Which deck material is right for you?

As winter fades and spring is ushered in, it’s a great time to think about adding a deck to your home to increase your space for entertaining, at least when the weather cooperates. When determining which deck material is right for your project, it’s best to identify your priorities. After all, there are many different materials, and they all have pros and cons.

Wood vs. manufactured

Your first consideration is whether you prefer a wood deck or a deck made of composite, PVC, or aluminum decking. Prefer is the key word because it ultimately comes down to what you like and want, as there are both wood and manufactured options in every price range. Many people appreciate the natural look of wood. When maintained properly, wood can be a beautiful, durable option for years to come. If maintenance is a concern; however, you may opt for a manufactured product. There are both wood and manufactured products for every situation.

Which wood type would be best for you based on your priorities?

The most affordable wood option

Pressure treated lumber is natural wood that has been immersed in a preservative and pressurized, forcing the chemical into the core of each piece of wood. That chemical treatment helps it resist bugs, fungus, and rot. Because low-grade pine or fir are common choices for this type of lumber, it is the most affordable option. It can warp and crack over time, so regular maintenance is needed. When it rains, galvanized nails, screws, fasteners, joists, and deck hangers anchored into pressure treated lumber can corrode, adding to that maintenance.

The most popular wood option

Redwood is the most common wood option for decks. It has many positive natural attributes: it is resistant to pests and fire, does not warp easily, is long lasting, and does not cause galvanized hardware to corrode like pressure treated lumber does. It’s also relatively inexpensive. The downside is that it requires regular staining and sealing to prevent it from developing mold and getting damaged by the sun.

Easy to stain and seal

Cedar is similar to redwood in many ways, but is usually cheaper. It is naturally resistant to weather, rot, insects like termites, and it will not warp. Cedar is easy to stain and seal, which is good because it is needed annually. Another downside is that cedar is not as strong as other hardwoods, so it can be scratched and dented more easily. 

A sustainable option

Bamboo decking is made of compressed strands of bamboo, which is technically a grass, so it’s a bit of a hybrid between wood and a manufactured material. When it comes to affordability, it is second only to pressure treated lumber. What sets it apart from traditional wood options is that bamboo grows quicker than trees and can be replaced quicker, making it more sustainable. Its 6-foot lengths make it easier to install, which could add additional savings. However, it requires annual maintenance to keep it looking its best.

The king of longevity

Ipe (pronounced ee-pay), which is also known as Ironwood, has a life expectancy of more than 40 years, offering by far the most longevity amongst wood options. Ipe is three times harder than oak, meaning it won’t scratch or dent. It requires no staining or sealing, but oil must be applied annually. Other drawbacks of ipe are that it requires special tools to drill holes into it for installation, and it is the most expensive wood option.

A unique wood option

Tigerwood is a beautiful option with reddish-brown coloring and exotic black and brown streaks. It lasts more than 25 years without any preservatives being added. It is naturally resistant to rot and decay. Like ipe, special tools are needed to drill into it. Initially, you should apply oil to tigerwood twice annually, but that is only required for a few years.

Choosing the best manufactured option based on priorities

A popular manufactured option

Composite decking—which combines wood and plastic fibers—has grown in popularity since being introduced in the ‘90s. It sets itself apart from wood options in many ways: It requires very little maintenance, never splinters or rots, does not corrode metal fasteners, and is available in many colors. “Hollow core” options allow you to run electrical or audio cables through them. Costs of composite decking vary widely based on quality. One negative is that dings cannot be sanded away. Also, some composites get warm to the touch in very high temperatures.

An eco-friendly option

PVC decking is similar to composite decking in many ways, but is more environmentally friendly because it is made completely from recycled plastic and can be recycled at the end of its life. PVC products are resistant to fading, staining, mold, mildew, and termites. They also won’t warp, rot, crack, split, or splinter. And, they require almost no maintenance. PVC options come in a variety of price points and some even have a 25-year warranty. They cannot be refinished or recolored, though.

The strongest option on the market

Aluminum decking is not very popular despite its many strengths because it is, by far, the most expensive option on the market. It is stronger than all other materials, despite being lighter than wood. You get all the benefits of manufactured materials, and it’s fully recyclable, too. Oh, and it will likely last long after you move on from your home. In addition to its high cost, though, it is also the noisiest of all options; however, that attribute is commonly overstated.

Once you pick your material, then what?

No matter what material you choose, your best bet is to have it professionally installed. Deck building is labor intensive. You’ll also want all floor boards to be exactly even. Most importantly, your deck needs to be sturdy enough to last for years to come. That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself for a DIY job. Instead, let JOE.BUILDER. expertly install your deck so you can rest assured that it was done right and will stand the test of time.