It’s true that composite materials have gained popularity in recent years. Made of synthetic materials, composites offer a reasonably attractive form and a quantum leap in functionality for outdoor decks. They last longer, require little if any maintenance, and provide a safe, study deck when professionally installed.
But composites are not—and never will be—for everybody. Naturals woods still provide that classic look and feel for outdoor decks. In many cases they’re also cheaper to install, even if the maintenance costs are higher in the long term.
Choosing natural wood over composites is only the beginning, however. There are literally dozens of types of natural wood that are commonly used in the construction of outdoor decks. Finding the one that’s right for you involves a little research—but we’ve condensed some important information to get you started. Your local outdoor deck specialist or home goods store should be able to help with your decision as well.
The Big Three
There are three varieties of wood that are commonly seen in outdoor decks all across the country. These are Redwood, Cedar and Cypress. Chances are, you’ve stood on a deck made of these materials in the recent past.
All of these woods have natural properties that make them resistant to insects, rot, water damage, and other outdoor threats. They’re also very sturdy, and they look beautiful.
Redwood tends to be the most expensive of the three (especially if you live far away from California, where most Redwood is harvested), followed by Cedar and Cypress (which can be found in many areas of the United States).
Pressure Treated Lumber
Essentially, pressure treated lumber is cheaper wood into which chemical preservatives have been forced under high pressure. This allows softwoods (usually pines or firs) to acquire similar anti-rot and anti-insect properties as a material like Redwood. It is also the least expensive natural wood option by far. However, many homeowners do not like the idea of using chemically treated wood for their outdoor deck.
There are several varieties of tropical hardwoods which, although often more expensive than other options, provide beautiful and sturdy decking with natural durability and damage-resistant properties. These include Ipé, Mahogany, Cambara, Cumaru, Garapa, Tigerwood and more. Most of tropical hardwoods on the market today are imported from the vast tropical jungles of Brazil, where trees require natural properties to resist rot, insect damage and other threats. Other species grow in the Philippines and other tropical, humid areas.
Some tropical species, such as Cambara, can actually be comparable in price to domestic hardwoods such as Redwood and Cedar. The color and grain of some tropical hardwoods will also influence your choice. Garapa, for instance, has a distinct yellowish tint that many homeowners prefer to avoid.
Which type of wood is right for you?
When it comes to building (or resurfacing) your deck, there are a range of natural woods to choose from. If you want the most economical solution—but you still want your decking to last a long time—pressure treated lumber is probably the way to go. If you’re looking for a natural hardwood that will stay strong and resist the elements without chemical treatments, focus your attention on domestic or tropical hardwoods, and be prepared to spend a little more up front.
We hope this blog post helps you make the best possible decision for your outdoor decking! Please feel free to comment below.