Deck Materials: Pros And Cons
In the first part of this feature, we talked about the important things to consider when picking out your deck design. In Part II, we looked at some ways to tackle deck building issues. Today we’ll look at your decking material options, to help you decide what suits you and your lifestyle best.
Wood is still the top choice among homeowners for decking. It’s a strong, natural material that isn’t too difficult to install. However, it can be prone to rot, warping, and splintering. It’s also comparatively high-maintenance, requiring cleaning often and re-staining every couple of years or so to keep it looking good.
Pressure Treated Wood. Most commonly made of Southern yellow pine, this type of wood lasts for around 15 years on average, and gives great value for money; it’s on the lower end of the price scale at around $1.32/lineal ft.
Nothing beats tropical hardwoods in terms of density and durability. On the plus side, these hardwoods are extremely resistant to decay and insect damage, and can last as long as a quarter of a century. But they’re also heavy and tough to work with, as well as pretty costly. Tropical hardwoods can be had for between $1.79 to $2.95/lineal ft.
Redwood and Cedar
Naturally resistant to insect damage and rot, these are softer woods that can be a bit vulnerable to foot traffic. They’re lightweight and stiff, but not particularly wear-resistant, requiring frequent application of sun-blocking finishes. Depending on grade, price points start at around $1.25/lineal ft and can cost as much as $2.75/lineal ft.
Made from a blend of waste wood fibers and plastic, this is a splinter-free material that doesn’t require painting or staining. Composite boards are, however, heavier and more expensive than many other wood alternatives, and need a good scrubbing on a regular basis to keep mildew at bay. Less stiff than wood, composite moves in response to changes in temperature. Composite decking can run to around $2.67 – $2.85/lineal ft., but this usually comes with a 20- to 25-year limited warranty. This type of material also gives homeowners a number of options. Some come with different textures on each side, while others feature a single texture on both sides.
Homeowners will find plastic a low-maintenance and splinter-free decking option. However, this material doesn’t rank very high on the aesthetics scale—these boards can be squeaky to walk on and don’t look or feel much like wood. Choices include PVC and Polystyrene.
Some PVC decking materials are designed with hollow channels that bring stiffness to the boards. For easier installation, the boards feature a tongue-and-groove design; a hidden rubberized strip cuts down on squeaking and noise. Extra traction is also provided by the wood-grain on each material. Prices run from $2.25-$3.50/lineal ft., with a limited lifetime warranty.
Polystyrene decking comes with deep grooves on its underside, which makes it light, yet strong and stiff. It mimics wood very well, and comes in various colors. One great feature is a non-slip surface. Priced $2.49-$2.59/lineal ft., with a 25-year limited warranty.
Picking out the best option for you may be no easy matter; after all, there are just so many things to consider. Sometimes it helps to actually see and touch the materials available to you, to better help you visualize your finished deck.
Work off of samples, and once you’ve found what you want, carefully plan and build, keeping not just your aesthetic, but also your practical considerations in mind. That way, you can look forward to enjoying your deck for many, many years.