Deck Materials Buying Guide

Shaina Oliphant
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Deck1

Deck Materials

There are several options for decking materials to choose from. They each have their own features, benefits and costs and it’s important to weigh these considerations carefully prior to starting your project.

To ensure that you select the best decking material for you and your home, consider:

  • The size of your budget
  • Time and energy needed for maintenance
  • What you want your deck to look like

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Wood

Pressure Treated.  Pressure Treated wood is the most popular decking material choice in the U.S. for the substructure of your deck including the upright posts, ledger boards, beams and joists.  In much of the country pressure treated wood is also the most widely used material for deck surfaces along with deck railings, stair treads and lattice.

This is a great option for decking because it is long-lasting and the most economic of decking materials. Pressure treated wood is treated with chemicals to resist rot, decay and termite infestation.

WeatherShield™ pressure treated lumber can only be found at Home Depot stores. It has the chemicals of regular treated lumber to protect it against rot, decay and termite infestation, as well as a polymer-based stabilizer/water repellant added during the treatment process.  The WeatherShield™ stabilizer/water repellant additive reduces the amount of crackling, splitting and swelling the wood will do. Plus, because the additive is a water repellant, WeatherShield™ pressure treated wood does not need to be stained or sealed for up to 2 full years from the time of purchase.

Pros: The appearance of natural wood; widely available; the least expensive of decking options

Cons: Maintenance, needs to be stained or sealed regularly throughout the life of the deck.

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Natural Wood.  Redwood decking is generally available at most Home Depot locations in the Western U.S. including stores in the states of Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California. The color of redwood will vary from a light red to dark reddish-brown and it is one of nature’s finest and strongest building materials with strength up to five times greater than other wood decking materials. Left on it’s own, redwood gradually turns a silver gray; a natural, rustic look perfect for those seeking a timeless elegance for their property.

Pros: Natural wood look; widely available; naturally resistant to rot, decay and termites

Cons: Relatively soft; clear grades are expensive; needs finish to maintain color and to minimize checking

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If you’re seeking the natural look of a wood deck then cedar should be high on your list of considerations. Typically available at all Home Depot locations in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, cedar is a popular choice for its natural beauty. It has great durability and appearance, resists rotting, is a soft wood, very stable, and provides natural beauty to high-end decks. Like other wood decking choices, cedar does need to be cleaned and resealed every year or two to maintain its original color. The cost of cedar is moderate; while more than pressure treated wood, it’s somewhat less costly than composite decking alternatives.

Pros: Dimensionally stable; naturally resists rot and decay

Cons: Must be stained or sealed to keep its good looks

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Composite Decking

Composite Decking is the fastest growing segment of the decking market. Beauty, low maintenance and great warranties are the benefits that these man-made decking alternatives offer customers. It also resists checking and splintering and some options offer additional protection against stains and color fade. The challenge with composite decking is the initial cost, which may be a barrier when considering your budget. But the savings associated with the low maintenance of these materials offset their higher initial costs in as little as five years.

Composite decking is easier to clean, mold and mildew resistant, and many today offer a 20 to 25-year stain and fade warranty. This decking material also offers realistic color variation of exotic hardwoods. In addition, many composite deck boards come with grooves on the edges for easy hidden fastener application. The use of these hidden fasteners leaves your new deck surface fastener-free and it is smooth on your feet.

Pros: Insect resistant; low maintenance; resists check and splintering; some brands contain recycled content; some offer additional protection against stains and color fade.

Cons: Initial higher costs; heavy weight to move to build site

Other materials to consider when building a deck:

  • Decking screws
  • Hidden fasteners and composite decking screws
  • Simpson string ties
  • Deck railing
  • Deck post caps
  • Decking balusters & spindles
  • Deck lights
  • Deck gates
  • Lattice
  • Exterior paint & deck stains
  • Pavers
  • Concrete blocks
  • Deck tiles
  • Pergolas

 

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