Decking materials

When choosing a decking material consider appearance, durability, upkeep, and cost.

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  • Decking materials

    Today's decks are built with an amazing variety of woods and synthetic elements, broadening the spectrum of possible design and construction methods.

  • Material Type: Pressure-Treated

    What you need to know

    Pine preserved with chromated copper arsenate (CCA) has been phased out by the EPA. Alternative treatments include copper azole (CBA) or alkaline copper quatenary (ACQ).

    Other considerations

    Lumber is more insect-and fungus-resistant when chemicals are forced into the wood.

    Durability/maintenance

    Can last up to 30 years with diligent upkeep. Wash at least once a year using deck wash or a power washer, and finish with a preservative sealer. Requires regular maintenance.

    Cost

    $1.20-$2 per square foot, uninstalled. Prices vary by grade, region, and season.

  • Material Type: Redwood/Cedar

    What you need to know

    Redwood and cedar are naturally resistant to insects and decay. Apply mildewcide and
    ultraviolet inhibitor to boost durability.

    Other considerations

    Redwood is fire-resistant and takes stains or paints well. It can be expensive. Cedar weathers to a silvery gray. The surfaces of both woods are soft, making them prone to marring and denting.

    Durability/maintenance

    Can last 20 years or more, if maintained. Wash at least once a year using deck wash or a power washer, and seal with a preservative sealer. To prevent rot, position board ends so they can dry if they become soaked with water.

    Cost

    $2-$4 per square foot, uninstalled. Prices vary by grade, region, and season.

  • Material Type: Wood/Plastic Composite

    What you need to know

    Plastic resin or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is mixed with wood flour (or sawdust) and extruded into planks in a variety of colors and textures. Step and railing systems also are available.

    Other considerations

    Composites cut like wood but don't rot, shrink, warp, or splinter. The components can't be used for structural support (beams or joists). Dark colors may show weathering; compare new and "aged" samples.

    Durability/maintenance

    Warranties range from 10 years to life. No need to stain or paint yearly. Clean as needed with soap and water, household detergent, or deck cleaner. A mildew treatment may be necessary for boards in shady areas.

    Cost

    $1.75-$4.75 per square foot, uninstalled.

  • Material Type: Vinyl

    What you need to know

    Extruded vinyl comes in white, gray, and various shades of tan. Some brands have blind fastening systems. Other brands are simply vinyl caps over wood boards.

    Other considerations

    Diamond-grid and other tread designs add slip-resistance. Interlocking planks channel water.

    Durability/maintenance

    Solid-vinyl decks should last a lifetime; vinyl-cap products last about 30 years. Vinyl needs no staining or sealing. Clean with a power washer; remove mildew with a mild bleach solution.

    Cost

    $4-$7 per square foot, uninstalled.

  • Material Type: Rubber Composite

    What you need to know

    A mix of polyethylene resins and recycled tires, this heavy, manufactured board was first used in commercial projects. It's offered in terra-cotta, gray, and black.

    Other considerations

    Smooth or textured surface. Withstands extreme heat and cold, and resists damage from insects and solar rays. Not widely available.

    Durability/maintenance

    Will last about 25 years. Needs only periodic cleaning with water.

    Cost

    $3-$4 per square foot, uninstalled.

  • Material Type: Plastic

    What you need to know

    Polystyrene (some recycled) is extruded into plastic decking. Redwood and cedar colors look warmer than wood/plastic composite shades.

    Other considerations

    Won't splinter, twist, or rot. Comes in standard dimensional lumber sizes and several colors.

    Durability/maintenance

    Will last up to 50 years. Needs only periodic cleaning with water.

    Cost

    $7.50-$10 per square foot, uninstalled.

  • Material Type: Metal

    What you need to know

    Aluminum alloy decking is manufactured in lengths up to 28'. Manufacturers offer several colors, even wood grain. Interlocking planks form a watertight surface, beneficial for upper-level decks and balconies.

    Other considerations

    The material's strength allows joists 24-30" on center, not the usual 16". Susceptible to temperature extremes and not widely available.

    Durability/maintenance

    Should last a lifetime. Needs only periodic cleaning with water.

    Cost

    About $2.50-$6 per square foot, uninstalled.

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