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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2020
    Location
    Maitland NSW
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    1

    Default Using green hardwood sleepers as decking boards

    Hi all

    gonna start building a deck soon, using traditional h3 framing for bearers and joists but going for a unique finish, want to use 200x50mm hardwood sleepers as the decking boards, direct from the mill, rough sawn and green. Using 100mm bugle batten screws time fix in place. I intend to belt sand and pencil round the boards. Worried about using green hardwood and it seasoning in situ. Obviously will be softer to work with, any info or tips? Or has someone done this before?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    Brisbane
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    198

    Default

    Errr... Why? There will be a huge amount of movement as 200mm wide green timber dries - they'll either split, or more likely rip your fasteners out as they season. (i've had sleepers do just that to huge batten screws in a raised bed.) They're shorter than decking lengths, so there'll be lots of joints - that will catch the eye as they go out of true. To sand them enough to avoid ripping people's feet will be a labour intensive process. And I can't be bothered to do the math, but they're probably more expensive per square meter, unless you get a major discount - because you're paying for about 2.5 times the normal thickness of wood per meter run...

    Oh, and fastening down that thickness will make fixing standard decking look like stapling paper - check out the relative cost of planned screws against standard - decking uses 'quite a few'.

    Across that width, you'll be fighting cupping for about 5 years until it dries through, and have to resand and then reseal every year to avoid trip hazards...(at least you'll have the depth to do so...). If the screws don't give, sleepers are probably strong enough to warp and strain the bearers, unless you seriously over-engineer them...

    Weird idea unless you are after a uniquely rustic look that is probably a safety hazard for all concerned... If you want a 'not run of the mill' look, think about contrasting species or interesting layout of your (normal) decking - personally, I would avoid the idea - but that's just my initial observations with a beer in hand!

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2020
    Location
    Melbourne Australia
    Posts
    82

    Default

    At least allow them to climatise(I don't think I spelt that right) for a bit in your garage or somewhere dry so you get an idea of what they will look like before shooting them off. I think once you see that you'll realise the amount of shrinkage green lumber goes thru in the drying process. That's alot of movement brother waiting to happen. You'd be luck if the gaps inbetween don't look like the grand canyon after a few months. Good luck anyway.

    Jpdv is on the money with his explanation above. I'd honestly go with something kd. GL!
    "..teach a man to fish, he'll eat forever."

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2020
    Location
    Melbourne Australia
    Posts
    82

    Default

    Quick question. You cutting the sleeping down to 50mm from I'm guessing 200x200?
    "..teach a man to fish, he'll eat forever."

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Nsw
    Age
    62
    Posts
    1,202

    Default

    I assume you want a rustic type finish on your deck?
    A couple of things to consider.
    -50 thick hardwood decking is going to be very heavy so will need to beef up your subfloor framing
    -The boards will be short so lots of joins
    -Expect lots of shrinkage and movement and some splitting
    - after a couple of years your battern screws will be sitting high and most likely seized to the timber so not easily screwed further in if at all

    If you are still wanting to go down this path you will be able to get 150x25 wet sawn boards in long lengths and will move less but the best option is to get KD skip dressed decking boards if you want a more rustic look

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Melbourne
    Age
    63
    Posts
    836

    Default

    I've done a deck in 130 x 32mm rough sawn, pencil round spotted gum (pre-oiled). I don't know how long they had been air dried, there was a bit of splitting, already. The guy got them cheap. lengths were good. Depends on the layout of the deck but sleepers would be hard to handle and other problems, as described. If you're happy with rustic, you can often get feature grade/lesser quality finish at auctions at greatly reduced prices.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Oberon, NSW
    Age
    62
    Posts
    13,156

    Default

    If going ahead with this I advise you to use screws instead of nails to limit the vertical movement, as well as pre-drilling the holes over-size to give some leeway for lateral movement to reduce splittage and to help prevent screws from binding over time, so you can re-tighten with less fear of 'snappage' once the timber has settled.

    I'd also recommend countersinking the screws down a cm or two, so that at a later date you could run a 'leccy plane over the lips of any boards that don't shrink as far as their neighbours, to reduce trip hazards.
    I may be weird, but I'm saving up to become eccentric.

    - Andy Mc

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
    Location
    Dandenong Ranges
    Posts
    1,472

    Default

    Hi QC. Rule of thumb for timber to air dry to a reliable moisture content is about 1 year per inch of thickness. You will need at least 2 years with the boards stored correctly (gaps between each one ,like you see at sawmills). And then the changes that result from drying will need to be dealt with, cupping, twist and bows. If you don't do this I can gaurantee all the dramas previously mentioned by others. Rough sawn timber also holds dirt, mould, etc which makes a deck slippery very quickly.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Location
    NSW
    Age
    36
    Posts
    882

    Default

    I tried to belt sand 3 of the cheap 75 x 200 sleeper from the big green shed, the crap that is all the rough sawn just clogs the belt and then gets hot and bakes on. I had to run the sander and use a scraper to chisle it off just so i didnt have tk buy another pack of belts as i went through about 4x 80 grit belts trying to do 3.

    If i have to do anymore ill be running them through the thicknesser instead to see how it goes. For a deck i would heavily consider abrasive blasting or something if you just want the really rough bits off.

    Why are you actually using rough sawn? Surely it cant work out cheaper then actual decking

  11. #10
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    NSW
    Posts
    483

    Default

    I got here a bit late but 40 years ago, "green", or more correctly "green off-saw" (unseasoned) decking boards were about all us new arrivals on the Mid North Coast of NSW could afford. The trick was to keep them close together and drive the nails at an angle, then when the boards shrank as they dried the gaps were not too great. I did decks out of both 100mm and 150mm boards and they worked OK. I just cut some 100 x 25 boards for my son and he screwed them down with stainless steel decking screws. Time will tell how good of a job he did.

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