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Decking Materials

Updated on April 25, 2013

What better way to spend summer then on a beautiful deck in your backyard? If you are looking to build a deck choosing what material you want to build your deck out of is the most important part of deck building. When choosing what material to build your deck out of there are a lot to consider like the area where you live in, pricing of material, look of the deck, time for maintenance and upkeep needed, and size of deck.

If you are on a budget and do still want to build a large deck then you might want to find a material that is lower in price and vice versa if you have a smaller space to build a deck and you have a larger budget then you have more choices in what you want to build your deck out of. If you do not have much time to maintain your deck, like power washing your deck every year then you might want to build a smaller deck or build a deck with material that requires less maintenance. If you are looking for that specific look then you might want a deck that is built with certain materials only. If you live in an environment that is damper or has more insects then certain deck material might be a better option for you.

The most popular decking material is pressure-treated lumber it is the most affordable option, readily available, and easy to work with. Almost 75% of new decks uses pressure-treated wood costing at about 1$ linear foot. Southern yellow pine is the most common wood used for pressure-treated wood, it is usually chemically treated to prevent rotting, fungus and insects. Although this is the most common deck material it does require a lot of upkeep, which includes yearly power washing and staining the wood every two to three years. Even through all the maintenance and upkeep for pressure-treated wood it still prone to cracking, splitting, and wrapping.

Redwood and cedar are western softwoods that have naturally beautiful rich colors. Neither of these type of decking materials are treated with any chemical or preservatives as they have natural oils and tannins that prevent rotting, decay, and insects. Although they are not treated with chemicals the maintenance to these decking material options are the same as pressure-treated wood. To determine how resistant to rotting, decay, and insects it depends on how much heartwood is in the boards. Sapwood is grown on the outer part of the tree and heartwood is grown in the center of the tree, sapwood decays easily while heartwood is harder to decay and rot. Although they are not treated with chemicals the maintenance to these decking material options are the same as pressure-treated wood and to preserve the beautiful colors in these decking material it should be treated with a stain. Redwood and cedar wood cost about 4$ per linear foot except in the west coast, where it is originated from, costing about 2.50$ per linear foot.

Other types of deck materials are tropical hardwood that includes tiger wood, ipe, Philippine mahogany, red tauari, cumaru, and massaranduba. All these tropical decking materials are also naturally prevent them from rotting and decaying like the redwood and cedar wood. However, these deck materials are very hard to work with, as they are very dense and rich-grained. These materials are hard to cut through and drill so hidden fasteners are usually used. The price of tropical hardwoods are similar to redwood and cedar wood costing about 3$ to 5$ per linear foot. Pressure washing should be done every year to these type of decking materials but tropical woods usually tend to be very hard to stain as they are so dense meaning that they eventually turn a soft silvery color.

Composite decks are another option for decking materials that is growing in popularity, composite decks are not actually real wood it is a plastic lumber. Composite decks are typically made from polyethylene or polyvinyl chloride and the good thing about the plastic lumber is that they can come in almost any color you want for a deck. These decks are probably the most weather and bug resistant compared to real wood. There are two different types of decking materials in this category that can be chosen from which the difference is one is made from a mixture of wood fibers and recycled plastic and the other is made completely out of plastic (recycled or not.) The price ranges from 2$ - 3$ per linear foot and are probably the lowest maintenance needed for these types of decks which requires just yearly power washing.

One last option is aluminum decking although it is not typically what people think of using for deck materials. They are most durable, least maintenance but most expensive.

Now that you know all the options for decking materials it will depend on what kind of deck, how much space you have, how much time do you have to maintain and how much you want to spend on the deck to determine what material to use. A way to save money if you want the look of redwood or cedar wood but want to spend less you can also use pressure-treated wood for the under deck and use redwood or cedar as the top. Also make sure you know what grade of wood you are getting as each type of wood do come in different grades, A being the best and as the letters go up the grade does down. As well when buying lumber for decking it should be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. As they are a nonprofit organization making sure that the lumber has been harvested legally and in a sustainable manner.

What kind of decking materials would you use for your ideal deck?

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