By Bud Coburn
If you’re looking to perfect your yard with a new deck, here’s information on the pros and cons of the various materials you may use to build it.
The original and still most common decking choice, wood is natural, strong, easy to install and feels good under bare feet. But it also requires an annual cleaning and can rot, splinter, and warp. Even though all wood naturally weathers to a gray color, it should be cleaned and re-stained every two to three years to keep it looking its best.
Pressure Treated Wood: Lasting about 15 years, this is the least expensive and most common type of decking. Most pressure-treated wood is made from Southern yellow pine, which is quick to splinter if not maintained. When working with this wood, always use gloves, wear a mask, and never burn it because the toxic chemicals in the wood that prevent rot and termites can also be harmful to your health. These chemicals are also highly corrosive so for best results, use only stainless steel fasteners. ACQ, from Ring’s End, about $1.32/lineal ft
Extremely dense and highly durable, these materials are rich in color and resistant to insects and decay and last about 25 years. But they are also expensive, heavy, and hard to work ? so hard in fact that you can’t hammer a nail without drilling a hole first. Avoid dark woods if your deck sees a lot of sun during the day because they will heat up like a frying pan.
1. Red Balau, from Austin Wholesale Decking, $1.95/lineal ft.
2. Golden Ironwood, From Austin Wholesale Decking, $1.79/lineal ft.
3. Ipe, from Austin Wholesale Decking, $1.99/lineal ft.
4. Cambara, from Ring’s End, $2.95/lineal ft.
5. Cumaru, from Austin Wholesale Decking, $1.79/lineal ft.
Redwood and Cedar
These woods contain natural defenses against rot and insects, and should last around 20 years, but they are soft and easily damaged by foot traffic. Red cedar and redwood are both lightweight and stiff. Lighter-colored Port Orford Cedar is the hardest and most wear-resistant cedar. Like all woods, the sun soon fades their natural color to gray; only the regular application of sun-blocking finishes will stave off this process.
1. Red Cedar, from the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association, $1.25-$2.75/lineal ft., depending on grade
2. Redwood, from the California Redwood Association, $1.50/lineal ft.
3. Port Orford White Cedar, from Ring’s End, $1.50/lineal ft.
Made by combining a blend of plastic and waste wood fibers, these boards won’t splinter and don’t need to be stained or painted. Yet composites are more expensive and heavier than most woods, and must be scrubbed regularly to prevent mildew. Composites aren’t as stiff as wood, and they move more in response to changes in temperature. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions to the letter When screwing through the face, use the special fasteners designed to prevent bumps from erupting around screw heads.
Same texture on both sides
Installation is less complicated when the boards have the same texture on both sides. Trex offers a smooth, double-sided finish, while Monarch has a wood-grain finish on either side. This will make it easy when laying the planks, as it can’t be put in the wrong way.
1. Brasilia, from Trex, $2.85/lineal ft.; recycled polyethylene and waste wood from woodworking manufacturers; 25-year limited warranty
2. Exotics, from Monarch, about $2.67/lineal ft.; virgin plastic and recycled wood floor from the furniture and flooring industry; 20-year limited warranty
Different texture on each side
It’s nice to have options. Certainteed makes its Boardwalk decking with a smooth and a wood-grain face. TimberTech’s TwinFinish has a brushed, textured surface and a “VertiGrain” surface, which resembles wood-grain. Their “Earthwood” product is VertiGrain and serrated.
1. Earthwood, from TimberTech, $2.50-$3.00/lineal ft.; virgin polyethylene and reclaimed wood fiber; 25-year warranty
2. TwinFinish, from TimberTech, $2.00-$2.50/lineal ft.; virgin polyethylene and reclaimed wood fiber; 25-year warranty
3. Boardwalk, from Certainteed, $2.60-$3.00/lineal ft.; PVC and wood flour/natural fibers; 10-year limited warranty
Grooves on the underside of composite decking can make a board lighter without compromising stiffness. Grooves in the edges of a board allow the use of hidden fasteners so no screws are visible on the deck’s face.
1. Tendura, for use only on covered porches, $2.50/lineal ft.; polypropylene and waste wood fiber; lifetime limited warranty
2. Latitudes, from UFP Ventures II, Inc., $1.99-$2.09/lineal ft.; polyethylene and wood flour; 15-year limited warranty
3. ChoiceDek, from Weyerhaeuser, $1.82/lineal ft.; recycled polyethylene and recycled wood fiber; limited lifetime warranty
4. Boardwalk, from Certainteed, $2.60-$3.00/lineal ft.; PVC and wood flour/natural fibers; 10-year limited warranty
5. Floorizon, from TimberTech, $2.50-$3.00/lineal ft.; virgin polyethylene and reclaimed wood fiber; 25-year warranty
This decking is splinter-free and requires almost no maintenance, except for the occasional cleaning. But it doesn’t always look, sound, or feel much like wood. These decks also have complex fastening systems so the pieces can move as the temperature changes, but they squeak when you walk on them. PVC
The 1.2″ thick ForeverWood contains hollow channels to maximize stiffness. A hidden rubberized strip helps minimize noise and squeaking. The tongue-and-groove feature makes for easy installation and hides the screws so that you have a neat, uniform look. DeckoraWood is a similar material, but only 5/8″ thick, so it can be placed over existing wood decks or concrete patios. The wood-grain on each material provides extra traction, especially when the deck becomes slick.
With deep grooves on its underside, Eon decking is stiff, strong, and light. No fasteners are visible thanks to a hidden clip system. Its non-slip surface actually becomes less slippery when wet. It comes in six different colors and, for plastic, is a great way to fool your guests into thinking it’s real wood.
Eon, from CPI Plastics Group Ltd., $2.49-$2.59/lineal ft.; 100% polystyrene; 25-year limited warranty