You finally want to take the plunge and build that deck that you’ve always wanted. Or maybe you just moved into a new place, and the existing deck wasn’t taken care of well. Once you have considered things like how large of a deck space you want, and how traffic will flow on and off the deck, you’ll need to think about what kind of material you’ll use to build your deck.
Generally speaking, there are two types of materials to choose from: Wood and Man-made. Wood is the obviously the original and still the most common choice for deck building in the United States. It is an economical option that is durable and, with proper maintenance, can last for decades. Typically, wood decks are made using Southern Yellow Pine, which is an inexpensive, pressure treated wood that helps prevent damage, like weather rotting and insect damage. There are other, higher quality woods that people use, such as cedar, redwood and ipe, some of which require no pressure treatment due to naturally occurring preservatives that stave off insects and rot.
Manmade materials are referred to as composite decking. Created using a combination of wood fibers and plastics, such as polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride. The composite planks can be hollow or solid and are designed to look like wood. Just as with wood, there are differing levels of quality in composite as well, which will affect the overall cost of the deck
Reports show that in 2018 in the Mid-Atlantic region, an installed 16x20 foot deck constructed in Southern Yellow Pin would cost roughly $4,800 to $8,000, and slightly higher, around $8,000 to $9,600 using cedar wood. Comparatively, composite decks (including installation) generally cost about $30 to $45 per square foot, so a 16x20-foot deck would cost approximately $9,600 to $14,400. However, costs alone should not drive your decision. Upkeep costs must be weighed to get a better understanding of the true cost of your new deck.
The type, frequency and costs of maintaining your deck depend on a few factors, such as if you will do the work yourself and the amount of rain and sun exposure your deck will get. There are pros and cons to both wood and composite decking, and knowing what to expect will help you make the right choice for your family.
The main advantage of using wood is its relatively inexpensive compared to composite. However, upkeep takes time and money. Wood must be cleaned, sanded, stained and/or sealed on a regular basis to ensure a long life. Experts agree that decks should be stained and sealed every 3 years on average, depending on the weather and sun exposure of the wood. Skip this important maintenance and your deck will fade and even begin to rot! Wood is also more susceptible to splintering and potential warping, especially in harsher climates. However, decks built using high quality wood and craftsmanship, with regular maintenance, have been known to last 40 years or more!
Composite decks require much less maintenance than wood, but they are not truly maintenance free. They are still susceptible to Mother Nature, and as such can experience mold growth, dirt, pollen, and wear and tear, but at a much slower pace than wood. Composite planks can be scratched (but cannot be sanded), and can potentially warp like wood. This is depended on the quality of the composite plank and whether or not they are solid or hollow. Due to UV resistance, they typically do not fade, retain their color for many years and are generally stain resistant. They do not need sanding, sealant or staining but should be cleaned a few times per year to maintain its condition. It stands up to any weather and will never rot or splinter. However, there are still a few disadvantages to composite decking. Due to its young age relative to wood decks, it is premature to comment on its long-term durability. Because it is not real wood, its surface is non-porous which can lead to slippery surfaces. It also retains heat at a higher rate than natural wood does, and depending on the brand, surfaces can become uncomfortably hot to bare feet in direct sunlight. Lastly, what you build is what you get – you cannot refinish your composite deck when it starts to show its age, or when a board becomes damaged; your only option is to replace the board.
Now that you know some decking basics, you’re ready to talk to a qualified deck builder who can help make your dream a reality!