How To Choose The Perfect Deck For Your House

contemporary patio 

Before you choose between plastic and wood for your decking, ask  yourself one question: Where is your deck?
If your deck is in  the sun or in the shade for the majority of the day — particularly in summer,  when it will be used most — you’ll want to choose the material that will be  comfortable in that spot on the hottest days of the year.
Of course,  size, cost, style and maintenance should factor into your decision, too.
We talked to four decking experts from across the country to find out how to choose a  decking material.


Types of Decking

  • Plastic: 100 percent plastic decking is stain resistant and won’t crack,  warp or splinter. It doesn’t require any finishing. Some plastic decking is made  from new plastic; others are partially or completely recycled.
  • Composite: This decking is made from wood fibers (usually recycled maple  sawdust) and recycled plastic. Dense, weather and stain resistant, it won’t  splinter, warp or rot.
  • Wood: Most of today’s wood decks are made of cedar, redwood (pictured),  pressure-treated pine or ipe, a sustainable tropical wood. You can find  sustainably produced versions of most hardwoods, including bamboo, cedar,  redwood and ipe. Make sure to buy wood from a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)  certified company to avoid illegally harvested wood.

Charlie Jourdain, President of the California  Redwood Association,  says substantially more people have started using  plastic and composite decking over the past 10 years, and Denny Rossi of Seal It Green agrees. “Michigan seems to favor plastic and  composite decking, and now plastic-capped composites as the ever-growing field  of less maintenance materials evolves,” Rossi says.
Clemens Jellema of  Fine Decks Inc. in Maryland now installs almost all  composite decking for his clients. Capped composite decking, in particular —  where the composite is covered in a thin, plastic material — has become popular  for its durability and quick installation.

traditional deck

Heat Resistance “At the  time composites and plastics were made, there wasn’t a lot of thought as to how  they’d perform in heat,” Jourdain says.
While composites and plastics  have their benefits, comfort on a hot day is not one of them. “Composites and  plastics can get so hot, you can’t walk on them barefoot,” Rossi says. Capped  composites are no different. “The plastic layer surrounding the composite holds  heat,” Jellema says. “But the lighter the color, the less heat it  holds.”
 photo: Azek plastic decking


 For  this reason, many professionals recommend using wood in climates with extra hot  summers. Tropical woods, such as ipe and teak, wear and weather well. However,  some of this wood is dark, so it holds more heat than lighter woods, such as the  commonly used pressure-treated Southern yellow pine. Redwood tends to be the  West Coast’s — primarily California’s — predominant decking material due to its  reasonable price tag, low maintenance and cool surface. “Redwood is definitely  the cheapest material in California because there’s so much of it,” says  California A contractor . “Manufacturing  costs are very low, versus a composite decking board that might take a lot of  time to make, so it tends to be about twice as much.”
photo: Pine decking

pineMaintenance No  matter what material you choose for your deck, it’s going to need maintenance —  a minimum of one annual cleaning. Most composites and plastics need a regularly  applied finish (once or twice a year) to keep from fading, but most decking wood  can be left finished or unfinished. While wood is more susceptible to rot and  warping, mold spots are more difficult to remove from composite and plastic  decking.
 photo: Redwood decking

contemporary deck1

Cost Composite  or plastic decking can be twice as expensive as wooden decking because the  materials cost more and the structure tends to be more extensive. Composite  decking isn’t as stiff as lumber, so it generally needs more support to prevent  sagging. This can easily add hundreds of dollars to your decking cost.
Here are some average prices for a completed deck per square foot,  according to Rossi and Jellema. Note that prices will vary according to  location, design features and construction  costs.
Estimated  price for a complete deck per square foot:


  • Pressure-treated wood: $15-$25
  • Cedar: $24-$45
  • Composite: $32-$45
  • Redwood: $30
  • Top-end plastic: $48
  • Ipe: $55


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