wood deck

Thinking About Building an Outdoor Deck?

Don’t Start Decking Without Reading This Decking Materials Guide

Building a deck is more complex than simply pouring a bit of concrete and nailing a few boards together. The options available for deck construction are constantly on the rise. Wood or plastic? If wood, what kind? What shape will the deck be? Should pressure treated wood be used? This article will help answer those questions and more.

deck construction

Build a Wood Deck or Plastic Deck?

The resistance to decay exhibited by plastic and metal decks has always been weighed against the aesthetic superiority of wood. This balance has traditionally tipped in wood’s favor, but new advancements in polymer design are quickly leveling the scale. Wood-plastic composites combine the best of both worlds and are constructed of recycled plastics and wood waste products (sawdust, bamboo, etc.). Common trade names for these composites are:

  • TimberTech®
  • Trex®
  • Ultradeck®
  • Weatherbest®
  • Practiwood®

These plastic polymers have several advantages over wood. They include:

  • Ability to be shaped using conventional woodworking tools
  • Resistance to rot and decay
  • Ease of molding to any desired spatial conditions
  • Ease of bending to form strong curves
  • No need for painting, they’re manufacture in a variety of colors

The disadvantages of wood metal composites include the tendency to deform in hot weather and, due to the porosity of the material, their susceptibility to staining by environmental elements.

Types of Wood Commonly Used in Decking

The most commonly used decking woods are pressure treated pines. However, even after chemical treatment, pine is not as durable as other hardwoods. If the deck being built is of any considerable size, it is recommended that pine be used since some hardwoods can cost more than $50 per square foot. These more expensive woods include:

  • Oak
  • Ash
  • Beech
  • Maple
  • Cherry
  • Teak

These woods are harder to shape than softwoods because of their density. Teak is incredibly expensive because it only grows in tropical climates and must be imported. That extra cost, though, comes with an increased durability and beauty rarely found in pressure treated pines. A summary of the costs of several dozen hardwoods can be found at Segmented Turning.

Is a Metal Deck an Option?

A metal deck constructed of aluminum will last far longer than either a plastic or wooden deck, but that durability comes at a steep price. When compared to wood, metal is cold and uninviting and can dampen the mood of any social or business gathering.

It is also incredibly reflective of sunlight and should be avoided if the deck is being built in a congested neighborhood, lest the neighbors be temporarily blinded after catching a glimpse of the afternoon sunlight glaring off the deck and crash through their garage door. However, if the deck is being built for purely utilitarian purposes (and none of those come to mind) metal may be the best choice.

Do not choose a decking material without considering the fact that it will form a large and conspicuous part of a property for a decade or more. It is a large investment that deserves dutiful research into the available materials and options.