Decking is the part of the deck that you physically walk on. Typically it consists of 1″ thick by 5-1/2″ wide boards that are screwed down to the framing of the deck. Newer “hidden fasteners” are available that give a more finished look by making the screws virtually unseen. There are a number of decking material options. Below are brief descriptions of some of the most popular choices:
Treated deck boards are the most common and most economical choice for decking. Pressure treated lumber is green when it is first installed and will fade to a grayish color if not stained or sealed. At around $1.50/square foot, it can be the difference between a deck being affordable or unaffordable. The disadvantage of treated deck boards are its tendencies to warp, split, and splinter. When properly sealed and maintained, though, these issues are lessened.
Cedar naturally resists rotting, insects, and decay and so it is another good option for decking. It is more stable then pressure treated lumber and is less likely to splinter badly. Most people also appreciate the warm brown tones, distinctive grain, and knotty character of cedar. Cedar should be protected with good quality wood stain. At around $2.50/square foot for #2 grade, cedar is still an affordable option.
Composite deck boards, which came on the scene in the early 1990’s, are designed to address some of the issues commonly associated with wood decks, i.e. rotting, splintering, and maintenance. A composite deck board is made with wood fibers and plastic in a variety of colors and grain patterns. Composite decking ranges in price from about $5-8/square foot. Early composites, however, proved to have their own deficiencies, i.e. fading, staining, and mildew growth. Manufacturers continued to develop composite decking to address these problems while offering a low maintenance solution for decks. The most significant development has been to \’cap\’ the composite board with a rigid plastic shell. This shell provides much better protection against mildew, scratching, staining, and fading.
Trex has been in the composite decking industry for over 20 years. They offer a full line of composite decking, railing, and trim products. Their Trex Transcend line is a capped composite that offers a 25 year fade and stain warranty. This ensures that for 25 years, the decking should not fade in color or stain as a result of food or beverage spills. Transcend is currently available in eight different colors. Visit Trex.com for more details, ideas, and warranty information.
Azek is the leading manufacturer of cellular pvc decking which is another wood alternative. Azek deck boards offer the same benefits of capped composites (low maintenance and resistance to staining and fading) as well as a limited lifetime warranty. Cellular pvc decking requires very little maintenance (usually only an occasional cleaning with soap and water). Azek is available in a large selection of colors which have different price points. Visit Azek.com for more information.
Exotic hardwood decking offers stunningly beautiful tones and grain as well as great strength and durability. Ipe (pronounced ‘epay’) decking is the most popular hardwood available. Imported from South America, it naturally resists rot and insects, as well as cracking and splintering, for up to 40 years. Sometimes branded as “Iron Wood”, Ipe is one of the densest woods that we know of. Its density and tight wood grain prevent it from splintering and checking as softer woods such as pine do. Ipe can be sealed with a special oil to retain its dark brown tone or it can be allowed to age to a silver color.
There are several other beautiful hardwood decking options. These include Cumaru, Tigerwood, Garapa (right), and Massaranduba. Each of these hardwoods offers its own unique color, grain pattern, and characteristics. For more information on these decking options, visit mcilvain.com for more information.