One of your most crucial decisions in building a deck is choosing the materials to use. People have various factors that they take into consideration when selecting one. But for many homeowners and builders, nothing beats the timeless beauty of wood decking. But as with other materials, wood varies in quality. The question is, what is the best timber that you can use for garden decking?
Types of Timber
There are two different groups of timber that you can choose in building decks, softwoods and hardwoods. Each has its very own advantages and disadvantages. Whether which is better depends on your situation and preferences. However, among each group, a few varieties stand out among the rest. Here are some of them.
Softwoods are a variety of timber from fast-growing trees. Because of this, they are cheap and readily available. Despite its name, many softwoods are durable and hard, suitable for decking.
Cedar is a softwood that has a reddish to yellowish shades. As they age, they turn grey unless stained and sealed. Cedar has a natural resistance to insects and moisture damage. Red Cedar is one of the hardest and densest varieties of softwoods.
Redwood is also an excellent choice for decking. Redwood timber has a reddish-brown tone, hence its name. It’s slightly more durable, long-lasting, and resistant than cedar. However, it is also more expensive than cedar. Depending on your region, it may be harder to find redwood timber.
While softwoods make for excellent decks and are cheaper and more accessible, they do have some disadvantages. Other than a few, most softwoods are not suitable for outdoor conditions. Many softwood varieties, such as Fir and Pine, undergo chemical treatment to improve their quality. With that said, if you are on a low budget, a cedar or a redwood deck will do just fine.
When it comes to quality, hardwoods are some of the best decking timbers you can use. Unlike softwoods, they come from slower-growing trees, often sourced from tropical areas. While they are around three times, or even more, expensive than softwoods, they make it up for their superior durability and resistance.
One of the most popular hardwoods is oak. Oak decking is one of the most durable and most cost-efficient decks you can build. They have better resistance to water, insects, and moulds. They can also last for at least 15 years when properly maintained. Aside from Oak, Sweet Chestnut is also a popular hardwood in the UK.
But among the many hardwood varieties, many consider Ipe as the king of wood decking. It has the best durability and the highest density, offering the most resistance to outdoor conditions. It is also the hardest and densest variety of hardwood.
Ipe decks are also resistant to moisture, insects, moulds, rotting, and fire. They are also dimensionally stable, which prevents the usual warping and bending issues many other decks would encounter. An ipe deck can last for decades as long as you maintain it. And the good news is, it’s relatively easier to maintain than other wood decks.
While hardwood decks may seem the perfect timber, they do have a few disadvantages. One of which is the cost of the materials. As mentioned, usual hardwoods will cost at least two to three times that of softwoods. But higher quality ones, such as Ipe, can cost even more. Due to their density and hardness, they are also hard to install. If you are a DIY builder, you may find it challenging to transport and install hardwoods.
Aside from natural timber, many homeowners are also starting to use synthetic lumber, such as PVC and composites. Synthetic decks are long-lasting, low-maintenance, and durable. They have fewer issues compared to using wood. However, they are more expensive than softwoods and some varieties of hardwoods. Like wood, you will find a variety of composite products. Some are better than others.
PVC or vinyl materials pure thermoplastic, whereas composites make use of both plastic and wood fibres. When it comes to synthetic decking, many prefer composites decking for its aesthetics. Unlike PVC, they look more wood-like and natural. While not necessarily unattractive, PVC often sports a more finished and artificial look.
The Best Timber for Your Garden Deck
What’s best for others might not necessarily be the best for you. As everyone’s situation is different, only you can tell what’s best for you. To do this, you will need to look at the advantages and disadvantages of your options.
If you are looking for a cost-efficient and affordable decking, softwoods are excellent choices. Redwood and Cedar are among the best softwood timber that you can use. If you value quality and willing to spend extra for your deck, you may want to go with hardwood decking. Oak and Ipe are some of the best choices that you can pick. Lastly, if you don’t mind using synthetic materials, composites make an excellent alternative.