If you are considering building or refurbishing a deck, you will likely have many questions. Can you use non-pressure treated wood? What types of wood are safe for a deck? Do you have to use wood at all?
Every day, the lumber experts at Simonson Lumber help customers select the right materials for their decking projects. We’re happy to share our product knowledge and industry experience with you. We regularly field these and many other questions, and we’re dedicated to helping you choose the most economical, safest, and most appropriate materials for your project’s needs.
In this blog, we’ll provide some clarity to the spectrum of products available for decking projects, along with plain explanations of otherwise cryptic or confusing industry terminology.
- What is pressure-treated wood and where is it used?
- Are there different types of pressure treating?
- Can I use non-pressure treated wood on my exterior deck?
- What materials are considered low-maintenance decking?
- What are my choices for exterior decking materials?
- What other common decking issues should I be aware of?
What Is Pressure-Treated Wood And Where Is It Used?
Pressure treatment is the process of infusing wood-preserving chemicals into the cells of the wood to make it last longer when used in exterior applications. Pressure treatment reduces a wood’s vulnerability to natural elements like sun and moisture that can quickly degrade the wood’s integrity and strength. Certain wood species are better at receiving and retaining the preservative chemicals, making them safe for use in exterior applications.
Are There Different Types Of Pressure Treating?
Pressure treated wood is described in terms of its saturation, i.e. the level of preservative that the wood has retained during the pressure-treatment process.
The saturation level determines whether the wood is appropriately used for “ground contact” or “non-ground contact” exterior use. Simonson stocks and recommends MCA pressure-treated wood, which is saturated with micronized copper azole, a safe, non-arsenic based treatment.
Pressure treatment can provide either a green tint (colorant) or brown tint, the latter of which creates a rich, natural wood appearance. Simonson stocks both for your convenience!
Can I Use Non-Pressure Treated Wood On My Exterior Deck?
As a rule, it is not recommended to use non-pressure treated wood for exterior structures, but there are a few exceptions.
Three commonly-used species of wood used in exterior applications are cedar, redwood, and IPE. Each of these species carry some natural resistance to weathering when exposed to sun and moisture. Cedar, for example, can weather naturally (turn gray) with minimal structural degradation. However, all require annual sealing maintenance to maintain their original color and look.
What Materials Are Considered Low-Maintenance Decking?
While there’s no such thing as “maintenance free” decking, there are many low-maintenance decking options available.
Composite, composite vinyl-capped, and PVC are all considered low-maintenance decking materials. Aluminum decking also qualifies, though it is in a different “family” of materials than the others, being a metal rather than a variation on plastic polymers.
Composite decking was the original low-maintenance decking on the market. Made from various manufacturers’ recipes, composite decking combines vinyl resins with wood dust and shavings. Colorants are then added to arrive at an appearance that mimics natural wood. Composite decking materials reduce the need for annual sealants and maintenance. Some of these original composite recipes were discovered to be vulnerable to performance and longevity issues due to wood dust tannins (tannic acid) battling incompatible PVC components. Some — but not all — surviving manufacturers have addressed and resolved this issue.
Composite Vinyl-Capped Decking
Composite vinyl-capped decking was the next stage of low-maintenance decking evolution. This decking material was slightly more expensive to manufacture than its predecessor, but more stable in color, appearance and performance.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
Finally, PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) made a name for itself as a premium-performing, low-maintenance decking material. It largely solved all the performance headaches that were associated with composite and composite vinyl-capped decking — though this solution comes with a slightly higher price tag.
What Are My Choices For Exterior Decking Materials?
You have a variety of choices for exterior decking materials. We’ve listed them below from cheapest to most expensive* for your convenience:
- Pressure-Treated Wood
- Natural Cedar
- Low-Maintenance Composite
- Low-Maintenance Vinyl-Capped Composite
- Low Maintenance PVC
*Pricing within these product groups can change, overlap and vary. See your Simonson Representative for up-to-date pricing.
What Other Common Decking Issues Should I Be Aware Of?
Consumers voice concerns about differing decking material’s attributes, including:
- Resistance to scratching
- Stain resistance
- Resistance to splintering
- Heat retention (Think about walking barefoot on a hot deck – ouch!)
- Color Fade
- Mold & Mildew
- Surface friction (Does the deck become slippery when wet?)
Come to our showrooms to see an entire presentation of displays and samples, or follow our website’s links for a specific manufacturer’s brand performance. You can trust the Simonson staff to help you choose the best decking materials for your project’s needs!