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Pros and Cons of Natural and Composite Decking Materials

All decks use treated lumber for framing but what materials are right for your decking surface and railings? It is important to consider how long you plan on living in your home, how your deck will be used, how much shade or sun it receives, and how much maintenance you want to perform. Here are a few pros and cons of the most popular decking materials:

Pressure Treated Wood

Pressure treated wood, usually Southern yellow pine, is the most common and least expensive type of decking. It is milled and chemically treated to resist rot, fungus, and wood-boring bugs. Unfortunately, it has a tendency to crack, split, twist, and warp if not properly maintained, especially in dry climates. It requires an annual power washing and an application of stain or wood preservative every two or three years. Pressure treated wood is usually chosen for its affordability, availability, and ease of cutting and fastening nails or screws.

Tropical Hardwoods

Brazilian redwood (Massaranduba), Brazilian teak (cumaru), Brazilian oak (red tauari), Brazilian koi (tigerwood), Brazilian walnut (ipe), and Philippine mahogany are just some of the tropical hardwoods available for decking. These hardwoods are often chosen for their density, durability, rich color, and natural resistance to insects and rot. They are also expensive, heavy, and hard to cut and drill. Most tropical hardwoods weather to a soft silvery color if they’re not stained and dark woods will be very hot in direct sun. If you choose a tropical hardwood, check with your lumber dealer to ensure that the wood carries a Forest Stewardship Council seal, a nonprofit organization that certifies that the wood has been harvested responsibly.

Redwood and Cedar

Redwood and cedar are prized for their rich color, natural beauty, and their lack of chemicals or preservatives. These woods contain natural tannins and oils, making them naturally resistant to rot, decay, and insects. However, the soft wood splinters easily, is worn quickly by foot traffic, and is prone to damage from hail. Regular staining is necessary to prevent it from weathering to a soft silvery gray and prolonged moisture will cause the wood to blacken. Redwood takes hundreds of years to mature and depleted forests take centuries to recover, therefore it is not a sustainable wood source.


Made by combining a blend of recycled plastic and waste wood fibers, composites are extremely weather-, stain-, and bug-resistant and won’t splinter, warp, rot or split. Composite materials are extremely low-maintenance and never need to be sanded, refinished, stained, or painted. However, they aren’t maintenance-free. They must be scrubbed regularly to prevent mildew. More expensive, heavier than most woods, and often needing pre-drilling for fasteners, composites are always consistent in color, shape, and texture.

When you decide it is time to build a new deck or replace an old one, choose an experienced and knowledgeable builder you can trust. We have worked with a wide variety of decking materials and can help you chose the one that is right for you. Call us today at 678-427-9994 to request a free c