Garden Advice

What Is The Best Wood Material For Decking

Garden decking is extremely versatile and can be used to create amazing outdoor dining and seating surfaces. Wood is the most popular decking material for many reasons – it’s natural, sustainable, weathers well, and looks great.

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So, if you:

  • Want to craft a decking area
  • Need advice on the best woods for decks
  • Would like to know all the pros and cons of the best wood for decking

This post will give you all the answers – so read on!

Pressure Treated Wood Deck Boards

Wood for decking can be pressure treated where the wood is submitted to a chemical preservation treatment, making it highly resistant to moisture and insects. Pressure-treated (PT) wood works as an effective deck board, and softwoods like Hemlock and Douglas Fir are a popular choice.

“Choice” or “select” treated boards have a straighter grain and fewer knots, with less tendency to warp. If cut ends are treated and regular maintenance carried out, that’ll ensure a sustainable and long-lasting deck.

Pros of installing pressure treated wood deck boards

  • Rot-resistant and insect repellent. The chemicals used to treat the wood prevent decay and act as an insecticide. Forcing the preservative copper azole into the wood makes it an inadequate food source for bugs, and prevents fungi growth.
  • Readily available and cheap. Pressure-treated wood is widely available and is a really cost-effective option when it comes to installation and substructure. You can choose lengths of over 10 feet and widths of six inches to build a really sturdy deck.
  • Comes with a lumber manufacturer warranty. Long term warranties against fungal decay and termite infestation are available – all you need to do is ask!

Cons of installing pressure treated wood deck boards

  • Natural wood will discolour over time. Wood will be affected by the elements, particularly from exposure to the sun. If the surfaces of the boards start to turn grey, an application of paint or stain will help slow the process down.
  • Water will cause the wood to expand and contract. This may result in splitting or checking of the wood and a water sealant should be applied to decrease the effects of this natural process that happens during seasonal changes in the weather.
  • Regular maintenance is needed. The biggest downside is the upkeep – applying water sealant, staining the deck, and pressure washing are all essentials to keep your decking looking pristine.

Ipe Wood Deck Boards

Ipe decking boards are an ideal choice when you want a varied tone to your decked area. This exotic hardwood is a beautiful rich dark-brown wood that needs only minimal maintenance. You’ll find it has a variety of names from Brazilian Walnut, Bethabara, to Pau D’Arco.

A slight disadvantage to installing this quality timber is the pure hardness – making it difficult to work with, alongside the possibility of blunting tools. You may have to order the timber from a specialist Ipe supplier, which could increase your expenditure.

Pros of installing Ipe wood deck boards

  • Long-lasting. As Ipe is the second hardest wood globally it has a lifespan of 40 years or even longer! It’s also sustainable and eco-friendly.
  • No vulnerability issues. Mould, decay, bugs, or water damage just aren’t a problem for this durable, natural wood deck. As Ipe has the capacity to retain less heat, the deck doesn’t get hot at temperatures during extreme weather conditions and won’t crack.
  • Low amount of maintenance. The dense surface requires very little looking after. Sealing is simple by using a rose-oil product, and getting rid of any grime and spores can be done annually with a hydrogen peroxide mix. The natural shade of the wood can be preserved with a brown patina.

Cons of installing Ipe wood deck boards

  • Dense means heavy. Due to the high density of the wood, the material is extremely heavy, requiring specialised equipment and expertise to install it safely.
  • Can be expensive. Prices can start from £40 per square metre, excluding VAT, depending on your supplier. Due to its widespread construction use, the wood is overharvested, resulting in an even higher cost, and this exotic wood may eventually become extinct.
  • You may be allergic to Ipe wood. Ipe dust is really fine and during construction can get into your eyes, ears, and nose. Severe reactions are uncommon but it has been known to cause respiratory irritation as well as headaches – wearing protective clothing is a must.

Redwood Deck Boards

Redwood offers a natural, classic look with a beautiful reddish tint that weathers to a deep red colour. Boards are smooth and come from the durable heartwood of the tree, with faint wood grain and no knots. Even though they’re naturally rot-resistant, elements may quickly wear the wood, so a yearly clean and seal is recommended.

Pros of installing redwood deck boards

  • No need for chemicals. Redwood is remarkable as its heartwood is naturally resistant to wood-boring insects and weathering without using preservatives.
  • High stability. Redwood is stable, straight, and has a low shrinkage rate. It’s also the most fire-resistant decking on the market.

If you’re planning on having decking installed in your backgarden, it’s good to go over the regulations first.

Cons of installing redwood deck boards

  • Limited supply. Due to environmental concerns, redwood is now generally less available Second growth trees don’t possess as high levels of decay resistance that established its outstanding reputation, and now more than 95% of remaining redwood forests are protected from harvesting.
  • Expensive to buy. Redwood deck boards are usually the most expensive option due to issues with certifying acres of commercial redwood forests.

Red Cedar Wood Deck Boards

Overall, Western red cedar is a great choice to use for a deck as it’s extremely versatile. It has red to pinkish hues with random streaks and straight grain, and the wood is aromatic. It can be left untreated and still maintain a structure that’s safe and fit for purpose.

Pros of installing red cedar deck boards

  • Durability. Western red cedar by design is a durable wood. The tree secretes oils called extractives which can guarantee durable decking for at least 15 years.
  • Environmentally-friendly. Wood doesn’t contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment – red cedar is actually a green product!
  • Hygroscopic properties. As red cedar is a porous wood it expands and contracts with the humidity in the air, meaning western red cedar decking boards have a low probability for warping or twisting.

Cons of installing red cedar deck boards

  • Maintenance. Red cedar is a beautiful wood but it needs the most maintenance – it requires soft power washing, sanding any rough spots, staining, and sealing the deck on a regular basis to ensure an aesthetically pleasing finish.
  • Fragility. Natural cedar can be dented and scraped more than other decking woods. It identifies on the soft side, making it also subject to splintering.

Hem-Fir Wood Deck Boards

Untreated hem-fir is the lowest cost wood decking board, and it’s also readily available. If you buy from local timber yards or garden centres you may find a mix of western hemlock and Amabilis fir as they’re considered interchangeable. Colours range from white to a light straw colour, with the wood being fine-grained and even textured.

Pros of installing hem-fir deck boards

  • Cost-effective. Hem-fir is by far the cheapest wood species and is one of the reasons why it’s so popular as one of the best woods for decking in the UK.
  • Workability. Hem-fir is quite soft which makes it easy to work with as drilling and nailing are effortless. The wood also glues and accepts paint well.
  • Durability. The strength of the wood gives it a great joist distance span – and it can be found in a wide range of dimensions.

Cons of installing hem-fir deck boards

  • Damage susceptibility. Hem-fir is quite usable as long as it has been pressure-treated with preservatives, but it’s vulnerable to water and insect damage and can preserve poorly.[bullet_list icon="negative"]
  • Constant maintenance. Site-treated wood needs constant maintenance and should be painted.

Pallet Wood Deck Boards

Wood pallets are constructed of softwoods, and with decking made from these whole planks, there’s often no cutting or adjusting needed.

Pros of installing pallet wood deck boards

  • Free and easy to source. Reclaimed pallets come in an entire range of colours, tones, and types of wood.
  • Finishing touches. Sanding down the floorboards and applying a clear decking sealant will give a certain rustic charm.

Cons of installing pallet wood deck boards

  • Preservation. To ensure decking lasts, wood will need to be treated with oils, wood preservative, exterior wood stain and a topcoat.
  • Regular maintenance. Following the removal of any grease or potentially hazardous substances, pallets will need to be kept clean and cared for. Sweeping regularly will prevent staining and the onset of rot and decay, and bear in mind that thin and splintery boards are unsafe for walking on.

Want to make your decking non-slip, but don’t know how? Then, check out our dedicated blog post on the subject!

Need advice with your wood decking?

Let garden design experts from Fantastic Services help. Simply book an on-site survey and discuss your decking ideas with a professional. Get a detailed quote and schedule your wood deck installation today!

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  • A classic, well-built, roomy deck adds significant value to your home
  • Wood decks offer a return on investment of about 80%
  • Outdoor entertaining becomes a joy with wood decking available for every garden space
  • With careful consideration to wood type decks can be weather-resistant, tough, durable, and last a lifetime
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