Sunday, December 17, 2017

Increasing Forestry Innovation in a Declining Market Demand

Why is wood product demand declining, yet forests and the forestry industry are the one thing that holds the key to reversing global warming due to wood's carbon sequestration properties? We are increasingly substituting goods with plastic due to its cheap nature, regardless of the damaging effect plastics have on our environment during the production processes, and regardless of the damaging effect plastics have on the environment post-use.


Plastic in the ocean//DIMITAR DILKOFF//GETTY IMAGES

This decline in forestry product demand, despite a growing attention to sustainable forest management and the bio-economy expecting to increase forest innovation, is leaving industry experts concerned. 

Wood products can now be innovated into lighter, more flexible material than plastic. Take for example the work being done at University of Toronto, whose forestry faculty is designing wooden car parts.

Car part moulded from wood pulp that is lighter, stronger, and heat resistant//Laura Pedersen//National Post

Why, then, are we substituting harmful plastic composites for natural wood products? 

We must once again learn to put our faith in wood, because if people aren't supporting forestry products, then we lose the forest. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pando- The Largest Living Organism in the World

A stand of Populus tremuloides, commonly named Trembling Aspen, has been found to be the largest living organism on earth. No, it isn't the tallest or the biggest tree, it is in fact is a stand of trees spreading over an area of 43 hectares (106 acres). This collection of 47,000 genetically identical stems is said to be one living organism because every stem shares a collective root system. Though the individual trees average at 130 years old, the root system is 80,000 years old, also making it the oldest living organism in the world. You can visit this stand at the Fishland National Forest in Utah.


















Image source

Unfortunately, Pando is currently thought to be dying according to ecologists at Utah State University. The exact cause is unknown, whether it be drought stress, disease, insects, elk grazing, or climate change. Restoration is underway to help stimulate new stem growth and preserve this natural wonder.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Mill Glaze....Myth or Fact?


Installing and protecting your new deck correctly from the outset will ensure enjoyment for years to come while preventing the need for premature deck refinishing, repair or replacement.

The condition called "mill glaze" (also called planer's glaze) has frequently been blamed for the failure of a coating on decking, siding and various other wood products. This failure of the coating can potentially lead to problems such as cracking, raised grain, mildew growth and wood rot.

Some contractors claim you should begin the process of deck protection by refreshing new surfaces with a mild surface sand to remove so-called "mill glaze" while opening up the grain.

The exact cause of "mill glaze" has been a subject of controversy. Many believe that the coating fails as a result of the planing and/or drying processes. They speculate that incorrect milling or planning of boards overheats the wood. The overheating of boards is usually attributed to dull planer blades and the claim is that this overheating opens the pores and actually brings water-soluble extractives to the surface, creating a hard varnish-like glaze.

The remedy for this "mill glaze" is to gently re-surface the boards with a light touch sanding which will clean and brighten the wood while allowing for the opening of the wood's pores. This is important because it will thus assist in the absorption of an oil-based finish to help in the prevention of algae, mold, and mildew attacking your deck boards. 

In a 2013 article Mark Knaebe of the USDA Forest Products Laboratory noted that he had tried to duplicate mill glaze in the laboratory. The tests he conducted included planing lumber with dull blades at high input speeds.

Despite their best efforts the staff at the Forest Products Lab were unable to create a "glazed" surface. This result does not necessarily mean that mill glaze is not real or cannot happen...it merely means that in this instance the researchers from the USDA were unable to duplicate the effect of "mill glaze" in the laboratory.

Although no further research on "mill glaze" effect has been conducted at the USDA Forest Products Laboratory , they did investigate a number of reported mill glaze failures. In all cases, the failures were readily explained by other failure mechanisms, including raised grain, degradation of the wood surface by ultraviolet (UV) radiation prior to painting, insufficient thickness of the coating system, improper surface preparation, and moisture problems.

Protect your investment and do it right the first time! Remember, installing and protecting your new deck correctly from the outset will ensure enjoyment for years to come while preventing the need for premature deck refinishing, repair or replacement.  

Please join us in our next blog as we continue to examine some causes of failures in wood coatings and offer suggestions on how to correctly install your deck and apply additional coatings/finish that will protect your investment and minimize the problems of cracking, raised grain, and mildew growth.



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Best Installation Practices for Hardwood Decking

“What's the use you learning to do right when it's troublesome to do right and ain't no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?” ― Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn


We sometimes encounter a homeowner who calls us to complain regarding a problem they are having with the performance of  their deck boards. Most often the time the problem is caused by neglecting to follow correct installation instructions and/or build their hardwood deck closer to the ground than we recommend in our installation guidelines.

The best policy is to always follow correct practices to ensure a project's success. The primary reason a hardwood deck usually fails is due to INCORRECT INSTALLATION.

There are a number of critical steps that a homeowner or builder should follow in order to ensure a deck is correctly and successfully installed...


Width of material

  • Build your deck so that the surface is at least 16” above the ground when using 1x4 or 5/4x4 decking material.
  • When using 1x6 or 5/4x6, the deck must be constructed a minimum of 36” off the ground.


Ventilation / Air Flow

  • There must be adequate air circulation underneath the deck in order to prevent cupping and warping of boards.
  • When designing your deck, ensure you provide a minimum 50% open space below your deck for proper ventialtion
  • In close to ground applications, 60” or less above ground, a vapor barrier and pea gravel is necessary to inhibit the possibility of water pooling and allowing moisture to absorb into the underside of the decking boards. 

Spacing between boards

  • You must allow space for your deck boards to expand when they take on moisture, as they will inevitably do when exposed to wet weather, rain or high humidity.
  • The final spacing should be at 1/4” if you have kiln dried material with a moisture content in the 10-12% range and relative humidity in the 35-45% range. If you are installing during very dry conditions and the boards are measuring in the 6-8% range, then you should add 1/16” additional spacing so that your deck can handle higher humidity and rain. 
  • If you are installing Air Dried Decking (such as Ipe) with a high moisture content in the 16-18% range, a spacing between boards of 3/16” is appropriate to ensure that the material does not gap too much in dry weather.
  • There is a specific science behind the required gap which is a function of the exact wood species, the beginning moisture content of the wood and the dry and wet extremes you want your deck to handle. In most cases, you should plan for 100% humidity levels and expect that the deck boards will expand to their maximum amount at the fiber saturation point of the wood. The dry side of the equation has more variability since many areas of the country have typical minimum humidity levels. You don’t need to plan for bone dry conditions in the Southeastern United States, for example; but you certainly do need to plan for bone dry conditions in Arizona and Central California.

Fasteners

  • Several different options are available for fasteners and for fastening techniques. We recommend stainless steel screws through the face of every board, two screws per joist.
  • Self-tapping stainless steel screws are available but may require pre-drilling.
  • Pre-drilling is always required on the ends of the boards.
  • We do not recommend the use of nonstainless fasteners since they will cause discoloration near the fastener. Do not use carbon-steel screws.
  • Do not use deck clips, hidden fasteners, or any other mechanical fastening systems, including those which fasten from the underside or edges of the boards. Despite manufacturers’ claims, we have determined that these products do not provide adequate anchoring of hardwood deck boards to the substructure. 

End Sealer

Nova Decking is always end-sealed during manufacturing to help prevent splitting and checking on the ends of boards.

We require that the boards are end-sealed as soon as reasonably possible after cutting during installation.

A clear, water-resistant wax should be used. One such product is Anchorseal from UC Coatings, although several other products are available.

Weatherizing & Sealing / Finishing 

In order to help prevent the potential for surface checking, cupping and discoloration caused by the nature, we require that Nova Decking be finished on all four sides with an appropriate and sufficiently-pigmented oil-based product.

Especially in dry, sunny conditions, finishing must be done prior to exposure to weather. Finishing Nova Decking on the underside of your deck will reduce potential cupping by inhibiting moisture from absorbing into the wood.

For best results, apply the treatment according to the manufacturer’s directions. To maintain the natural color, a high quality penetrating oil finish with UV inhibitors should be used.


The only reason a hardwood deck fails when close to the ground is INCORRECT INSTALLATION. Nova’s warranty is against rot and decay - it does not cover shrinkage and expansion.

For additional information regarding best installation practices visit our website https://www.novausawood.com/decking-installation-guide.aspx

If you need further information please do not hesitate to call the experts at Nova for assistance.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Plantation Grown Mahogany Decking - Separating Fact from Fiction




We have recently witnessed a strong marketing campaign urging consumers to make the choice of utilizing plantation-grown Mahogany (i.e. Swietenia Macrophylla) decking when planning their new deck or outdoor living areas.

Homeowners are told that they will be purchasing a beautiful, durable product with superior stability and have the assurance that the deck boards are sourced from 100% sustainable plantation timber. Today we examine the subject and try to separate fact from fiction.

Environmentally Friendly

The plantation Mahogany does not come from rainforests but from tree farms planted by local Fijians after World War 2. Today the Fijian government manages these Swietenia Macrophylla hardwood forests through regulations crafted to prevent over-harvesting and establish the framework for growth cycle with minimal biological impact.

While it is certainly verifiable that the Mahogany sold is grown in plantations, the question of sustainability is still up in the air. Unlike plantation-grown Teak, Pine and Eucalyptus forests found throughout Asia, Africa and South America, the plantation grown Mahogany is neither FSC nor PEFC Certified.

While no third-party certification is yet available, plantation-grown Mahogany from Fiji has already taken some important first steps towards sustainability, recently receiving CITES clearance for export and beginning the certification process with Smartwood/FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). 

Low Movement in Service

Mahogany from Fiji shows extremely low overall shrinkage with regards to volume and dimensions during the drying, but what truly makes it the best for keeping shape is the close to 1:1 ratio of radial (measured in the direction between the center of the tree and the bark) to tangential (measured in the direction of the circumference) shrinkage. This scientific ratio is the determining factor in woods’ resistance to warping and cupping.

According to information provided by distributors of Fijian Mahogany, homeowners should allow a 3/16″ gap between board widths on 4″ (3-1/2”net) wide decking, and a 1/4″ gap between board widths on 6″ (5-1/2”net) wide decking for drainage, airflow and expansion.  




Natural Durability and Termite Resistance


According to the USDA Forest Products Laboratory plantation-grown Mahogany heartwood rates as durable in resistance to a brown-rot and a white-rot fungus. The heartwood of the species is also moderately resistant to dry-wood termites but offers little resistance to attack by marine borers.

While it is true that the heartwood of Mahogany may be durable, the sapwood is not suitable for any level of outdoor exposure. It has been shown that Mahogany sapwood is susceptible to wood-boring insects like termites and readily decays when left exposed to the outside elements.

Preservative Treatment for Extra Protection

Due to the less than ideal natural durability of the species, the plantation grown Mahogany decking that is imported from Fiji is pre-treated with MCA to resist decay or termite attacks and generally to prolong the life span of the sapwood. While clever marketers have claimed that any sapwood that exists will absorb the MCA or MCQ treatment to ensure longer life span and protect against degradation of the Mahogany deck boards, the USDA Forest Products Laboratory has clearly stated that "Both heartwood and sapwood of Genuine Mahogany are resistant to impregnation with preservatives".



Furthermore, information from the National Pesticide Information Center advises that Micronized copper wood treatments are merely new versions of the previously banned ACQ and CA formulations. The main difference in these new versions is the use of very small particles of solid copper, usually copper carbonate, rather than soluble copper in the solution being injected into the wood. The small size of the copper particles in these products allows them to stay suspended in the solution being injected into the wood. However, their small size may also affect their potential to leach from the wood. The potential health and environmental risks of these formulations may be affected by the size of the copper particles being used in the product. For more information on MCA treatment please click here

Not everyone thinks that MCQ is effective. In an interview with Professional Deck Builder Magazine, MCA treatment manufacturer MicroPro came under attack from Viance (800-421-8661, treatedwood.com). Viance makes Ecolife, a nonmetallic, carbon-based preservative, as well as ACQ, but it does not manufacture MCQ. Based on findings from a field test done by Viance (and verified by a third party), that company has claimed the MCQ formula does not provide adequate protection against premature decay, particularly in ground-contact wood.

“The decay we found was due to brown and white rot fungi, two common decay-type microbes. It’s our theory that the solid, essentially insoluble copper in MCQ is chemically bound and not available in an ionic form, as the soluble copper in ACQ is. Because of this, we don’t think that MCQ is as effective at preventing these organisms. We’re also concerned that the copper in MCQ doesn’t enter the cell walls during treatment, and so won’t be as effective at controlling what’s called soft rot. However, this rot takes two to three years to develop and our test only ran for about 10 months.”

The crux for the consumer is whether there’s substance to Viance’s findings of premature decay in MCQ-treated wood.

Potential Corrosive Nature of Preservative Treatment on Deck Hardware

According to an article found in ProfessionalDeck Builder Magazine the greatest interest to deck builders, perhaps, is that these deck boards treated with MCA and MCQ micronized formulas are said to be less corrosive. The manufacturers claim that aluminum and standard G-90 galvanized hardware can be used in direct contact with micronized copper–treated lumber. The reason is that the copper carbonate used in MCQ and MCA produces relatively few copper ions. This is not the case with ACQ and CA, with which aluminum contact is forbidden, and hardware has to be either the thicker, more expensive G-185 galvanized or stainless steel.

That said, while Simpson Strong-Tie (800/999-5099, strongtie.com), a major manufacturer of framing hardware, acknowledges that while MCQ is less corrosive than ACQ or CA, it still continues to recommend the use of G-185 or stainless steel hardware with MCQ.

Framing Considerations

While Fijian Mahogany specie is the same as South American Mahogany, some people note that the material is slightly softer and less strong. The difference is due to the quick plantation growth.  The fiber is of a lower quality with large growth rings, pin knots and bleached color and is much easier to dent and prone to bend/break when force is applied.

According to information provided on the websites of distributors of plantation-grown Fijian Mahogany the Span requirements are either 12" or 16" on center for 1x4, 16" for 1x6 and 18" on center for 5/4x4 and 5/4x6 decking. When compared to other hardwood decking products such as Batu, Cumaru or Ipe (which all require spans of 16″ on center for 1x4 and 1x6 decking and 24” on center for 5/4x4 and 5/4x6 decking) this adds up to a considerable amount of extra time and money spent on framing to prepare for a plantation Mahogany deck.

Conclusion

While plantation grown Mahogany is indeed the same specie as Genuine Mahogany and offers beauty and good stability, the jury is still out on product claims of its suitability for decking use due to its relative softness, questionable durability and long-term sustainability.

We at Nova are ourselves still studying the species further to better determine the long term prospects for plantation grown Mahogany Decking before providing a definitive statement on the specie's suitability for decking.

In the end, when analyzing the blur of decking products and brands that are out there, it is up to the individual consumer to review all the relevant facts and decide on an established product which has been time-tested and which suits the home owner's particular needs.

Educate yourself and use wisely your power of choice....

If you have any questions about which specie may be best for your particular deck project please contact the experts at Nova  www.novausawood.com

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Rooftop Decks - Installation Considerations when Using Hardwood


Many people want to build their hardwood deck closer to the ground than we recommend in our installation guidelines. Close to ground applications also include rooftop decks and any type of deck installed directly over a flat structure with less than the minimum recommended 16” of clearance.

There are a number of critical steps that must be followed in order to install decking in this manner:

Width of material

We recommend only 1x4, 5/4x4 or narrower boards. Never use 1x6 or 5/4x6 material in close to ground applications.

Spacing between boards

You must allow space for your deck boards to expand when they take on moisture, as they will inevitably do when exposed to wet weather, rain or high humidity. The final spacing should be at 1/4” if you have material with a moisture content in the 10-12% range and relative humidity in the 35-45% range.

If you are installing during very dry conditions and the boards are measuring in the 6-8% range, then you should add 1/16” additional spacing so that your deck can handle higher humidity and rain. 

If you are installing high moisture content material, such as Air Dried Ipe in the 16-18% range, then a gap of 3/16” is appropriate so that material does not gap too much in dry weather.

There is a specific science behind the required gap which is a function of the exact wood species, the beginning moisture content of the wood and the dry and wet extremes you want your deck to handle. In most cases, you should plan for 100% humidity levels and expect that the deck boards will expand to their maximum amount at the fiber saturation point of the wood.

The dry side of the equation has more variability since many areas of the country have typical minimum humidity levels. You don’t need to plan for bone dry conditions in the Southeastern United States, for example; but you certainly do need to plan for bone dry conditions in Arizona and Central California.


Shrinkage and Expansion

The amount of expansion from bone dry to fiber saturation is given by tables in references such as The Wood Handbook. The rate of movement is linear with respect to the moisture content from bone dry (0%) to fiber saturation (generally around 25%). Most hardwoods can be expected to move around 8% which is 0.28” for a 3.5” board. This is the maximum movement from bone dry to fiber saturation.

Typical hardwood species such as Batu, Cumaru and Angelim Pedra (as well as many others not sold by Nova) have movement up to 8%. The ONLY hardwood species which is significantly more stable is Ipe, which has a total movement in the 5-6% range.

We always recommend Ipe as the best hardwood species when building close to ground. Ipe will exhibit less tendency to cup, warp and or check as changes in moisture content occur. However, all hardwood decking species will exhibit some degree of checking, cupping and warping when allowed to fluctuate from very dry to very moist conditions.

Weatherizing & Sealing / Finishing 

The best way to minimize the movement in service of wood is to slow the flow of moisture into and out of the boards.

We recommend waxing the underside with a typical end seal wax product. Wax should be applied on the raw wood - it is not necessary to coat the material with oil finish if wax is being used on the back side.

An oil finish should be applied on the face and edges of every board during installation. Oiled boards may still be waxed on the bottom side provided that the oil allows the wax to penetrate and provide a moisture seal. Some sanding or cleaning with solvent may be required in order to get the wax to properly adhere to the previously oiled boards.

The only reason a hardwood deck fails when close to the ground is INCORRECT INSTALLATION. Nova’s warranty is against rot and decay - it does not cover shrinkage and expansion.

Each rooftop deck application comes with its own unique series of challenges. Contact the experts at Nova if you have any questions www.novausawood.com

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Red Balau Deck Protection, Restoration and Maintenance

Red Balau Deck Protection, Restoration & Maintenance

Red Balau is a truly difficult wood species to pin down. It is sold under names such as Nova Batu, Lightning Brand Mahogany, ExoDek Mahogany, Mangaris and Red Balau. The actual species name is called Red Balau and belongs in the Shorea Spp. Family.

Red Balau exhibits a color, hardness, durability, and grain which is considered similar to Mahogany and is a common reason why so many home owners choose the specie for use in their outdoor living projects.

Just as other species used for decking require specific steps to keep them protected and looking stellar, so does Red Balau. If you have experienced unwanted changes in the appearance of your Red Balau deck or if you have invested the time and effort into installing a new deck, in today's blog post we will try to provide you with answers on how to properly care for and protect your investment.

Restoration Techniques for Existing Decks


As with countless other species used outdoors for decking, Red Balau requires some periodic maintenance to keep the boards well-protected and in their original state.

We understand that many homeowners have made large investments in creating their ideal outdoor living spaces. Unfortunately many homeowners have not been fully informed on what it takes to keep their investment impeccable and are truly disappointed and surprised when they witness changes occurring to their decks. Many times maintenance has been overlooked and the original look slips away over time as exposure to the elements begins to make its effects felt.

Fortunately for most homeowners an amazing attribute of this durable wood is that it can be brought back to a brand new state through time tested quality restoration techniques which can be easily carried out by the average homeowner.

Step 1 - Clean Debris off Deck Surface
The first step in Red Balau deck refinishing process consist of sweeping any loose leaves and dirt off the surface. This way we are not forcing debris into the surface pores during our next steps.

Step 2 - Power Wash
It should be noted that light pressure washing followed by re-application of oil finish will gradually darken the hardwood decking.
If you desire to bring the finish as close as possible back to original color, then a deeper pressure washing is required. For deep pressure washing, a maximum pressure of 2500 psi should be used at a distance of no less than 4” in order to avoid tearing the wood fibers.

Step 3 (optional) - Touch Sanding
Sanding with a conventional hardwood flooring sander will also bring the material back to its original unfinished color. Sand paper grits as low as 80 grit can be used on hardwood decking. It’s important to select a sander with flexible backer so that the sandpaper can follow the contour of individual boards. Higher grits such as 150-200 will wear out extremely quickly and get gummed up with oil and dirt. We recommend starting with 80 grit and only dropping lower if the deck hasn’t seen any maintenance for several years.
It is also possible to use a random orbital sander, running the handheld sander down the length of each board. This is certainly a tedious process so we strongly recommend you have knee pads and Advil at the ready. Last we checked, you could rent a floor sander from Home Depot for about the same price as a decent handheld random orbital.
Once you have sanded the deck, removing dust from the surface grain is key. Ideally another light pressure wash should do the trick and will also eliminate any remaining contaminants such as mold and algae. After this process your lumber will look as it did when you originally installed it. Your deck is now ready to be sealed with an appropriate oil base blend to protect and maintain the deck boards close to their original condition. 



Step 4 - Reapplication of Weatherizing / Protective Coating
The final step of your Red Balau deck refinishing process is application of the weatherizing or protective coating. There are a slew of products on the market that claim to protect and keep the look of your deck.

There are many things to consider when choosing a product, the most important of which is to keep in mind what the wood will look like and how easily it can be maintained in the future. The best products are penetrating sealers. We stay away from water based and film forming finishes as they look unnatural and our experience has shown that they are not easily maintainable and can become slippery when wet.

We recommend homeowners coat their Red Balau decks with a penetrating oil finish. Our experience is that oil-based finishes reach deeper into the pores of the wood's cellular structure to add protection while enhancing the grain. When applying the actual oil finish, it’s critical not to let the oil puddle up. We find it most effective to roll it on, not too heavy, and then back roll it within 2-3 minutes. Too much oil on top of the boards will not offer additional protection since it will not soak into the wood; and, too much oil will show footprints for weeks after finishing.

The coating will naturally and gradually dissipate over time. Microclimate in your area will determine when periodic maintenance is again needed, however the advantage of oil based finishes are that they can be reapplied easily.