Decking Materials: Know Your Options

Learn about decking materials and the options available for your deck project

A wide variety of materials can be used for the beams, posts and planks of a deck.

When planning for a new deck, you should first explore the various decking materials available for your project. You may even find that researching options for deck materials will lead to new decking ideas, resulting in a deck design that improves the appeal of your home's outdoor living areas and value.

Choosing decking materials used to be easy, because there was one choice: wood. It came in a few different species, but apart from that, the choice was simple. These days, you can choose between many different natural surfaces, as well as a range of composite and artificial decking materials that may extend the life and reduce the maintenance costs of your deck.

If you're a traditionalist who's leaning towards wood, however, the most common choice for wood deck materials is pressure-treated or "PT" lumber. This inexpensive, widely available deck material can easily make for a sturdy, attractive structure, but be warned—it's highly susceptible to warping, cracking and splitting, and it must be diligently maintained and treated for weather resistance.

To preserve the look and feel of wood but upgrade in terms of longevity, you might want to consider a redwood or cedar for your decking materials—they make for gorgeous decks and are naturally resistant to warping, cracking and pests. The downside: they're about three times as expensive as pressure treated lumber, In the same price range are tropical woods like ipe (pronounced e-pay), which are extremely dense and pest resistant and considered to be some of the most beautiful decking materials available.

If you're willing to sacrifice some of the look and feel of pricey hardwoods, composite wood may be a good option. Composed primarily of wood fibers and recycled plastic, composite wood comes in a wide range of colors and stains, and won't warp, split or crack.

Finally, a rarer option but one that you might want to consider is aluminum decking. It's the strongest and most long-lasting decking material, but it's also the most expensive at around $9 per linear foot.

By exploring the decking material options available to you, you'll be able to find the material that offers the best combination of beauty, durability, maintenance and cost for your home.

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