Sign In to join the community | Help
Lumber & Composites

How to Choose Your Decking Material

Many people are finding that the best way to expand their living space is to move outdoors and by adding a deck to their landscape. 


This brings up the major question, what material should I use for my decking surface?  The right answer to this question is dependent on the individual priorities.  The major considerations are cost, maintenance, aesthetics.  Let’s look at the most common choices, cedar, pressure treated and composite decking.  Open this link to the top things to consider when planning a deck.

Pressure Treated Decking

Treated lumber is used as the substructure of most outside projects because of its superior strength and Longevity (ground contact treatments).  Often using fast growing species of lumber, along with new less toxic chemicals has made pressure treated lumber more environmentally friendly and aesthetically more pleasing than the earlier green because of the new color additives as seen in the following video.The new preservative treatment for pine ACQ (alkaline copper quaternary) that uses no arsenic, is not only safer and longer lasting, but accepts stain and sealant better. PT wood has natural mold-inhibiting chemicals and the copper in the pressure treatment is an anti-microbial, that most bacteria can’t survive in its presence.


Home Depot carries WeatherSheild treated lumber East of the Rockies.  WeatherSheild uses MCA-micronized copper azole, which has a water repelling additives that increase longevity and reduce the swelling, cracking, splitting and warping associated with typical pressure treated lumber.  Its appearance is more like untreated lumber and accepts stain colors more accurately.


Once sealed, a wood deck (pt or cedar) surface needs to be resealed periodically to block moisture and maintain its structural integrity.  A sealing treated pine decks surfaces have a lifespan of 15-25 years. There are as yet no true “lifetime” sealants but new mufti-year sealants and coatings have made the annual chore of cleaning and re-coating a thing of the past. The re-sealing intervals for wood decks are now every 3 to 7 years. Typically with proper maintenance a pressure treated decking will last longer than cedar and is usually priced between 20 to 25% less than cedar, depending on area of country and market.

Cedar Decking

Provides a warm traditional organic natural wood look. It can be used inside and out. The heartwood (which is the dark red color from the center of the tree) is naturally stable, rot and insect resistant.  It does not readily absorbing moisture so it is less likely to split or twist and has a lower rate of shrinking and cupping.  It lies flat, straight and is light weight. Cedar has a small ratio of expansion and contraction.  Western red cedar is pitch and resin-free, which means it’s ideal for accepting and holding a wide range of finished.  If used in a dry and sunny area its life expectancy can be up to 15 years or better but its rate of deterioration increases if used in a damper shady location or on ground level deck that does not dry as rapidly. If not stained it will weather to a natural driftwood color but still needs to be cleaned and sealed regularly to prevent moisture absorption.  It is a soft wood so will show ware especially under furniture and on stairs.  Like PT lumber, cedar is a renewable resource.


Composite Decking (Synthetic Woods)


We know how wood works. “Man” has been using it as long as they have been on Earth but synthetic woods are a new ball game. And there are a lot of players.  

When synthetic woods first came out they were made from primarily recycled wood fibers with plastic binders, hence the word composite.  Some of the early composites woods had problems.  Since then, the manufacturers of the high end synthetic wood product on the market today have improved their deck products. Some manufacturer use a more stable plastic like polypropylene in it composite core. Other manufactures have adding a PVC cap over the core on four of the surfaces; (top, bottom and both sides) while other cap less.  And still others manufacturers have developed solid PVC deck boards.  It appears to be an evolving science with new innovation.


The new high ends composite decking is easy to clean, fade, stain, scratch and mold resistant.  They are available in a wide range of rich colors and matching railings. Most of these composite products are available with a grooved edge for hidden fasteners as well as square edge for steps and perimeters.




Home Depot represents many manufactures of composite decking Trex, Veranda, Timber-tech, Azek, Fiberon, and MoistureShield,  to name a few. Click on any of the brands above to go directly to their web site. 


COST- Depending on the Composite decking you choose the initial board price can be on average 3 times that of cedar or pressure treated.  The cost of maintaining a wood deck must be factors into the overall price tag.  Considering the labor and material cost, cleaning, sanding, staining, sealing and maybe eventual replacing the deck can narrow the price gap.

*Pressure Treated and Cedar decks do require maintenance on a regular basis and here are a couple of Project guide that illustrates these process. Project guide 1, and Refinishing a pressure treated –sealing and staining a wood deck project guide 2


Here is a link to some staining and sealing products available at the Home Depot. You can always visit the experts in the paint department to help find the right materials to renew your deck. If you need a power washer or sanders those are available on the shelf to buy or rent them from the Home Depot’s Tool Rental.


On the Home Depots Community are more helpful tool for planning your deck projects.  


Expressing myself  outdoors.







Not what you were looking for ? Try posting a question
Posted 2014-08-14T13:18:35+0000  by Char_HD_CHI Char_HD_CHI