When considering the typical size of wood used in the decking industry, most decking boards are 1 inch or 5/4 inch (1.25″) thick with some types of decking being also available in a smaller 3/4 inch thickness. Many contractors believe that the thicker the wood, the more stable it will be in the decking construction. Particularly in climates where there are harsh temperature changes or in an extremely wet climate, some contractors want thicker boards. A relatively newer thickness option which has entered the decking scene is between 3/4 inch and 1 inch with a 21mm thickness; this is considered plus size.
In countries such as Europe, which has an extremely wet climate, this “plus sized” thicker material has become the standard, in turn making mills in South America produce more lumber with that thickness in hopes that this will become a popular decking size in other areas such as North America. While it may seem like a good idea to have a deck thicker than the smallest 3/4 inch but thinner than the full 1 inch or 5/4 inch thickness, the questionable practices start to be visible when we find that it is the thicker lumber which is typically being planed down to the smaller 21mm thickness, resulting in wasted product.
The same 5/4 lumber used in the U.S. is usually sent through a planer to create the 21mm desired size thickness, thus resulting in a lot of wasteful sawdust created from the precious lumber. The mill can now put more wood into the packaging container to be shipped overseas and charge the importer for the now higher quantity of decking boards in the packaging, thus offering the mill a great deal. While this sawdust may not seem like a big deal, for any lumber distributor who strives to use only ethically harvested wood, this waste should raise some questions as to the actual necessity of such a 21mm thickness.
Ipe, the most popular decking choice, is typically 3/4” thick and so stable that an additional 2mm probably wouldn’t make much of a difference. In fact, you should question if you are installing a deck in such an adverse climate, would an extra 2mm of thickness even make that much of a difference to warrant such waste?
Cumaru is another decking option, but because it is not as stable as Ipe; many lumber distributors do not carry thicknesses of Cumaru less than 5/4 anyhow. Anything below that 5/4 thickness in Cumaru is a recipe for disaster in terms of warping or failed decking.
The final issue in plus-sized decking lies with availability. Just because you built a plus sized deck 5 years ago, you may find that if you need to replace a plank or even add on now, that same thickness may not be available. You may find that because plus-sized decking is still a minority in America, you cannot match the piece years later.
Anytime there are wasteful practices used to make a final lumber product, you should question whether it is really necessary. As for plus-sized decking, while it may be popular in Europe, chances are you will be extremely satisfied with an Ipe decking that did not cause viable board to be planed into dust. J. Gibson McIlvain Company stocks a wide availability of Ipe in the 3/4 and 5/4 thicknesses, offering their customers a product that is stable, cost effective, long lasting, and ethically harvested.
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums. Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.
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