Is your Deck Wood Good? Pros and Cons of Common Deck Materials

by Jon Nunan

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Decks & Porches

A deck is the perfect place to hang out and enjoy being outdoors. It can also add value to your property. Making sure you choose the proper deck wood is the first step in creating an outside addition that will last the life of the house.

Deck Wood Species
The species of tree that your deck wood comes from will affect both the performance and appearance of the deck, as well. Cedar and pine are two species that are commonly used in outdoor construction.

Pine is a widely used deck material: It is inexpensive, sturdy, and easy to work with. Pine is often chemically treated to make it more durable and less susceptible to insect damage. The chemical treatment varies by company, causing a difference in both performance and price.

Cedar is considered a very good choice for outdoor wood structures. It is resistant to bugs and weather due to a substance that is naturally present in the wood. It is cost-effective and easy on the eyes as well.

Ipe is a tropical hardwood that is highly prized for outdoor building. The wood is extremely dense. It is often pre-drilled where screws will be used, and it requires the use of very high-end blades to be cut. It is naturally resistant to bugs, weather, and fire (though, it is not fireproof, it is less combustible than other wood species). Ipe is more expensive than other deck wood varieties, but it is said that it can last up to 3 times longer without the use of any sealant.

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Other Deck Material
As people grow more environmentally conscious, deck material is becoming more eco-friendly. Deck wood is being harvested using more sustainable practices, and alternative deck materials are growing in popularity. Plastic lumber is one of the newest choices available for deck construction. It can be cut and drilled much like real wood, but, obviously, it has no negative effect on our forests. Plastic lumber is extremely low maintenance. It doesn't need to be sealed, and there will never be any concern of it rotting. Plastic lumber is an excellent choice for a deck surface, but is undesirable in support capacities.

Composite deck material is somewhere between plastic lumber and traditional wood. Often, it is made of scrap wood fiber and recycled plastic. The combination of the two materials makes a deck plank that is resistant to water and rot, but has a feel much like regular wood. Plastic lumber and composite decks are excellent choices for very wet areas not just because they won't get damaged, but because they are slip resistant when wet as well.

Putting your Deck Together
No matter what material you choose, your deck will only be as good as the way it is built. If you don't have a lot of building experience but would still like to build the deck yourself, it might be a good idea to purchase a deck plan. This will give you a good guideline on how the deck needs to be put together, and it will be designed by a professional with the experience to know what works best in the long run.

Deck Installation Project Guide
If you enjoyed this article, check out our free Deck Installation Guide, which features expert advice, design & material comparisons, and custom price estimates for your remodeling project.
Jon Nunan is a freelance writer who draws on his experience in construction, ranging from landscaping to log home building, for his articles on home improvement.