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What Are the Different Types of Decking Lumber?

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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 11 July 2018
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There are several different types of decking lumber, each with their own unique benefits and drawbacks. Mahogany and redwood are two of the most popular, although they are often expensive in many areas. Cedar, although softer than other choices, tends to do well in humid climates, while the Brazilian hardwood Ipe is famous for both its color and durability. Pine and birch are cheaper options, although they have to be pressure treated in order to withstand bugs and the weather.

Darker varieties of mahogany, typically sold as Honduras or Philippine mahogany, are popular for building decks because they last longer than lighter mahogany. Naturally resistant to termites, this hardwood is incredibly strong, standing up well to standard wear-and-tear as well as the elements. Like many types of decking lumber, mahogany develops a slightly grayish color as it ages if left untreated.

In several parts of the world, redwood is one of the most popular woods used for outdoor structures. Although not as rot resistant as other types of decking lumber, it will last for a long time if properly cared for and sealed. When maintained, this type of wood also experiences limited warping, with the deck boards and railings remaining relatively straight when compared to other lumbers. Eventually, the rich orange color of the wood will fade to a light orange-brown.

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One of the most natural-looking and highly-prized types of decking lumber is cedar. Despite the fact that it requires a fair amount of maintenance when compared to other materials, it tends to be ideal in humid climates, as it does not easily absorb moisture. Although it is often used for these reasons as well as its aesthetic appeal, cedar is not as tough as other types of decking lumber, and outdoor furniture can damage the wood rather easily. For this reason, it is generally advised that grills and furniture be moved around on a cedar deck in the same manner as one would with a piece of furniture on wood floors indoors: pick it up to move rather than dragging.

Perhaps the most visually appealing and durable types of lumber is Ipe. While most lumber only lasts for around 15 years, a well-maintained Ipe deck will easily remain beautiful and strong for upwards of half of a century. Due to the unbelievable hardness of this wood and the fact that it is harvested from rainforests, it is often just as expensive to purchase as it is to work with, as contractors will need to use specialized equipment to cut through the wood effectively. Although the price is high, the look and durability of this type of decking lumber makes up for the cost for many people.

When it comes to a combination of decent pricing and durability, pine or birch lumber that has been pressure treated to resist decay and bugs are considered to be ideal. Due to the high amount of these types of trees in many countries, pine and birch are generally available in abundance, and a well-cared for deck made from either of these types of woods will generally last for over 30 years. In color, pressure-treated wood eventually fades to a gray shade. Despite this, it does start out with a somewhat unsightly green tinge; however, this disappears relatively quickly.

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