For many homeowners, planning a new deck is a big investment — and one that can add significant value to your home. That’s why it’s important to choose the right wood for your deck, so you’ll be happy with the results for years to come.
There are many types of hardwood and softwood species, but only a few are generally used in deck construction. Your choice will depend on factors such as color, weather resistance, moisture content and other characteristics. Here are some tips for choosing the right wood decking boards:
1. Consider a tropical hardwood
If you want a nice-looking deck that will age well over time, consider an exotic hardwood such as ipe or cumaru. These woods offer natural beauty and durability, along with higher price tags than other types of wood decking. But the initial cost may be worth it in the long run because these tropical woods are naturally resistant to insects and decay. On top of that, they’re often harder than other types of wood — some have a Janka hardness rating of 3,680 or more — which means they’re less prone to damage from impacts and scratches.
Pressure-treated lumber is the least expensive choice, and it requires chemical treatment to deter insects and prevent rot. It can be stained or painted if desired. Keep in mind that it will shrink somewhat as it dries after being treated.
Cedar is naturally resistant to decay and is generally only treated with water-repellant stain or sealer, rather than chemicals. It has the most natural look of any wood used for decking and can be cut into beautiful shapes that add style to your outdoor living space.
3. Pressure Treated Wood
Before the 1990s, pressure-treated wood was treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA), which contained arsenic and chromium — toxic chemicals that could leach into soil and groundwater unless disposed of correctly. However, CCA was phased out in 2003 by the Environmental Protection Agency because of health concerns, and pressure treated lumber is now treated with safer chemicals that protect wood against rot and insect infestation. It’s still one of the most affordable options available.
4. Above-ground rating
Use this type of wood for decks that are not attached to the house, such as a freestanding deck or one with a hot tub or pool. This type of deck is not subjected to moisture or ground contact.
5. Ground-contact rating
Ground-contact lumber is rated for direct contact with soil and moisture. It should be used on the support posts that hold up the deck’s framework, which is usually made of pressure-treated lumber (rated for above-ground use) and fastened to the joists with galvanized screws or nails.
6. What’s the Weather Like?
The climate where you live plays an important role in how long your deck lumber will last. For example, pressure-treated lumber can last 20 years or more, but it’s not a good choice if you live in a damp climate. Why? Pressure-treated lumber became available during the 1940s and was used for building foundations and below-grade projects such as decks and porches. It’s treated with chemicals to prevent damage from moisture, insects or fungi. Because it’s chemically treated to resist rot, mold and bugs, pressure-treated wood is an excellent choice for decks or other outdoor projects in climates with high humidity that get lots of rain or snow.