eth­yl­ene or polypropy­lene mixed with glass, wood fi­bre, wood flour, as well as other wood and re­cy­cled prod­ucts.

It can be tex­tured to look like real wood, and dif­fer­ent types are re­sis­tant to UV, fad­ing, stains, in­sects, split­ting and/or warp­ing. But it will cost you — up to five times more than PT wood.

No mat­ter what type of ma­te­rial you de­cide to go with, do your re­search, hire the right pro and know ex­actly what it will take to make it last. For ex­am­ple, if you’re build­ing a deck, most con­trac­tors will tell you the joists need to be 41 cm on cen­tre, but 30 cm is bet­ter to pre­vent warp­ing and dip­ping, es­pe­cially when it comes to com­pos­ite wood. Watch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV. For more in­for­ma­tion

visit makeitright.ca.


Dif­fer­ent types of wood for ex­te­rior projects re­quire dif­fer­ent lev­els of main­te­nance, as well as spe­cial­ized fas­ten­ers, in­clud­ing vinyl-coated, ce­ramic-coated, gal­va­nized, zinc-dipped and/or stain­less steel.

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