The right material can make all the difference in creating a beautiful, long-lasting deck.
Lumber is divided into grades based on the number of obvious flaws, such as knots, sap pockets, splits, and other blemishes. Use the straightest, best-looking boards for deck surfaces that will show, but save a little money by buying mid-grade lumber for the unseen underpinnings of the deck's structure. Stay away from the lowest grades, however. Knotty or warped lumber will be difficult to work with and can weaken your deck.
When it comes to durable decking materials, there are three basic choices: wood that has been treated to resist rot, wood that is naturally rot resistant, and synthetic materials.
Strength. Only real wood can be used for structural support, and pressure-treated lumber is the strongest of all. Plastic lumber, vinyl lumber, wood-plastic composite, and rubber lumber are all either not strong enough or too flexible.
Maintenance. Wood may require occasional refinishing, and you will want to check annually for popping nails, splinters, or warped boards. Arsenic-free preserved lumber needs to have water sealer applied every other year, but never needs to be restained. Synthetic materials are maintenance-free other than occasional washing, although rubber lumber can lose its color.
|Deck material||Cost per linear foot|
|Pressure-treated lumber||35 to 50 cents|
|Cypress||63 to 65 cents|
|Cedar||75 to 85 cents|
|Redwood||$1 to $2|
|Arsenic-free preserved lumber||$1.50|
|Wood-plastic composite lumber||$1.75 to $3.25|
|Plastic lumber||$2.10 to $3.25|
|Vinyl lumber||$2.40 to $3.10|