A wise PA homeowner should exercise care when selecting decking. An expert piece of advice?: Prioritize durability as much as design. In addition to aesthetic considerations, choosing the perfect decking requires precise attention to maintenance needs, location on your landscape, budget, and environmental factors. Educate yourself about the different types of decking to determine which is best for you.
Types of Decking
Composed of waste wood fibers and recycled plastic, composite decking is manufactured to resemble wood. Deck screws, hidden fasteners, and clips are used to assemble this dense material into a cohesive look. Composite decking is available in a range of colors and textures for greater design flexibility.
Plastic decking may be made entirely of recycled or new plastic, or a combination of the two. Although this material appears like wood from afar, its true character is revealed upon closer inspection. Plastic decking is available in a greater range of sizes than other materials, although it relies on a single integrated system, making installation a very strict process.
Choosing the perfect wood decking involves three types:
Pressure-treated wood generally consists of Southern pine or fir and is available in a range of color options. Chemical treatment renders this decking material insect- and water-repellant. Plan for a lifespan of 15-20 years.
Cedar and Redwood are popularly used for residential decking due to their natural beauty, resistance to rot, and insect-repelling qualities. Decking made of these soft woods can last up to 20 years, if correctly maintained.
Tropical hardwoods, including balau, ipe, and ironwood, are notable for their rich color and density. Although this decking type tends to cost more than other options, the result is a bug- and decay-resistant deck which can last up to 30 years with proper care. As an added safety benefit, tropical hardwoods prevent fires from spreading to other areas of your home or landscape.
Dense composite wood is resistant to stains, splinters, and rotting, and stands up well to the elements. Routine maintenance is minimal, requiring only an occasional brush with deck cleaner and a mildew-cleaning pressure wash every once in a while. Applying finish 1-2 times annually is recommended.
Plastic decking is fade-proof and won’t rot or stain, provided annual cleaning is performed. Administering a finish twice a year keeps this decking material in top condition.
All wood decking needs a minimum of one cleaning per year, regardless of whether it is finished or not. In addition, pressure-treated wood must be sanded and, if finished with a clear sealant, resealed once annually.
As a general rule, the darker a deck’s color, the more heat it will absorb. Plastic and composite decking are prone to high surface temperatures under the sun, making barefoot walking highly uncomfortable. Wooden planks are your top decking choice if you live in a warmer climate. Tropical hardwoods and Redwood stand up especially well to the sun’s rays. Keep in mind that lighter woods stay cooler than dark variations.
When choosing the perfect decking for your home, whether it's for pool decking or somewhere else, consider your desired aesthetic, maintenance routine, and necessary heat resistance to make a decision you will feel good about for years.
Related: Choosing the Perfect Deck Design.