Deck Materials

Gina Pogol | Improvement Center Columnist | December 14, 2011

Whether you're in the market for a simple back porch, or want a deck fitted with the finest hot tub and sauna money can buy, understanding the difference between modern and traditional materials will help you make an informed decision.

Low cost deck materials

If the budget for a deck is your main consideration, a pressure-treated (PT) lumber installation is the cheapest. PT lumber costs about $1 per lineal foot.

PT lumber is treated with a high-pressure spray that makes it resistant to bugs and decay. PT decks require almost as much maintenance as the average Hollywood starlet. In addition, the chemicals they are treated with can make splinters do nasty things to your body. When shopping for PT decking materials, avoid "dip-treated" look-alikes--these warp, crack, shrink and rot more easily than other decking materials.

Want to save money and forgo the chemicals? Cedar decking costs $1 to $2 per lineal foot and naturally resists decay. The downside of cedar: It's soft, so it dents easily and absorbs a lot of water. Typically, cedar decks need to be replaced every 10 years. That's about two to three times as often as PT decks.

Low maintenance deck materials

For easy maintenance, composite decks are your best bet. Composite decking materials require little more than the occasional wash with soap and water. They will not splinter, rot or warp. Better yet, they taste terrible--ask any termite.

Composite decking comes in the following forms:

  • Wood and plastic composite made from wood flour or saw dust with plastic resins (PVC)
  • Rubber composite of polyethylene resins and recycled tires
  • Plastic composite made from polystyrene

Wood and plastic composites are relatively new, so quality can vary. Do your homework, choose a good product and an experienced installer. Wood and plastic decks come with warranties that range from 10 years to life. Rubber decks usually last about 25 years, while plastic decks can stick around for up to 50.

High-quality composite decking costs $3 to $4 per lineal foot.

When only wood will do

Let's face it: All wood decks can be stunning. Like other home improvements, these range in cost and quality. In general, the harder the wood, the more fire resistant and durable the deck--and the larger the sticker price.

From softest to hardest, these are the most popular wood decking materials, and their cost per lineal foot:

  • Cedar, about $2
  • Redwood, about $2
  • Mahogany, about $4
  • Teak, $5 to $6
  • Ipe, pronounced Ee-pay, about $5 to $6

For more information on the best deck for your home, or to get an estimate from a local decking company, fill out the form on this page and a licensed, professional, contractor will call you.