A Guide to Decking Materials
Most homeowners these days still think of natural wood when they decide to have a new deck built on their property. And while wood is still the most common choice for decking projects, it is definitely not the only choice. Below, we will go over some of the other choices available for today's deck enthusiasts.
1. Composite -
This material is made from a combination of plastic and waste wood fibers and come in a vast variety of colors and textures. When blended together these components create a material that is heavier than, yet not as rigid as wood. Composites do respond to temperature changes, therefore proper installation is crucial. Composite materials never require staining or painting, although they may require a good scrubbing from time to time to prevent mildew. They come with either the same pattern on both sides of the board, or some are available with a different texture on one side for those who like variety.
2. Engineered -
This type of composite decking is lighter than the composite described above because the are grooved on the underside making installation without screws possible because of hidden fasteners that fit into those grooves.
3. Wood -
This material is obviously the first and most commonly used for deck construction. Installation is fairly simple and the natural feel of wood is always a plus. As far as choices are concerned, pressure treated wood is the most frugal option and can last up to 15 years, but the chemicals that are used to extend its life and prevent termites are harmful to humans. Tropical hardwoods (i.e. Ipe and Ironwood) are also a popular choice for deck projects. While not as inexpensive as pressure treated wood is, these hardwoods are inherently resistant to termites and rot. Naturally dense resilient, this material can have a lifespan of about 25 years. Softwoods (i.e. Cedar and Redwood) have their advantages as well, as they have a natural resistance to deterioration and insects. But by their very definition they are highly susceptible to damage.
Wood does have its downsides, as they usually require yearly cleaning if not stained or painted, and even then requires frequent maintenance. Untreated wood eventually does grey over time. But there few materials that are as strong and beautiful as wood.
4. PVC (Plastic) -
Is another decking material choice that is very sturdy and come in a vast variety of colors and textures as well. And though they may not have the same feel, or look as a composite or wood, they are fairly simple to install as they come with a tongue and groove design. Nevertheless, they do tend to suffer from the occasional squeak when walked on.
Another option in the "plastics" category is polystyrene. It is made with deep grooves on its underside that cut its weight dramatically while still allowing it to maintain its rigidity. It too comes with a hidden fastener system for ease of installation and a clean look. And, in comparison to PVC, this material essentially becomes less slippery when wet.
For a more in-depth tutorial of current decking material offerings please click the link below for a Youtube video from one of our affiliates, Mike Danzilio of The Deck Network Channel.