Types of Decking Materials
One of the easiest ways to extend your living space outdoors is by building a deck. Decks are great entertaining space and a go-to spot for hosting family and friends. Decks are the best location to hold a summer barbecue or birthday party. While it’s great for group gatherings, the views and breezy locale make it a top-quality spot for some solo relaxation as well. If you are preparing to install a deck, you are probably trying to decide what material to use. There are many options, so here is a guide to help you decide.
Soft woods are widely commercially available and are some of the easiest woods to work with, which means they are often used for decking. Spruce, pine and fir (or SPF as they are commonly referred to) are very inexpensive which also ads to their appeal. These types of woods can easily be stained or even painted (although a UV stain is the preferred method of preserving a wooden deck) to give the deck any color desired. The caveat? Softwood decks will not last very long, and most certainly will deteriorate in under 8 years in climates where there is a lot of sun, heat, and moisture. Insect attacks, such as termites and fungus, quickly rot SPFs and cracking, splinting, and warping is a common (and dangerous) problem. If you are not planning on keeping the deck or house for very long, or if you need an inexpensive wood for a quick DIY project, SPFs can be a good solution, but if you are looking for something more permanent, consider alternatives.
2. Cedar and Redwood
Although cedar and California redwood are considered softwoods, they are often used as decking materials because they withstand the outdoor elements better than pressure treated wood. Both cedar and redwood have a very beautiful color and are naturally insect repellant. As softwoods, they are relatively easy to work with, meaning they can be glued, nailed, or screwed without requiring any previous millwork. A word of caution though: cedar and California redwood will not last in tropical or subtropical climates and the freight to get California Redwood to the east coast can be very prohibitive.
3. Tropical Hardwoods
From the forests near the equator, tropical hardwoods are particularly hard and weather resistant. The most well known tropical hardwood is by far ipe (pronounced e-pay) which is used in most commercial and city projects when real wood is chosen. This is because no other wood will last as long, resist as heavy foot traffic and intense weather conditions, as ipe. Private home owners also often choose ipe for outdoor projects, especially for luxury properties. Cumaru is a tropical hardwood that is becoming ever more popular, with a reddish color, it gives warmth and character to outdoor decks. Cuamru is slightly less resistant than ipe, but it also comes with a lower price tag.
4. Composite Decking
A popular alternative to real wood, composite decking comes in many colors and from many different manufactures. Composite decking is also called faux decking or fake wood, as it is made from plastic or other conglomerates but made to look like wood. The price for composite decking will range greatly from the brand and each brand has different lines. It is always important to check the guarantee and warranty for each composite decking brand. A great advantage to installing composite decking is that it comes in a lot of different colors and most brands have certified installers that you can higher.
5. PVC Decking
PVC Decking is made of polyethylene or polyvinylchloride and is very resistant to the elements. It requires no staining and no maintenance, but because it is a light weight material is can sag if the underlying structure is not built properly.
6. Aluminum Decking
Aluminum has great rigidity, is very slip resistant and can withstand harsh weather conditions. The finish usually lasts a long time, with little to no maintenance. However, in direct sunlight, aluminum tends to get very hot and reflects a lot of light, which can make it unpleasant to be on. It also is quite expensive and must be installed correctly so that rain cannot drip through it.
Once you settle on the type of material you want to use for your deck, then you have think about the shape and elevation of the space. Do you want a raised deck or just a platform? Do you want it covered or uncovered? Think about what is safe and practical for your family. Finally, make it feel like home by investing in high-quality outdoor décor, furniture, and lighting.
What deck material should I use?
When reviewing deck ideas and material options, always keep price, appearance and ongoing maintenance in mind. Wood decks look more natural, but need to be stained and weatherproofed frequently; on the other hand, composite is easier to care for but might not look as authentic. Plastic decks are an inexpensive alternative and aluminum is a unique option but also pricier. In the end, budget and care are important factors, but be sure your final choice blends well with your home’s current style and personality.
What deck design works for my space?
Decks are relatively easy to customize, so consider all your options before going forward. A raised deck often includes a staircase, which helps with backyard access, and it can either be covered or uncovered. Platform decks are placed on or just off the ground, while a multilevel space takes a little from both. You can even opt for a free standing platform, which is placed out in the yard and not attached to the house at all.
How should I decorate my deck?
Once the construction decisions are done, it’s time to decorate! Because decks are really centered around comfortable patio furniture, be sure to invest in a nice set. Include an umbrella and table for easy al fresco dining, and purchase a weatherproofed sofa and chaise lounges for ultimate relaxation. And since the yard is great for those cool summer nights, don’t forget about proper lighting when planning out your deck decor. Think about how bright you want the area to be and explore your options accordingly. Look into LED bulbs and solar lighting options, and consider placement of fixtures on railings and posts. Hang strings of festive lights or lanterns over the communal space and consider a fire pit to circle around for cozy conversation and s’mores.