This is a question we get once it’s time for our custom home clients to decide what material they’d like to use with their outdoor living space. The three most common decking materials are: cedar, pressure-treated wood, and composite lumber. They all share similarities, but the choice comes down to cost, maintenance and appearance. Take a look at the pros and cons here:
Cedar: The heartwood of this tree is rot resistant. Cedar doesn’t readily absorb moisture— and, since moisture is what creates twisting and splitting, cedar decking tends to lie flat and straight. Cedar is also soft when used for stairs or for decks with furniture. Its lifespan is about 15 to 20 years and you have to clean it and reseal it every year or two. The cost of the cedar is moderate, more than pressure-treated wood but somewhat less than composite.
Pressure-Treated: If economy and longevity are what you’re looking for, go with pressure-treated wood. It’s stainable, hard enough to resist abuse, and many brands carry a lifetime warranty. But beware, not all treated woods are created equal. The standard treated decking may costs less than cedar. But inexpensive treated wood is often full of moisture and will shrink unevenly and twist when it dries. The reality is that a pressure-treated deck may last forever, but if you buy wrong, it’s going to look bad forever, too.
Composite Decking: If near-zero maintenance is your goal, buy composite decking. Most is made from recycled plastic and wood chips or sawdust. It’s more expensive than cedar, but once it’s down, it won’t rot, splinter or twist. You can even stain most types after four to six months. Since the material is defect free, you can use every inch. Maintenance involves spraying it off with a hose. Cons: Some people don’t like the aesthetics of composite, and the material can be cold on bare feet.
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