Decking Materials – How To Choose The Best Decking Materials

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how to choose the best decking material

Usually, you absolutely know when a deck has to be replaced. The finishing looks worn and/or there are some boards that are really rotten or are broken. In some highly extreme cases, you see that the frame deteriorated and the entire deck is in danger of collapsing.

Repairing a deck can easily end up costing thousands. When you have to completely replace it so you build a new one, you can even go over 10,000 dollars, all based on size, labor costs and decking materials used.

Usually, a deck is built in around a week but this can also vary a lot based on the same factors mentioned before. Deck repair can even be finished in one day if not much damage is present. Even so, contractor schedules can easily vary from one to the next.

Let’s thus think about when the deck should be repaired and then learn about the best decking materials.

Should Your Deck Be Repaired?

This is the question you always need to ask before you start any project on your deck. Structural support damage leads to collapses. Corrosion is often obvious, like when rot is seen on the frame. However, even if this is the case, the best thing you can do is hire a professional that would inspect the deck. This is especially the case if you do not know much about decks. Specialists also analyze technical things you most likely miss, like stair connections or the guardrail.

When the deck has intact structural support and you just see worn railings and boards, simple repairs are all that is needed. You practically have to replace individual railings and boards that require this. Also, some decks will sometimes need refinishing done.

When you want brand new materials to be used for the deck, remember the fact that sometimes they are heavier. In this case, additional support is necessary. The cost of such a project can actually be really close to installing a brand new deck.

The last thing that should be known is that decks built before 2004 often contain chromated copper arsenate, which is a toxic chemical. It is a lumber preservative that is now known as being a carcinogen. These decks have to be refinished so the chemical is sealed.

Common Decking Materials

One of the reasons why many homeowners end up feeling overwhelmed when they look at available decking materials is that there are numerous options that can be considered. Every single one has advantages and disadvantages. The most common ones are presented below.

Pressure-Treated Lumber

This is practically natural wood that was treated in order to resist rot, fungus and bugs. It is really easy to source and quite affordable.

The problem with pressure-treated lumber is that, in time, it splits, warps and cracks. Also, maintenance is required. For instance, you have to restain the lumber once every 2 years and power washing is necessary.

It has to be added that if you have concerns with sustainability and natural living, you most likely want to avoid the decking materials that have chemical treatments. Even so, this is the cheapest decking material type used right now.

Natural Wood

If you want to avoid the chemicals mentioned above, you can choose natural woods. There are some wood types that have tannins and oils. They are practically naturally resistant to bugs and rot. The best examples are red cedar and redwood. You can also consider tropical hardwoods like ipe and tigerwood.

When you shop for such a decking material, be sure that you shop around. Some are heartier than others. Also, similarly to the pressure-treated lumber, annual power washing and staining is needed. Different woods can have extra maintenance needs. You practically need to do good homework and remember that prices vary a lot based on wood type and quality.

Composites

This decking material is made out of plastic and wood fibers. It is highly durable since it does not split, rot or warp as natural wood does. Refinishing is not necessary but you may want to consider staining or painting for a fresher look.

The problem with using composites is that it does look artificial. Many will not like the fact that they have a deck that does not have a natural color or texture. At the same time, you should be aware that the material can break down in time and grow mold.

The price of composites decks falls into the mid-range.

Plastic

Plastic Deck – Flickr User Pulpolux

Usually, this type of deck is made out of polyethylene or PVC. You can also choose plastic lumber, a material that is made out of 100% recyclable plastic.

The durability of plastic is higher. This is because the material does not decay or rot. It is quite light but it looks even less like hardwood than composites. If aesthetics are important for you, it will be hard to find something you will like. Also, plastic can sag and is very slippery.

Aluminum

When thinking about durability, aluminum is the best choice. It will never rot and you do not have to worry about bugs. Aluminum will not grow mold and will not warp or crack. The big problem is that the price is quite high. Also, we are faced with a sterile aesthetic that you might not like.

Final Thoughts

As you can easily notice, every single decking material has advantages and disadvantages. In order to choose the very best option for you, it is important to think about backyard entertainment needs, aesthetic preference, deck maintenance, tolerance and budget. Also, keep in mind that upgrading or repairing decks can cost as much as installing a brand new one. If this is the case, investing into one that will last for a longer time might be the best solution.

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