Decking, Railing and Lighting
For years, decking was made exclusively of wood and Cedar was the lumber of choice because of its natural resistance to rot. Today, Cedar is still a highly sought after decking material because of its premium looks and feel, but it competes with a number of new composite and exotic wood products. These new products offer enhanced resistance to the elements as well as easy maintenance and even easier installation.
Wood is the most common material used for decking and is preferred for a number of reasons. While composite decks have made a great deal of headway against wood in recent years, many still favor the old standby for its beauty, strength, and feeling under bare feet. In recent years, exotic hardwoods have become popular for resistant decking.
Natural Wood Decks
Wood, the original decking choice, is still the most common option. It is strong, natural, easy to install, and looks great. Wood requires annual cleaning and frequent refinishing. Common woods used in decking include tropical hardwoods, redwood, and cedar. Tropical hardwoods resist both rot and insects and last about 25 years. Some are so hard that nails cannot be hammered into them. Redwood and cedar resist rot and insects and lasts about 20 years. Both are soft and thus less resistant to wear. Most woods require annual application of sun-blocks to prevent fading.
Wood can be treated to reduce its tendency to rot. Pressure-treated lumber is, by far, the most common treated wood used in decking. Newer pressure-treated lumber will accept paint and stain better than older versions of this wood, but generally does not accept either as well as untreated wood does. Treated wood lasts almost indefinitely and is the least expensive decking option available.
Ipe (pronounced “E-pay”) decking is one of the toughest, longest lasting woods available. Imported from Central and South America, Ipe is also called Brazilian Walnut and is revered for its incredible strength. Ipe is three times harder than cedar and as resistant to fire as concrete and steel. Ipe decking can have a 40+ year lifespan when cared for properly and is resistant to rot, most insects, and splintering
Composite decking is usually made by combining plastic and wood fibers to produce an amalgam that will not splinter and does not need to be stained, painted, or sealed. Some composites are strictly made of plastic or PVC while others are made of plastic-wood combinations. Composites are heavier than wood in some cases and need to be cleaned to prevent mildew from building up. Composite decking can last a lifetime, but is also hot under foot when in direct sun.
With the advent of composite decking in 1996, several companies have sprung up to supply the demand for the product. They compete with wood decking suppliers and one another.
Trex is a manufacturer of composite decking such as Trex Transcend, Trex Enhance, and Trex Select lines. Trex was the first to offer composite decking and is still the world leader in terms of production today. Trex’s Transcend line is made of 95% recycled material.
Timbertech decking is a composite wood-plastic decking backed by a 25-year warranty. It is well-known for its strong resemblance to real wood.
Fiberon is the maker of textured-grain composite decking and plastic-wrapped composite. With textured-grain, a pattern is cut into the composite to mimic wood. With plastic-wrapped composite, composite boards are wrapped in a scratch-resistant, fade-resistant plastic like PVC to improve performance.
LUMBEROCK produces a fully synthetic high-density polyethylene product that is not wood-based or wood-filled. Lumberock is well known for having low expansion/contraction rates and for its durability. Lumberock decks are warranted for life and are resistant to insects.