Decks extend the outdoor living space by offering a desirable platform for dining, grilling, and relaxing. We love the natural character of a traditional wooden deck. Composite is great, but there is something special about the craftsmanship of a wood built structure. Interested in installing a wooden deck? If so, you’ll have to choose what type of material to use. Here is a fast guide to the three most popular types of wood decking materials.
What You’ll Learn in this Blog:
- 3 Types of Common Wood Decking
- Cost of Wood Decking Materials
- Pros and Cons of Each Material
- How to Calculate Decking Costs
Pressure Treated Pine
Take it from us, pressure treated wood is the most popular option used across the board, (no pun intended). Price is certainly a factor swaying home owner’s choices. Pressure treated wood ranges between $.75 and $1.25 per linear foot. In addition to price, its popularity demands availability. You can buy pressure treated pine at any big box store or lumber yard within close proximity to the project. It’s also an easy material to handle for cutting and fastening. Material that is easy to work with makes the builder’s job easier.
The disadvantage of using pressure treated lumber is that it requires regular maintenance. It needs to be stained and preserved every few years to protect against cracks and water damage. Pressure treated lumber is more susceptible cracking and warping than other materials.
Pressure treated lumber has come a long way. Old practices of treating infused the wood with potentially harmful carcinogens. Today, they use safer chemicals with a less toxic effect. Most PT wood is treated with ACQ (copper azole).
Cedar creates some of the most beautiful natural wood decking materials around. The deep red heartwood of cedar is rot resistant. With most decking materials, moisture and water are the biggest enemy. Cedar does not absorb moisture like other woods, which makes it a prime material for outdoor building. The average lifespan of a cedar deck is about 15-20 years.
Unlike pressure treated wood, home owners choose cedar to enjoy the look of natural wood. In order to maintain its natural beauty, you have to reseal cedar about every year. Another disadvantage is the price. Cedar costs more than PT wood which increases the project price substantially. Expect to pay $1.25 to $2.50 per linear foot for cedar. For premium quality clear heartwood, contractors pay up to $4.00 per linear foot.
Within the option of cedar, there are different grades to choose from. The main differentiation starts with the parts of the tree the lumber comes from. Heartwood grows at the center of the tree, while sapwood grows in the outer parts of the tree. Knotty vs clear makes up another grade distinction. Clear redwood is more expensive than knotty redwood.
In addition to PT and cedar, exotic woods offer another option. There are plenty of tropical wood types to choose from including red tauari, tigerwood, ipe and Philippine mahogany. Each class of exotic wood has its own variant of color and richness. Ipe is the most commonly used exotic wood for deck building. The rich, red hardwood makes ipe a popular favorite. In comparison to PT, ipe costs about triple the price per linear foot. The average cost ranges between $3 and $4 a linear foot. The good news is all exotic wood offers unparalleled durability, as well as resistance to rotting.
Builders struggle to work with exotic wood as easily as pressure treated and cedar. Cutting, drilling, and screwing are extremely difficult with exotic lumber. Similar to composite decking, exotic lumber requires hidden fasteners to connect the boards. Price is the most discouraging thing about exotic wood. They are also less absorbent of stains.
Calculating Decking Cost
As we mentioned, price influences which material home owners use. We listed an average cost per linear foot for each material. To compare cost vs value, you’ll need to calculate the total cost of each material for your specific deck. One quick way to calculate the cost (for 2×6 in or 5/4×6 in decking) is to measure your deck for total square footage. This is easy for rectangular shaped decks. If you deck has unique shapes and bump-outs, section off areas to measure the square footage of each and add them together. Once you have the total square footage, estimate the linear footage required by multiplying square feet times two. For a 400 square foot deck, expect to use 800 linear feet of lumber. Using pressure treated costs an average of $800, compared to $2,100 with cedar and $2,800 with exotic.
Linear Feet= Square Feet x 2
Lumber Cost= Linear Feet x Price/ Linear Foot
Regardless of which material you choose, make sure to take care of the wood on a regular basis. Be mindful of the requirements of the wood you use and preserve it before damage occurs. Correctly preserving new wood extends its lifespan.