Probably the most difficult decision to make when building a deck is what type of decking to use. There are different types of decking suited to different circumstances, and each has unique aesthetic appeals, maintenance requirements, and other factors to keep in mind when making your decision. In this article, we’ll be comparing wood deck options and going over the pros and cons of softwoods, hardwoods, and composites, to help you make your decision.
What is Softwood Decking Made of?
Softwood decking is typically made from redwood, pine, and cedar—most softwood in Arizona and the Southwest is typically redwood. If treated poorly, softwood decking has a lifespan of 15 years at most.
Pros and Cons of Softwood Decking
Homeowners prefer softwood decking for a variety of reasons. Here’s what you should know:
Pros of Softwood Decking
- Cheapest of the three options
- More eco-friendly than hardwood decking
- Easy to install and work with
- Has a long lifespan if pressure treated
- Can be stained a different color
- Design options are limitless
Cons of Softwood Decking
- Needs maintenance every 3–5 years to keep it looking nice
- Softwood is durable, but not as much as hardwood
- Low density makes it weaker
- It can fade over time, so it is not recommended for high-traffic areas
- Does not look as luxurious as other types
- Turns wood color to gray if not stained
What is Hardwood Decking Made of?
Hardwood decking boards are usually made from slow-growing trees, such as Ipe and Cumaru (South American/Brazilian wood). Since these types of trees are more difficult to process and take so long to grow, hardwood decking is the most expensive option on the market. Nevertheless, hardwood decking has a lifespan that can reach up to 50 years if well-maintained.
Pros and Cons of Hardwood Decking
Despite its many benefits, hardwood decking also has some drawbacks. Here’s what you should know:
Pros of Hardwood Decking
- Ipe and Cumaru wood is very beautiful and durable, with long lifespans
- It has a natural look that will only get better with time, and there are no design option limits
- Hardwood decking is more fire-resistant
- Not prone to rotting, warping, or splitting
- Maintains its appearance with proper maintenance
Cons of Hardwood Decking
- Difficult to install due to its hardness
- High installation costs
- Hardwood decking is an expensive material
- Requires regular maintenance
What is Composite Decking Made of?
There are several types of composite decking. In general, a composite product is made up of different materials that have been combined for a finished product. Commonly, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and wood are used together, but some products also use rice hulls, high-density polyethylene, and other materials.
Pros and Cons of Composite Decking
If you’re a “less maintenance is the best maintenance” type of person, then composite decking is for you. Here’s what you should know:
Pros of Composite Decking
- You do not have to regularly maintain the surface
- Wood and plastic mix have a lifespan of over 25 years
- Child-and-pet-friendly due to smooth surface—splinter-free
- Consistent product color
- No need to paint, sand, or seal each year
- A range of styles and colors available
- Some brands use up to 95% recycled materials
- Anti-slip surface
Cons of Composite Decking
- More expensive than softwood decking
- Cannot change colors by staining it
- Material heats up quickly in the sun
- Not as beautiful as wood