Decking Material Guide – 12 Material Choices that You Can Use for Your Backyard Deck

With a back patio showing its wear, the time has come for us to build a new deck in the backyard!  We’re excited to extend a new deck off of the kitchen and make our house more inviting, entertaining, and enjoyable.

Our favorite contractor came by and asked the first question- so were you thinking pressure treated lumber or composite?  Under the canopy of trees composite was suggested…

But is that it?  Are those the only two options?  One of which has been the same since 1716 A.D?

The answer, thankfully is no.  Below is what I believe to be a very thorough list of decking options. And, because I am unbiased as I get started with research, I’m going in alphabetical order for our Decking Material Guide.

Aluminum Decking Material

Photo of Aluminum Decking with Wood Grain
Aluminum Decking from Nexan

When I first thought of Aluminum Decking, I was thinking something along the lines of a wet boat ride on Lake Erie.  However, pre-finished aluminum decking is not the raw and rough metal you might imagine.  Weatherproof, Rust Proof, Rot Proof and Insect Proof, aluminum decking is a very strong decking material.  The decking itself is bent/extruded to shapes that allow for minimum gaps between the deck boards – and at least one manufacturer has created a floor that diverts water away from the ground below, allowing for a dry space.  These aluminum deck boards are finished with a colorful assortment of slip-resistant coatings, many are embossed with a real wood grain.  At installation time, the boards are cut with special aluminum blades.  Let’s say that my husband wants an aluminum cutting blade for Christmas.

Regarding heat- apparently because aluminum is a great heat conductor- it does NOT hold on to heat and get hot- nor burn your toes.  Good To know!!

Companies that make Aluminum Decking?  , VersaDeck, Wahoo Decks (Fortis and AridDek) and Nexan.

Costs?: About $15 per square foot.

Pressure Treated Lumber

Image from Decks R Us in Paradise, PA

The standby for decks across the country is pressure treated lumber.  The lowest cost option, pressure treated lumber is chemically treated to resist rot, mold and insects.

When we were growing up (pre-2003) treated wood was infused with what has been identified as a suspected carcinogen (Chromated Copper Arsenate).  Fear not, this is no longer the case and less toxic chemicals are now used.

While Pressure-Treated Lumber is inexpensive ($2/square foot) it does require finishing, maintenance, power washing and whatever else your back yard requires.  This lumber is usually made from Yellow Pine that often warps over time- creating trip and splinter hazards.  So be careful.

If you choose pressure-treated lumber, your deck will be like 75% of other decks that will be built this year.  So if this is your choice, you aren’t making a bad one!

Cast and PreCast Concrete

When people think of Concrete- they think of a Patio.  However you concrete can be elevated to be used as your deck.  While some concrete vendors can erect a fully supporting frame and pour concrete directly onto the target deck area, some more creative companies are taking a look at precast panels.

Concrete Panels as Decking

Below is a video featuring the man and company that poured our Driveway, Dan Guardo of Akron, and his pre-cast concrete panels used as decking.

Concrete Pavers as Decking

Dekstone Pavers

Another precast concrete product comes in the form of large pavers.  DekStone from Gardena, California manufactures 2 foot square by 2 inch tall concrete pavers that are layed in place on a deck.

Each square weights about 80 lbs, so they are heavy- but being concrete, they are going to last a lifetime.  Like other heavy products listed in this guide, this product can be placed on lumber framing and withstand a lifetime of abuse.

Cedar Lumber

Image from CedarDecks.com, an Installer in Kirkland, WA

The outside of my home is sided with Cedar.  It is original to the house from the 1960s and the wood itself is in great condition.  Bugs stay clear of it and it is structurally sound.  When we had to buy a couple of pieces to trim out a new front door, we bought what was matched the original siding of the house from Terry Lumber in Peninsula.

Cedar is a soulful wood that outclasses other products because of its natural charm- however- do plan on annual power washing and occasional finish coating.  Many people choose this western wood because it is naturally more resistant to rot, decay, and insects without being chemically treated.

With that said, I read on Popular Mechanics that there are a number of different grades of Cedar wood. – So it’s best to do your homework.  Costs: About $4/sqft.

Composite Decking

Composite Decking from Deckorators

The biggest share of new decks that are not pressure treated lumber goes to Composite Decking. Composite Decking is a mixture of plastic and wood fiber- often saw dust.  Often made from polyethylene or PVC, Composite Decking gives a weather and stain resistant board that won’t splinter or warp.

Composite Decking is available from a number of manufacturers like Trex, TimberTech, Deckorators and Fiberon.  Local Menard’s Stores even have their own line of product – Ultra Deck- and can be more reasonably priced than others.  Other home stores have their own house brand as well.

Because Composite Decking is built with organic wood components- that part of the composite can rot and decay if exposed.  So it is important to keep composite decking clean, and free of cool dark moisture.  Composite Decking is around $5 per square foot.

Plastic Decking

While Composite Decking technically includes plastic, there are a few non-composite plastic decking options.

Bear Board HDPE Decking

Mineral Infused HDPE Plastic Decking from Bear Board Lumber

The First I found is Bear Board Decking.  This is a 100% plastic (HDPE- milk jugs) decking mixed with strengthening minerals that alleviate expansion and contraction problems associated with straight plastic decking.

Bear Board is maintenance free, does not include any fibrous materials that can rot, and is impervious to water.  This product is top notch, made from recycled products and IS recyclable.  Because Bear Board is not PVC based, it is less toxic to the environment than other competing products.

High End Polymer Decking

Another Plastic Lumber product that I found is Eon Ultra Decking from Gracious Living Innovations.

Eon Ultra Decking (Polymer)

This product is an engineered premium resin that is non-organic, will not rot, and will not stain.This high end product comes with an embossed surface with real wood streaking/ wood grain. Because of the exceptional wood grain look and feel, I am definitely intrigued by this product.

PVC Decking

For 100% PVC Decking, I found Genovations.  Genovations Deck Flooring is a 100% PVC product.  The product is hollow- so less product to ship, and manufacture.  Additionally, the hollow nature allows for more air flow and less heat.  While I was initially against a straight PVC product at the start, when I found that it is meant to last forever with a Lifetime Warranty, I thought again.  This product is manufactured in Davison, MI.

PVC Decking from Wolf Home Products

Another PVC Decking Manufacturer is Wolf Home Products.  This manufacturer strives for a very natural look to their product- so there are more variations in wood grain and board to board color than those of competing product.  Their product is also coated with a long term protectant to maintain the color that you purchased.   Additionally, Wolf offers a 100% PVC encasement of a traditional composite board – giving you the best of both worlds. ( which I almost classified in and of itself as yet another type of decking. )

Redwood Lumber Decking

Redwood is the big brother to Cedar Lumber- and is generally more available West of the Mississippi.  Redwood is a more exceptional wood and costs more than Cedar.  Expect costs of $6-$8 per square foot.  When I think of redwood, I think of the giant trees that roam the edge of San Francisco.  Really quite beautiful on the outside of the tree, and valued for the inside.

Tile Decking

There’s something about Tile that I just love.  However, before writing this article, I never thought about it for decking.  Sure I’ve considered a patio paver before, but never a tiled deck! But here we are!

DekTek Concrete Deck Tiles

Shown above, Deck Tiles from DekTek are durable, bug free (obviously), and can be built over fairly standard deck framing.  Each tile can support 1,000 lbs each, and can even span a 16″ deck joists on a wood framed deck with only minor modifications.  Each tile is 1 inch thick.

DekTek Tiles must be sealed with a solvent based concrete tile sealer- so not maintenance free, but, I think, worth the effort ( I already seal other tile around my house- no big deal).

 

Tropical Hardwoods

So, Luxury Hardwoods like Ipe, Red Taurari, Tigerwood and Massaranduba can last up to FIFTY Years.  That’s an amazing amount of time for wood!

Tigerwood from Advantage Lumber
Tigerwood Decking – Image from Advantage Lumber

Ipe is so hard, it doesn’t accept stains or finishes very well, so you have to use a penetrating sealer specially formulated for this type of decking.  This hardness also applies to the construction process- so cutting and drilling can be difficult.

Besides the longevity of this product many people choose Ipe because of its deep dark rick crimson color.

and.. before you say “Oh no! We’re logging the Amazon Rainforest!”  just do your homework and be sure that your seller is buying from a sustainable source (trees are replanted, and the cutting methodology is thoughtful)

Tropical Hardwoods will cost about $10 per square foot.

 

So what do I think of these Decking Options?

Before I started this article, I did not expect to find this array of options.  My personal decking choice is going to be one that considers a deck being under a leafy tree canopy- so plenty of wetness, dark areas, and weather.  But being among the trees is going to be wonderful.

 

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