Creating an outdoor haven for relaxation, entertainment or enjoyment, without even having to leave home, is an investment that has been gaining popularity for several decades. In today’s stress filled world, where many of us are often so busy working indoors, it is far too easy to lose touch with the world outside. Building a deck for a backyard retreat is many homeowners’ dream. Adding a deck to your home not only creates additional living space outside, but typically adds value to the value of your home as well.

Once your outdoor project has been completed, the part that is the most visible is the decking material itself. Choosing your decking wisely is a very important consideration to your overall satisfaction and long-term happiness with your project. Selecting the decking boards that are just right for you, however, can often be a confusing and somewhat daunting task. It is hard to find out the straight truth when there are so many different decking material options to choose from.

Since building a deck to create your perfect outdoor space is a decision that you will be living with for years to come, you may want to spend some time thinking about what the important things are for you. A few key questions that many people don’t ask themselves until it is too late are:

· How long would you like your deck to last?

· Is it important to you if the decking material is natural wood or man-made?

· How important is deck maintenance to you?

· How much activity and what kind of activity are you planning for your deck?

· Will you have active children or pet traffic on your deck?

· Will sand, dirt or gritty mud be tracked on to your deck?

· Do you plan to have a charcoal grill, chimney or fire pit on your deck?

· Will you have heavy out furniture on your deck?

· Will there be bare feet on your deck?

Depending on your answers to any of these questions, as well as additional considerations you may have, it pays to do a little research for the answers that are important to you. The most important thing I have learned about decking over the past thirty years is that there is no “perfect” decking material. All decking materials have strengths and weaknesses and some are better for certain applications than others. Some products are more resistant to abrasion from foot traffic than others. Most decking materials are not fire resistant but a few are. Some materials have lower up-front costs but don’t last very long.

Pressure treated decking is the lowest cost decking product but is often prone to splinters, splitting, checking, cracking and warping. Pressure treated decking requires an annual coating to maintain, so if low maintenance decking is high on your list of important features, you may want to consider other decking material options.

Cedar decking is beautiful natural wood decking and is moderate to higher priced up front. To keep cedar from rotting quickly, it needs to be maintained regularly with a coating or sealer.

Moderately priced composite decking materials look great for the first couple of years but have a reputation for fading and developing mold. There is no way to seal or coat a composite deck to protect it. Composite decking is not very strong so deck joists must be placed close together for safety purpose.

Plastic decking is higher priced and available in several colors and patterns to mimic real wood. Plastic decking claims to be long-lasting but has only been on the market for a short period of time. Plastic decking heats up quickly and expands and contracts greatly with temperature changes. Like composite decking, plastic decking is not resistant to fire nor abrasion from pets and foot traffic.

High density hardwood decking materials, such as Ipe decking and Cumaru decking, are famous for their strength, durability, scratch resistance, fire resistance, splinter resistance and natural beauty. These enduring decking materials are in the moderate to high price range up-front but are among the lowest cost long-term decking options. These high density hardwood decking materials are real wood, so they will develop a gray patina over time. If a gray color is not desired, an oil sealer can be applied to help maintain the original wood tones.