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Selecting Materials

Deck Building Materials

Selecting Deck Building materials

In the past there were relatively few choices when it came to choosing materials for decks. Because of its low cost and resistance to decay, Pressure Treated Lumber (mostly southern yellow pine) became the norm for most decks built in the United States and Canada. Redwood was a close contender but because of its cost when compared to pine, it's mainly used for railings, decking and trim. Once a popular deck building material Redwood is no longer readily available for the Eastern part of the United States. Cedar, imported hardwoods like Ipe and man-made materials, which are commonly referred to as composite materials, are becoming popular choices for decking, railings and trim. In addition, all decks must now be framed using Pressure Treated Lumber unless specifically permitted by design.


Wood Decks

Wood has a warmth and richness that's just about impossible to duplicate in any man-made product. Today's highly crafted wood decks use some of the most extravagant Hardwoods and Softwoods available for deck building. From Ipe to Clear Western Red Cedar, decks built with wood still remains the most popular choice among homeowners.

Pros
  • Pressure Treated and some other deck lumbers tend to be the least costly when it comes to materials.
  • Lumber for decking, railings and trim are more commonly available, which makes replacing boards or enlarging a deck rarely an issue.
  • The rich beauty of a wood hasn't been duplicated yet in a man-made material.
  • Ease of use, being able to make up a wide variety of deck components from stock lumber sizes. For example, a length of 2x4 cut and shaped into two 2x2 balusters for a railing.
  • Wood is still one of the strongest and easiest to work with materials for building decks.
Cons
  • Work and cost involved in maintaining a wood deck by periodically cleaning and sealing.
  • Wood splits, cupping or splinters, particularly for some lower grade lumbers.
  • A good quality grade hardwood lumber can cost more than some man-made materials.
  • Ease of use, being able to make up a wide variety of deck components from stock lumber sizes. For example, a length of 2x4 cut and shaped into two 2x2 balusters for a railing.
  • Shrinking, swelling and degrading over time, periodically inspection of boards and structure including tightening loosened bolts and fasteners.

Composite Decks

If you would like a virtually maintenance free deck, no sealing, splitting and splintering wood, then man-made deck materials may be right for you. Today's selections of materials include deck boards and railings made from recycled or reclaimed plastic and PVC. Manufacturers are also providing these products in a variety of different "outdoor" colors to choose from.

Pros
  • A virtually maintenance free deck.
  • No wood splits, cupping or splinters.
  • Easy to work with.
  • Less expansion and contraction.
Cons
  • Cost for man-made decking and railings can be as much as double when compared to pressure treat lumber.
  • The process of manufacturing man-made materials continues to evolve making replacing and matching older boards difficult.
  • Installation can be difficult for some products.
  • Less strength than most lumbers.
  • May tend to get hot when in direct sunlight.

Lumber Yards

New deck building materials enter the market every year. Your local lumber yard or home improvement center may stock some or display some of the newest deck products. Whether it's an extravagant Ipe wood deck with clear cedar railings or a relatively maintenance free deck, choosing a deck material that's right for you and your home is essential for a successful outcome.


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