A deck can add additional value and outdoor living space to your home, and is a great place to entertain friends or grill out with family during the spring, summer, and fall months. As a homeowner, you may be considering building an entirely new deck or upgrading an existing structure, and may have questions about the options available for decking material.
Outdoor decks are generally crafted from one of two distinct materials: manmade composite or natural hardwood, and each possesses its own strengths and disadvantages. Knowing which decking material is right for you and what to expect in terms of maintenance requirements can help ensure that your deck will remain sturdy and great looking for years to come.
1. Hardwood Decking
Hardwood material has long been a popular traditional decking material due to its natural beauty and relatively low cost as compared to synthetic decking. Hardwood decking can usually be divided into two to three categories: pressure-treated wood, cedar and redwood, and, less commonly, tropical and other hardwoods.
2. Pressure-treated Wood
One of the most popular and low cost options, pressure treated lumber such as yellow pine is also chemically treated to resist fungus growth, moisture decay, and to protect against insect damage. Although it is the most affordable option for building material and is known for its longevity, a deck built from pressure treated lumber requires more maintenance than a deck built with a higher grade hardwood, and should receive a power wash annually and a stain or sealing treatment every two to three years to prevent cracking or warping from excess moisture.
Cedar and redwood are two hardwoods that are instantly recognizable by their beautiful and vibrant red coloring and distinctive smells. Both are mid-range building materials that are popular with deck owners because of both their natural beauty and tendency to weather the elements well. Redwood and cedar decks should also be cleaned on a yearly basis and treated with a semi-transparent stain every three to four years.
4. Tropical and Other Hardwoods
Tropical hardwoods such as ipe, cumaru, and tigerwood are relatively new additions to the decking market, and are beautiful and unique higher end building materials. Tropical hardwoods are extremely dense, and are naturally resistant to wood-boring insects and moisture decay, making them an excellent choice for decks to be built in damp environments. These hardwoods require the least amount of maintenance of any natural wood decking materials, requiring only an occasional cleaning or coat of protectant, although in certain areas tropical hardwoods can be difficult to find. Mahogany is another dense, moisture resistant high end decking material that you may want to consider if tropical hardwoods aren’t available in your area.
5. Composite Decking
Composite decking similar to Trex is usually a blend of sawdust, recycled lumber, and plastic or other synthetic fibers, and is generally considered to be the most low maintenance option for decks.
While many homeowners opt for composite decking because of the low maintenance associated with it, some may not realize that the material can warp just like natural wood if not properly installed or may scratch from repeated heavy use. Costs for composite decking tend to run approximately thirty percent higher than for traditional hardwood, although there are no additional maintenance costs for staining or sealants, and there is no sanding or refinishing required on the part of the deck owner. Composite decking is a good option for homeowners who don’t want to spend a good deal of time worried about the upkeep of a deck, but may come at the aesthetic expense of the deck itself, as color and pattern options can be somewhat limited when compared to hardwood decking.
This article was written by Nicole, a blogger who has spent many years researching the home improvement industry. She recommends WA Timber Decking as a great decking company.