So many aspects play into the color of a board, from the growth of the tree to the details surrounding the milled lumber. The local climate in which a tree grows impacts its color, as does the timing of when it’s felled. After that, the sawing and drying methods as well as the timing of milling (if applicable) and method and duration of storing all impact the color of the board.
With so many variables involved, it’s amazing that even remote color coordination is possible. The reality is that the perfectly color-matched decks you see on marketing brochures reflect the exception, not the rule. They also showcase a final product achieved only after great amounts of time and effort.
While tropical decking boards are sold ready for installation, they are far from finished products. Species such as Ipe or Cumaru go through a lot of appearance-changing circumstances on their way from the forest to the job site.
Impact of Local Climate
Species such as Cumaru and Ipe can be harvested from a wide geographic area; as a result, various soil chemistries and climates can lead to vastly different coloring. Some regions typically produce lumber with mineral streaking. In addition, fires or floods can cause temporary soil chemistry changes that, in turn, produce darks streaks or major color changes in the wood, on both sides of the major event.
Impact of Travel
Tropical decking undergoes grueling travel conditions on its way from African or South American forests to U.S. lumber yards. And before you imagine a luxury cruise, think again: Conditions are typically poor, conditions crowded, and layovers long and frequent.
The resulting moisture and temperature fluctuations, in addition to exposure to dirt, salt, mold and other debris, can cause temporary color changes that appear permanent when they become baked on or ground into the wood. Standing water can also stain the wood.
Impact of the Elements
The sun, wind, and rain will constantly work to change the color of a board. While there are ways to slow the process, and some species react more quickly than others, eventually the sun will fade the color of a board into a silvery gray. Of course, the process doesn’t happen overnight; the color variation occurs slowly over time.
A freshly milled board initially experiences a high degree of color change as the surfaces are exposed to the air for the first time and begin dumping added moisture into the air. Additional chemical changes that occur with oxidation impact color, as well.
Regardless of the initial variation in color, over time all boards will mellow and achieve a more homogenous appearance. To speed up the process, you can lay them out in the sun; like people’s skin, they can get a sun tan, but they can also get unsightly tan lines if you’re not careful to remove debris from their surfaces.
Continue reading with Part 3.