If you are planning on a decking refresh or building a new deck this season, you have plenty of choices. In this article, we will focus on the best decking material choices based on your needs. Most homeowners will base their choice on the economic factors, then performance and then look and feel.
As you go through the process of evaluating your decking choices you can get lots of great information on railing systems too here.
Talking with a qualified deck designer can be a great way to get started.
Your home’s outdoor space is an extension of the interior, a place enjoyed many months out of the year and some places all year. It makes sense that building or updating a deck can boost the value of your home and provide a peaceful retreat.
Wood decking is the overwhelming choice for homeowners and the number one choice among wood alternatives is pressure treated. The widespread popularity of PT lumber isn't surprising: it's affordable, readily available coast-to-coast, and easy to work with. P.T. decking comes in a few colors today like brown and grey and not just the original green. In most applications with proper annual maintenance of cleaning and staining the longevity of this product is typically about 10 years. Today treated lumber is much safer and less toxic than the coatings of the past and typically comes with a warranty against rot.
Need to learn more about staining your deck like a seasoned pro? Check out or article on deck staining here.
The second most popular decking material is cedar and for good reason. Cedar is a beautiful natural product that contains natural tannins and oils that resist rot, decay and insects. The ability of cedar to maintain these characteristics depends on the content of heartwood in the wood. Heartwood is wood that is cut form the center of the tree. Cedar is a naturally eco-friendly choice but it will cost about three times as much as P.T. so this is a big reason so many homeowners choose PT as a wood material.
The downside of both cedar and PT lumber is that they are natural products. That means they will eventually absorb moisture and with that it has a tendency to crack, split and warp. This is where the problems begin with all wood decking products and annual maintenance is critical to enjoying these products as a decking choice.
Synthetic Decking Materials
If annual maintenance sounds like a pain then a wood alternative is clearly the choice for you. Synthetic plank decking like Composite decking sometimes is used interchangeably for other alternatives like PVC too. Synthetic plank decking offers good looks with less upkeep. Composites, which blend ground-up wood and plastic, have chipped away at wood's popularity. Some even contain recycled plastic so are considered and eco-friendly option too.
Both composites and PVC come in sizes similar to wood decking and offer different profiles. This allows these products to use hidden fastening systems that improve the look of the floor finish. Another advantage to these products are the enormous selection in colors, textures and styles available today. Most decking manufactures also offer a line of handrails, balusters, fascia and other decorative trims to complete your project.
Prices vary because there are so many different companies, but composites are typically less expensive than PVC. The initial cost for these products is certainly higher than wood but they will last at least three times as long. Many of these products come with 20 or 25-year guarantees so the cost will be similar over a longer period.
Pros and Cons of Alternative Decking Choices
Not everyone likes the idea of installing man-made decking, but these alternatives do have certain advantages over wood. These alternative products are extremely low-maintenance and never need to be sanded, refinished or stained. However, they aren't maintenance-free. Mold and mildew can grow in shady, damp areas of the deck so regular cleaning is necessary.
Now more than ever, a wide variety of decking material options are available for the homeowner. With all these choices in modern materials, building a deck is a worthwhile project that will typically last many years. Building a deck has many benefits such as enjoyment of the outdoors, a space for social activities, and the potential to increase the value of your home. While cost is often the most influential factor involved in making a decking material selection, the homeowner should consider other factors before making a final decision
If you are not ready to replace your decking just yet, we have many options for you to consider in our recent article on resurfacing your current deck here.