From Engineering on April 09, 2008 in Decks and Patios
When it comes to building a deck, you have three main options for decking: treated wood, wood composite lumber, or naturally durable wood. Traditionally treated wood has been the norm, but in recent years there has been a significant rise in the use of composite materials, mostly due to the promise of little or no maintenance. As it is, there is no perfect choice for wood decking but all are reasonable options, depending on a handful of mitigating factors specific to the homeowner.
Treated wood, usually pine, fir, or spruce depending on your region of the country, has long been the primary material for decking. Most types of wood used for decking need to be chemically treated in order to resist rot, fungi, and insects. While prices often vary, treated lumber is usually the most inexpensive of your decking options.
Naturally durable wood, such as cedar, cypress, or redwood, is naturally resistant to problems such as fungi and insects. This wood is naturally resistant to attack because of chemicals deposited in the tree’s heartwood as it grows. A few species of durable wood, such as western red cedar in the northwest, are widely available, but some may be special order and therefore more expensive. Naturally durable wood is, generally, rising in price due to depleted supply and reduced logging. Many of the younger, smaller trees harvested today do not provide the same durability of the older, larger trees logged in the past.
Wood composite decking is ever-growing in popularity. At first it became widely popular because manufacturers promised that it required no maintenance. This notion has since been rescinded but they still claim low maintenance. Wood composite deck boards are made from recycled wood fibers such as sawdust and mostly recycled plastic or PVC. This combination provides a durable, low maintenance decking option although routine cleaning is still necessary. Composite decking is notorious for mold or mildew problems and it is essential that proper spacing is administered during installation because the plastics in the wood will expand and contract significantly. Composite decking is usually much more expensive than pressure treated wood and has been known to fade considerably in just a few years, thus limiting the available colors.
Whatever type of decking you choose, your deck can last you many years. In the case of wood or treated wood, you will need to keep your deck clean and reseal it every few years to ensure longevity. Remember that all wood eventually succumbs to rotting, hence the recent popularity of composite decking. Wood composite decks have the advantage of continually being refined and upgraded and will become more competitive over time. While they do not require sealing or staining, composite decks do need regular cleaning with chemicals to avoid the buildup of mildew and mold. The choice is ultimately up to each individual or family. Price, maintenance, and appearance are all common deciding factors. You have options; simply make the choice that is best for you. Take care of your deck, and you’ll be satisfied years into the future.