Building composite decking boards all by yourself is possible. All you need is the right tools and some clear instructions. However, there are many ways of how installing any kind of decking can go wrong. One of the few issues regarding installation is decking board gaps. Should there be a gap between deck boards?
Do You Need Board Spacing?
When installing any type of deck, you will need to leave gaps between each board. Not only in-between the sides but also at the ends. It’s one of the few mistakes that many make when building a patio. But the truth is, proper deck spacing is crucial. Any type of decking board will expand and shrink, whether it’s wood, plastic, or composites. However, the rate of how they change in size and why they do so differs.
Wooden decking boards are the most susceptible to shrinking and expanding. When exposed to moisture, they can easily absorb it and swell. When the boards dry out, it returns to its original size. However, there will be cases that the changes can be permanent. It may also lead to warping, cracking, and splintering of the boards.
On the other hand, plastic or vinyl decks will change in size due to changes in temperature instead of humidity or moisture. Composites can both expand and shrink due to moisture and temperature, due to them having both wood and plastic fibres. However, they don’t change in size as much as wood or plastic. Wood fibres hold the shape when the composite undergoes thermal expansion, while the plastic fibres do the same when moisture is involved. Depending on the make of the composites, they can be more susceptible to one kind of expansion.
However, both composites and vinyl decks are also more resistant to warping and bending than wood. If you think that it will be an issue, consider using vinyl or composite decking boards instead. While both of them offer the same durability, composites look more natural and wood-like, but slightly more expensive.
Importance of Proper Deck Gap
So why is it crucial to leave spaces between the boards? As previously mentioned, it’s because they can contract and expand. If they’re too close to each other, it can create friction, which can damage the boards. It can also bend, cup, or warp the boards. Leaving spaces in-between the gaps can also provide drainage, which reduces the instances of water pooling on your patio. With excellent drainage, you can also reduce the risk of moisture damage and mould and mildew growth.
On the other hand, if you leave spaces that are too wide, it can potentially cause accidents. People and pets can trip over the deck. Too wide gaps can also look unsightly. When gaps are bigger, there is more airflow. Too much airflow can make the patio more susceptible to fire. Having too wide gaps can potentially affect the frame of the deck as well.
Overall, decking board spacing can affect the lifespan of your deck and the safety of the people around you. As such, you’ll need to put the proper space in-between the decking boards.
What is the Right Spacing Between Boards?
Many agree that the gap between the decking boards from side to side should be anywhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inches. Both 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch gaps have their disadvantages. Wider gaps give better drainage but can be a safety hazard, either by tripping or fire. On the other hand, narrow gaps can catch dirt, which makes the deck susceptible to moulds and mildew.
For this reason, many people choose the middle or around 5/8 of an inch for the gaps. Likewise, you’ll also need to put spaces in between the ends of the boards. Recommended gap distance is around 3/16 to 1/32 of an inch.
When working with composites and wood, always make sure that they are dry first before installing them. When working with wood, you’ll also need to install the bark side up to minimize the cupping.
If you are still unsure, it’s best to read the manuals supplied to you with the materials. Alternatively, you can ask the manufacturers for advice. They can offer you more details and more detailed instructions on how to install the fence properly. Remember, deck spacing is crucial.