Decks and decking materials have come a long way. Typically decks where made of Redwood. Back in the 50’s-80’s redwood was great quality and inexpensive. Many of those old growth forests have long been chopped down and made into patio furniture and wood decks.
Today there are new options available for decks. They fall in three categories; Composite decking like Trex, Exotic hardwoods like mahogany and Ipe and lastly good old fashioned clear Redwood. There are also new ways to install the decking to keep those pesky nails from popping up and boards from getting loose.
Composite decking like Trex has come a long way and is a good long lasting alternative to natural wood. Composite decking runs about $3 to $4 per linear foot of decking material. It comes in a wide variety of colors and textures. Composite decking is made of wood and plastic. The wood gives it a more natural feel and protects it from UV damage and the plastic protects it from rot. This decking material can last 50 years and never needs repainting because the color is integral to the material. Most composite decking is also available with channels cut into the side of the material so hidden fasteners can be used for a cleaner smoother look. Composites are a great alternative to Redwood decking.
Hardwood decking is another great option to Redwood. Redwood decking is very soft and brittle. Hardwood is more resistant to rot and breaking. Hardwood decks are the nicest option. They have a rich natural feel that will enhance your outdoor experience. Hardwood decks are of course more expensive and more difficult to install and maintain. Examples of hardwood are Mahogany, Mangaras, Ipe and teak. They are either installed by either top screwing or installed with hidden fasteners on the sides or bottom. Some are available custom milled with channels to make using hidden fasteners easier to install.
Hardwoods are too hard to accept penetrating sealers. Polyurethanes and varnishes do not hold up outdoors under heavy foot traffic. Typically you use a Penfin or teak oil to seal the wood and it needs to be reapplied every couple years. Hardwood is the best but comes at a price and has additional maintenance issues.
Good old fashion Clear Redwood. The problem it clear good quality redwood costs nearly the same as composite decking at about $3 a linear foot. Redwood is typically installed with screws from the top. There decking clips that can be used but they don’t always work well with Redwood. The deck should be painted with a solid body stain every couple years to keep the wood healthy and looking its best.
The often times bigger issue with Wood decks is the structure holding the deck up. Water kills decks. Every effort should be used to keep the decking on top and more importantly the structure underneath dry. Do not put big pots on wood decks unless they are moved around often or on spacers to keep the deck dry. Do not over water these pots.
Keep an eye on what is going on under the deck like broken sprinklers or dirt in contact with the deck structure. Code calls for wood framing to be a minimum of 6 inches away from the soil. Make sure the deck is well ventilated. Code calls for a half inch gap between the decking boards. This may be tough on guests with heels but it helps keep the underside of the deck well ventilated. Check the connections of the deck framing to houses or walls. This is where the deck typically fails. Most decks are built attached directly to another structure. Try to provide an air space between any ledgers and the house and make sure to use pressure treated wood and stainless steel fasteners at deck connections to houses or other structures.