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How to Choose Deck Materials

Oct 9, 2007
The most common choice of deck materials is one of 2 types - naturally rot-resistant woods or treated wood.

Naturally Rot-Resistant Wood:
There are several varieties that are popular in the deck construction process.

Western red cedar is a cinnamon brown color which weathers to silver grey if left unfinished. The heartwood which is clear and vertically grained has great rot-resistance, is dimensionally stable and is easy to to work. Imperfect clear boards containing flat grain, sapwood or knots are graded differently and priced differently.

Alaska yellow cedar, also known as Pacific coast cypress, is a cream colored wood that is much harder and stronger than red cedar. It is also very rot-resistant. Yelow cedar weathers to a silver grey but benefits from waterproofing especially in hot dry climates. The grades of yellow cedar range from clear to knotty types.

Redwood has a beautiful reddish brown color and is a very stable wood. It is very soft which not only makes it easy to work but also makes it a bit brittle. Redwood is available in several grades with the heartwood being the best choice for decking.

Tropical hardwoods are some of the most durable woods that can be used in deck construction. However, they are also quite expensive. Tropical hardwoods have the advantage of having few defects and are harder, stiffer and stronger than other woods. On the other hand they are heavy and more difficult to work. Generally they must be predrilled to accept screws or nails. Ipe is a beautiful brown colored South American wood. Cambara, similar to ipe, is lighter in color and is less durable. Meranti, a species from Malaysia and the Philippines, is similar to mahogany in appearance.

Treated Wood:
Southern pine is a wood that readily accepts chemical treatment and has become a popular choice as a pressure-treated deck wood. In the past (CCA) chromated copper arsenate was used as a preservative agent but a new treatment process involving the use of ACQ (alkaline copper quad) has been introduced and has resulted in the public feeling safer about the use of this variety of treated wood. Initially, treated southern pine has a greenish tinge that eventually weathers to grey. An annual application of water repellent is an excellent choice to reduce splitting, cupping and premature aging with this wood.

Alternative Materials:
New varieties of materials are gaining popularity because they do not absorb water or rot and require little maintenance. The first type is called composite because it is made of recycled polyethylene and ground up waste wood. Some kinds come in a solid plank form while others are hollow in section with reinforcing ribs. Installation varies from one type which can be fastened with nails or screws to others which require special fastening systems.

Another form of decking material is created from extruded plastic. It does not splinter and requires little if any maintenance. Some varieties of this vinyl decking material are embossed with a pattern to render them slip resistant. Clips or tracks are the fastening methods utilized with vinyl decking. Typically, this decking material comes in white or light colors that reflect sunlight and minimize expansion problems.

Composite and vinyl decking varieties are more expensive than wood varieties.

The choice of deck materials generally comes down to homeowner aesthetic tastes as well as budgetary issues.
About the Author
Richard Vande Sompel is a professional deck builder of 35 years and over 850
decks built and is the author of "How to Plan, Design and Build a Deck from
Start to Finish". To Discover More About
Deck Materials and Claim your 2
FREE Deck Plans, Insider Report, MP3 Audio and discover everything to know about
building a deck visit:
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