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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
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    Default New deck - wood cracking/splintering

    I live outside of Boston. In May, I had a local contractor resurface a large deck using fir. I have not yet stained it.

    In the last few days I saw that several boards are cracking and splintering. Specifically, the bottom step leading off the deck cracked along the grain at the spot where people step on it before stepping into the yard, and to prevent it from breaking off I nailed it into place. Another board is cracked along the grain. And, a piece of the rail splintered and broke off.

    What to do? The contractor has blown me off. I'd like someone to examine the wood used to rebuild the deck and tell me if it's substandard wood. Who can do this?

    Or, maybe having a couple of boards crack/splinter like this is no big deal, and I should just replace them, stain the deck and hope for the best. The wood that cracked/splintered represents a very small percentage of all the lumber used on the deck.

    Advice on how to deal with this situation would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Maryland
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    1,520

    Default Re: New deck - wood cracking/splintering

    It seems to me the contractor should make good on his product after only 2 months. When did he tell you to stain/seal the woo? The wood probably isn't substandard, but most pt wood is wet from the treatment and may split when drying.
    The cracked edge of the step is more of a safety issue, although I have a few steps that are cracked along the edge for a few years and they haven't broken. I am in the process of replacing them now.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
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    4

    Default Re: New deck - wood cracking/splintering

    Quote Originally Posted by ed21 View Post
    It seems to me the contractor should make good on his product after only 2 months. When did he tell you to stain/seal the woo? The wood probably isn't substandard, but most pt wood is wet from the treatment and may split when drying.
    The cracked edge of the step is more of a safety issue, although I have a few steps that are cracked along the edge for a few years and they haven't broken. I am in the process of replacing them now.
    This is not pressure treated wood. I have a painter who will stain the deck, he just hasn't gotten to it yet. And, I was under the impression there was no hurry to stain.

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    SoCal
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    Default Re: New deck - wood cracking/splintering

    It looks to me that somebody chose the wrong wood for the job. It could be you and/or it could be him.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Boston
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    Default Re: New deck - wood cracking/splintering

    i'm a contractor in the boston area. fir is a common wood to use on decks in this area. only problem is that it has to be sealed, stained or painted right after installation (weather pending, maybe within the first 2-3 weeks). you're contractor should have told you this. it doesn't take long for most woods to start doing that if they are completely untreated. if the deck is in direct sun contact most of the day the wood can quickly dry out and crack, that's why sealers, stains and paint are used....to protect the wood. i don't think the contractor is at fault unless he was supposed to treat it or he told you that you don't have to do anything to it.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
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    4

    Default Re: New deck - wood cracking/splintering

    Quote Originally Posted by dj1 View Post
    It looks to me that somebody chose the wrong wood for the job. It could be you and/or it could be him.
    Well, I din't chose it, that's for sure. Here's what the contractor said in an email to me today:

    "As for the splitting, sometimes a tight grain in the wood will split when the nail penetrates it or shortly thereafter. As for the railing it looks like the curved grain separated. Wood is a natural product that has many variables, sometimes it is visible that a board is going to split. In that case you put the board aside and donít use it. I actually sent back some boards that where curved due to the grain. The grade of the wood is standard Fir 1x 4 square edge decking, available at any lumber yard. I purchased the materials from [DELETED] . . . I have been using the yard for over 20years."

    Does this seem to be a reasonable explanation? If there is doubt, who would be qualified to evaluate the wood used to build the deck?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Boston
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    994

    Default Re: New deck - wood cracking/splintering

    for the most part....wood is wood. if it was purchased from a reputable lumber yard there should be no issues. every time we install fir decking we predrill each and every nail hole and we use ring shank stainless steel nails. not every contractor does it that way but we've installed many many fir decks and have never had an issue. the issue here seems to be the fact that the wood was not treated for a few months. even pressure treated decks should at the very least be sealed once the wood dries out, which can take 3-6 months. any "natural wood" should be treated shortly after being installed to prevent the issues you've had.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Default Re: New deck - wood cracking/splintering

    There you have it, FIR is used in MA according to MLB Construction.

    What to do next?

    You said that the installer wants nothing to do with this. You also said that there are but a few bad pieces of wood. My suggestion is to replace them, stain the deck and hopefully that will solve your problem.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
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    4

    Default Re: New deck - wood cracking/splintering

    Quote Originally Posted by dj1 View Post
    There you have it, FIR is used in MA according to MLB Construction.

    What to do next?

    You said that the installer wants nothing to do with this. You also said that there are but a few bad pieces of wood. My suggestion is to replace them, stain the deck and hopefully that will solve your problem.
    Why does the site "Deck Stain Help" advise waiting 6-12 months before staining? http://www.deckstainhelp.com/

    They say:

    "Install wood and let weather 1-12 months"

    Is this bad advise?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    1,924

    Default Re: New deck - wood cracking/splintering

    I was thinking along the lines of MLB- if fir is used in this application it needs to be sealed ASAP with no delays save for drying if it got rained on. Regular stain is not a sealer, only a colorant, so two products are probably going to be needed with adequate drying time allowed in between, and the sealant will need regular renewal. Wood is not perfect and there is only so much you can do to prevent splits and cracking; you certainly can't force wood to behave the way you want it to but you can help it along with pilot holes, proper sealing, etc.

    Whoever is responsible here, the problem needs to be addressed now, so replace the bad boards and get it all stained and sealed first, then worry about the responsibility later or you'll be replacing all the new decking.

    Phil

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