The purpose of the Sideco Blog is to provide you with practical information that can help you save money by making well informed decisions in regard to maintaining and improving what is probably your largest investment. We will be adding new topics on a regular basis and archiving each article so you can come back to them at any time. These are not intended to be detailed 'how to' instructions for the do it yourselfer, but rather answers to the questions that the responsible and conscientious homeowner faces every day, month and year.
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There are more choices in decking materials today than ever before. While a greater range of choices allows the consumer to select a product that more closely fits their needs, it also adds to the confusion that is often involved it the selection process. This article will outline the benefits of the major categories and help you to make a choice that truly fits your needs. The primary materials can be divided into natural wood and synthetic groups with each section containing a variety of variations. While there is no single choice that is right for everyone, our goal in this article is to help you find the perfect product for your lifestyle.
Pressure treated pine has long been the standard in most decks. It is relatively inexpensive, easy to work with and can be stained with a variety of colors. The pressure treating process increases its resistance to weathering and insects, such as termites. While it is generally the least expensive of decking materials, it also requires the most maintainance. After installation, it needs to cure for several months, after which it can be stained and a preservative coat applied. It also requires an annual cleaning and can rot, splinter, and warp. Even though all wood naturally weathers to a gray color, it should be cleaned and re-stained every two to three years to keep it looking its best.
Redwood and cedar are popular woods for decks. They are more expensive than treated pine, however, they have a natural resistence to rotting and insects. They have a unique beauty, however, they are a soft wood and can be damaged by heavier foot traffic. Like all woods, the sun will fade their natural color to gray so regular applications of sun-blocking finishes is essential.
There are also a variety of tropical hardwoods available. They are resistant to insects and decay and generally last longer than most other wood choices, however, because they are very hard, they can be difficult to work with; typically you can not hammer a nail through it without drilling a hole first. Hardwoods don't splinter or warp as easily as most other woods, however, they are considerably more expensive and still require regular maintainance.
Composite decking is made by combining a blend of plastics and wood fibers. These boards won't splinter and don't need to be stained or painted. They are available in a variety of colors, finishes and textures. There are custom fasteners designed to work with composites, many of which provide a smooth surface appearance with no visible nails or fasteners. Major manufacturers, such as TimberTech, make rails, steps, benches and other items that are designed to compliment each of their decking lines. The major drawback to composite decks is the relatively high initial cost. TimberTech, for example, warrants their materials for 25 years, even against fading.
The bottom line
Wood decking, even basic treated pine, can be a good choice if you are willing (and able) to perform regular maintainance on them. Cleaning, staining and preserving can be costly and labor intensive. When the costs and inconvenience are considered, they are often not significantly more economical in the long run than are some of the composites.
If you don't mind the initial higher costs of the composite decks, they can offer you years of relatively maintainance free enjoyment. Your deck contractor should be willing and able to thoroughly discuss the options, advantages and disadvantages of each type of material and help you to find the perfect fit for your needs and lifestyle.
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