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Consumer Advocacy is a valued part of the Mission of DFW Carpentry.  There is now and in the future a need for Home Buyers and Home Sellers to know more about the houses and properties they own and buy/sell.

Things to know about your wood!

Attaching Deck framing to wood posts.

Proper construction of wood post supports to beams or joists is crucial to extend the life and appearance of the wood deck structure.  The posts under the deck support the beams that in turn support the joists where the flooring is laid over and attached to.  I have seen other carpenters bolt beams or joists directly to the side of the post with hopes the bolts never rust or wallow out allowing the member to drop from its original position.  This process is not for the life of the framing.  Only bearing support of the member should be allowed.  Bearing is where the material being supported by the post is notched into or onto a seat cut into the post and attached with bolts or screws allowing no movement up or down unless the post moves up or down.  Using this construction, along with a post well below the frost line, will permanently secure the joist to post or beam for proper construction.

Cedar Timber Cautions!

Framing the Exterior of the home with large Cedar timbers for posts, corbels, beams and other beautiful members make a large and Lodge type look.  But, are you aware at what expense?  The failure to seal the end grains and all connections between pieces will promote premature wood rot.  This process is often forgotten by the builder and will cost substantially to repair when the time comes.  The proper sealing method for Cedar is not difficult.  Insist your builder treat the Cedar before application to your home.  Most timbers do not exceed twelve inches in width.  The fact the timbers and members are heavy present the largest obstacle to overcome.  A pair of sawhorses and someone to help lift the timbers onto them is all you need to protect your investment for the life of the wood.  With a roller and a pail of treatment, treat the end gains were timbers will meet/connect to each other.  The cut ends will absorb the most treatment while the length grain will use less treatment.  Be sure to soak the wood completely, with care to not leave puddles on the wood.  Rotate the timers on the sawhorses to treat all sides and ends.  Allow sufficient time for treatment to dry to keep from getting the treatment on whatever you are touching besides the timbers.  Any cuts made after the initial treatment will only need spot treatment and can be done at time of installation.  Beware of treating the timbers after installation.  Sealing only the outside face of the timbers is not advisable because any moisture entering the wood from weather or sprinklers will get trapped in the wood.  I liken it to boiling water with a lid on.  Rot will set in the areas unable to acclimate/dry.  With treatment on all sides and ends we eliminate the moisture from entering and preventing the rot process.  The single most place, where rot will set in, is where posts touch the slab of concrete.  A stand-off bracket should be used to prevent slab to wood contact of posts.  For every reason, treatment will pay for itself before you ever have a failure to wood rot.  If you remember to enforce proper building techniques as well as procedures, your Cedar Timbers will stand for the length of time they were grown for.

Choosing Wood Deck or Concrete Slab for a Patio.

The first factor to consider when making the choice for wood or concrete for your patio is the relation to the grade of the ground and the top of the patio.  If the patio is to be on the ground or built into the ground, wood is not the best choice for construction.  Wood below grade will retain moisture and rot.  Concrete properly formed and laid with steel for reinforcement, grade beams for perimeter strength and at least four inches thick in the field is the better choice.  If you plan to overlay a stone or tile on top of the concrete, then you must form the slab below by the amount of the finishes you plan to use on top.  The criteria for wood decks to be used as a patio surface, you must allow for air flow under the deck to remove rot-causing moisture.  Clearance of eight inches or more below the framing is recommended before building a wood deck.  If your intentions are to build a room above the patio floor, then the choice of flooring is magnified by both the materials choice and the construction requirements.  A concrete slab must be increased in strength to support contributions of weight overhead from walls, roof or second floor decking.  This process is called engineering a slab and is recommended by the reputable concrete contractor or an engineer in the field of structural concrete.   Engineering a wood deck to support a room above is highly recommended.  Considerations for beam sizes, piers or posts with footers and/or a perimeter stem wall to transfer the weight of overhead finishes are all-important features to consider.  Anywhere the ground is sloped away from the house preventing a concrete slab from readily being formed and poured is likely a good spot for a wood deck.  Proper building techniques for building a wood deck are recommended and can offer many design opportunities for creating the living look of wood if you so choose.  So now the choice is yours. 

Fence posts - Metal or Wood?

Metal has proven to be strong and last a good long time but will rust outside in the elements.  If the metal post is galvanized properly with multiple coats of zinc, then the metal post will not rust.  For safety reasons you do not weld with or to galvanized metal.  The vapors produced can be deadly.  For this reason clamps and bolts are used to secure the rails of the fence to the posts.  A metal post can be set in the ground 20" to 30" and filling the hole with concrete. 

Wood has been a building material the longest.  When used properly, wood fence posts will last as long as the fence.  Treated Yellow Pine is commonly used for its strength and cost.  Western Cedar is also used for posts.  Do not set a wood post in concrete.  The concrete will make the post hold moisture and promote wood rot shortening the life of the post.  Setting a wood post 20" to 30" in the ground and filling the hole with gravel or tamping solidly the earth around the post until the hole is filled completely will insure the post does not rot before it’s time. 

Preventing Deck Wood Rot.

The number one contributor of wood rot in wood decks is the lack of airflow under the deck to remove harmful moisture before it seeps into the framing and flooring.  For this reason alone, I do not suggest using a soft wood such as redwood or cedar for framing with ground contact.   I also would not suggest using the soft woods for the flooring of a deck without airflow underneath.  I would like to see at least eight inches of clearance below the joists to the ground at the lowest closet location.  Using improper building techniques, many deck builders do not take the time to seal all four sides of the wood flooring boards before they are laid over the joists.  In an adverse attempt to protect the wood from moisture intrusion, some builders topcoat the flooring with sealers, hoping to extend the life of the wood.  This process however widely used in today's construction will only shorten the life of the wood by trapping moisture inside the wood causing it to prematurely decay.  I liken the process of sealing after construction to putting a lid on a pot of water to boil on the stove.  The water will boil sooner with the lid on than with the lid removed.  Moisture in wood evaporates through the surface of the wood and by the air movement around the wood.  So, if you eliminate the ability for the wood to dry out you only contribute to holding in the moisture and causing premature rot.  It has always been my suggestion to seal all sides of the flooring before being laid over the joists to keep moisture from entering from below and from above.  Once sealed, the wood will thrive in its stable condition for the longest time.  If you cannot seal all sides of the flooring boards before attachment, I would suggest extending the life of the flooring by not sealing only the surface, or using a permeable oil stain which protects the wood and allows moisture to evaporate. 

Preventing Wood Rot.

Whether you are a novice or a professional, wanting your work to last as long as possible is important.  Preparing materials for their final resting place must be a concern for the builder and the owner.  In situations where exterior forces of nature might cause moisture to seep into the framing or exterior finishes of their home, proper sealing of all wood is a must.  Wherever end grain of wood comes into contact with the slab or floor at the doors and windows, prime or dip the end grain in an oiled solution to stop future moisture from wicking into the wood member.  Remember the end grain of a board acts like a wick drawing water into it as if it were drawing moisture from the ground while tree was still growing.  These situations are most prevalent at exterior door bottoms and at windowsills.  The sill plate of most all homes built in the area is a treated bottom plate to help prevent deterioration from the elements.  This plate does not stop moisture from wicking but only prevents the moisture from rotting the treated plate.  If any untreated materials are attached to the area with the moisture latent plate, these untreated materials will wick the moisture and without the ability to dry will start to deteriorate.  Future building practices should allow for porch roofs over exterior doors to help prevent the intrusion of water and moisture from entering the framing.  Be alert and suspicious of any wood columns built at time of home construction, whose framing is concealed with finishes directly in contact with the slab they sit on.  Many new homes have wood rot where framing inside these built-up columns have no way of releasing any moisture condensation or accumulation from within the structure of the column.  Wood rot will most certainly appear before its time unless proper building techniques are used at time of construction, including treated bottom plates and breather holes at slab to allow air into the cavity of the column to remove the moisture.  Be aware of these situations and have a home built to a better standard.

Protect your exterior doors with a shed roof.

I have found the doors protected by a roof have very little occurrence of damage due the elements, which attack a door having no roof.  Having a door to your house exposed to the elements is much like being without a hat on in the sun or being without an umbrella during a rain storm or without a windbreaker at the beach with all that pesky sand blowing against your skin.  Your exterior doors are subject to all this and more without a roof structure above and proper finishes below.  The roof will always be there to shade the door from the UV rays and the concentration of heat associated with direct sunlight.  The heat will dry the door as well as shrink the panels and joinery allowing moisture to penetrate into the joinery surface.  Once moisture enters the wood, the moisture will cause expansion in the wood leading to a destructive cycle of expansion and contraction, which opens the joinery even more allowing the further reduction of protection from the elements. 

The combination of sunlight and moisture can bring havoc to your exterior doors.  Rain is the number one source of moisture problems to your doors.  If the northern facing door never gets to dry out, then moisture retention will cause mold and fungus to grow onto the door face.   The growing wood destroying plants will eat away at your finishes allowing wood rot to set in.  Wood rot grows rapidly in favorable situations.  Keeping the rain from splashing onto the door lessens the chance of moisture from remaining in the area. 

Wind in itself does little to damage the door.  But if you add dirt and water to the wind, the elements now have a force to push themselves into the tiniest cracks breaking the seal of protection offered by the finishes on the door. 

With a roof above the exposure to the elements is lessened.  The amount of sun and rain is lessened, and subsequently the amount of damage to the door will be greatly reduced allowing the access to your house guarded during the life of the home.

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