Pine is an excellent decking timber provided you work properly with it, protect each cut end, and seal it afterwards. It’s also much nicer to work with than some of the more popular imported hardwoods because, as a soft wood it takes screws without splitting, as the harder timbers do.
The trick to an extraordinary deck is to give it the fine detailing. Use a laser level to ensure uniform level all over, and a string line to keep those rows of screws in perfect line. Think about ‘picture-framing’ your deck (a frame that goes around the outside of the deck hiding timber-ends) which finishes the job with a totally professional look. Framing needs to be accommodated by joists so think ahead.
The tricks to using pine decking include:
- Use stainless steel screws – inevitably galvanised screws can rust (The timber treatment actually accelerates it), and some nails do not successfully hold timber which warps under the extreme heat of the summer sun. When the timber gets wet then settles again, you’ll find your nails standing proud.
- Every time you cut a timber, treat the cut piece with Metalex or a similar wood treatment / preserver. Treated timbers often don’t get penetration through the centre so by treating the ends as you cut, you ensure that rot doesn’t start.
- Use the best grade of H3.2 timber you can afford and make sure you build at least 30cm above ground – lesser grades include knots, warping, and wonky bits, so best grade means less off-cuts and wastage.
- Grooved decking up or down – grooves in timber decking can be laid with the grooved side up or down. Grooves on top gives better grip, however grooves underneath leave a cleaner look with the smooth top, plus the grooves act in a capillary fashion drawing the water away from underneath.
- Use a drop-saw – skilsaws and hand saws will cut, but the motion of a drop-saw means you get smooth, perfect cuts which take treatment much more easily.
- Pre-drill timber ends when laying – timber ends take much of the strain and are subject to cracking when the added pressure of a nail or screw is applied without first pre-drilling screw holes for them.
Another advantage of pine – apart from the ends, it doesn’t require every hole to be pre-drilled as the other imported hardwoods may need to be.
Pine grows in 22 – 25 year cycles instead of many decades like hardwoods, which can make it more vulnerable to the elements. When the deck is complete, paint it with two coats of sealant such as Intergrain, Wattyl, or Cabots, and your deck will look gorgeous, and last for 30 or 40 years.
Otherwise you can leave the deck unsealed for a more natural look and it won’t need resealing every couple of years.
Remember – the weather causes Pine to ‘move’ both width ways and lengthways by around 5%, so this always needs to be taken into account while installing the decking.
Have fun. Decks are a great project to get stuck into and if you pay attention and do it well, the neighbours will bring beer over for an excuse to admire it.