If you’ve decided to have a wood deck installed in your backyard, chances are you’ve been surprised at just how many different options there are for the type of wood decking you can use.
Recent years have seen some positive developments in the quality of a composite deck and a plastic deck—but are they really better than the real thing?
To give you an idea of what we’ll be comparing against, let’s take a few minutes and discuss some of the more common types of wood decks used in residential projects.
Popular on the west coast but used country-wide, redwood is known for its longevity and beauty.
Although when it comes in contact with moisture or even concrete it can create a deteriorating process so it is recommended to use pressure-treated material for framing and support. If properly maintained by keeping a good weather sealant/stain it can last for many years.
Cedar is standard species used for many kinds of decking and construction projects. It has many of the same characteristics Redwood and as such needs the pressure-treated pine for the framing as well as the weather sealant.
Ipe, tigerwood decking and red balau woods, from the tropical regions of Southeast Asia and Brazil, have become popular in recent years due to their extreme durability and density and are a great choice for a deck.
The tropical hardwoods probably have the best longevity of all woods. With the heavy density weather sealant is not required unless you don’t mind reapplying about every six months. Relatively affordable considering these types of wood are imported.
Probably one of the most affordable, this type of wood has been treated with a chemical preservative to stave off rot, fungi, and pests and therefore has a great longevity.
You must maintain a good weather sealant/stain applied as needed to keep the appearance up on a pressure-treated deck. It also helps to minimize warping as well as checking.
There was once a time when any serious homeowner or contractor would shy away from composite decking—however, composite decking has made substantial improvements over the past few years, resulting in less fungal buildup, much slower decomposition, more longevity as well as a reduction in price.
Composite wood is made up of wood particles and plastic. The plastic is usually polyethylene, and may or may not be recycled, depending on the manufacturer. Certain brands of composite deck boards are hollow and therefore understandably cheaper but are generally not as strong or sturdy as solid composite boards.
Another consideration is that composite wood can get quite hot if the temperature outdoor gets high enough—as it does here in Dallas, Texas due to the plastic components of the material retaining heat. This heat can be lessened to some degree by the color of the composite wood.
The lighter the wood color the less heat it will retain. It’s still doubtful that anyone would want to walk around barefoot on a composite deck in the middle of August.
Composite decking performs quite well in very humid areas, of which there are a few in our region. The plastic isn’t quite as prone to the absorption of moisture as 100% wooden decking which can possibly lead to a longer lifespan.
Plastic decking has been touted as being low or maintenance free—however, this isn’t necessarily true. As both composite and plastic decking will require a good cleaning at least once a year in order to prevent color fading.
Technically the deck would likely remain functional, but it sure wouldn’t be pretty if left unmaintained. Recent technology in the formula used for plastic or otherwise known as PVC has minimized the effects the sun can have on this material.
The cost of decking, either wood or composite varies quite a bit depending on the quality, brand, grade and type, but it’s safe to say that in most cases, composite materials are not necessarily cheaper than “real” woods. In the low to middle end of the spectrum, composite woods might be a little higher.
To give you an example of the price variances, a pressure-treated wood deck might cost as little as $10 per square foot, whereas a very high-end composite deck could run upwards of $40 per square foot. Ultimately, which material you choose for your decking will depend on preference and budget.