[This article was originally published in June 2018 and has been updated and revised.]
The days of the traditional wood deck built with sixteen penny nails and swinging hammers haven't disappeared completely. But the options for building materials has grown tremendously and offer exciting possibilities.
It used to be that an affordable deck might be built with treated wood of some type. For those with a bigger budget, a redwood deck was often considered the way to go. However, once the movement towards an "outdoor living" lifestyle began to become more popular, deck designs evolved - as did the need for more versatile, longer-lasting decking materials.
21st Century Decks - Re-Thinking Wood
Surprisingly, however, despite the growing popularity of composite decking materials, they have yet to overtake treated wood. In fact, according to a leading producer of wood preservatives, Arch Treatment Technologies, almost 75 percent of all new decks built in the U.S. use pressure-treated (PT) lumber.
Despite the perceived quality and inherent beauty of natural wood, it appears that the most common deck-building material in the U.S. today is still treated wood.
As one lumber provider as pointed out,
Extra strength without sacrificing appearance. This ubiquitous type of wood is the most popular decking material on the market today, which isn't surprising given that pressure-treated (PT) decking is inexpensive, very durable for its price, and easy to stain in practically any color.
However, for many others, classic redwood or cedar decks are still a top choice. According to an article at Popular Mechanics,
For many purists, the only choices for decking are redwood or red cedar. Both of these western softwoods are prized for their rich color and natural beauty, and because they aren't pumped full of chemicals or preservatives. Both species contain tannins and oils that make them naturally resistant to rot, decay and voracious insects.
If you choose to go with redwood, The California Redwood Association (CRA) recommends that you go with sapwood-streaked construction common or deck common redwood for the decking material.
For cedar, the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association suggests that four grades of cedar to use for decking: architect clear, custom clear, architect knotty, and custom knotty. These are listed in order of the most expensive and clearest, to the least expensive and knotty.
The downside of choosing redwood or cedar over pressure-treated (PT) lumber is the cost. Those materials generally run about two to three times the cost of PT wood.
However, technology and innovation never cease and the world of decking and deck building materials has evolved, as well. No longer are homeowners and contractors limited to various types of wood or high-priced composites for building their decks.
Thinking Beyond Wood - Deck Building without It
So, what about the new stuff?
Generally speaking, builders have had a choice between composite or all-plastic deck building materials. But the range of deck-building materials has expanded significantly and the options are both exciting and, perhaps, a bit bewildering.
Essentially, a backyard deck today could make use of any number of materials - some new and some old but improved upon. Alternatives to PT wood, cedar, and redwood include:
- Ipe Hardwood Decking
- Composite Decking
- Aluminum Decking
- Plastic or PVC Decking
First, let's consider Ipe hardwood decking.
Ipe hardwood decking is a great material choice for homeowners and residential contractors. It’s an extremely durable natural wood product and can last on average for up to 40 years.
The wood is imported from Brazil, which makes it an expensive and premium option, but also one that is both unique and durable. In addition, Ipe is highly insect and rot-resistant, making it perfect for wet or humid climates.
While Ipe hardwood is long-lasting, durable, resistant to scratching, and possesses a beautiful dark color, it is also quite expensive and can be difficult to repair.
Bamboo for decks? Seriously?
Contrary to what some might think, bamboo isn’t a type of wood, but is very much like wood after being manufactured. It shares many benefits of wood decking but is much more environmentally friendly. Bamboo decking can be harder to find than traditional deck materials, but it’s affordable and availability and quality is continually improving
While it's long-term durability is still debated, it works well in damp and humid climates making a more versatile decking choice. can grow back within 3-5 years, it’s a very sustainable choice.
Then there's composite decking.
The composites are composed primarily of wood fibers (or "wood powder") and recycled plastic. The resulting deck can be extremely weather-proof and stain-resistant. Normally, the boards won't splinter, warp, rot or split. However, some manufacturers have found that unsealed boards can absorb moisture over time and begin to chip and crumble.
Common manufacturers include , CorrectDeck and Trex, as well as TimberTech and Veranda, along with others. Composite decking is that it’s not as environmentally friendly as wood but it can be made from recycled materials or recycled when removed from a home.
- Looks like real wood
- More expensive than some materials
- Not always eco-friendly
- Can’t refinish or change the color
Aluminum decking can be great in many locales.
While not for everyone - or for every climate - aluminum decking products are increasing in popularity.
As one article notes,
- True to its name, aluminum decking is made from extruded aluminum with a coating on the top side. The extrusion process keeps the aluminum lightweight, while still being strong and durable.
- Because aluminum decking is usually given a protective coating, aluminum decks are essentially immune to the slow structural water damage that will eventually destroy all wooden decks.
- Working with metal isn’t the same as working with wood. One major drawback of aluminum decking is that it can be more difficult to install.
And, as HGTV points out, if you're looking for a deck surface that will stay cool even in the hottest temperatures and is extremely long lasting and durable, aluminum decking may just be right for you. It won't rust, rot, warp, splinter, crack or check, and it's extremely resistant to mold, weather and slips. It will never peel or blister, and its powder-coated surface and will far outlast redwood decking.
In addition, aluminum decking is three to four times lighter than the most popular wood decking species, but also two to three times stronger. It can be cut with the same saws used to cut wood.
Plastic/PVC Deck products - from packaging to decking!
Plastic lumber, as you might imagine, is typically made from 100 percent recycled or virgin plastic, and sometimes both. Unlike the composites, plastic lumber contains no wood fibers. Much like the composites, it's highly resistant to staining and decay, and has no knots, cracks and splinters.
A relative newcomer to the decking world is a type of plastic composite called Zuri that is manufactured by Premium Decking by Royal. What makes this product different is the manufacturing process that sets it apart from the others.
Design Builders explained in a post,
Every board ... has three main pieces that work together to form the end product. There’s a substrate, a photo print, and an acrylic capstock. This is true for any of the Zuri decking colors and types of Zuri decking, as Zuri does not need to be stained.
The base of every Zuri board is a cellular PVC substrate. This PVC resin has had air blown into it so it’s not as rigid as typical PVC, and this process also enlarges the PVC. This gives each board a bit of natural give and flexibility, which contributes to the manufacturer's goal of approximating natural wood. It also minimizes the chance of cracking or breaking, as each board can bend and accommodate added weight or natural fluctuations.
In addition, each board is covered with a protective layer that is textured and has a photorealistic print that makes it look like real wood.
A downside for many homeowners, however, might be the cost. Compared to other kinds of composite or plastic decking materials on the market, Zuri decking can cost twice as much.
A Great Way to Get Rid of Your Old Deck Debris
If you already have a deck and are looking to replace it, you really have two projects on your hands. The old deck may not be repairable any longer, or you simply have decided for an entirely new design and look. Whatever the reason, the existing deck has to be dismantled and the debris will need to be hauled off and disposed of.
If you're doing this project yourself you have a few options for this part of the task. You could haul it all away yourself, but you'll need a suitable vehicle and a place to take all the waste and debris. You could hire a local handyman-type to make some "dump runs" for your, but that, too, can be problematic.
A better solution is to rent a small dumpster that can be delivered for you, is easy to use and fill, and will be removed once you're done with it.
Junk King has a great solution with our MINI Dumpster rental service. And even if you have a contractor come out to dismantle your old deck before installing a new one, the MINI Dumpster is still an affordable and user-friendly option for your contractor's use.
Whether you are rebuilding a deck, or remodeling your home, we provide our customers with the tools they need to clear away unwanted clutter. We offer a warm and friendly crew that will do the heavy lifting for you and a fleet of MINI Dumpsters that allow you to do it yourself.
Our professional and insured trash removal team will show up at your home or office, and we will call 15 to 30 minutes before we arrive at your site. In addition, we’ll give you a free estimate based on how much room your items take up in our truck. You point and we haul your items into our junk removal trucks, with no hidden fees.
Ready to get rid of that old decking? It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3.
You make an appointment by booking online above or by calling 1.888.888.JUNK (5865).