Composite Decking or Wood?Composite Decking or Wood?
If you are planning to build a deck for your home one of the first decisions you have to make is whether to build it out of composite decking or wood. Each one has its benefits and its drawbacks.
Composite decking is manufactured from several materials. This combination includes wood by-products and some sort of plastic. This can be recycled wood, sawdust or wood fiber. The plastic is usually PVC or polyethylene.
This process produces a product that resists rot and insects. Composite decking usually comes with a ten to twenty-year warranty. They are water resistant and an excellent choice for building a deck around a swimming pool or a hot tub.
The color of a composite deck will fade over time. It is also prone to undue staining. It is available in an array of colors and textures. It mimics the look of wood. If you want a uniform appearance to your deck, composites will give you that. They are consistent in appearance; they do not have knots or other irregularities like natural wood. Because composites are designed by the manufacturer, they can come with pre-grooved deck boards that make installation easier than with wood.
Composite decking is considered more environmentally-friendly than natural wood. Although it will eventually end up in a dump somewhere unable to degrade, the upfront benefit is that it uses recycled wood and by-products. It is more expensive initially. Over time it will save you money because it needs little to no maintenance.
Nothing can match the beauty of real wood decks. Wood does require quite a bit of maintenance. It should be cleaned and resealed each year to retain its natural beauty. The look and feel of wood can be restored to its original appearance, this is not so with composite decking.
Wood is actually more durable than composites. Treated wood does have some resistance to environmental agents. It can be damaged by moisture and it can be attacked by insects. If properly cared for and carefully chosen, wood will outlast the ten to twenty-year lifespan guarantee of composite decking.
Types of Wood
Cedar is a favorite choice for decks. It has a soft texture and a beautiful grain. It is naturally insect resistant. The pleasant smell of Cedar will remain after it has been cut. Cedar ages beautifully. It will continue to change in color until it becomes fully acclimated after several years of exposure to the elements.
Redwood is similar to cedar in its characteristics. It is a reddish colored wood and a very beautiful choice of wood for a deck.
Pine is another popular choice for decks. It is less expensive than cedar or redwood. Pine is light-weight and easily painted. It varies from extremely soft to very hard in texture. It is usually pressure treated to resist rot and insects. Cedar and redwood are not. This chemical treatment can cause discoloration and pine must be regularly cleaned and resealed to protect its color.
Mahogany will last about forty years when properly maintained. It has a beautiful rich color. It is slightly more expensive than cedar. It is very durable with little splintering.
Cypress is harder to find than the above-mentioned woods. It is a strong wood. Each individual piece will have a unique grain and your deck will be truly one of a kind.
Get It in Writing
Regardless of your choice of material, the most important factor in building a deck is to have a well-designed plan. If hiring a contractor make sure to inspect the agreement and warranty. Make sure you are well covered and get it in writing. If you are building your own deck get the wood manufacturer’s warranty in writing as well.
One final note on composite decking is that there have been some complaints and even lawsuits against certain manufacturers. The issues were about rotting, splintering and degrading. Composite wood manufacturers are continuing to improve their products but there may be defects that will appear over time. Wood, when properly cared for will retain its beauty and last a long time.
Wooden Deck Styles
When considering wooden decking styles to build you need only be constrained by four things: your imagination, the size, and shape of the area you’ve got to work in, your budget and your skill level as a DIY home enthusiast.
Designing a Wooden Deck
The actual shape that the decking follows is often thought of as being the ‘design’ in a wooden deck. However, the design also incorporates any framework that might be required, the number of levels on the decking, the rails and stairs you use with it, incorporating lighting into it and even whether to fit the decking boards lengthways, along the width of the deck or even diagonally. All of these components are available in a range of materials, colors, and designs suitable for all budgets.
Designing the Floor Pattern
Rather than just going out and buying a load of timber and starting to build from some vague idea in your head – you need to sit down and draw up a few ideas as proper plans. You don’t need to be, or to hire, an architect for this; but do at least need to sit down with a pencil, ruler and some graph paper.
Decide on a suitable scale and mark out the boundaries of the whole garden and then the sort of boundary you want the decking to fit into. Having arrived at two or three designs you like; go outside and actually measure up to get an idea of what it would look like when finished. Easier said than done for some of us.
What would be great is to be able to sketch the space then add in the decking design into it. But, if you’re like me and can’t even draw a reasonable stick-man, not everyone is brilliant at drawing.
There is, however, an alternative. By looking online you’ll be able to find wood decking design software that will help you plan and then realize your designs for the garden decking. The software is easy to use and quite intuitive, so don’t worry if you’re not a ‘computer whizz’.
Wooden decking can literally work on two levels. You can install ground-level decking or raised-decking. Without stating, what I hope is, the obvious; raised-decking requires a greater degree of confidence and ability to build as a DIY project.
For ground level decking all you need to do is create a footing for a low framework to sit on that the decking can then be fixed to. The height of the footing being no more than 30-40mm. Raised decking has a higher frame and is useful for accommodating a difference in height between a door opening and a garden or patio level.
Raised decking will usually be at least 500mm above ground level at one point or another. Designing and constructing a safe frame for the decking to be fixed to is as important as the design for the decking layout itself, on a raised deck.
Wood Decking Safety
When designing your wooden deck to make sure that any framework is more than adequate for the job. Making the frame strong enough for you and your family to safely use does not allow for the neighbors or friends suddenly turning up. The frame needs to be strong enough to support the maximum number of people that can comfortably stand on the decking. You might also want to check with your local building officials regarding any advice or regulations on building a wooden deck in your area.
Cedar Decking Tips
There are several different wood types appropriate for your deck, including a material that is made up of recycled materials and a form of wood waste, called composite decking. Cedar decking is one of the choices in the wood category and is one of the most prevalent choices for building a deck. Whether you’re planning on carrying out your cedar decking project yourself or hiring a professional to do it for you, there are a few significant things to know about before going any further with the idea.
What You Need to Know about Cedar Decking
Naturally resistant to decay and insect damage, cedar is a wood for which no further chemical treatment is needed, except when the lumber is in direct contact with the ground. Compared to the other available woods, cedar is superior since it does not swell or shrinks as much as the other woods. It will also lay flat, stay straight, retain fasteners better, and provide a strong base for paints and stains. Cedar’s physical beauty is a bonus; it has a rich grain, texture, and color that compliments any architectural style.
Cedar is considered as one of the builder-friendliest woods you can work with; it is ultra-lightweight, making transporting and handling a snap, and its soft texture and straight grain allow for quick and clean sawing and shaping. Also, cedar is produced and available in an array of shapes and sizes, and some pre-cut items in cedar decking include the following: fencing, lattice, balustrades, and decorative accessories.
Finished or Unfinished Decking
A cedar deck can remain unfinished if you want the rustic weathered look, or you can use a quality finish to enhance both its look and its natural durability. Cedar decking works well with such finishes as oil-based stains and paints, and you should remember to look for a coating that offers good mildicide and ultraviolet shielding properties, as well as additional preservatives in order to protect your project’s youthful complexion.
No matter what type of wood you decide to go with for your deck, learning and all about the various kinds available, along with the pros and cons of each one, will help you a great deal in finding the right wood not only for the project but for your personal preference as well. Cedar is a long-lasting, dependable, reliable, and beautiful wood, and should be short-listed as one of the top choices for a decking project.
Table of Contents
- 1 Composite Decking or Wood?
- 2 Wooden Deck Styles
- 3 Cedar Decking Tips