A deck is one of the most requested features homeowners want nowadays. In fact, if you don’t have one, building one is a great way to add value to your home.
Decks typically offer a great return on investment when done correctly, well maintained, and with high-quality materials. And when it comes to building material choices, decks today can be made of almost anything. So, what are the best decking materials on the market today?
The best types of decking include wood, composite, concrete, PVC, aluminum, stone, and mixed material decking. Each material has its benefits and considerations regarding cost, durability, maintenance, and more. Of course, not all materials will be suitable for a new deck.
Still not sure what type of decking is right for your situation? Well, have no fear. We’ve rounded up the seven most popular deck construction types below. So keep reading for all the decking details that you need to know to turn your outdoor space into a personal oasis.
How to Choose Your Decking Material?
Most homeowners will decide what material to build their deck out of by considering some combination of cost, maintenance duties, local climate, and the look that the material provides.
The price of materials is relatively straightforward, either one can afford to use a material, or a cheaper alternative should be sought. The maintenance of a deck is vital and should be considered when comparing different types of material.
The aesthetics of decking materials will generally come down to personal preference. Some may be fine with pressure-treated boards. Others may require exotic hardwoods.
This brings us to our final factor, climate. The local environment in which a deck will be located will greatly impact the suitability of some materials. This is one area where finding the right contractor can make all the difference. This is because a local outfit will know precisely what conditions a deck will have to stand up to.
For example, deck builders in Bucks County, PA, will have much more experience constructing decks to withstand winter weather than deck builders from Miami-Dade County, FL. In short, if you aren’t sure what materials might best suit your climate, ask a local builder for their opinion.
The classic (and still most popular) material for deck building is wood. This is because a well-maintained wood deck can last almost indefinitely in a wide variety of climates. In addition, technology has made it so that pressure-treated woods can be used where more rugged materials are required.
Pressure-treated boards are ideal for deck use as they are inexpensive and can be treated to be naturally insect repellent and help resist deterioration. And if your situation—and budget—can handle it, nothing can replicate the look that only some classic hardwoods, such as Mahogany, Ipe, or Teak, can provide.
There are a few downsides when it comes to a wooden deck. First, they will need regular maintenance and inspection to retain their peak performance.
This will include regular cleaning (including power washing), board replacement, and sanding, staining, and sealing when required. Depending on the stain and seal used, this could be annually.
Composite decking is typically made by mixing wood byproducts like sawdust with recycled plastics, such as polyethylene.
The result is a material that looks like wood but is much more durable. This won’t be a cheaper option than simple pressure-treated woods, but it can allow homeowners to copy the look of more expensive natural woods at a fraction of the price.
There are many different manufacturers of composite decking materials. The choices for consumers can be overwhelming. Consumer Reports does an excellent job of breaking down all the major composite decking manufacturers in this buying guide.
If your space can handle a concrete deck, there are a lot of advantages to having one poured. While not as inexpensive as some wood decks, a concrete patio can easily outlast any other material type listed. Another advantage is that a concrete deck can be quickly installed and, once cured, is nearly indestructible.
However, concrete isn’t completely maintenance-free; it will still need to be sealed from time to time and routinely inspected for structural faults such as cracking.
This will be especially vital if you are located in an area where the deck is subjugated to frequent freeze-thaw cycles. If you already have a concrete structure, InterNACHI has a checklist you can use for visually inspecting concrete work.
Plastic or PVC Decking
This type of synthetic decking is a step further than composite materials. Such materials are typically made from PVC. While composite decking usually does a better job of capturing the look and feel of real, natural wood, these synthetic options will struggle to do so.
Aluminum is a good decking material as it is lightweight, durable, and relatively inexpensive over its lifetime.
For many homeowners, this type of deck has a lot to like. Aluminum decks will last almost indefinitely and require nearly no maintenance. Other metals can also be used, although they will be more expensive.
The main problem with aluminum is that it isn’t the most stylish decking material, although more natural-looking finishes are available. Another consideration is that metal can be hazardous if left to bake in direct sunlight. And though aluminum is lightweight, it can do a poor job of dampening sound, making footsteps quite noisy.
A stone deck can often help give an outdoor space a Mediterranean vibe, especially when elevated and mixed with an aquatic feature such as a pool, hot tub, or fountain. However, the stone will be one of the most expensive options. For this reason, it is mainly used as a finishing material and paired with other decking materials that are more affordable.
Other options are to use inexpensive substitutes such as brick or concrete pavers. Still, nothing beats the look of a slate deck for some that desire the look of natural stone—and can afford to splash some cash on their deck.
Mixed Materials Decking
Finally, some may choose to use various materials when constructing their decks. This may be for several reasons, including price and durability needs.
For example, a deck that utilizes hardwoods, composite materials, and concrete may be able to give a homeowner the durability they need while still providing a bit of artistic flair, thanks to the hardwood.
In short, feel free to use any combination that suits your needs and wants. Stay within your budget, but don’t skimp.
A deck is no place to undercut such an important investment. Find the right local builder and explain what type of deck you are looking for. Be patient. In no time, you’ll find yourself with an outdoor space you’ll never know how you lived without!