14 Dec 2010

Hardwood Decking End Wax – Is It Necessary?

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Most hardwood decking installation professionals will suggest using end wax to seal the ends of boards before installation. For the impatient consumer, this may seem like a time-consuming, unnecessary step. This misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. End wax is the best way to prevent end checking, also called cracking. The following are the top reasons why a high-quality end wax is absolutely necessary for the installation of a new deck.

Moisture Change

The main goal – indeed, the entire point – of sealing the ends of deck boards with wax is to prevent moisture from moving in and out of the boards. The cellular structure of wood allows moisture to freely move in and out of the porous board ends. This moisture exchange causes the board ends to crack and split, sometimes as quickly as one hour after being cut.

Some homeowners will underestimate the damage end checking can have on a new hardwood deck. The cracks and splits caused by moisture exchange may not seem like a big deal when it is simply one board, but when almost every board starts to crack the result can be very unattractive. Also, since end checking tends to affect about 90% of untreated boards, replacing cracked boards can be very expensive.


Cracks aren’t the only outcome of end checking. Water can cause major discoloration in hardwood decking materials, even ones as resilient as Ipe decking. Discoloration occurs most around exposed, untreated parts of the wood, and end checking exposes more surface area of the board. The cracked, exposed areas start to darken and discolor as soon as they are exposed to moisture, giving your deck a spotted, unattractive look.


Even though applying end wax is a relatively inexpensive procedure, some homeowners still don’t want the added cost. Foregoing the application of end wax, however, is more costly over time. Replacing cracked and discolored boards is expensive and annoying, and if the majority of your deck has experienced end checking you may need to replace the whole thing.

How to Apply End Wax

Now that you know why it’s important to apply end wax before installing a hardwood deck, let’s take a look at the application process. Luckily, applying end wax is a relatively easy process. One method is to simply take a folded rag or small towel, dip it in a high-quality wax such as Anchorseal, and gingerly apply to the board ends. Use just enough to properly seal the end, but avoid getting any on the deck board as excess wax can cause staining. If you do happen to use too much, simply scrape the excess off with a putty knife and lightly sand the affected area.

As you now know, applying end wax is a very important step in the installation process. You may be tempted to skip it, but doing so can cost you a lot of time and money in the long run. Using Anchorseal or an equivalent sealant will prevent end checking and help keep your hardwood deck looking great for years to come.

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