Types of Materials for Backyard Decks

Materials for Backyard DecksIf you’ve been considering the addition of a deck to your home, there are plenty of options to choose from.  Not so long ago, all decks were wooden, and, if you had a few able-bodied male family members, friends or neighbors, they all pitched in and took turns at one another’s homes erecting a wooden deck over a long weekend.

Today’s decks have gone far beyond the simple wooden deck of yesteryear.  Below is a description of some of the types of materials that are now used to build backyard decks as well as some of the most-common types of decks.  You might be surprised to find out that some decks are not even attached to the home, but, instead become a featured attraction in the backyard landscaping.  The decks these days are not the simple DIY projects anymore, but instead would involve hiring a contractor experienced in exterior remodeling to get the project done from the blueprints to the finished product.

Peruse the ideas below and think about hiring a top contractor in Bordentown, New Jersey to discuss the tons of options you have for your deck!

Types of materials

If you’re a purist, you want a wooden deck, the tradition rough-hewn look that will lend a rustic air to your yard.  Along with that look, unfortunately, is the annual maintenance to keep that deck looking good for many years to come.  Another popular look for decks is composite lumber, which faux wood looks realistic and maintenance is short and sweet – swabbing it down occasionally with soap and water.  Even a medium such as aluminum is now finding its way into backyards these days.  Let’s look at some of the options, which range in order of popularity and price:

  • Pressure-treated lumber – A wooden deck still finds itself #1 for deck materials today. A whopping 75 percent of all decks are finished with the light-colored wood with the green tinge to it, a/k/a pressure-treated lumber or wolmanized wood.  It is milled from Southern yellow pine, them chemically treated to resist rot, fungus and wood-boring bugs.  It is the cheapest of all materials, readily available and easy to work with.  For all its good qualities, however, this wood is soft and has a propensity to crack, split and warp over time, necessitating an annual power washing and application of a stain or clear preservative at least once a year.
  • Redwood and cedar – If you like the rustic look of lumber and can afford it, the step up from pressure-treated yellow pine is redwood or cedar, which may cost three times as much as the former. These softwoods are prized for their rich color and natural beauty.  Another plus is that these tree species contain their own special tannins and oils that make them naturally resistant to rot, decay and wood-boring insects, thus eliminating the need for powerful chemicals used to wolmanize the wood.  Unfortunately, not all of the redwood and cedar trees will thwart decay and bugs – it is only the heartwood or center of the tree which is considered hardwood; the outer part of the tree, closest to the bark, is softer and susceptible to decay.  The maintenance for these woods includes an annual power washing, but the preservative need only be applied every three or four years.  You must apply the stain, or risk the wood weathering to a silvery gray color.
  • Tropical Hardwoods – If you want superb durability and rot-resistant wood that is also impermeable to insects, you might want to consider using tropical hardwoods for your decking materials. These hardwoods come with some exotic names as Massaranduba, cumaru, red tauari, tigerwood, ipe, and Philippine mahogany.  They are very expensive because the forests in which they grow is difficult to traverse and get in machines to cut down and carry the wood away.  These woods are darker in color and do not take well to a stain, so you must be diligent about power washing and applying a clear UV-blocking preservative coat to maintain the integrity of this wood’s durability and color or it will weather to a silvery gray.
    Composite Deck Flooring

  • Composite wood – This medium stems from a fast-growing industry and is a plus for people who don’t wish to be encumbered with lumber treating on an annual basis. There are now many companies which make composite lumber which is composed of 95% recyclable materials and the 5% balance is wood fiber.  They come in a wide range of colors and because they are not composed of natural materials, they’re not susceptible to wood rot, decay or insects.  You can walk barefoot and not be concerned about splinters, though the surface can get slippery when wet.  The price is comparable to lumber in the low to mid-range price, a fact some people like, as they don’t spend the extra money to maintain/preserve the wood.  The only downside is that the decks should periodically be checked for mildew which can grow in shady or damp areas and eventually become the source of wood decay in that wood fiber which makes up the composite medium.
  • Aluminum – A relative newcomer to the deck material world, this is an attractive idea for decks since it won’t splinter, rot, decay or crack like lumber, it won’t be subject to mildew like composite wood and its powder-coated finish will never need maintenance. You already know that aluminum won’t rust, but if you are concerned that it will be hot to the touch – no worries there either.  An aluminum fence can never catch fire, great if you love to barbeque on the deck.  It is three or four times lighter than wood, but two to three times stronger.  If you like green ideas, aluminum is even recyclable.  It is, however, the most-expensive option of all the deck mediums.

Deck styles that are popular

Now that you’ve perused the types of decking materials, you no doubt will choose either lumber or a composite blend that resembles faux wood.  The aluminum deck idea has not caught on as a popular option yet since most people still prefer the more traditional look for their deck.  Here are some of the most-popular deck styles and an expert exterior remodeling contractor would be able to advise you which is best for backyard:

  • Platform Deck – A platform deck is the simplest deck style, built low to the ground and barely a step above the ground. It is a good DIY project as it is easy to construct.  Often a platform deck may be used in conjunction with wooden bench seating and built-in planters to give a more closed-in look.
  • Raised Deck – A raised deck is, by far, the most-popular deck and can be a simple raised deck from the ground, or even a multi-level deck for a two-story home. This is a more complex project since the raised deck must include railings and stairs for access to the backyard.  Typically, a raised deck is accessible from a door wall of a kitchen or dining room area.  Beneath the deck surface on the ground will be foundation posts and to conceal the empty area and thwart animals from hiding there, landscaping or skirting is placed there.  Skirting is the use of decorative lattice panels that fit between the deck and the ground.  In multi-level raised decks, extra structural posts and bracing will be needed to support the uppermost levels of the structure.  The use of stairways and walkways help one to gain access to each deck level.

Freestanding decks – As the name suggests, a freestanding deck is not attached to your home, but will be constructed in the same manner as a platform deck, often in conjunction with a gazebo area and is typically used for larger backyards and becomes a beautiful asset to the landscaping.