Like many of us in the do-gooder world, I tend to get wrapped up in complex, multi-billon dollar projects and conceptually demanding things like greenroof. Sometimes it's important to remember the simple things like tapering and finishing that can make a huge difference.
I used to have two large pine planters, bought at the same time from the same store. Each was four feet long by twenty inches wide and each cost me over two hundred dollars. One difference in how I treated them made a critical difference in how they aged.
With one I left the exterior as is and focused on the interior. With the other I rounded off the tops, which were vertical four inch pieces, and then sanded them down a bit. Then I coated the whole planter in two coats of varnish, expecting that it wouldn't last long but figuring that every bit helps.
Well, by twelve years later the top of the one that I had left alone was far more fractured and worn that the one I had beveled and sanded. This ain't rocket science; when it rained the rain would pool on the flat top, in fact, over time it warped towards the wet side (the top) and even more water would accumulate in the now concave top. The other one, which started out a bit convex after my sanding, would shed the water as fast as it got rained on and, except for periods of heavy storms or snow, never stayed wet for more than a few hours. And, predictably, the varnish on the sanded planter also lasted longer than was typical. Much of it was still there when I sold it last year. By contrast, it peeled right away in less than two years from a similar pine surface on my balcony that I hadn't rounded off.
I'm sitting here right now in a house that has been remodeled to within an inch of its life. The fridge is a double-width Sub Zero. There are two bathtubs, one a sybaritic wonder of well-set blue and white tile big enough to park a truck in. The skylights and windows are generous, wood-clad, and triple paned. But the wooden top, about a foot wide, of the low wall on one side of the second story deck has just been nailed on flat.
Or at least it was flat when it was put there. Now it's already starting to bow up and, sure enough, in last night's rain I could see little pools accumulating where the now raised edges retained it.
What would it take for me to take a rasp and round down those edges? How much more effort to take a quarter sheet sander and give the whole thing a slight curve? Maybe an hour? How many more years would that big plank of high quality wood last if I did it?
I swear, some days I'm tempted to bloody well carry a rasp with me and just round off edges of railings and fence tops as I wander whichever city I'm in. Probably save ten thousand dollars of lumber purchases a year if I did.