Decking Materials

Written by Donald Sparacin
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Once upon a time, all decking materials were wood, period. They were usually pine and required annual painting to prevent rot and weather related problems. Admittedly, the corner house on Elm Street circa 1950 looked so nice with the wrap-around covered porch adorned with hanging planters, a swing, and a rocker or two. The paint always seemed to look fresh, and it had a fastidiously inviting feel to it, as if someone's grandmother lived there.

People that lived in the western part of the country had access to cedar at a reasonable cost, and found that the natural color didn't need painting. It has a natural defense against rot and insects, and was the most preferred of decking materials for those that could afford it. While not the same feel and look of the painted pine, cedar was a serious rival for those that sought a much lower maintenance material. For decades, pine and cedar were about the only options the homeowner had to consider.

Advancements in Decking Materials

Since the days of painted pine, advancements have been plentiful in decking materials. Pressure treated lumber was the first great breakthrough that allowed decks to last for many years without much maintenance, and at a much lower cost than cedar. It weathers to a light gray color if unstained, but many people choose to stain it a cedar or maple color. For those that enjoy the look of the wood without stain and without graying, they can wash and treat it on an annual basis and keep the wood looking the same as the day it was installed.

Today, composites are all the rage. They are mostly made of recycled plastic, and should last for decades without ever rotting, warping, splitting, or getting any insect damage. They can be worked the same way that wood is with saws, nails, and screws. Another material that is becoming popular with the low maintenance crowd is aluminum. It's fireproof, cool to the bare feet, and will last forever. It's priced highest, but given its life expectancy and low maintenance it just might become one of the staples in the industry.

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