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Deck Surface Materials


By ProMatcher Staff



One of the first steps when planning the construction of a deck is to choose the deck surface material. Pressure treated lumber is the usual choice for the posts, girders and joists that are somewhat hidden by the deck surface on most designs, but that doesn't mean you are limited to using it for the decking surface. There are numerous choices, and each has its own unique appearance and quality. Choosing the right one is important because it has such a tremendous impact on your use and enjoyment of the deck for years to come.

Deck surface materials fall into three main categories: wood, composite and ironwood. The initial motivation for your choice will probably be aesthetics. Since a deck is a natural extension of your living space, you will want to choose a material that matches the character of your home. Cost, availability of material and maintenance will also play key roles in your choice of deck material.

Wood – Pressure-treated, Redwood, Cedar and Cypress

Pressure-treated wood is by far the most common and affordable choice for deck material. Pressure-treated wood is milled from southern yellow pine and then infused with preservative to resist rot and insects. When installed, pressure treated wood will have a greenish tint which will eventually fade to gray, but it can be coated with an oil based stain which is available in many colors. Pressure treated wood is widely available and suitable for climates.

Redwood is expensive and hard to get, but its beautiful, straight grain, natural glowing color and weather resistance are unsurpassed. Redwood when left untreated will “go grey” and eventually develop a slight sheen that many find attractive, or it can be treated with stains and UV blocker to keep it close to its original color.

Cedar has many of the benefits of redwood, usually costs less than redwood and is widely available. Cedar is fragrant and beautiful, though, with its light brown color, it tends to have a more informal feel than redwood. Left untreated, cedar will turn gray; however, it can be treated with stains and UV blocker to help retain its natural color.
Cypress is a very economical choice for deck surface material in the south. It is comparable to redwood in hardiness and strength, but it is not as stable. When milled, cypress is a light blond color that will turn a golden honey color when treated with a clear coat of polyurethane. Untreated, cypress takes on a natural grey patina.

Composite

Plastic-and-wood composite decking and vinyl decking typically contain mostly recycled material with a little wood thrown in to create a permanently skid-resistant surface. Composite decking will cost you a little extra, but your deck will never splinter, will be immune to insects and decay and will be nearly maintenance free. Even though composite decking is virtually indestructible, its color made fade over time, and you will not be able to stain or paint the surface to renew the original color.

Ironwood

South American hardwoods such as ipe and paulope are sometimes called ironwoods. These woods are very expensive, but the lumber is extremely strong and durable. Some ironwoods have roughly twice the strength and load rating as pressure-treated wood. They are also extremely rot and insect resistant.

Ironwods should be sealed immediately after installation. To maintain the original color, use a transparent oil-based sealer with UV inhibitors and matching pigment. If you prefer a silvery-gray appearance, use a clear oil-based sealer for the first coat and then simply let the wood weather to its natural gray color.



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ProMatcher Staff, ProMatcher
Orlando, FL 32803

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