The Best Building Materials For Building a Deck

Once the winter snow melts and the family starts heading outdoors again, it’s hard to ignore the rough shape of your backyard deck. If the splintered surface and rotting planks have compounded over the years, it might be time for a new deck.

The first step is to determine if you can just refinish the deck, or if you need a new surface. Will sanding and new stain get rid of some of the rough spots? Can you replace a few rotting boards? More than a few rotting planks, sagging or other structural problems likely mean a new surface is needed.

Next, decide if you need an entirely new deck from the ground up, or just the planks under foot. Most decks use treated lumber for the framing underneath. As long as this framing is in good condition, you will only need to replace the surface. Signs of an unsafe deck or compromised frame aren’t always obvious, so you might want to consider hiring a professional to evaluate the structure.

If your deck was built before 2004, it is likely built of lumber treated with chromated copper arsenate. If the finish is flaking or worn in spots, you will want to hire someone trained to safely refinish the surface, or remove and dispose of the lumber.

Choosing a decking material

Most decks are built of wood because it is versatile, sturdy and affordable. If you don’t want to worry about maintenance, however, composite, plastic or aluminum may be the better choice.

Wood is the most affordable decking option, costing homeowners about $225 to $825 per 100 square feet. Treated pine is the most common choice, but for a little more, homeowners can get cedar, redwood or other exotic woods like Brazilian ipe, tigerwood or garapa. Wood has a great look, but will stain, discolor and possibly crack if not stained or water sealed every other year. If you like the look of wood that weathers to a gray color, you may be able to avoid the maintenance of applying stain or sealer every two years. 

Composite gives homeowners the look of wood without the need to stain and refinish. They cost about $425 to $650 per 100 square feet, and offer a wider range of colors and designs than wood. Composites are stain resistant and durable, but some types of composite materials are not as sturdy as wood, sagging and flexing over time. Composites can also be more slippery or less resistant to mildew.

Plastic decking costs about $525 to $625 per 100 square feet, is lightweight and great for resisting staining. The downside is that plastic decking can look cheap, can be slippery and will sag over time.

Aluminum decking costs about $700 per square feet and is the most durable option. This isn’t the choice for you if you like the look of natural wood, though.

Factoring in maintenance

Some homeowners know that staining a deck every two years is too much work for them, and for these people, surfacing a deck with another material is the way to go. But for homeowners watching their costs or who consider themselves handy, the added work may not be a factor. As well as considering the labor involved, you should also look at the cost of maintenance.

Hiring a professional to stain your deck should be added into the overall cost of the deck. Stripping and sanding the deck every six years or so adds to the cost as well. If doing it yourself, consider the cost of the stain, which is minimal, as well as the cost of the stripping and sanding equipment. Finally, think about the time needed to do the project. Wood decks require giving up a weekend every other year for maintenance. Is that time worth the extra money for a composite deck?

When it comes to replacing or building a deck, homeowners have a wide range of options. If you’d like more information about the materials, cost and time involved in replacing a deck, give Dube Plus Construction a call.