I just returned from visiting a client whom inherited a pressure treated pine deck and was disgusted with its condition. His initial intent was to tear down the entire deck and start over. He truly liked the look of wood and understood maintenance was involved but he didn’t realize that treated pine does have advantages. At the end of our meeting we agreed that removing the entire deck was not necessary and we just replace the flooring and rails. I thought it might be useful to share more information to you about Pressure Treated Pine (PTP).
PTP still remains the #1 choice for outdoor structures. Whether used for decks, screen porches, playground sets, fencing or sandboxes, PTP is the best value for your buck. All PTP comes with a lifetime warranty against rotting (fungal decay) and termite infestation. The characteristics and maintenance of this species are integral to understanding its benefits and imperfections.
The term PTP means the pine when milled is infused with chemicals to provide the warranties discussed above. The wood will essentially not rot and can be placed in the ground. The chemicals used have been changed over the last 7 years. I won’t go into that as it’s quite convoluted. The main point is the warranties provided. The main characteristic about PTP is the susceptibility to changes in temperatures, humidity and overall weather. In a nutshell this species will expand and contract based on climate conditions. Remember the sun is your enemy. The hotter its gets, the more it will expand. Ever notice decks built with PTP where the floor, rail caps or stair treads are cracking? This is a result of the sun. Ever notice how decking boards appear to “cup”. Cupping occurs as the edges of boards are stretching towards the sun in hot weather. A misnomer about cupping, it is not because the grain of the boards were placed incorrectly upon installation. It is simply a result of expansion and contraction.
Another consideration about PTP, the material needs to dry for at least 3-6 months prior to sealing or staining. When first installed, most boards will be damp. This is due to the chemicals within the product. You may notice the top of the deck boards are dry within a week or two, but that does not mean the entire board is dry. Remember vaporizing (drying) goes up through the board. In addition, as it dries the boards tend to shrink leaving gaps between deck boards.
The best advice I can pass on about PTP, is to keep the deck wet in the summer months. This does not mean hosing your deck off daily, but be conscious and apply as needed. Factors such as exposure to the sun (i.e. orientation of your deck to the sun) and shade need to be considered. I would suggest keeping an eye on the floor boards. If they show signs of cracking, hose it down. Once the cracking occurs, you will never be able to reverse that trend. So keep it wet!
Maintenance such as staining, stripping and cleaning are an integral aspect with any wood product exposed to exterior elements. This maintenance, on average, depends on exposure to the sun. Usually I hear people say they have to complete the work once per year. Ever notice how PTP has a light hue to it when a project is first built outside? Look again 3-6 months later (if not stained or painted), it begins to turn grey. This is due to the UV rays from the sun. In order to maintain a PTP product you can apply several methods:
Semi-Transparent Stains have a small amount of stain in them combined with UV protection. Lots of staining products on the market indicate claims and warranties that their particular goods contain UV protection. Of course that doesn’t take into account, normal wear and tear. This includes high traffic areas. The slight amount of stain in these products assists with deterioration. I see the best results with this method.
Opaque Stains are simply a stain that will change the color of the wood. If you really like this look, go for it, but be aware that your high traffic areas will deteriorate quicker. Compare that to low traffic areas where the stain is holding up. Now what do you do?
Transparent Sealers have no stain in them and just provide UV protection. Remember the UV rays are powerful and the decking will begin to turn grey, eventually. This is the easiest of methods as the “stripping” phase is less time consuming.
Painting is a bad idea especially with “horizontal” surfaces. This includes deck flooring, rail caps, bench seats, planters and steps. Paint will begin to chip and deteriorate when exposed to the elements over time. Think about it, where does the water sit? If you want to paint “Vertical” components (i.e. railing posts, pickets, porch posts, that will last longer in most cases.
Here are some recommendations and websites of products we have had good feedback on. The best of these products is Cabot Stain http://www.cabotstain.com More expensive than most yet remember, you get what you pay for! I have seen success with Sherwin-Williams products as well. http://www.sherwin-williams.com Lastly, I must profess, we do not provide staining or painting services as part of our business, but we do recommend an awesome painter if clients inquire.
Does this all mean that PTP is awful? Of course not. Many folks still build with PTP but we want to ensure clients understand how the product will perform. If you like the look of wood, PTP is a decent option, but be aware the maintenance required to maintain the beauty. I hope this helps. Cheers!