Time to get all decked out


By CCHRC Staff

The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

Q: What are my options for eco-friendly decking?

In today’s market, the selection of decking materials is vast and can be overwhelming.

Other than wood or treated wood — which have been traditional materials for years — there now exists a wide variety of composites which may contain a combination of synthetic materials.

Composite decking is typically comprised of some type of plastic or vinyl, and in addition, some brands also will also use ingredients derived from wood products. When it comes to treated woods, the chemicals used in the treatment process have gotten more eco-friendly than the chromium copper arsenate (CCA) which dominated the industry for many years. Be aware that the new treatments tend to be more corrosive to metal fasteners, so today’s treated woods may require a specific type of treated connector in order to insure that the deck will hold together safely in the long term.

Composite decking may contain recycled plastic and/or recycled wood fragments. Some brands may even be composed almost entirely of reclaimed products. Common recycled ingredients include old pallets, mill waste, plastic shopping bags, bottles, and other discarded plastics. One of the primary advantages of composite decking is it requires little or no maintenance. Not all composites can span the same distances between joists as wood decking, and so may require additional framing for support.

Most local lumber yards will carry both wood and composite decking. A good resource which compares decking and other products is the website www.healthybuilding.net.

The site has lots of information on a number of different building materials.

Q: I have a heat recovery ventilator in my crawlspace, and it’s starting to make funny noises, what should I do?

HRV systems require routine maintenance, and if the maintenance schedule is ignored it can severely impact performance.

For regular maintenance, examine the filters, outside hoods and screens for cleaning or replacement every one to three months. Filters can become clogged with organic debris including insects, pollen or dust and grass, especially if the fresh air intake is close to the ground.

Most of these filters are washable.

The exchanger core also needs regular maintenance. It should be inspected approximately every six months and cleaned as necessary. The core can be vacuumed or washed with soap and water depending on the situation, so refer to the owner’s manual for specifics. Also, be sure to examine the condensate drain, and if needed, clean it at the same time. The lines can be tested by slowly pouring water into the drains to check for obstructions.

The HRV drains should have a trap or a loop containing water, which will prevent the unit from drawing in air through the line.

Testing the lines is important because the HRV is sometimes tied into a septic line for drainage, or is located in a crawl space with other plumbing. Consequently, if there is a problem with the drain, the HRV system may suffer the ill effects.

Also, fans need to be checked every three to six months. Many fans are designed to function without lubrication, but some HRV fans require it, especially the older models.

Another important point is to make sure the HRV is “balanced.” That means it should be taking in roughly as much air as it is exhausting so as not to create pressure problems in the house. If you are not sure that the system has ever been professionally balanced, this is definitely a step worth taking to insure the system is operating properly.

Most manuals will contain information regarding maintenance specific to that particular brand and model of HRV. If you have lost yours, typically there are only a few different brands in Fairbanks and those manuals are usually available online.

Alaska HomeWise articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, e-mail us at akhomewise@cchrc.org.You can also call the CCHRC at (907) 457-3454.