Archive for April, 2012


the evolution of the deck

I remember when I started working at Wilson Lumber in 1984, we used to stock Redwood for decks.  That was the thing.  If you had a redwood deck, you had made it.  The Creme de la creme today is… well, I can’t tell you.  Why?  I’m not sure there is a best.  I’ve seen decks of just about every kind since then.  I wont call myself an expert, but I’ve seen a lot of things.

Perhaps its best if I explain.  Way back when… wait, I realize that some of you have a “way back when” that precedes mine so for this blog if you’ll allow lets just use mine.  Now, way back when to build a deck, you used wood.  Now I’m speaking of outdoor decking here, decking for covered porches is a different issue altogether.


Now, you should understand that I am a fan of wood decks.  When installed properly and kept well-maintained, they are rich and beautiful.  I like them just fine.  The problem is, the sun does not.  When you place a surface outside horizontally and don’t weatherize it properly, its open season for the sun.  And frankly, its not just real easy to weatherize Southern Yellow Pine.  So you may end up with this.

ImageThis picture is from Mike Jansen Custom Cedar Decks in Nebraska.  They replace decks like this with Cedar.  For tips on how to avoid you’re deck looking like this, see my spring is deck season blog.  Cedar is a much better wood for decks because it’s more resistant to rot.  But yes, you guessed it.  It is a good bit more expensive.  And sometimes it’s downright difficult to come by.  And don’t get me started on Redwood, its very difficult to find now a days.

So about 15 years ago, alternative products began to appear.  You already know that Trex was first to the nationwide market and they enjoyed that competitive advantage for a while.  Their formula was a fairly simple blend of wood, plastic and glue.

ImageWell, it didn’t take long to discover that you could never use the words “maintenance free” in the decking world.  Whereas you’d never have to paint or stain, you still have to clean.  You just cant stop dust from getting on something that is outdoors (or indoors for that matter).

In any case, there were three issues with this product.  First, mildew.  Now mildew needs certain things to grow.  And even if those things aren’t part of a deck board, as long as they’re on the deck board, mildew can grow.  Second, grease (not the movie).  Drop a hamburger or spill some mustard and you have a little work to do to get it out of a composite deck board.  Finally, fading.  This isn’t necessarily a problem because the color it fades to is fine.  However, uneven fading due to shade or adding new boards to an old deck required waiting for the new to fade before it would match.

There were other players as well, and though they were successful elsewhere, they never took off in the Huntsville market.


Next up on the market was an all PVC board.  AZEK is probably the best known but they’re not the only one.  Now this is a wonderful invention.  Remember the hamburger we dropped earlier or the mildew.  I can’t keep you from from dropping it but I can tell you this is much easier to clean right off.  So this product is easy to clean, really lightweight, easy to install and surprisingly durable.  AZEK even has this really cool in-deck storage kit.

I saw it at the International Builders Show.  Very handy, especially if you have limited space.  These options I’ve outlined so far were it until a couple of years ago when “wrapped” deck boards came out.  Now these I like.  See, for all the praises I’ve been singing about PVC boards, the limiting factor is price.  Not that its not worth the money, its just that its a LOT of money.

Wrapped deck boards combine the best of all worlds.  The core is made of the wood, PVC and glue formula that originally came out as a composite deck board so you get the structural durability and no-rot characteristics those were great for.  But the outside of the board is wrapped in a Poly Shell so its easy to clean, installs nicely and maybe best of all, wont fade.

There are differences in manufacturers.  Our personal favorite is Timbertech for several reasons, one of which is their awesome railing systems.  I’ll have to blog about that later.

Well, there are several other options but this blog is already much longer than I meant for it to be.  You can find more information on it at our website.  Bottom line, there is definitely a difference in decking, so be sure to do some research, give us a call, and choose wisely.


It’s a sign!

No, really.  It is a sign.  See


I don’t know exactly how a company that has been successful for 63 years in the same location doesn’t have a sign, but we didn’t.  We had letters on the building, banners for sales, a changeable marquees.  But until today, we never had a sign.  Just imagine how successful we’ll be for the next 63 years.

Thanks to the guys at J&M Signs who did a great job installing.  And for more tips on how to be a building materials store without a sign:), visit our website.


top 5 reasons to replace your windows

Windows can make a big difference to a home.  Of course there are more than 5 reasons but this is an unscientific look at what we hear when folks come in needing help.  Most of the reasons listed apply to removing old wood windows but some apply to any kind.  Ready?  Here we go:

1. Aesthetics – No, I’m serious.  Windows absolutely make a big difference in the character of a home.  That’s why you have to choose the right window as a replacement.  I’ve put two pictures from Ply-Gem below.  Now, neither is better or worse but you can see the difference in the amount of glass there is in the one on the left verses the amount of frame there is in the one on the right.  This is not necessarily a quality statement, but is something you need to consider when choosing a window.

2.  Energy efficiency – Perhaps there is more focus on this in the last few years more than ever before.  Energy prices aren’t getting any cheaper so every bit people can save on a utility bill is a step in the right direction.  Case in point, see the glazing (the putty around the glass that holds it to the frame) on the window pictured below.

Once the glazing gets old and cracked, it allows air to flow right on through easily.  Go outside and take a look at yours and compare.  I got this picture off of  Actually, this glazing is in much better shape than my old house in Blossomwood.  You could stand inside the window and feel the breeze.  Oh, and by the way, the picture leads us to reason 2a, if you’re windows are broken.  You might glance around at your windows and make sure there are no cracks or condensation, big energy losers.

3. Comfort – Well I suppose this encompasses all the other reasons but I can tell you that we’ve heard from plenty of customers about how much more comfortable their homes are when they replace old, drafty windows with new efficient windows.  Less work for the AC unit and hopefully, less fighting over who controls the temperature.  Or is that wishful thinking?

4. Maintenance – Why bother painting a window that is costing you money in energy efficiency and aren’t as appealing as new windows anyway?  Replacing windows is easy with the right installer and make it so that the only maintenance involved is periodic cleaning.  Sorry, they still haven’t made a magic dirt repelling surface to put on the outside of a home.

5. Easy Cleaning – If you’re windows don’t easily tilt inward, I’d bet that you have a hard time cleaning them.  The picture to the left shows what I mean.  If you’re replacing your windows, make certain of two things.  1) The hardware that makes it tilt is high quality and easy to use and 2) your window is installed square so that they are efficient and you don’t have to fight with them to get them to tilt.

This is a quick list and there are many other reasons you may want to look at new windows to make a difference for your home.  In 63 years we’ve probably heard them all, although we’re perfectly willing to hear more:)  As I said in reason 4, finding the right installer is key.  If you need any help give us a call (256-852-7411) or visit us on the web.


the coolest town on earth

I spent the day yesterday at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology with my C12 Group.  And I have to say, Huntsville is the coolest town there is.  It is staggering to me what they do out there in Research Park.  It’s actually Cummings Research Park but we locals generally refer to it as just Research Park.

Anyway, I extracted the DNA from a strawberry.  It’s the white glob of stuff in the vial below.  I’m sure the term “glob of stuff” would make some scientists either laugh hysterically at me or else want to kick me in the shins but I’m not sure what else to call it.

Which leads me to my point.  If I understood correctly, there are people at HudsonAlpha that are working on the best way to grow crops (like strawberries), how to detect probabilities of diseases (like cancer) and if I heard right, they are getting close to making a serious dent in Parkinson’s disease.  These people are making a difference.

I am really glad there are people that smart in the world, and I’m really glad they’re in Huntsville.  I suppose I am most glad that they need houses, which is where I come in.  I never was good at science.  I don’t know if it simply wasn’t the way my mind worked or if I just never applied myself properly (well, I’m actually pretty certain about that one).  But in any case, catering to different kinds of people is what we do.  This kind of person wants this kind of window, that kind of person wants that kind of window, etc.

I’ll never be a scientist.  Who knows, they may say the same thing about working in a building materials store.  But as long as we all realize that it takes all kinds to make progress, Huntsville has a very bright future.


The job nobody thinks about until it’s too late

The problem with spring cleaning is, you never know what products you’re going to need until it’s too late.  For example, too often I’ve cleaned everything out of my garage (where I park important things like my broken bicycle, lawn mower, miter saw; whoever heard of putting a car in there?), only to sweep, and then pile all the stuff right back in there where it was before.

So if you’re like me, you head to the nearest discount store and buy some cheap shelving that lasts a year or two until you need to go back and buy more.  Or worse, the shelving you buy simply becomes more junk you move outside so you can sweep and then put back in place, creating more work for little reward.

If only I had planned ahead, I could have done something more than going to all that trouble just to clean the floor. I could have had something like this wise customer of ours.

I’m sure their bikes aren’t broken like mine.  The point is, there is a better way to utilize what space you have.  We recommend that you consider your own lifestyle and life stage, your interests and hobbies, and how much space you need.  One minute, your kid gets a new tricycle and sand box toys and you place them in the corner.  The next minute, they have mountain bikes, balls, bats, helmets, golf clubs and pogo sticks (do kids still have pogo sticks?).

So, what’s the answer?  A garage organizing system that grows with you and your family.  One that is adjustable and has lost of options.  A good designer (I know where you can find some) can help someone through this process and come up with something functional and appealing that you can be proud of.

Best of all, you don’t have to move it to sweep.  There’s so much available it will probably surprise you.  For more inspiration on how you can make a difference in your garage visit our website.  Otherwise, give us a call at 256-852-7411.  Happy spring cleaning!


Spring is Deck Season

Well yes, a new deck would be nice.  But for many of you, the old one simply needs a facelift.  Or for some, you have a new deck and did not use composite (blog coming on that later) but instead chose real wood.  The problem is that the sun is just not very forgiving on wood that is laid outside horizontally, especially if its stained a dark color.  So you must protect and maintain it.

I hate to go advertising right off the bat but believe me when I say that you get what you pay for in this matter.  The best thing on the market for this purpose, in my humble opinion, in Sikkens.  They have a couple of products available but the favorite among our customers is SRD (Siding, Rails & Decks).  Now it is a good product for a number of things but given the name, they must have had decks in mind when creating it.


SRD is semi-transparent, meaning you can sort of see through it, and has three-way UV protection (remember the problem with the sun I mentioned earlier).  In my 18 years full-time with Wilson Lumber (blog coming later on that as well), I can truly say that I have never once heard a customer say anything bad about Sikkens.  Enough advertising.

As with most stains, rolling it on is best and of course you’ll need a brush to get in the corners.  We have several colors in stock and can mix a lot more.  There’s also small sample cans you can buy and take home to apply to a small section to see if you like the color.

Most people don’t realize that you DO NOT shake stains to mix them up before application.  If you do, they’ll get air bubbles in them and that may lead to an inconsistent finish.  Always use a stick to stir stains, carefully, then you’ll avoid those nasty air bubbles.

Well, happy staining and if you have any questions give us a call at 256-852-7411.  As always, you can visit us on the web at


Hello World!

At Wilson Lumber Company, we have found that people are wanting to save money and attempt projects on their own. We decided to start this blog to help you with your next big project! Attached to each lesson we will include a shopping list with every item or tool you will need. Videos  (when we figure out how to post them!), images, and a comment box for questions will also be available to you.

If you live in the Tennessee Valley Area, please come visit our store and showroom at

4818 Meridian Street

Huntsville, AL 35811

We welcome any phone calls, 256-852-7411, and welcome you to visit our website for further information on how we can help you.

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