Wood used for decks must resist rot and be able to stand up to the elements. Therefore, choosing the type of wood for your deck should be carefully thought out. Consider speaking to a local carpenter about the best wood choice for decks in your area.
Things to Consider
- Pressure-treated wood vs. lumber – Pressure-treated wood resists rot and repels pests. But pressure treated wood has a blue-green tint that many people find unattractive. Many homeowners choose treated wood for the frame and supports, and lumber for the floors, railings and steps.
- Budget – Some woods are significantly more expensive than others. Make a budget and your choices will be narrowed down, which will make the process of choosing a wood much easier. For example, redwood tends to be more expensive than cedar.
- Grading – Make sure the wood has a good grade level and that it is rated for outdoor use.
Western Red Cedar
Western red cedar is a durable softwood and is available in all grades. Western red cedar is resistant to decay, but it is relatively soft and quick to weather. Applying a preservative treatment and sealer will prevent weathering and keep the deck looking good for many years. Western red cedar is reddish brown and ages to silvery gray. Good quality cedar can last up to 30 years. Learn more from the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association.
Redwood is a lightweight softwood and is available in several grades. The best grade for decks is the clear heart grade, as it has a high resistance to decay. The clear heart grade contains few knots and is tight-grained. Redwood comes in several colors, from red to a dark reddish-brown. The wood weathers to a yellowish-red quickly. Some redwoods become gray over time. Prolonged moisture will cause the wood to blacken. Applying a sealer will help prevent blackening. Learn more from the California Redwood Association.
Genuine mahogany has a beautiful woven look to its grain. There are many different species and sub-species of mahogany. Not all mahogany has the resistance to decay needed for outdoor use. The medium to dark red and brown species are more resistant to decay. There are a few different mahogany types on the market, and they should not be confused with each other. Two common mahogany types are Honduras mahogany and Philippine mahogany. Honduras mahogany is genuine mahogany, while Philippine mahogany is less authentic. Philippine mahogany is a tight-grained hardwood that resists pests and rot, but does not have the woven look to its grain. When buying mahogany, research the wood and be sure to ask for the species name of the wood. You should also consult with a professional carpenter who can help determine if the mahogany is genuine.
Ipe (pronounces E-pay) is a South American wood. Ipe is a very strong, low-maintenance wood decking material. Some of ipe’s great qualities include: resistance to chipping, cupping, twisting and splintering. Ipe is very strong, which makes it hard for carpenters to cut. This results in high labor and installation costs. Ipe can be sealed or left alone to weather to a silver-gray. Ipe decks can last up to 20 years.