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Community and Q&A

Black locust decking

DCContrarian | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

I’m looking to build a deck. I’m wondering if anyone here has experience with black locust as a decking material. It’s advertised as being as durable as tropical hardwoods but sustainably grown. I’m particularly interested in what it looks like after a few seasons in the sun.

Thanks

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Replies

  1. Robert Swinburne | | #1

    I am using it in Vermont where black locust grows large. I am working with a local sawyer who loves black locust and knows how to slice it up for decking. It is commonly used in urban park projects for decks and benches. My own black locust deck is only a year and a half old and seems to be doing fine. It is a very open and airy design - I don't like using natural wood for decks where it's really closed up underneath. Here is a picture of it new - the only difference now is that it's grayish brown. I used the camo system and installed it fairly green. With the Camo system I can easily replace boards if needed.

  2. Burninate | | #2

    Four downsides from my research:
    * It seems to be so dense/strong that it sometimes tends to check, crack & warp from internal stresses that develop either during life or during fast-schedule kiln drying
    * In a lot of the US it starts to rot from the heartwood once the tree is approaching lumber-relevant size, and it can be also attacked by the locust borer and locust leaf miner, but not much else
    * It's so tough it can be difficult to mill/plane/nail/screw into once dry.
    * Because it will grow prolifically from seed or root, it's been regarded as a weed. Even fast-growing locust can't achieve lumber sizes instantaneously. While it can grow straight, if it encounters shading on one side or it gets cut back then it will happily grow crooked. So you want older, even-aged black locust plantations, and you can't just go back to the 1970's and plant them.

    So it can be difficult to get a proper board out of; The price I saw was just slightly lower than black walnut. I think if these downsides didn't exist, black locust would be ubiquitous for its advantages, and we wouldn't have heard of Ipe. If you find a local supplier for inexpensive, dried, stable black locust boards, I'd say go for it.

    1. Andy Engel | | #3

      I've worked with locust. It's very dense and hard to tool. You'll burn out some drill bits on it. As has been mentioned, longer lengths can be hard to come by. But the stuff I've used on a deck has held up very well for 10 years.

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