Comparison of the Most Popular Outdoor Decking Materials

The most commonly used material for decking is pressure-treated pine because it is the most inexpensive option. This type of wood is pressure-treated to extend the life and help protect it against insect infestation. The deterioration of the building industry has caused the price of this decking lumber to decrease over the last five years because the abundance of supply as a byproduct of paper production. Consumers will find that the lowest priced PT decking is not dry, which provides for a lot of shrinkage after installation. This often causes large gaps between the boards. Kiln-dried PT decking is the highest quality and shrinks very little after installation – but the cost is higher, negating the most attractive attribute of this decking. Although pressure-treated, the life expectancy of PT decking is short and the boards tend to splinter and rot much more quickly than the other decking options.

Medium priced decking options include cedar and redwood lumber. These types of wood last longer than pressure-treated decking, but still don’t come close to the long life expectancy of real hardwood decking. Unfortunately, wood-boring bugs LOVE to eat cedar and redwood. However, deck installers find it easy to work with these soft woods because any type of fasteners can be used.

Composite decking, a combination of plastic and wood fiber pressed together, is one of the most expensive types of decking. Wood fiber is combined with plastic to help give your deck more of a wood appearance and help stiffen the boards. The boards still are not as structurally sound as wood. It is necessary to clean composite decking with a strong mildew cleaner often because the wood fibers promote mildew stains. These stains become imbedded in the boards. Also, when the moisture inside the boards freeze and expand, the boards deteriorate quickly. These boards cannot be stained, finished or refinished to revive the color as it fades.

Plastic, PVC and other oil-based manmade materials are also used often in decking. This type of decking comes in many different profiles, thicknesses, channel designs, pressed grain patterns, colors and coatings. Manufacturers continually change their formulas to produce oil-based decking, but none of them have successfully produced decking that will not crack, fade, droop between joists or resist scratches. It cannot be finished to prevent loss of color and once the color fades, it cannot be restored. Scratches cannot be repaired. Oil-based decking is most often touted as “maintenance free” because there is no maintenance that will prevent fading, scratching and drooping between the joists. Like composite decking, oil-based manmade decking is one of the most expensive options. However, it burns VERY quickly . . . like most plastic and oil-based products.

RealWood™ Brazilian Hardwood Decking vs. Composite Decking

Hardwood decking of ipe, cumaru, purple heart, massaranduba, tigerwood and garapa are the most durable and most beautiful decking materials in the world and cost less than manmade decking. They last a life time (40 – 100 years depending on the species), bugs cannot eat it, it will never rot, and some of the species have the same fire rating as concrete. One can preserve the color by applying a protective deck oil finish periodically, and the color can be restored if it grays after several years of being untreated. You cannot restore color fading with any other decking material. Hardwood decking is some of the hardest wood on the planet and will not droop between joists when installed with proper joist spans. Scratches are easily repaired with a light sanding.

The least expensive of Brazilian hardwoods costs slightly more than kiln-dried PT decking. Brazilian Wood Depot imports and stocks the largest variety of ipe decking, tigerwood, cumaru, and more, plus you receive expert technical assistance. As more consumers become aware of this beautiful and natural decking alternative, popularity continues to increase.

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