A well-constructed deck can easily last for a decade or more, so choosing the right material is critical. While manufacturers continue to introduce synthetic and composite materials for decks, softwoods such as redwood, cedar and pressure-treated pine remain the most widely used products for deck construction. When planning your new deck, weigh the pros and cons of wood to decide if it’s the right material to meet your needs.
Allure of Mother Nature
The quality of composite and plastic decking materials varies considerably. Though you may have trouble distinguishing high-quality composites from wood, some lower quality versions have the unmistakable and artificial look of plastic. The choice between wood and composite depends on the personal preferences of the homeowner, and some simply prefer the authentic look, smell and feel of real wood over the stamped or embossed texture of synthetics.
Keeping Your Cool
Even on the hottest days, home wood decks remain relatively comfortable underfoot, while home synthetic decking can grow uncomfortably hot. Wood decks naturally absorb and retain less heat than most composites, making them a better choice for decks in areas that get frequent sunlight and those in regions with high temperatures.
Composites cost roughly twice as much as pressure-treated wood decking, according to the “Chicago Tribune,” making pressure-treated wood the most economical choice for most decks. Those considering redwood, cedar or exotic hardwoods should expect to pay about the same for wood or composite options.
Some states maintain strict fire-safety codes for home and deck construction. Several different types of wood decking meet the minimum performance criteria for fire safety. Redwood, a common deck wood used in California, for example, performs as well or better than any composites tested at the University of California Forest Products Laboratory, as reported in the “Journal of Light Construction.” Certain types of cedar as well as fire-retardant pressure-treated lumber also meet specified fire-safety requirements for decks.
Care and Maintenance
From redwood to hardwood, all home wood decking requires routine maintenance to prevent rot, fading and discoloration. Compared to synthetic alternatives, wood decks demand greater attention and care from homeowners, including sealing and staining every few years to protect the deck from moisture damage and help maintain its appearance.
Wood decking represents both a renewable and recyclable resource, while synthetic alternatives often come from non-renewable petroleum sources. While some home wood decking comes from old growth forests, Beronio Construction reports that 92 percent of all redwood comes from privately owned lots of young-growth trees. You can typically recycle an old wood deck, while many composite decks are not recyclable. In addition, the sawdust and wood chips generated during wood deck construction are biodegradable, and don’t require collection. Plastic lumber dust is not biodegradable, and requires careful collection to avoid harming the local environment during deck construction.