If you've been watching the project, you know that the pool project has been successful, but a bit time consuming... not necessarily because it's been difficult, but because it's been out-of-the-ordinary and many stock solutions haven't been available. Plus, I'm pretty picky.
If you haven't followed along, here are the short-strokes:
- It got hot, so we DIYed a pool.
- We needed to build a deck around it.
- I got distracted by building a poolhouse instead.
- We had a kid and things got busy.
- We finished deck #1, but it failed and we ripped it out.
- ... now, let's get this done.
One of the elements that's been delaying the project has been the choice of a new decking material. Previously, we had used cumaru — an "ironwood" that failed miserably. While beautiful on install, it swelled and destroyed itself. That was just one of the overall problems (cupping, splitting and maintenance were also significant concerns) and it left me searching for an alternate decking solution.
We had considered many, including a few systems that allowed for a stone or hard surface installation (if this fails, this is up next). Making the installation a tiny bit more difficult is that the pool looks best if there's a lip over the edge about 2in to hide the track and liner edge... again, nothing is easy, but I think we've found a solution.
In searching for a composite decking material, I came across CaliBamboo. It's difficult to find a composite that doesn't look like fake wood. I don't mind artificial or synthetic materials, but to make them look like their natural counterparts is somehow antithetical. CaliBamboo's BamDeck if a composite of HDPE plastic and bamboo fiber and the boards are double-sided... and neither are grained to look like wood. Instead, the texture is a striated surface similar to brushed concrete and it comes in a variety of appropriate colors, including one very close to the Burnt Hickory color we've used for the fence. In this install, however, I'll be using one of their planks that they market as a fascia board (again, nothing's easy)... the "square edge" which is a solid, non-grooved board. It's also available in the charcoal color we want.
However, having the previous deck fail with a hidden fastener system, I wanted to investigate another option. I had great success with the Camo Marksman system on an adjacent deck using mahogany, so I wanted to give it a try.
Results: So far, so good...
I ran some prototypes this weekend to test some install techniques and I think I've got one that will work well.
Next up: Ordering another truckload of decking material and trying a few other installation techniques including a narrower 1/8in gap with the Camo Marksman Pro-X2 that's marketed for PVC decking.
I'll be working up a detailed Installation post (+ videos, etc.) when the full installation happens. While flush with fantastic marketing, CaliBamboo has very little from a DIY, first-hand POV standpoint. My hope is to highlight the material as well as the process of installation. I'm sure I'll discover a few things along the way. I'm already impressed with how the material is working.
There's lots of things to like about the company including their overall verve (nice to their employees + nice to the community/planet). The direct-sales aspect isn't ideal, but I understand why they need to do it this way (contractor pricing vs. DIY pricing models vary greatly). Everyone I've worked with there so far has been top-notch and many seem to be very long-term employees, even in sales (which is rare). Also, the idea of shipping decking all over the place isn't great, but if the material works, then it'll be worth it. I had 4-5 trucks show up with cumaru and ended up having to dispose of it in the end, so there wasn't much gain in using that material.
BamDeck is a composite decking material made from 60% bamboo fibers and 40% HDPE plastic. In addition to the non-wood-grain surface and double-sided option, one of the things that really appealed to me was the solid-surface nature of the product. It's consistent through the board versus many composites with a top layer of color/texture. This means that the cut-ends look better — and it's possible to rip or mill a board. In fact, with this install, I will need to dado out a groove for the lip mentioned above (a powder-coated 2X2 aluminum L) and it mills quite well... better than wood, really. They make a newer product called 3G which is a hollow-core product that is actually stronger than the solid (and a lot lighter ... good for roof decks), but the ends are open and it's not a look or performance suited to our application (water collection, etc.). The 3G-wide has a texture-side which matches the Eichler thin-line paneling, too! If we put a roof deck on the MicroEichler, we'll likely use the 3G wide.
Important to note is that the boards I used for this prototype have been outside for a nearly year already in full-weather-exposure and haven't changed a bit. No fading, no torquing. With a hose-off, they're as good as new. Meanwhile, I've had to oil the adjacent mahogany deck twice and sand it once (but I got the mahogany is a fantastic price, so...).
Camo is one of many hidden fastener systems on the market today. One of the things that makes it unique is the way it attaches. It is very similar to top-screwing and the forces are even on both sides of the board and the screw penetrates the board to hold it in place. Some of the fastener systems are screwed through on one side and friction-fit on the other (Ipe-clip) which creates uneven force — not ideal. Others rely on the clip only which means the boards could actually slip out of the clip.
The Camo tool comes in a few models that vary the gap/spacing between deck boards. The most popular version — the Marksman — leaves a 3/16thin gap which is a bit too wide. They have a Pro-X1 which is 1/16th gap (to narrow) and an Pro-X2 with a 1/8th in gap... which is probably ideal. I have that tool on order, so we'll see how it goes. The screws are unique to the system and are part auger, part double-thread screw. They also come in a few finishes and lengths. I used 1-7/8in epoxy coated on this prototype. Since the pool is salt-water, I'll might at least use their 316-Stainless screws on the boards closest to the deck, but the brittleness of stainless steel mixed with the expansion of the planks worries me, so I might re-think that. Since the deck does not absorb water, the epoxy coating might be best if the screws are made of a steel with a stronger tensile strength.
Detail Images and Notes
[Given the needs of my technique, having a few drills and drivers on hand with various bits will be essential. I think I'll need three: a driver, a pre-drill for the screw, and a pre-drill for the screw-head. ]
[I tried a few depths and sizes and the winner is 13/64 for the head and 9/64 for the shaft. The head needs some free space to the outside or it will tend to mushroom, but it needs to taper down quickly so that the grabbing effect can take place — and not be too deep. While the screws themselves are capable of self-drilling, a small path helps things along, so a slight pre-drill helps. Maybe my first million dollars will be made designing a Camo pre-drill bit to do this 2-step process all in one... it wouldn't be too hard and would be very similar to a tap-bit (from a tap/die set)... Hey, Camo: Let's chat. I've already drawn it up.]
[When pre-drilled, not only does the top-side look better, but the bottom stays secure and does not blow out... obviously, this is a good thing. You can see the two-sided nature of the boards here as well as the pollen the boards have collected. This washes off easily. The boards one year later look seriously good. In contrast, the redwood joists are actually newer than the deck boards and have already weathered.]
[These are the test boards that have been sitting out in the open (hello, El Nino) for about a year. They haven't even been swept... you can see some pollen residue in the grooves of some of the boards that easily washes out with water.]
[One of the things I've learned so far is how much of a mess the boards make... and it's not something that will bio-degrade, so a good clean-up is necessary. When sawing, the boards smell a bit like mahogany... I'm guessing that's the bamboo. I'm cutting with a newly sharpened Freud 50T carbide 10in blade. I might opt for a blade designed to cut PVC decking.]