There is a huge array of decking materials you can use to build! From natural wood to composite decking, we’ll give you the lowdown on which one is right for you and your family. In order to make the most of your investment, you need to understand the pros and cons of different decking materials. Your deck needs to look nice and be in your budget, but it’s also incredibly important to consider the ongoing maintenance your deck will need. What it doesn’t cost in dollars, it’ll often cost you in your time.
A new deck is exciting until next year when you’ve got to clean, stain and seal the pressure treated wood… Deck maintenance isn’t easy and the railings take the most time as each spindle has 4 sides that need to be stained and sealed. So if you’re trying to save money, get low maintenance (composite) railings. All decking materials require maintenance and repairs, so if you find that you need help, Vilders Contracting is only a phone call away.
Natural Wood vs. Deck Composite
Even if you’re only considering natural wood there are so many different varieties. Here’s an objective look at the most popular decking materials:
Pressure-treated lumber accounts for “approximately 75 percent of all new decks”, according to Arch Treatment Technologies. You can expect pressure-treated lumber to be cheap and readily available, but not easy to maintain. Usually requiring an annual power-wash and sealer every 2 or 3 years, this natural decking material will crack, warp and discolor if not properly cared for.
Softwoods such as cedar and redwood contain natural tannins and oils that protect them against wood rot and insect pests better than pressure-treated lumber. Softwoods are usually about twice as expensive as pressure-treated lumber and need to be power-washed every 3 to 4 years and have stain applied to preserve the color and weather hardiness.
Exotic woods such as massaranduba, cumaru, red tauari, tigerwood, Philippine mahogany and ipe are very trendy decking materials. They are very durable with natural oils and tighter wood grain. Exotic wood decking materials are hardwoods in contrast to the softwoods, meaning that you'll want to use a carbide-tipped screwdriver or use hidden fasteners (especially with ipe). Generally, a UV-blocking clear wood preservative needs to be applied when the wood begins to change color, about every year to 2 years or longer depending on the direct sunlight and weather.
Deck Composite Materials
According to an article on PopularMechanics.com, “Composite decking and its cousin, plastic lumber, represent the fastest-growing decking materials sold today.” Composite decking material is a great strategy to make your deck last as long as possible with little maintenance (not no maintenance because mold and mildew can still grow on these surfaces made with some percentage of wood fiber).
These photos are of some of the different types of composite decking materials that we have to choose from. From left to right, we have Trex 50/50 blend, Gossen's PVC boards, Latitudes 50/50 and LockDry's aluminum decking.
- Latitudes© and Trex© are 50% polyethylene and 50% wood fiber. This is a typical ratio, giving the benefit of the natural wood look while gaining the durability of the inorganic filler material. These 50/50 composites require more maintenance than the 100% synthetic varieties. It is suggested that they get a basic cleaning with warm soapy water and a soft-bristle brush semi-annually to avoid buildup.
- Azek© is 90% PVC and 10% Agrifibre (which is defined as any fibrous material generated from agricultural/biobased products, but in this case it is flaxseed/rice husks which don't come with the risks of rot like other Agrifibre material.) In my Handyman business, we found Azek decking for a customer who wanted to replace a broken tile floor around his pool house so we knew there would be greasy lotions and food spills – Azek was perfect because it doesn’t stain, while other brands of composite decking materials may be discolored by suntan lotion or bug spray and may fade if plastic, non-porous items are being left on the deck for an extended period of time.
- Gossen© is 100% PVC. These boards can last for a very long time with almost no maintenance. Gossen recommends cleaning periodically when needed.
- LockDry© is 100% aluminum which is light, waterproof and durable. Aluminum is also 100% recyclable, which is good for the environment. LockDry states that their aluminum decking is maintenance-free.
Consider wear and tear when picking your decking materials. If your deck will be subject to a lot of foot traffic, direct sunlight, or lotions or other staining materials that might discolor your deck, you need to buy accordingly. Remember, Vilders Contracting is happy to work through your project with you if you need help.
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