When most people think of decking materials, they think of timber. Timber has been the most common decking material used for a long time, but there are alternatives to timber today, as well as a choice of timbers suitable for decking.
With more than 80% of houses having a deck of some description, it is not surprising that there is great demand for a choice in decking materials. The most common timber used for decks is pine or one of the pressure-treated pine products. Pine is readily available, reasonably priced and easy to work, making it a good choice for DIY enthusiasts. However, a deck made of pine will need to be replaced in ten years or so, while some of the more expensive timbers will last a lot longer.
While other timbers like cedar, mahogany, redwood or ipe may cost more initially, the fact that they are more stable and resistant to shrinkage means they outlast pine several times over. Added to this are the beautiful good looks of the high-end timbers, just another reason why they continue to be a popular choice.
Cedar is a decking timber that can last up to 30 years. Western Red Cedar weathers to a magnificent deep color and the Port Orford varieties are paler and allow for variations in stains. Cedar has good insulating properties, making it an excellent choice if the deck is located above a room.
Redwood has a natural deep brown/red color that becomes deeper as it ages. It looks good on a deck because it has a tight grain and is quite knot-free. It is resistant to splintering and weathering and can last for 30 years. Being lightweight but strong, it is a good choice for those who want to build their own deck.
Ipe is also known as Ironwood, and it is found in South America. It makes a good decking material because it is durable, low maintenance, doesn't shrink, twist or splinter and lasts about 25 years. It can cost more to install because it is very strong, heavy and difficult to work. It can be left unstained so it will weather to an attractive grayish silver color.
Mahogany comes in a variety of colors from white, through yellow and brown to a lovely dark red. The Meranti mahogany from the Philippines has the range of colors, but it is not as durable as the mahogany from South America and the West Indies. The American mahoganies have the traditional rich red color and are longer lasting, so make sure you know what species of mahogany you are buying.
All timber decks will require regular maintenance to keep them looking good and to extend their life. Timber surfaces should be treated with a quality sealant every two years. These synthetic sealants contain UV blockers, algaecides and mildewcides to protect the deck and prolong the life of the timber.
Other materials that have become popular for decking include composites that are manufactured from a combination of wood fibers and plastic. These decks don't need staining or painting, and the boards don't splinter. Regular maintenance involves scrubbing to remove mildew. There are plastic decking boards in tongue and groove with wood grain to prevent slipping, and aluminum boards that are easy to clean but could dent.