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Dreaming of an outdoor living space to call your own? A deck allows you to extend your home’s livable area while soaking up the beauty of nature. With a vast array of decking materials to choose from, you can create a customized outdoor retreat. This guide dives into the top options for low-maintenance, long-lasting decks. Discover why composite and alternative decking are the way of the future.

Why choose low-maintenance decking?

Traditional wood decks deliver undeniable beauty. However, they also require diligent upkeep to maintain their pristine appearance. As your beautiful wood deck ages, it demands regular sealing, staining, sanding, and scrubbing. Constant exposure to the sun, rain, snow, and foot traffic takes its toll. Planks can crack, warp, and become discolored. Frequent repairs become necessary as boards rot and fasteners fail.

Choosing a low maintenance deck material alleviates the need for intensive annual upkeep. Composite and PVC deck boards hold up better under weathering and wear. Their color lasts longer without fading. Built-in protection resists mold, mildew, and insect damage. Of course, some periodic cleaning is still required, but the overall maintenance is minimal compared to traditional wood. Your valuable weekend time can be spent relaxing on your deck, not laboring over it.

Choose Your Materials

Composite decking for low maintenance and durability

Composite decking offers nature’s elegance without the upkeep. Many quality composite lines combine recycled wood and plastic to create durable, stable deck boards that retain the charm of real wood. The wood fibers provide natural grain patterns and variegated colors. Meanwhile, polyethylene or PVC plastic gives composites superior weather resistance.

Capped composites feature a tough polymer shell encasing the composite core. This helps protect against fading, discoloration, mold, and mildew. Leading brands like Azek and TimberTech offer limited lifetime warranties against fading and discoloration. An initial investment in composite materials pays off exponentially over time when factoring in the comparative lack of maintenance requirements. In Toronto, Timbertech Deckorator composites cost approximately $45 to $60 per square foot installed.

For a cost-effective composite option, consider boards made completely from recycled plastic. While the appearance isn’t quite as realistic, recycled plastic decking like Trex holds up well against weathering. The price point is also lower, starting around $45–$55 per square foot.

Natural Wood Decking

While wood requires meticulous maintenance, it rewards you with unparalleled beauty and a pleasant tactile feel. Numerous wood species are suitable for decking, from pressure-treated lumber to exotic hardwoods. Here are some top options:

  • Pressure-treated wood is the most budget-friendly deck wood. Pressure-treating infuses preservatives to resist disintegration and insect damage. Can last 15–25 years with proper upkeep.
  • Cedar is a lightweight softwood that is excellent for decks. Its natural oils help cedar resist water damage, warping, and pests. Staining is recommended every 1-2 years.
  • Redwood: similar to cedar but with a reddish hue. Durable against weathering. Staining is recommended every 2–3 years.
  • Ipe is one of the hardest and most durable decking woods. Dense and slip-resistant. Can last 40+ years with minimal upkeep. Very expensive.
  • Composite: As discussed above, wood-plastic composites offer low maintenance and longevity akin to plastic but with wood’s aesthetics.

No matter which wood type you select, diligent sealing and staining are required to maintain its condition and appearance over time. Exotic hardwoods like ipe and tigerwood have the highest natural weatherproofing if you wish to let your deck age to a silver-gray patina.

Alternative Decking Options

Beyond traditional wood and standard composites lies a realm of alternative decking options. Here are a few innovative products to consider:

PVC Decking: Made entirely from cellular PVC, this decking is highly resistant to moisture. Brands like Azek, Zuri, and Tiva’s Designer Series boast realistic wood looks. Price: $55 to $70 per square foot.

Capped Polyurethane Decking: Featuring an inner wood composition capped with a polyurethane shell, this decking combines durability with a luxury aesthetic. Brands like Wolf Serenity claim their product needs zero staining or sealing.

Deck Tiles: Interlocking deck tiles float atop a framework for easy installation and portability. Materials range from bamboo to recycled composite. Great for rooftop applications.

Aluminum is lightweight, waterproof, and recyclable. Aluminum decking is easy to maintain and naturally slip-resistant. Can feel cold underfoot.

The Best Deck Fasteners for Stability

The fasteners connecting your deck boards to the substructure have a huge impact on overall stability. Nails and screws can unexpectedly pop out or snap over time due to weatherproofing. For a deck built to last, invest in high-quality hidden fasteners. Here are the top options:

Plastic Clips: Clips click deck boards in place using a groove system. No screws or nails are needed. Allows for some contraction or expansion but can loosen over time.

Metal clips are more durable and secure than plastic versions. Provides a completely hidden look. Good for sleek modern deck styles.

Screws: Composite deck screws with star-drive recess heads firmly anchor decking in place. Offer a totally smooth surface by countersinking below board height.

Strong and Reliable Deck Substructures

The foundation beneath your decking material impacts overall safety and longevity. Never cut corners here. Use weather-resistant building materials that won’t warp or decay.

  • Pressure-treated wood posts and beams It is inexpensive and capable of lasting 15–25 years.
  • Naturally rot-resistant woods like cedar, redwood, or cypress No chemical treatments were added.
  • PVC and composite structural boards and posts Maintain strength and resist moisture.
  • Galvanized steel posts and beams Won’t corrode or warp. Sturdy support.

Equally important is proper flashing at the ledger board and sealing any cuts or notches made in posts or beams during construction. This prevents moisture from wicking in and compromising the integrity of the wood over time. Proper spacing between decking boards, about 1/8″, allows for drainage and evaporation underneath. Good airflow discourages mold and mildew growth.

Elevate exteriors with siding and cladding

Replacing worn or dated siding is one of the most transformative exterior upgrades you can make. Quality cladding instantly levels up your home’s aesthetic appeal while providing enhanced protection from the elements. Here’s an overview of the top options:

Fiber cement is a composite of wood fibers and cement. More durable and fire-resistant than wood or vinyl siding. Can replicate the painted wood look.

LP SmartSide: Made from engineered wood. Structurally strong and resists moisture damage. It comes pre-primed and ready for painting.

James Hardie® is the most trusted brand in fiber cement. Their HZ5® product offers a 30-year limited warranty. Zero maintenance is required.

Wood: timeless aesthetics It is best installed with a rainscreen system for airflow and drainage behind it. Needs frequent repainting and sealing.

Vinyl is a budget-friendly option. Won’t rot, warp, or attract pests. Lacks dimensional depth compared to other siding types.

Brick or stone: unmatched curb appeal and value-add heavy initial investment but extremely durable when installed properly, with weep holes allowing moisture to drain out.

Metal: aluminum, galvanized steel, and rusted steel (a.k.a. Cor-ten steel) create modern industrial flair. Stone-coated steel mimics a stacked ledgestone appearance.

Under Deck Systems: Double Your Usable Space

That empty cavity beneath your deck is valuable real estate waiting to be transformed into a functional living area. Underdeck systems consist of weather-resistant ceiling panels installed on the underside of deck framing. Popular options include:

  • PVC/vinyl: budget-friendly. It withstands moisture and resists mold and mildew.
  • TimberTech DrySpace is a waterproof composite panel made from recycled decking. Can be painted or stained.
  • Wolf Serene Ceiling: Polyurethane Foam Core Panels are expensive but extremely durable.

Once sealed off from the elements, the covered area can be furnished with seating, storage, lighting, and more. It essentially becomes an outdoor room, sheltered from rain and shaded from the sun. For bonus protection, add zippered vinyl panels around the perimeter to fully enclose the space while still allowing breezes through. Underdeck systems double your usable square footage.

Deck Railing Systems for Safety with Style

Railings serve the vital purpose of keeping people safely contained on your deck. Fortunately, numerous aesthetically pleasing options exist beyond basic wood railings. For contemporary flair, sleek glass or steel cable railings feature minimalist designs. Or make a statement with laser-cut metal patterns and powder-coated colors. Want maximum privacy? Opake railing panels in composite, aluminum, or PVC block views while allowing airflow.

Vinyl and composite railing systems require the least maintenance, resisting moisture damage and wear and tear. Look for beefy, engineered PVC posts and rails that won’t warp, crack, or swell. Aluminum is another lightweight yet strong choice known for durability. Top railing manufacturers include Trex, TimberTech, Wolf, and Fortress.

Regardless of the materials used, proper structural support and connection hardware are crucial. Pay attention to the railing posts, baluster spacing, and hardware. Don’t forget the often-overlooked decorative railing caps that completely finish off the system.

Privacy solutions let you relax in seclusion

If total seclusion is a priority, transform your deck into a private outdoor room using these solutions:

Lattice: timeless visual appeal at a budget-friendly price point 1×4 or 2×2 lattice panels allow breezes to pass through while obscuring views. Install them around deck framing or as infill between posts and railing balusters.

PVC Fencing: Solid vinyl panels create an opaque barrier when you want complete privacy. Brands like ActiveYards and AmeraFence offer prefabricated kit solutions that are easy to DIY install. Much lower maintenance than wood fences.

Privacy Slats: Tapered or rounded composite slats slip into railing balusters to block line-of-sight. Brands like Trex, TimberTech, and Fiberon provide matching slats for their railing lines.

Privacy Screens: Hanging or freestanding panels mounted at the deck perimeter deliver instant seclusion. Materials like woven cabana fabric, PVC, composite, and polycarbonate translucent sheeting filter sunlight while obscuring visibility.

Garden Planters: Installing raised planter boxes around deck edges creates living privacy barriers. For narrow spaces, consider tall and slim planters. Evergreen foliage offers year-round screening, while flowering plants add pops of color.

Trees and shrubs: strategically planting foliage around the deck perimeter establishes natural visual barriers. Evergreens like arborvitae provide dense screening. Plant tree varieties that max out at whatever height you desire.

Pergolas and pavilions Expand outdoor living

Pergolas and pavilions extend your home’s livable space into the landscape. Both add architectural interest while providing shade and shelter. Here’s a brief overview:

Pergolas are characterized by open, slatted roofs with beams spanning between posts. Allows dappled sunlight to filter through. Most feature a simple rectangular structure.

Pavilions: more enclosed shelter and shade Typically features solid roofing materials like polycarbonate or metal panels. More customizable shapes, from simple hip roofs to octagons.

Gazebos are freestanding outdoor rooms completely enclosed on all sides by benches, screens, or knee walls. Offer an intimate, secluded space for gatherings.

Well-built wood options made of cedar, redwood, or treated pine last for decades. Maintenance-free alternatives include vinyl, PVC, and fiberglass. Fun tip: Incorporate lighting or fans into the overhead structure for added ambiance and comfort.

Deck Roofing Systems: Protection From Above

To make your deck fully weatherproof, add an overhead shelter. Deck roofing systems create livable outdoor rooms that can be enjoyed rain or shine. Here are two approaches:

Attached Solid Roof: Provides complete waterproofing directly attached to the home. Best for simple rectilinear deck shapes. Use sloped roofing materials like metal, asphalt, or rubber membrane.

Retractable Awnings: Manual or motorized fold-out fabric canopies allow you to selectively shade your deck. Control sun exposure and block rainfall only when desired. Close the awning to retain views of the night sky.

For easy installation, consider prefabricated aluminum patio covers that mount to existing deck framing. Or install a freestanding pavilion-style structure for a visually separate design. Incorporate translucent polycarbonate roofing to prevent a dark, cave-like feel.

Fire pits and fireplaces enhance ambiance

Quickly become the favorite gathering spot by adding a fire feature to your deck or patio. Flickering flames create instant ambiance for unwinding evenings outdoors. Choose durable materials like stone, clay, concrete, metal, glass, or enameled steel. For showstopping drama, opt for a built-in custom masonry fireplace, brick oven, or stone fire pit kit.

Gas fire pits offer convenience and control. With the turn of a key or the push of a button, their flames ignite using propane or natural gas. Many include lava rock filler, river stone inserts, and log kits for enhanced realism. Safety is a priority; always check local fire codes and keep an extinguisher on hand. Fire brings people together outside.

Deck lighting sets the mood

Properly illuminating your deck transforms it from day to night. Lighting serves both aesthetic and functional purposes.

Safety Lights: Ensure safe nighttime navigation with stair/step lights and low-voltage deck railing lights. Go for discreet but bright LEDs.

Ambiance Lighting: candles and lanterns emitting a warm, welcoming glow String lights also encourage laidback lounging after dark.

Task Lighting: Illuminate cooking, dining, and entertaining zones with spot lighting. Use adjustable, recessed fixtures.

Accent Lighting: LED strips under benches or stairs add dramatic flair. You can also uplight surrounding trees and architectural features.

Smart options like wireless controls, timers, and motion-activated lighting make operation effortless. Power everything with an outdoor receptacle equipped with a weatherproof cover.

Hidden Deck Fastener Systems

Exposed screws quickly tarnish the beauty of a new deck. For seamless, flawless board lines, use hidden fasteners. Here are two top options:

Plastic Clips: Clips slide between grooved deck boards to hold them down. Allows for some movement. Improved durability versus older-style clips

Concealed Fasteners: Screws get driven into the side or underside of deck boards, so there’s no surface penetration. Some include a grooved channel system.

Benefits include straight, uninterrupted decking lines, a decreased chance of injuries from protruding screws, and the prevention of potential rot at fastener holes from moisture exposure. Overall, a cleaner, more refined deck surface

Essential deck hardware

Deck hardware encompasses all the components that anchor decking, railings, pergolas, and stairs in place. Here are the most crucial elements:

Flashing seals the all-important deck ledger board connection to your home. Prevents moisture intrusion that can compromise framing.

Joist Tape: Special weatherproof tape creates an air barrier between deck joists. Prevents drafts that could promote rot and mildew.

Hangers: elevate post bases off the ground and attach beams to uprights. Look for stainless steel or galvanized steel.

Brackets: Provide structural connections between posts, beams, and joists. Half, full, and angle styles based on application

Tie-downs: Secure lateral stability by anchoring posts to footers below grade. Critical in earthquake zones and areas with high winds.

Anchoring Cement: Permanently affix deck posts in place. Slow-drying cement allows time for plumb adjustments before hardening.

Wood stains and finishes protect beauty

Unfinished wood inevitably shows wear from weathering. Maintain that smooth, sanded look by:

Staining: Pigmented, opaque stains block UV rays to prevent graying. Semi-transparent versions allow some wood grain to show. Reapply every 2-3 years.

Sealing: A clear water repellent seals the pores against moisture intrusion but doesn’t affect color. Ideal for gray wood aesthetics. Reapply every 2-4 years.

Painting: Provides a vibrant, opaque color that hides wood grain. It needs frequent repainting as it chips and peels.

Oil Finish: Penetrating oils like teak and tung enhance wood’s natural color without leaving a film. Offers minimal protection from UV rays. Reapply several times per year.

Always prepare new wood with a water-repellent preservative. For the first few years, stick with semi-transparent stains to allow normal weathering before shifting to opaque stains or paint.

Request Decking Materials to Build a Deck

With so many gorgeous decking materials to choose from, the options may seem overwhelming. Don’t worry; our deck design experts are here to help distill it down to the perfect selection for your home and lifestyle. We’ll listen to your vision and recommend specific products that align with your aesthetic, budget, and functional needs.

Our extensive inventory includes all the top decking brands and materials to bring your dream outdoor space to life:

  • Wolf, Zuri, Deckorators, Tiva, and Fiberon Composite Decking.
  • Cedar, Redwood, Tigerwood, and Ipe Exotic Wood Decking.
  • Azek & TimberTech PVC Decking.
  • CAMO Hidden Deck Fasteners.
  • Fortress and CableRail Aluminum Railing Systems.
  • Trex, TimberTech, and Fiberon Railing Accessories
  • Dryspace and Wolf Under Deck Waterproofing Systems.
  • Outdoor lighting, fans, and electrical
  • Pergola and Pavilion Shade Structures.
  • Privacy screens and decorative panels.
  • Bison Pedestal Systems.
  • Wolf and other Capped Polymer Decking.

Whether you need decking materials for a DIY project or are hiring a deck builder, we offer the convenience of one-stop shopping for everything related to building and furnishing your outdoor living space. Our knowledgeable staff looks forward to working together on deck plans, 3D renderings, material selection, and quotes to make your ideal backyard retreat a reality. Contact us today to get started designing the deck you’ve always desired!

Looking to get started on deck design & build packages, but not sure where to begin? Contact us.

Visit our website to find a location closest to you, or to contact a deck designer today!
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Frequently Asked Questions About Decking Material

Is vinyl decking a good choice?

Vinyl decking is a very low maintenance option. It won’t rot, warp, or splinter like wood. Vinyl resists fading, mold, mildew, and salt damage. The downsides are that it can get very hot in sunlight, tends to flex more than composites, and lacks the realistic wood look that many homeowners prefer. Overall, quality PVC deck boards like TimberTech AZEK are a decent choice.

How long does a cedar deck last?

With proper installation and maintenance, a cedar deck can last 15–25 years, depending on weather exposure. Cedar’s natural oils help repel water, insects, and rot naturally. Annual sealing is recommended to maintain the rich coloration. Cedar is relatively soft and prone to dents and scratches over time.

How do you fix a pressure-treated deck?

For damaged PT deck boards, you can use matching pressure-treated lumber and exterior wood screws to replace individual planks as needed. Sand and stain any rough edges to match. For surface-level repairs, use an exterior wood filler, sand smooth, spot prime, and repaint the surface.

Should I use capped or uncapped composite boards?

In general, capped composite boards are better for longevity and aesthetics. The outer shell protects against moisture, fading, and staining. However, uncapped boards still resist rotting and last 20+ years. Uncapped boards cost less but show wear sooner. Go capped if your budget allows.

What are the pros and cons of reclaimed wood decking?

Pros: Vintage character and charm; environmentally friendly.

Cons: Expensive, lacks uniformity, not as durable as new pressure-treated boards, may require extra installation considerations depending on source.

How can I reduce the cost of my dream deck?

Some ways to reduce deck costs include:

  • Use pressure-treated framing with a top layer of premium boards only on the visible top surface.
  • Look for debris removal or haulaway specials from lumber suppliers.
  • Use composite deck tiles on top of an existing frame or slab.
  • Consider a smaller deck size and simpler square shapes.
  • DIY install if experienced
  • Use a base model board instead of premium lines.
What is engineered decking?

Engineered decking consists of wood veneers laminated onto a sturdy composite core. This makes the boards stabler and less prone to expansion and contraction compared to natural solid wood. Engineered decking costs less than exotic hardwoods. Many composites are also technically a form of engineered decking.

Does Trex have a wood grain option?

Yes, the Enhance series is their low-cost composite line that features a subtle wood grain pattern. For a more pronounced grain look, the Select series has visible wood particles on the tops and sides. Trex Transcend features deep multi-tonal grain with luxury tropical colors.

How long does Trex claim its decking will last?

Trex backs its composite decking with a 25-year residential warranty against fading and discoloration. With proper installation and drainage, Trex boards can easily last 30+ years in areas with mild to moderate sun exposure and harsh conditions.

Is composite decking resistant to chloride?

Many premium composites are designed to minimize the damaging effects of chlorides from pool chemicals, ocean spray, and de-icing salts. However, the best practice is to wipe down composite decking periodically if exposed to chlorinated water or road salt runoff.

How do you keep a wood deck looking new?
  • Annual power washing
  • Resealing bare wood every 1-2 years
  • Spot-treating any discoloration
  • Minimizing furniture drag marks
  • Installing rug pads under furniture legs
  • Keeping lawn debris cleaned off
  • Allowing proper drainage and airflow

Proper prep and maintenance are key to retaining that like-new appearance over the years.

What should I consider when choosing decking?

When selecting deck boards, consider:

  • Initial cost vs. lifecycle value
  • Appearance: do you want pronounced wood grain?
  • Durability
  • Slip resistance
  • Temperature and heat retention considerations
  • Maintenance requirements
  • Eco-friendliness
  • Warranties

Narrow down your preferences, then review brands that align with your criteria. Get samples to make the final call.

How often should you seal heartwood?

The dense heartwood of exotic species like IPE, Tigerwood, Cumaru, and mahogany naturally resists weathering. You can allow this heartwood to age to a stately silver gray without compromising integrity. Minimal maintenance is required. At most, apply penetrating oil once a year or a semi-transparent stain every 2-4 years.

Does cost go down over time for composites?

Composite decking often decreases slightly in price year after year. Manufacturing efficiencies, recycled content, and competition help keep costs in check. However, rising raw material and transportation costs can also periodically bump prices up. Generally, composites maintain a 20–30% price premium over wood.

What is the Western Red Cedar warranty?

The Western Red Cedar Lumber Association offers a 25-year limited warranty when specific grade requirements, installation standards, and maintenance steps are followed. This warranty covers damage from fungal decay and/or termites when using 100% heartwood Western Red Cedar.

If higher maintenance is OK, what is the most eco-friendly decking?

For eco-friendly decking, locally-sourced domestic wood species are a great choice. Western red cedar, southern yellow pine, redwood, and cypress are naturally rot-resistant woods that stay carbon neutral. Any FSC-certified, sustainably harvested wood is a good option. Be prepared to cover it regularly.

What are composites made of?

Composite decking consists of approximately 60% recycled wood fibers mixed with 40% recycled plastic. The wood comes from sawdust, shredded wood waste, and leftover trim pieces. The plastic often comes from reclaimed shopping bags, plastic bottles, and other consumer waste.

Is composite decking easy to install?

Composite decking installs very similarly to natural wood. Most composites use the same joist spacing and hardware. Look for hidden fastener options to create seamless lines. Most differences come from best practices like allowing proper ventilation and drainage so the boards don’t trap moisture.

What maintenance is required to keep a wood deck looking good?

Expect to pressure wash and reseal a wood deck annually, sanding it every few years. Semi-transparent paint works well for protection while allowing the wood’s natural beauty to show. Keeping a consistent schedule is key. Inspect regularly for any cracked boards, splinters, or damage that needs repair.

What are the advantages of using TimberTech for decking?

TimberTech offers a wide variety of deck material options that are low-maintenance, resistant to decay and stains, and have the appearance of natural wood.

What is the difference between composite and wood decking?

Composite decking is made from a combination of recycled materials and vinyl, offering a low-maintenance and long-lasting alternative to traditional wood decking.

Is pressure-treated wood a good option for decking?

Pressure-treated wood is a popular choice for decking due to its affordability, durability, and resistance to insects and decay.

What is the best decking material for my deck?

The best decking material for your deck depends on various factors such as your budget, desired appearance, and maintenance preferences. It is recommended to consult with a professional to determine the best material for your specific needs.

Is hardwood decking a good option?

Hardwood decking, such as cedar and redwood, offers a beautiful natural look and is known for its durability. However, it usually requires regular maintenance to preserve its appearance.

How much does deck material cost?

The cost of deck materials varies depending on the type of decking you choose, the size of your deck, and other factors. It is best to obtain quotes from different suppliers or consult with a professional for an accurate cost estimate.

What are the benefits of using composite deck boards?

Composite deck boards are a popular choice due to their low-maintenance nature, resistance to insects and rot, and availability in a variety of styles and colours.

What is capped composite decking?

Capped composite decking is a type of decking that has a protective layer on the top and sides, providing increased durability and resistance to stains and fading.

How is decking made from recycled materials?

Decking made from recycled materials is created by combining recycled plastics and wood fibers to create a durable and sustainable decking product.