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How to Pick the Right Material for your Deck

Everybody loves a good deck. A deck is a place to gather as a family, to entertain and to enjoy on sunny weekends with a good book and a cold glass of iced tea. Decks provide functional outdoor living space and add value to a home. These days, there are lots of options for decking materials, so which option is best? The answer depends on several factors, namely: aesthetic, maintenance, durability, budget and, of course, what you will be using your deck for!  

Here are the most common deck materials to choose from and a look at their pros and cons: 

Pressure-treated deck

Wood Decks

Aesthetic: Wooden decks are strong and beautiful and feel the best to the touch. If you are going for a natural look, this is your best option.

Maintenance: This type of decking requires the most maintenance. A wooden deck needs to be cleaned annually and treated and re-sealed every two to three years.

Durability: Wooden decks are prone to rotting, warping and splintering. Depending on how well you maintain your deck, which type of wood you choose and the climate where you live, a wooden deck can last anywhere from 15 to 25 years.

Budget: This decking material is generally the most affordable, and easiest for a do-it-yourselfer to install. However, wooden decks do cost more in the long-run in terms of maintenance.

Purpose: A wooden deck can serve any number of purposes and is a great option for those who are looking to build a welcoming outdoor living space.

There are three main types of wooden decks:  

Pressure-treated: This is the least expensive and most common decking option. Its popularity stems from how easy it is to work with, and the fact that it is readily available from coast to coast. The downside to this type of lumber is that it’s not very stable, and tends to crack, split and warp. With proper maintenance including annual power washing and an application of stain or wood preservative every two or three years, this decking material can last from 15 to 20 years. Note that PT lumber is treated with chemicals such as alkaline copper quaternary or copper azole and should be installed with care.

Redwood and cedar: This is the most popular natural wood decking choice in terms of aesthetic and because these woods are naturally resistant to rot, decay and insects. Redwood and cedar have a beautiful, rich colour and can last up to 20 years with proper maintenance. However, they are a softer wood, so they can be easily damaged. Because of the relative rarity of these woods, they are pricier to build with. In most regions of the country, redwood and cedar cost at least three times more than PT lumber. 

IPE hardwood: This type of wood is dense and dark and is sourced from South America. It is a popular choice for its resistance to wear, rot, splintering, bugs and heat. Like its counterparts, IPE hardwood should be properly maintained through annual cleanings and bi-annual staining and sealing. IPE is the most expensive wood decking material; however, it is also the most durable and can last for 25 years or more.         

composite deck

Composite Decks 

Aesthetic: This type of decking is made from a mixture of plastic and waste wood fibers, most resembles real wood and comes in many different colours. A great option for those seeking a natural look, without all the maintenance.

Maintenance: Composite decks are much lower maintenance than real wood decks. All they need is to be washed on occasion with a deck cleaner and pressure washer to prevent mildew. 

Durability: The materials that comprise composite decking are naturally resistant to rot and wear. As a result, composite decks are extremely weather and stain resistant, and they won’t splinter, warp, rot or split. With gentle maintenance, a composite deck can last 25 to 30 years.

Budget: Composite is more expensive than natural wood and is trickier to install as it requires using clips, desk screws or hidden fasteners for a seamless look. You will likely need to hire a professional team to install a composite deck, but in the long run, you will save on maintenance.     

Purpose:composite deck is an excellent option for more extreme climates, and can be built to spec. If you know your deck will see a lot of use, this may be the way to go, as composite will stand up better than wood in the long run.  

PVC deck

PVC Decks 

Aesthetic: A PVC deck may look like wood from a distance, but up close it is apparent that it is made from plastic. This type of decking comes in all sorts of colors and styles and is made from recycled materials like milk jugs and grocery bags — a great eco-friendly option! 

Maintenance: PVC is the lowest maintenance option of the three materials we’ve discussed today. Like composite, PVC only requires the occasional gentle scrubbing and perhaps pressure washing to keep it clean. 

Durability: This type of decking is 100% recyclable and won’t rot, stain or fade. It is the most durable choice as decking materials go and can last a lifetime given it is well cared for.  

Budget: PVC is the most expensive option for deck material, but many companies offer a lifetime warranty. For proper installation, it is recommended to hire a professional, but you will save on maintenance and repairs over time.

Purpose:PVC deck is an excellent option if you have a family, or you know that your deck will see a lot of traffic. These decks are stain-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about the kids or when you are entertaining guests!   

Not sure what deck material is best suited to your needs?

Get in touch with a NeighborScape expert by calling 613-692-7051 or emailing  info@neighborscape.ca. We’d be happy to consult on your project, obligation-free. 

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