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A new deck both boosts home value and ramps up your yard's fun factor. Not sure how to choose among the many types of decking-building options? Learn about popular deck materials, costs, and care, and discover one that fits with your lifestyle and location.
Navigating all the options for decking materials can be overwhelming, but have no fear. We'll help you sort through traditional wood options, including cedar, redwood, and pressure-treated pine, as well as an ever-expanding market of alternatives.
Treated with chemicals to repel insects and water, Southern pine or fir is the most common and least expensive type of decking. Although pressure-treated wood requires yearly washing, sanding, and sealing when finished with a clear sealant, it will last up to 30 years if maintained properly.
Cost: $3.35 per square foot, uninstalled.
Tropical hardwoods, such as ipe, ironwood, and balau, are beautiful, dense, and long-lived, but can be expensive. Below are a few of the advantages and disadvantages of naturally durable wood choices:
Cost: $6.50 per square foot, uninstalled.
Made with recycled materials like wood waste and plastic sacks, composite decking requires minimal maintenance, doesn't need to be sanded or painted, and is generally weather-resistant. It also comes in a variety of colors and styles. However, some composite deck materials can be slippery and prone to mildew, and might require special fasteners.
Cost: $11.28 - $45.50 per square foot, uninstalled.
Looking for a deck that will last a lifetime with no staining and sealing? Synthetic lumber is your answer. Made from materials such as vinyl, polystyrene, or cellular polyvinyl chloride (PVC), synthetic lumber includes options for slip-resistant designs and smart drainage systems so that the area under your deck stays dry no matter the weather.
Cost: $7.50 per square foot, uninstalled.
For a seriously low-maintenance deck, look to aluminum. The durable material doesn't try to look anything like wood and can be interlocked to prevent rain from dripping through.
Cost: $8.98 - $12.98 per square foot, uninstalled.
Go green with these three great options for sustainable deck-building materials.
Reclaimed Wood: Second-hand wood decking gains new life when reused and tends to have beautiful grain.
Ipe Wood: This attractive wood is strong, naturally water-resistant, and a stylish substitute for typical redwood or teak decking.
Recycled Composite: This alternative decking material prevents waste from going to the landfill. Ensure it is more than 50 percent recycled before purchasing.
Before hitting the home improvement center, make sure to have your deck's measurements ready as well as a list of questions. Here's a start:
To prevent breakdown, seal a wood deck as soon as it's built. But with so many options -- water-resistant, mildewcide, UV protection -- how do you choose one? Start with the basics.
Clear: Use for cedar, redwood or pine. Provides protection without color. Repeat every year.
Toner: Use to create a cedar or redwood look and highlight wood grain. Mild color with more protection than clear.
Semitransparent: Slightly opaque. Provides some wood-grain highlighting. Repeat every 2-3 years.
Solid Color: Full-on paint that hides wood grain. Provides the highest level of protection by guarding against UV light. Repeat every 3-5 years.
Add personality to your deck with an ornamental railing. Custom options include woven-branch rails and ornate post caps for composite decking. Synthetic rail systems can be trimmed to fit your deck and need virtually no maintenance. Low-maintenance balusters are also available from most composite companies.
Don't let the fun stop when the sun sets. Deck lighting is worthwhile and can be an inexpensive investment. Low-voltage deck lighting abounds, whether you prefer cap lights on end posts or rope lighting under rail caps. Tape lights are an easy-to-install option that come in different colors that you can control with a remote.