The most affordable way to construct a deck is to use treated lumber. Treated lumber is generally made from a pine or fir species that has been injected with materials that help the wood to resist both the elements and insects. Pressure-treatment is the method most commonly used to create treated lumber, but it is not the only method.
Benefits of Treated Decking Lumber
The largest benefits of treated decking are its cost and rot resistance. It is the most affordable way to produce an outdoor structure that can resist the elements for an extended period of time. In fact, without additional treatment, most treated-lumber decks will last for fifteen years. With maintenance, treated-lumber decks can last for decades.
Treated decking is actually an ecologically friendly product. The preservation process is highly energy efficient (especially when compared to alternative building products) and the product lasts long enough to make it a highly renewable resource. Copper, the major compound used in the treatment of lumber, is usually obtained from recycled sources. Finally, waste water is not produced when treating lumber and air pollutants produced in the process are classified as insignificant by the EPA. The low maintenance requirements of treated lumber also mean that the product does not require extensive energy and chemical investments for upkeep. In the past, treated lumber did not accept stain or paint well. Current iterations of treated wood, however, accept a variety of standard paints, stains, and varnishes quite well. Manufacturers also produce specialty paints and stains designed specifically for treated lumber.
A Note on Treated Decking
Not all treated decking is the same. Some decking brands have higher chemical retention levels than others. The retention level is a measure of how much preservative remains in the wood after the treatment is complete. The harsher the conditions a wood is exposed to, the greater the retention needs to be. When looking to purchase treated lumber, determine if it will be making contact with the ground, what kinds of connectors will be used with it (e.g. stainless steel, cooper, bronze, etc.), and how long it needs to last. Different woods tend to take up treatment compounds at different rates, so it is often necessary to balance the requirements for a particular type of wood with the conditions it will be exposed to.