In an earlier article, we talked about some easy ways to cut high-density wood decking. That’s just half the battle. Most of the work is done when fastening deck boards, whether they are Ipe hardwood or other wood decking. Installing your hardwood decking is easier when you know how to fasten it.
Fastening deck board with face screws will build the strongest deck. The high density hardwood decking will fight you if you are crawling on your knees all day. These tips should make the hardwood deck installation process a bit easier.
You Know the Drill
The pre-drilled screws are one of the most common complaints when installing hardwood decking. This is true of course, but it’s also true of most decking materials. Pre-drilling is necessary for even softwoods such as cedar or redwood to avoid splitting. If you’re looking for “self-tapping screws” for synthetic decking I would personally prefer to self-tap tooth fillings.
Ipe decking is different from other hardwood decking because of its density. It takes more effort to drill than it does to cut, but as with cutting the tools will do most of the work. Start by using sharp bits and countersinks. The old countersink in your drill bag is only going to cause you heartache. Buy a new one. Buy three.
Let the drill bit do the job when drilling. Drill bits cut wood so, just as forcing a sawblade into wood will not work, forcing a drill through won’t either. Slow down and let the drill do the work. You may need to do a few “ins and outs” for the drill bit to clear itself of the sawdust and stay cool. You will heat up the bit and dull it. Your battery will also be damaged. Any time saved by hurrying is lost in trying to remove the broken bit.
Everyone Loves a Tight Butt Joint
All woodworking projects, including decking, are difficult to achieve tight butt joints. In an earlier article, we discussed how to cut hardwood deck boards better, as the better the cuts, the tighter the butt joints. The installer also has a part to play. Installers can make a good job look bad, and a poor one look good.
Especially when multiple people are installing the board, everyone will go nuts and start driving screws everywhere. Stop the madness. Wait to screw the rest of your board until you’re confident that the joint looks good. You’ll either end up with a sloppy join or have to remove several screws in order to recut the board if you fail to pay attention.
Here’s an old trick that I have learned to make the joint (almost) tight every time. Hold the board slightly up at the joint. Hold the bottom of the board that you are installing on top of the board that is not attached.
Tip When using a “scarf joint” or “bevel joint” or “weather joint”, hold the unfastened end of the deck board a little uphill from flush. Drive your first screw on the opposite side of the joint. This will keep the board in position. The screw will hold the board in place when you drive it at the joint. It may need a little encouragement.
Deck boards should be straight and narrow
A well-installed deck will have clean, straight lines. Wobbles in the gap between deck boards are not only sloppy, but can throw the entire deck out of balance by the end. When installing high-density wood decking, one of the biggest challenges is getting the boards in place and keeping a clean, uniform gap.
How to align deck boards properly:
Set your gap between deck boards
Choose a size gap between deck boards at the start of deck board installation. You can either buy or make a spacer to fit the gap. Make enough spacers to cover the entire job if you decide to make them. You may end up having to make more spacers later. They will likely be different from the originals. This will create a discrepancy over time. Find a nail with the thickness that you prefer. 8d or even 10d are great options. Make sure to use the same size throughout the project.
Align the decking rows
Decking boards made of natural wood are seldom, if at all, perfectly straight. You can work with it. Cut the deck board into shorter lengths if it is too bent to straighten. Here are some tips on how to best utilize deck boards that have a slight bend.
It’s difficult to get the boards snug against the spacers, and then hold them in place while you screw. You can achieve this in several ways. Some people use a chisel to drive into the joist in the front of the board, and then pry it over. For this task, I use a nail puller (cat’s paw). The two prongs are more effective than a chisel, and because it’s a solid bar of steel, you can use it to pry.
There are several board straightening tools (such as the Bow Wrench, shown in the example above) that also work well. The designs vary, but they are all essentially camming tools with long handles that slide over the joist to push the deck board in place. They offer a lot of leverage, and require less effort due to the long handle. This is something you will appreciate when you have to pry over a board for the hundredth time. They are also useful for one-person installations because they can be used with the knee, elbow, or forehead.
Slow down and be patient when installing timber decking in Perth. Don’t rush and keep your tools sharp. Don’t rush. These hardwoods have a high density and are not forgiving. So, put all your energy into the job at hand. It’s faster to slow down. Imagine some palm trees in the sunshine, while listening to Bob Marley. Your next deck installation will feel like a day on the beach.