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Friday, March 5, 2010

Deck Material Choices

It is simply amazing how many different choices there are today for decking. When I started back in 1986 there were very few choices and options for building a deck. Back then, it was a choice between Pressure Treated lumber and Cedar. Although there were a few different grades of cedar to choose from, the selection was still limited.
Today I find myself with too many products to review and select from. Included in the different types of materials is the original Pressure Treated and Cedar selections then moving forward there are a number of hardwood decking options such as Ipe (Brazilian walnut) , Kayu and Bamboo. After the natural wood material selections for decking there are a vast number of manufactured low maintenance products. Each and every one of these products have pros and cons. Hopefully today I can help you understand a bit more regarding the different deck materials available.

Natural Wood

Cedar and Pressure Treated lumber are the most well known choices so I will not spend much time discussing them. What I do know from my 24 years of building decks is that wood rots. Any wood deck is going to require a great amount of maintenance including regular cleaning followed by sanding and staining on almost a yearly basis. Cedar and Pressure Treated lumber are very easy to sand and work with although the quality of cedar today really does not seem to last. I am regularly seeing cedar decks around 8 years old that are starting to show signs of decay and need repair. For health and respiratory reasons I recommend using a high level of caution when sanding any materials. The added benefit to both of these materials is that they are quite affordable and easy to work with. A few of the disadvantages are that these materials will crack, warp, rot and splinter over time.

Ipe, Kayu and other hardwood materials offer a few more benefits. Hardwood materials have a great rot resistance and will last much longer than any softwood decking material. Usually 2 to 3 times longer. These materials also require regular maintenance such as cleaning, sanding and staining. These materials tend to crack, warp and splinter much less that the softwood choices. The strength of Ipe is simply amazing. It is one of the hardest materials I have worked with in my career. The disadvantage of Ipe is the difficulty in working with it and the cost is also quite high. When installed properly a deck finished with Ipe or Kayu has a definite furniture quality to it.

Low Maintenance Decking
This can be a huge category. At Your Deck Company we are one of the largest installers of this type of decking. We use low maintenance decking in around 80% or more of our projects.

The first and original type of material in this category is composite decking manufactured by The Trex Company. Composite decking is a composition of recycled organic material such as wood, rice hulls or bamboo fiber mixed with recycled plastics. (some manufacturers us a virgin plastic). It is an eco friendly alternative to traditional wood decking. Traditional composites perform quite well and are priced fairly well. Composites are generally more expensive than Cedar although can be less expensive than Ipe or Kayu. Working with composite materials is fairly easy although the products are generally quite heavy. The controversy over these products is the misunderstanding of the maintenance required and the issues of mold and mildew staining. ( I think I just came up with my next blog topic) I will discuss this further in another entry although for now I will mention that any type of material used outside is capable of having mold form on the surface. Any and all decking materials should be routinely cleaned and maintained.

The benefit to Composite decking is the fact that the manufacturers warranty against rot and decay. The added benefits are no cracking, splitting or splinters. As well there is no need to sand, stain or replace rotten boards. The disadvantages are that it can stain fairly easily and scratch. Most staining can be removed with a deck wash product.

Another option that is used is a PVC decking. PVC is not a recycled product. Products such as Timbertech XLM and Trex Escapes are excellent choices in this category. Both companies have a very durable, scratch, dent and stain resistant shell that encapsulates the board. The cheaper lower quality products have either a very thin shell or no protectant shell at all. These products are lightweight and easy to work with. The cost on these products can start to get a bit high but in my opinion are well worth the investment. They are very easy to clean usually with just soap and water. There is a wide variety of colors and textures available to meet most tastes. The down side is these products generally look a little more plastic and less realistic.

The latest entry into the world of decking materials is Trex Trancends. This is a new type of decking material.....sort of. Unlike PVC decking it is about 95% recycled but gives the scratch, stain and dent resistance of PVC. Trex Trancends is the original composite decking (wood and plastic mixture) as a core then it is capped with a fairly thick layer of polymers and embossed with a deep wood grain. This is the only product on the market at the moment that actually gives a 25 year warranty against stains. I have actually put this to the test myself and have yet to find something that will stain this stuff. I have tried Mustard, Ketchup, Olive Oil, Red Wine, BBQ sauce, Ribs and Chicken. No stains yet. This seems to be a great eco friendly material that gives many of the benefits of PVC in a recycled product at a decent price.

There are many more decking materials available although I feel these are the main products to be discussed at this time. If you require further information on any of these products or any other products feel free to let me know. You can Visit our website at To view some examples of the different materials available today


Todd Mounsey

Owner / Designer

Your Deck Company