The decision to build a deck is easy. Adding a deck is like adding an extra room to your home. In most regions, an outdoor deck not only adds value to your life, it adds value to your home. But choosing which material to build your deck from can be difficult. To make things easier, read this rundown of the most common decking materials before you head to the hardware store.
Wood is the most budget friendly option, though some types of wood can be very expensive. Pressure treated (PT) lumber such as yellow pine is plentiful, easy to work with and affordable. The downside to PT lumber is that it contains a number of chemicals and toxins.
Redwood and cedar are more expensive than PT lumber, but are popular for their beauty and natural durability. They don't require the chemical-laden process of pressure treatment to make them last. Select redwood or cedar that's labelled "heartwood" to get the hardest and most durable lumber.
Exotic woods such as ipe, cumaru and mahogany are highly resistant to rot and insect damage, but the density that makes them durable also makes them difficult to work with. Using tropical decking will require a system of fasteners and clips-no nails or screws can penetrate these woods!
A deck made from any type of lumber typically needs to be power washed once a year and re-stained every 2 or 3 years, though higher-end products will need less upkeep. Eventually, warping, cracking and splitting will be an issue with any natural wood material. If you want to save money upfront, expect to spend more time on future maintenance.
Deck image via Banidea
Composite and Plastic Lumber
Composite decking is a blend of natural wood fibers and recycled plastic. Plastic lumber is exactly what it sounds like, a material that resembles wood but is made completely from plastic. Both composite and plastic lumber are highly resistant to decay and staining. Warping, cracking and splitting are not a concern. And no splinters either! Both materials are lightweight, easy to install and low-maintenance. Annual washing is still necessary, especially in shady spots where mold can grow. Not everyone likes the look of these "fake wood" materials, but some high-end composites and plastics look almost identical to the real thing. Composite lumber is usually less expensive than plastic lumber; however, these options are more expensive than most types of real wood.
You may not have heard of it yet, but aluminum decking is slowly gaining in popularity. Aluminum decking won't splinter, crack, rust, rot or burn. Insects can't damage it, and its powder-coat finish lasts a lifetime. Though it seems like it would be hot on a sunny deck, aluminum actually dissipates heat and stays cooler to the touch than any other type of deck material. So why isn't everyone using aluminum on their deck? It's more expensive than most woods or composite/plastic lumber.
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