Wood Decking Cracks: Is it Anything to be Worried About?

If you have a wood deck for a long enough period of time, you may notice some small cracks running lengthwise through the board.  These wood decking cracks are called surface checking or wood checking and occur as a result of seasoning.  In order to understand why exactly wood does this, we need to grasp the concept of the wood grain.

Wood Grain: Aesthetics or Science?

When you think of wood grain, you may think it’s simply the pattern a certain type of wood has that gives the board it looks, and in a sense, you’d be correct.  However, it’s much more complicated than simply aesthetics.

“Grain” refers to the orientation of wood-cell fibers. The grain of a deck board is the byproduct of the sawing pattern used when it was first milled in relation to the angle of the existing growth rings. Since growth varies from wood species to species, the rings are unique, similar to a fingerprint.


Wood is an organic material, and as with any organic material, it reacts with the elements.  Wood absorbs moisture.  As the morning dew settles on the surface and rain crashes down on your deck, the boards absorb that moisture.  When the moisture is absorbed, the wood expands.

A check is a term describing a crack that runs through a deck board lengthwise. This is usually caused when the lumber dries out too quickly after having absorbed moisture. When the wood expands between the grains and dries, this can cause a check.  

Is surface checking something to be concerned about?

The one thing everyone should be aware of when it comes to building a wood deck is that wood is wood.  It’s an organic material that reacts to moisture and weathering over time and requires routine maintenance such as staining, etc.  Using a UV-protective stain can aid in keeping your decking resistant to checking. Any wood product is going to have minor defects such as checking, even the strongest hardwoods like Ipe or Garapa.  Depending on how you look at it, these slight blemishes in the wood can be a part of what gives the material it’s charm over time.  However, if you’re not wanting to deal with these sort of issues, you may consider going with a composite or synthetic decking material.  You can refer to our blog post regarding those materials here.

No matter what material you have in mind to build your custom deck with, Centex Decks has you covered.  If you’re in or around the Austin, Texas area, you can request a free consultation, or give us a call at (512) 522-DECK (3325).


Caleb Wheeler

Austin Custom Deck Builder - Centex Decks

Owner and Master-carpenter Caleb Wheeler grew up on a large ranch, building barns, mending fences, and tending to the building needs of the family herd. He apprenticed a Master-carpenter from England, and worked with many other mentors to learn the art of fine craftsmanship in furniture building and now takes that knowledge and approach to crafting his company, his team, his custom decks, and outdoor living projects for his customers.

As a creative small-business entrepreneur with a passion for what he does, Caleb has built Centex Decks LLC into a company that delivers a beautiful product with the project management skills of a builder and with the fine detail and craftsmanship of a furniture maker.

“When you're a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you're not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You'll know it's there, so you're going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back, because, details matter.” — Steve Jobs

Every custom deck design + build project comes with our expert artisan craftsmanship.

We specialize in projects that are highly complex and need the expertise, planning, and execution from a company with 19+ years of residential and commercial construction management background. Let us be your custom deck builder.

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    Centex Decks

    • It’s simple;
      experience + design + craftsmanship.

      With 19+ years under our belt, we are able to design + build to the highest of standards in the decking industry. We only use hand selected materials to make your outdoor living dream become a reality.

    • The details matter.

      In a true craftsman’s nature, we design all our decks and outdoor living projects with the details in mind. We care about what the finished product is being built on as much as the finishing details. 

    • Designed + built to last

      Due to our experience in the highly-detailed and regulated commercial building world, we over-engineer residential decks for load safety and longevity.

    • Last but not least; our craftsman.

      If you value craftsmanship then you’ve come to the right place. Our team of craftsman are just that, craftsman. We take pride in the product we are creating and it shows in the final product.