(There’s Something Rotten In the State of Montana…)
In many places I suppose, but definitely, under the wide blue banner of Montana’s big sky, a very important feature of the average home is the deck, or balcony, or patio of some kind, on which Adirondack chairs, grills, and coolers may be enjoyed to their full potentials.
Almost every deck I’ve ever seen, though, is made of wood. Doesn’t seem like a problem at first. I mean, houses are made of wood, right? Just throw some truck bed liner or thick exterior finish over it, and we’re set for life, right? Wrong. The devilish demon we like to call rot is far sneakier than we’d all like to think.
See, water travels out of the sky, and towards the earth, in keeping with gravity. It’s a liquid, lifeless object, and as such, the laws of physics do apply to it. Where things get tricky is when the water’s already landed, when it infiltrates tiny cracks and seams, and seeps not just down, but up, and even sideways, creeping into the very floor upon which you stand!
Rooting Out the Evil
Every year, no matter how dry you think your home is, you should do a thorough inspection of all decks, porches, and eaves of your house. Just take a small chisel, awl, or screwdriver, and start poking around for soft spots.
Any place where cuts have been made against the grain is a place where moisture can enter more efficiently, so ends of beams and joists an pillars/poles are especially important to look at. Also take a good look at any metal in the wood, like screws and nails and any visible parts of flashing there might be. If there’s rust on any of it, there’s a good chance that rot’s nearby, and they should both be eradicated.
When you find any soft, rotten wood, pry out a chunk. Anything larger than an eraser (the rectangular, trapezoidal kind) could indicate that entire planks need replaced. If you can’t get more than that, though, just chuck some eco-friendly preservative at it, and mark it for next year, so that you can see how quickly the problem might or might not be spreading.
Don’t Stop There, Either!
Continue your search to the legs of chairs, and the supports under smaller porches or outbuildings (like wood and lawnmower sheds), which rest on concrete… If they’re resting on dirt, you can be sure they are either already rotten or will be soon, and once things that are low to the ground start to rot, they go pretty quick.
So Why Bring the Wood Outside?
All of you who live in highrise apartments, and whose outdoor seating is all made of metal… good for you. We on the ground admit that we have a bit more work to do each season, but as long as we remember to stick to our schedules, I have to say I pity you, for the steel chairs too hot to sit on, and for the lack of honest summertime experience. Time to hit the deck!
Your Woodworking Expert,