Why Wood?

The use of wood in deck construction has become more popular with the introduction and availability of various types of weather and rot resistant lumber. Such products have made deck construction and maintenance easier and less expensive than before.

Wood rot and weather resistance depends upon the type of wood used and its applications. Some of the wood choices available on the market include:

  • Cedar and Redwood - These two domestic wood varieties have a greater natural resistance to wood rot and to some insects than most wood varieties. These are relatively soft woods, are easy to work and are often used for deck surfaces, railings and trim. But they are not magic. I can show you homes with exterior cedar and redwood surfaces that are over 100 years old and the material is in perfect condition. But poor quality and/or improperly installed and maintained cedar and redwood can start to rot in a matter of a few years.

The use of cedar or redwood in decks requires careful selection of material. Young sap-wood material may have very little resistance to rot. Old heart-wood material has much better resistance to rot but is hard to find and quite expensive. But no matter how good the quality of the cedar or redwood, decks made out of these materials will require frequent treatment with a wood preservative.

  • Treated Lumber - Treated lumber is impregnated with various types of rot resisting chemicals. Most of the material sold today is treated with chemicals that have a relatively low toxicity. There are various types of treated lumber. Some are designed for the most demanding areas, those with ground contact. Others are smooth surfaced and designed for deck surfaces and other visible locations - "appearance grade" products.

    Treated lumber can last for decades with relatively little maintenance and repairs. The decking should be coated with a penetrating finish in order to reduce wood cracking. Pieces that are cut or shaped during the construction maybe subject to wood rot damage in the areas where inner/untreated sections of a board are exposed. And this decking, like almost all others may have to be pressure washed and treated for moss in order to keep the deck from becoming slippery.

  • Ipe - Ipe is a tropical wood that is being imported from South and Central America and has a high level of rot resistance. It is usually used as the decking surface over a structure of treated lumber.

    This is a relatively new lumber product on the market. It seems like a very promising and low maintenance product. But I do suspect that even Ipe will succumb the our Seattle area rain and have to be cleaned and treated in order to prevent it from becoming slippery.

  • Composite "Wood" - This is not a wood product. It is a manufactured material, often made out of recycled plastic bottles. Trex(tm) is one of the better known brand names. Composite wood decking is often used as the decking surface over a deck structure made out of treated lumber. It is gray in color and not a paint able or stainable surface.

    Composite wood can be worked with most wood-working tools. Its heavier per unit than the other options and bends more easily. As such, it may require closer joist spacing. I have seen many decks and outdoor public structures made out of composite woods and have been impressed with the results. I have also seen two decks with surface damage produced by the paws of the family dog - I have no idea if or why that might be a common problem.

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    Wood Decks