Home improvement projects need to be carefully designed and planned for in order to deliver the maximum value possible. Just like the interior of your home, the materials you choose for exterior home renovations will make a difference to how the project feels, how long it lasts and how much it costs. Choosing the ideal deck materials is an important step that requires careful consideration and a general knowledge of the industry.
What Are the Options?
The most popular options for decking materials include wood, plastics and recycled resources. There are also a few exotic choices that carry hefty price tags and require specially trained installers, but the commonly found choices offer plenty of options.
- Pressure Treated Wood - Perhaps the most popular deck material in North America, pressure treated wood is typically made from spruce, pine and fir species. The wood is treated with a chemical preservative that is embedded into the product through pressurization. In the past pressure treated wood contained CCA (chromated copper arsenate), but after some consideration within government and industry professionals, CCA was replaced with ACQ (Alkaline, Copper, Quaternary). This chemical compound carries less risk of leeching and provides the same level of protection against rotting and pests. Only ACQ-approved fasteners can be used with this product. Pressure treated wood can be stained or painted with products that have been made for compatibility.
- Cedar Wood - A traditional choice for exterior wood projects, cedar contains natural preservatives that allow the species to last for decades in the outdoors. It will lose the trademark golden red color within the first year and fades to a silver patina that can be removed easily with any of the wood wash products on the market. Cedar can be stained a variety of colors and has an appealing odor. It is also a safe choice and can be easily disposed of later. Generally considered a more high maintenance product, cedar is about 40 to 50 percent more expensive than pressure treated wood.
- Vinyl Decking - Vinyl products have been around for years and are commonly used for siding, soffit and trim. Manufacturers have taken that same material - PVC or poly vinyl chloride - and formed it into deck boards, trim and railing components that help to form a completely maintenance-free exterior structure for your home. Vinyl decking comes in a limited color scheme, most often only white, tan and grey. It cannot be stained or painted. Vinyl decks are generally built on a pressure treated wood frame and offer a lifetime of unchanging beauty that will withstand the weather and will not fade in the sun.
- Composite Materials - A mixture of wood particles and recycled plastics, composite decking is a rapidly evolving industry that offers durable, attractive products with low maintenance requirements. There are a variety of composite manufacturers, including Trex, Northern Composite Products and Timber Tech. Each has a unique combination of materials and is available in a variety of different styles and components. Look for colors that imitate wood and other natural hues. Many composite brands also have a wood grain finish for better grip and a more attractive appearance.
Other Design Considerations
The best choice of deck materials for your home is based on a variety of factors. Consider how much maintenance you are equipped to handle on a regular basis. If you don't mind staining the wood once a year, cedar offers many benefits including a natural resistance to rotting and the most flexibility in terms of design. Cedar can be shaped and formed easily, opening up the possibility for round, curved decks and any number of detailed overhead features.
Many homeowners prefer the low maintenance requirements of vinyl or composite, though. Even pressure treated wood requires much less work and upkeep than cedar. But none of those three options have the same natural beauty.
Budget is always a factor as well. All of the above options are installed using pressure treated wood for the framing. It is only the decking, railing and trim components that can be completed using another option. If you have a large deck area, be prepared to spend a substantial amount on vinyl or composite products, often twice the cost of a comparably sized pressure treated deck.
Railings are another key component in your deck design. And your options for this area of the deck are even wider. Think about whether a tempered glass railing will provide a better view. Or take a look at aluminum railing systems in a variety of styles, offering a low maintenance, high style finish in nearly any color. Aluminum components are powder coated for durability and will attach securely to any decking material.
Can You Combine Materials?
Some people choose to combine materials, such as composite decking with a pressure treated railing or vinyl decking with glass railings. This option may allow you to install a higher quality material on the deck and gives you the flexibility to upgrade later on when the time and budget allows. Combinations also deliver the benefits of each material type - composite deck boards eliminate slivers, while glass railings offer maximum safety. Depending on what is most important to you, as well as your personal preferences, a combination of deck materials may be the best solution.
Choosing the Best Contractor
Your deck material choice may also determine the decking contractor you hire. This is especially true when you are installing exotic materials like Ipe decking (a dense, heavy wood that is extremely durable and expensive). You certainly don't want to attempt a DIY decking project with valuable materials and some of your local contractors may not handle these products. Once you've chosen the preferred deck material, look for contractors that offer it and ask homeowners with the same decking who they would recommend.
Choosing the ideal deck materials for your backyard will take some time. Compare what is available in your area, along with your budget and the benefits each material offers. Design and maintenance are vital factors in this decision and it may be possible to consider combinations of decking materials. When all is said and done, it's important to hire a decking contractor that handles your preferred materials and invest in the product that offers the most value to your family.Posted by: TrustedPros