It’s that time of year when homeowners start thinking about their outdoor spaces. Whether you’re considering a small balcony off your master suite or a backyard deck equipped for lounging, eating, and entertaining, there are plenty of options in decking materials — all of which come with their own set of pros and cons.
Use this as your preliminary guide to what’s available in your budget.
One of the biggest advantages to pressure-treated wood is its affordability. You’re looking at a price point of roughly $13 to $21 per square foot installed. On average, pressure-treated wood lasts 15 years if treated every two years with a water repellent, which can be a pro or a con depending on your feelings about upkeep.
As far as disadvantages go, durability ranks pretty high up. Most pressure-treated woods come from Southern yellow pine, which is known for splintering and checking when it dries. It’s also prone to graying when left untreated, and the chemical residue left from the treating process can lead to health issues.
Cedar has straight grains, a natural glow, and weathers beautifully all on its own, making its appearance a main advantage of this particular species of wood. It’s also insect and rot-resistant without being treated, and it lasts an average of at least 20 years.
Cost-wise, you’re looking at between $23 and $29 per square foot installed — a disadvantage to many homeowners. Then, taking into account the fact that cedar sapwood can deteriorate quickly in moist conditions, the cost may further keep people from choosing this species of wood.
Durability is probably the biggest advantage to using tropical hardwood. For example, ipe, which is often sold as Ironwood or Pau Lope, lasts upwards of 40 years or more. This is largely due to its tight grain, making it extremely resistant to water.
Of course, that durability comes at a cost, making price a real obstacle for homeowners. With installation, a tropical hardwood deck comes in at a minimum of $29 per square foot. Besides cost, availability can also be an issue, taking up to three weeks for delivery.
Like tropical hardwood, plastic-wood composites are very durable. Some may even say they’re indestructible. What’s more, composites are usually low-maintenance, resisting everything from rot to insects to UV rays, and come in a variety of different colors and grains. As far as price goes, it usually falls somewhere between pressure-treated wood and cedar, averaging at $26 per square foot.
This may leave you wondering if composites are too good to be true? It really depends on the selection. Some composite materials do have a plastic-like appearance, while others have been known to fade with time. There’s also the potential for a composite lumber to require closer spacing than traditional decking, which can escalate costs. And being a composite, you need to be fairly aware of the dust and shavings, as they’re not biodegradable.
Vinyl decking typically comes as a “system,” with the boards, rails, spindles, and fascia required for construction of the deck. Like composites, this material is low-maintenance, and the costs range from $17 per square foot on the low end to upwards of $29 per square foot on the high end.
For many homeowners, this can be cost-prohibitive, especially when accounting for its durability. Vinyl can fade and become brittle with time. The same can be said for its sheen. And like composites, vinyl isn’t biodegradable, so special precautions must be made for collecting its dust, shavings, and debris.
If you have any questions about any one of these decking materials, please feel free to contact our team at Fair & Square Remodeling. We’d be happy to discuss your options, so give us a call at (612) 568-2472.