Top Rated Decking Materials
Many homeowners prefer, or default to, wooden decking. But my dears, we are living in the age of options. You can build a deck out of ginger ale bottles, if you want to, though we recommend sticking with the industry favorites: wooden decking, composite decking, plastic decking, or aluminum decking. All these products featured here are the highest ranked by Consumer Reports, and they hold up to client testimonies and our expertise. Each one is, to varying degrees, well-resistant to slipping, flexing, sagging, mildew, staining, and color change. What more can you ask from a deck? That it flips the burgers for you and helps you rub suntan lotion into that hard-to-reach spot on your back?!? Let us help you pick a decking material, pick a brand, start your deck design, and get you out there to catch the next wave of good weather!
Wood is the most commonly chosen decking material, by far. But lumber is not right for everyone, and not all wood planks are created equal. At the bottom level of quality are basic pressure-treated lumbers. There are a lot of decks made out of this kind of wood, and they look nice enough…at first. The trouble is that they tend to split or crack under continued pressure. And they need maintenance every two to three years to keep the finish nice and the weather out. In this category, Consumer Reports recommends ACQ Southern Yellow Pine, which is a bargain at $175/100 sq. ft.. and holds its color impressively.
TimberSil, at $475/100 sq. ft, gives better traction and is supposed to be fireproof. At the other end of the wood decking spectrum are more exotic woods and hardwoods, but those come with their own problems.
Redwood and cedar are more beautiful wood options, but the durability will depend on how much of the boards are heartwood (otherwise, weather and bugs have a heyday on the wood). They don’t have the nasty chemicals pressure-treated lumber sometimes does, but like all organic goods, it’ll cost you 3-4 times what you’d pay at the low end. And you still need to re-coat every 3-4 years. Tropical hardwoods are naturally durable and resistant, but that comes from being so dense that it’s difficult to handle or drill the boards. More trouble than it’s worth?
Despite the popularity of wood, the fastest growing deck market is for composite decking. Composites don’t warp like wood, and they don’t need to be sanded down and re-stained. Ever, probably. Though you may have to clean out some mildew or other crust. Among composite decking, CorrectDeck CX ($575/100) has a reputation, and test results, as a pretty clear stand out in durability and resistances.
Plastic decking has similar advantages and disadvantages to composite boards, plus a little less decay to worry about. After all, none of it is wood, so it won’t act like it. This makes it a great choice for swimming pools and rainy areas. Of course, since plastic decking turns a little less green, it will cost you a little more green. It also looks less like wood than composites do, so that’s something to consider. When shopping plastics, our vote is for DeckLok ($625/100), for a balance of quality, durability, and a more classic wood-like look.
Or if you think high performance is worth a higher price tag and a deck that looks a bit like it was made by a playground equipment company, then spring for CertainTeed EverNew ($1000/100).
The answer to almost every decking problem can be found with aluminum. It’s lighter, stronger, more durable, watertight, and completely weather, bug, and ick resistant. Heck, it’s even recyclable, if you get sick of it after a 100 years and want to tear it out. Now, mind you, I did say “answer to almost every problem.” LockDry Aluminum Decking, ranked as the top dog for durability, can cost $700. At an average of $4-9 per linear foot, aluminum is the most expensive decking. Many people also find it difficult to avoid thinking of alien spaceships or toolboxes when they look at the interlocked metal grooves—even if you go for colored aluminum decking, you’ll need good deck design to avoid a distinctively contemporary look.
That should just about cover your decision in terms of durability, appearance, and cost of decking materials. If you’re a handy person, who is gung-ho to build the deck yourself, we recommend that you also look into installation and warranty info. If you’re shopping around for a contractor, it’s never a bad idea to ask for samples, both of the materials and the finished work. Good luck with your deck design—which can make or break any decking material choice!
Note from the hosts: I can count on Tanya from the Barefoot Floor Blog to hit me with a happy week tweet, every week. And we appreciate her taking the time to run down options for a (often) key outdoor living component — the deck. You may find her on Twitter @Barefootfloor and on Facebook — drop her a hi and I’ll bet you get a hi back. Thanks again Tanya. ~jb
*All photos via the Barefoot Floor Blog