From a homeowner’s perspective, choosing the right material for your deck compared to other outdoor living spaces may seem simple. However, we are living in a time when making the decision to build a deck can also come with a mountain of abundant choices. Decking material options have grown exponentially over the past several years. It wasn’t so long ago that the only choice you had for a deck was wood, which came in perhaps two or three species. Nowadays thanks to an explosion of material choices from woods to synthetics, homeowners have a myriad of considerations in choosing the right decking material to fit their lifestyle and budget. Archadeck of Central SC has put together a two-part series on decking material considerations. Today, in part one of this series, we focus on wooden decking choices in an effort to make the task of choosing the best material for your dream deck a little less daunting.
Wood — the allure of “the real thing”
- Pressure Treated Wood – Despite all the competition, pressure treated wood is still the number one decking material sold today. In fact, according to a recent article in Popular Mechanics, approximately 75% of all new decks are finished with pressure-treated (PT) lumber. The widespread popularity of PT lumber isn’t surprising: it’s affordable, readily available coast-to-coast, structurally strong and easy to cut and fasten with screws. Most PT decking is milled from southern yellow pine, and then chemically treated to resist rot, fungus and wood-boring bugs. The downside of PT lumber is that it’s not dimensionally stable, so it has a tendency to crack, split and warp. Also, routine maintenance is necessary to prolong the life and look of the deck. PT wood is graded according to standards that make certain grades more optimal for deck construction. Keep in mind that the quality of the wood available to the do-it-yourselfer from “big-box” stores maybe quite different from the wood quality available through reputable lumber suppliers. Professional deck builders, like Archadeck of Central SC, only obtain wood from high-quality suppliers. Prices for PT deck materials can range from $.50 linear ft. for #2 lumber to $2.00 linear ft. and higher for select and clear grade lumber. PT wood decking boards come in two different sizes, these are classified as 2 x 6’s, which are actually 1 1/2 x 5 1/2, and 5/4 x 6, which are actually 1 x 5 1/2.
Lumber grade is typically determined by the surface of the wood and the number of knots present.The following grading standards via Decks.com give insight in to the various classifications of PT wood:
Clear – Clear lumber has a “clear” surface, meaning there are no knots it also means it has been milled a second time. This type if lumber is rarely used for decks.
Premium – Highest grade for 5/4 radius edge decking. This has a uniform surface and no knots.
Select – One of the highest grades available, contains very few detects. It must meet a minimum 1/12 grain slope and have all knots encased. It has a high consistency and the appearance is very good. Archadeck of Central SC’s standard is Select PT from a reputable supplier.
#1 – Will contain no splits larger than the width of the board. Knots may not be larger than 2 ¾”. One hole is permitted every 3 ft.
#Standard – Midrange grade.
#2 – Must meet minimum 1/8 grain slope. Boards will contain no splits larger than 1.5 times width of board. Knots may not be larger than 3 1/2″. One hole is permitted every 2 ft. Wane corners.
#3 – The lowest quality grade. Not suitable for deck construction.
- Hardwoods – When it comes to wood, a homeowner’s choices are not limited to PT. There are many other wood decking choices available. Of course, the old favorites like redwood and cedar come to mind. Both redwood and cedar will rot and degrade over time. These classics are not used as often since the advent of composites. Wood decking options have expanded to include exotic woods whose names alone are enticing. Massaranduba, Garapa, Cumaru, Tigerwood, Ipe and Mahogany are just some of the tropical hardwoods available for decking. Tropical hardwoods are relatively expensive, especially when compared with PT lumber, but boast rich graining and are extremely hard, very durable and naturally resistant to rot and insects.
The beauty and the beast of hardwoods is Ipe – Here at Archadeck of Central SC, Ipe (pronounced e-pay) is among the most requested material by homeowners wishing to build their deck with hardwood. Ipe is a Brazilian hardwood that is coveted for its strength and density. Ipe is so strong that installation may require pre-drilling holes prior to assembly to keep the integrity of the boards intact. Even though Ipe is a natural hardwood it has properties that make it one of the toughest and longest lasting decking materials available. Ipe gives composites a run for their money in terms of the many benefits it provides as a superior decking product. Ipe is insect resistant, mold, fungus and mildew resistant. Ipe also resists scratches and slivers and wood rot and decay. It also holds up beautifully under extreme traffic and heavy use. Ipe is generally sealed or stained to retain its rich amber hue, but when left untreated, will weather to a driftwood gray over time. Beware of fly-by-night suppliers of Ipe casting off substandard materials as high-grade Ipe. There are many different types of Brazilian hardwoods, which generally range in price from $4.00 linear ft. for Garapa, to upwards of $6.50 linear ft. for Ipe. Archadeck of Central SC has a great deal of knowledge and experience in working with hardwoods, which can also be very difficult to work with because of their density and high-maintenance to keep them looking good.
Mixed media – If you are having trouble choosing the right wood for your deck or outdoor structure, it is possible to mix the use of two, or even more, woods into your outdoor living space. A good example of successfully mixing medias is using Ipe hardwood as your deck flooring, and using an alternate complimentary wood on your deck rail and posts. The density of Ipe often makes it difficult for use on areas that require pliability. Cedar and even stained or painted PT wood can be used alongside more exotic hardwoods and deliver a breathtaking finished deck!
Traditional wood decks offer a beautiful natural appearance that complements the outdoors. Archadeck of Central SC can help explore all your decking options while keeping budget and personal tastes in mind. Please contact us today to help create your ultimate outdoor experience with a new deck! (803) 603 – 2160
Please visit our wooden decks photo gallery, hardwood decks photo gallery and Ipe decks photo gallery located on our website for more examples of the natural beauty of our wooden decks.