Fill That Post Hole With Concrete!
When you're building a deck, a fence, a pole building or whatever, everyone thinks that the hole MUST be filled with concrete. I did a little research and on this subject and surprisingly there are a couple websites where this question has been asked with varying answers. All make a case for their point of view, but for me, I'm going with the opinion of the science and math teacher that I grew up with and started this business almost fifty nine years ago now, Mack Porter, and he says, "Don't fill your post holes with concrete".
Here is the case he makes: All concrete will do two things, guaranteed; hold moisture and crack at some point. Both are bad things for the post that you are encasing in the concrete.
First, the moisture. How many of you have a basement with a concrete foundation that "feels" dry? It doesn't have to leak or have water showing to have that moist feeling, but still it is. Why is that? Because concrete is rock, and all rocks have moisture in them and are porous. More importantly, rock will absorb and pass moisture through to its dryer side. If you don't believe me, try putting some water drops on what most would consider one of the hardest rocks, granite. If it has not been treated, it will soak up the water and you will notice a darker place on the granite.
Second, the cracks. Everyone has some concrete poured somewhere around their house. Have you ever had a slab of flatwork, sidewalk or foundation that didn't have a crack in it somewhere? No, it's impossible. No matter how strong a mix or how much steel you put in it, it will crack somewhere. It has to.
So let's apply this to your pour, unsuspecting post, pole, 4x4, or 6x6 that you are using. Moisture is woods natural enemy. Along with its accomplice, air, moisture will take down that piece of wood. Now I know you did the right thing and you bought treated wood for your post. That does help, and it will prolong the woods life, but no treating solution will stand up to a CONSTANT attack from air and moisture. That happens at the ground level. With concrete holding the moisture against the wood, wood has no chance and will eventually lose the battle. Now you don't have to lose all hope because it's for certain that the concrete around the post will crack, therefore making it easy to pull out when it starts to rot. Even worse, the concrete cracks early. Now the concrete is like a bucket around the post, filling up with water every time it rains. Now you're heading for a rotten post in a sloppy hole. YIKES!
How did we get here? How did it become accepted practice in construction to fill postholes with concrete? Here's what I think. Before packaged concrete came along, Sakrete and Quikrete being the two big names, we would recommend to customers to put a concrete block in the bottom of the hole to keep the post from settling or sinking. Then when Sakrete came out, we would recommend you pour some in the bottom of the hole to set the post on, replacing the block. Of course, being guys, more is always better right? So why don't we just fill that hole up with concrete? Boy that's got to be better doesn't it? Solid as a rock! It's not goin anywhere! Sound familiar?
So what do you do instead of concrete, gravel? A lot of people will throw rocks at this method (sorry) but using gravel does a couple of things. First, it lets the water drain away from the wood right on down into the ground. No water, no moisture, no rot! COOL! Gravel is also like a good defense in football. It bends, but never breaks. Have you ever seen some of these skyscrapers in California during an earthquake? They are dancing all over the place when the earthquake happens, but rarely do they break. Even better, watch the wings of a jumbo jet at takeoff. You would swear they were going to flap like a bird during takeoff. Again, bend but not break.
So remember, if you want concrete mix and Quikrete is what we carry, we've got it for sale and we'll be glad to load it into you truck for you, but ask the guys at the service counter for some gravel, and when I say gravel I mean limestone chips of any size, not pea gravel. We should have it too and I think you'll be happier in the long run.
“I’ll Just Power Wash It”
How many times have I heard that? Five of the most destructive words that have ever been used around a house. Power washing seems to be the answer to any project. Whether its painting, staining, applying sealers or just plain dirty, a power washer always works its way into the process. Keeping in mind that almost every material that is used around your house is made of a porous material, such as wood and yes even concrete, power washing may not be the best idea.
Where was the first power washer that you ever saw used? The car wash. If you’re washing your car or a boat or any hard, non-porous and non-organic material, the power washer is the tool!
One application for a power washer that I understand and I’ll give you a pass on is siding before painting. I HATE TO SCRAPE PAINT, so I’ll buy that one, but only if you let the siding dry completely before painting. Maybe as long as forty eight hours depending on the weather.
The WORST place to use a power washer is on a deck made of composite materials. I’m talking about material like Trex, TimberTech, ChoiceDek, Evergrain just to name a few. I’ve had customers call and say, “there was black spots on my deck so I power washed it. Now the deck is warping, swelling and popping the screws.” What I would like to say is, I wonder why, since you just injected it with who knows how many pounds per square inch of water. Most every manufacturer will tell you DO NOT power wash a composite deck. Instead, use a deck cleaner. I have personally used the Olympic Deck Wash with good success on my deck. You do have to give it a scrub or two but really, it’s not that bad. It should get rid of the black spots, which are mold, for around a year. We have a new product in stock at Porters that I want to try. It’s called Bravo from Encore Coatings. It’s supposed to seal composites and make them less susceptible to mold stains while restoring the deck to its original color and luster.
All wood decks are more forgiving to the power washer but still, damage can be done to the wood with a power washer. You want to get it clean before you put on the stain, but did you ever think that by power washing the wood, you are also tearing down the fiber of the wood? The result of that, splinters! Whatever happened to a little scrubbing and a thumb in the end of a hose?
So guys, holster the power washer. Don’t draw down on a defenseless deck, driveway or piece of siding unless you’re sure, there are no alternatives to power washing.
ARE YOU BUILDING A BOAT?
Why you DON’T need marine plywood.
OK. You’ve got this fishing boat you got at a yard sale and you want to fix the seats before you go fishing. So you want a sheet of marine plywood, right? It’s going on a boat and that means marine, right? WRONG, on both counts!
Marine plywood is made for boat hulls. Special processes are used in the making of marine plywood with regards to the face and the core.
What you really want is a sheet of regular old plywood and a bucket of exterior paint. The thickness is up to you. ½” to ¾” C-D (roof sheathing grade) will work fine. If you want a smooth surface, then buy the A-C grade. The most important thing to do is paint all six sides. The top, bottom, and all the edges. Delamination is the biggest cause of plywood failure and that happens when moisture gets in the edges.
Now if you really want marine plywood, any of our locations will be glad to get it for you, but expect to pay between $60 and $100 a sheet for it depending on the thickness and market conditions. If you go with my recommendation, expect to pay between $15 and $25 a sheet, again, depending on the thickness you need and the market conditions.
What about treated plywood? We’ll that’s your call. Treated plywood will help the longevity of your seat by guarding against bugs eating it and rot, but it will still delaminate if you don’t paint it.
I hope this helps save you some money on your next trip to the lumberyard.
Porters Building Centers
What’s a lumber grade stamp?
When you go to the lumber yard, buy your lumber and then go to the yard to be loaded, (or do all of that yourself at the big box stores) how do you know you’re getting what you paid for? The grade stamp. Without the grade stamp, you’re at the mercy of the yardman to load “whatever” he wants. So it’s there for your protection. But do you know what you’re looking at when you see that stamp on the next 2x4 your buy? Most people don’t. So I’m going to break it down for you.
Most of the framing lumber in the Kansas City lumber market are western species. That means, they come from the west coat, Canada, or Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. So that is what I’m going to concentrate on here. We’ll save the southern species for the next article.
So here are the five things that you should find on your lumber:
a The WWPA certification mark which certifies association quality supervision.
b Mill ID. Usually a number which identifies the producing mill.
c The grade designation, name or number. (We’ll talked more about this later)
d Species. What kind of wood this is. Doug Fir, Hem-Fir, SPF, etc.
e Condition or the seasoning, or how was it dried at the mill at the time of surfacing.
The three you should be looking for are c, d, & e. The grade is the most important because that’s what you’re paying for. It can also be very confusing. The grades of dimensional lumber are based on either visual inspection or a combination of mechanical testing and visual inspection and are a judgment of end use strength rather than appearance. Natural log characteristics that affect strength are taken into account along with manufacturing imperfections.
There is a division within the grade. Select structural and light framing. Structural grades are select structural, 1, 2, 3, and light framing grades are construction (const), standard (stand), utility (util), stud. Select Structural are the highest grades in structural light framing and generally, the numbered grades are more expensive than the named grades. This is what you should be looking for when you need a floor joist or a rafter where strength and stiffness is required.
Select Structural (the grade) and MSR (Machine Stress Rated) is generally bought by the truss plants and is necessary for engineered wood trusses, so you won’t see it very often in the lumberyard. The most common grade in the structural category is #2 and better. Many times I have heard “I don’t want seconds, I want firsts”. Just because it says #2 does not mean it’s a “second”. In fact, #2 and better means the unit or bundle can actually contain up to 80% #1 in the unit. The same applies to standard and better, up to 80% construction grade. There is also a new wrinkle caused by the “big box” stores. They want their lumber to be “pretty” in the store which means no wane (bark on the edges) minimal or no knots or any other appearance defects. Hence the new name “appearance grade”. Appearance grade does not mean it’s better, it just means it looks better. So just remember the old saying “looks can be deceiving” and look for the grade stamp.
Species is next. The Kansas City lumber market is primarily a green Douglas Fir market. This is what the builders prefer because of its high strength and relative ease of nailing. SPF (a combination of spruce-pine-fir species) would be the next most common species followed by Hem-Fir (Hemlock and Fir species) and Fir and Larch.
Last is moisture content. There is ALWAYS some moisture left in the wood. Most all of the Douglas Fir in the Kansas City Lumber market is S-GRN. That means it has a moisture content in excess of 19%, hence the name Green Doug Fir. S-DRY which is found commonly on other species means it has been dried to a moisture content of 19% or less.
My father and founder of Porters Building Centers always says, “if you don’t know lumber, know your lumberman”, which is really true. If you need lumber in the Kansas City, St. Joseph or Lake of the Ozarks areas, get to know Porters Building Centers!