Choosing the Right Outdoor Decking Material


Outdoor decking on home exterior in the woodlands

The deck makes the yard, and with cool temperatures and crisp air on the horizon, there’s no better time to set the stage for an outdoor dining or gathering experience the whole family will flock to this fall. So pull out your tools and get ready to deck out your backyard with a quality foundation you can trust to host countless nights around the fire.


In this blog, we’ll dive into everything you need to know to select the right outdoor decking material for how you intend to utilize the space. From budget, maintenance and life expectancy considerations, we’ve got you covered to make more informed decisions that ensure years of enjoyment ahead.


Pick Goals and Set Limits



Decks are essentially an outdoor extension of your home so it involves a lot more planning than measuring twice and cutting once. Homeowners need to define their goals and restrictions for the project before making any kind of purchase decision. Start by asking yourself what features or functions you hope to get out of the deck. This might include having enough room to install a grill, enough square footage to accommodate multiple gathering spaces or sourcing durable materials that are rated to bear the weight of a hot tub.


You will also want to consider how gradient the ground of your property is for your construction, any permits you might need to secure or local building codes and/or homeowners' association requirements you may need to follow to make your build a reality.


Weigh Out Your Decking Material Options



Like most construction decisions, choosing a material for building a deck is a matter of cost and quality. Once you have a set budget in place, you can start to determine which materials you can afford and what their properties are to choose a product that meets your needs in terms of lifespan and use.


Pressure-Treated Deck Boards


Wood has reigned supreme in deck building for centuries and is still the conventional choice in modern construction. Sold pre-treated with several preservatives, pressure-treated wood is the most cost effective and commonly used material for decking due to the protection it provides against pests and rot. Among the top of the list is southern yellow pine for its unbeatable price point, but homeowners can also choose from other options like redwood and cedar that prove to be sufficient at withstanding the elements. Each option will last for about 15-20 years with regular cleaning and maintenance but will need to be refinished and sealed every 2-3 years to prevent cracks, fading and deterioration.


Tropical Hardwoods


Tropical hardwoods are essentially a high-end alternative to pressure-treated wood boards. As an exotic material, costs are usually much higher due to limited supply and significant logistical costs. Nevertheless, this option isn't just a luxury choice. Hardwoods offer real value beyond aesthetics. They are extremely durable and resilient when maintained properly and can last far longer than pine or cedar with an average lifespan of 25-50 years.



Composite


For builders interested in a more low-maintenance, no-fuss material compared to natural wood, composite decking is a fantastic option that offers incredible strength against the elements and a minimum lifespan of 25 years. As a blend of plastic and wood fibers, it can be textured to simulate the appearance of wood but color fading could occur over time. Depending on the manufacturer and finish, composite boards can actually be cheaper than pressure-treated lumber and can be heated and curved to achieve a more custom shape.


Aluminum


Aluminum is a tough, yet lightweight material that can hold up to 240 pounds per square foot and is weather-proof, insect-proof and fireproof. While aluminum is more expensive compared to alternative materials, it requires minimal maintenance and is exceptionally leakproof making it ideal for upper-level decks. Additionally, aluminum decks offer exceptional longevity with an average lifespan of 20-60 years.


Plastic


Plastic decks consist of 100% PVC so it doesn’t decay, stain or buckle to moisture and water. It’s less expensive than tropical hardwoods but more pricey than composites, so it’s considered to be on the higher end of the material cost spectrum. However, many manufacturers offer lifetime warranties so you can expect your deck to live well up to its investment and then some. For many homeowners, the biggest drawback is texture and appearance. Plastic surfaces can also become extremely slippery and don't bear weight as well as other materials.


Pick a Partner for the Project



Doug Ashy is more than a building material supplier. Our team knows that customers have varying levels of skill, experience and comfort with building projects and we’re ready to meet you wherever you are in the process.


Visit a location near you for unparalleled expertise and guidance to set your decking project up for success.