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How to Choose the Best Lumber for Decking

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Choose the best lumber for your decking projects.

Decking projects need to be planned thoroughly and in detail to be successful. Part of this includes choosing the right lumber for decking, which can be challenging due to the many factors you have to consider. At first glance, wood may seem easy to pick out, but once you start navigating through your options, you realize how complex the process is.

As with other construction and woodworking projects, the type and quality of lumber you buy will directly affect how your deck will turn out. Thus, it is not a decision you should gloss over or rush into.

Check out this buying guide to help you sift through different wood species to determine the best fit for your project.

Types of Lumber for Decking

You will find two main types of lumber for decking. These include pressure-treated lumber and naturally resistant lumber. The third material, composite decking, contains a mix of recycled wood and other materials.

Pressure Treated (PT) Lumber

PT lumber is one of the most popular decking materials. This type of lumber is treated with chemicals to increase resistance against water and insects. Many choose this lumber for decking projects, since it is affordable, easy to find, durable, and can be stained to almost any color.

One drawback is that pressure treated wood requires high maintenance, which includes annual or biannual power washing, sanding, staining, and sealing. However, if you keep up with regular maintenance and finish the wood off with a sealant, you can expect it to last up to 30 years or more! That said, its lifespan will also depend on factors like the type of wood you choose and the climate.

Naturally Resistant Lumber

Another lumber option for decking would be naturally resistant wood like redwood, cypress, and cedar. These woods have oils and tannins that make them resistant to rot and insects, thus making them more expensive than PT lumber. Variants of tropical hardwood like tigerwood and Ipe also share similar characteristics.

Naturally resistant lumber is a good choice for those who prefer not to use wood treated with chemicals or preservatives. Some popular natural woods include redwood and cedar, known for their natural beauty and rich color. However, note that the level of resistance you get depends on the amount of heartwood found in the lumber. Seeking advice from a lumber expert will be best to find the most suitable wood for your deck.

Composite Boards

Nowadays, composite deck boards are growing increasingly popular as they are made with recycled materials — usually plastic and wood fiber — and resistant to water and rot. However, since they also contain non-wood materials, they do not have wood’s natural texture and color. Likewise, they may also attract dirt like other outdoor materials, so they will need periodic cleaning.

Tips on Choosing the Right Lumber

With multiple options to choose from, it can be difficult to decide what will work best for your deck. To help you out, here are some guidelines to take note of:

●      Opt for dry decking – If you plan to get treated wood, it would be best to get them dry or at least as dry as possible. Wet boards are heavier and will shrink once they dry, so it is not advisable to work with them while they are still wet.

●      Choose 5/4 thickness for your material – 5/4 wood, which measures 1 to 1 ¼ inches, is the ideal minimum thickness for decking projects. Any thinner, and you risk getting a weak deck. For 5/4 materials, the joist spacing should be at 16 inches to provide ample support.

●      Avoid boards with many defects – Try to avoid boards that has several defects as often as possible. A few bows may not necessarily be problematic since you can bend them and nail the boards into place, but more severe cases may not be repairable. The same goes for warps and twists, which cannot be fixed.

●      Consider your budget – Your budget will be a big consideration when buying lumber for decking. As mentioned above, PT lumber is generally the most affordable. If you want to invest in some natural woods for the visible part of your deck, one alternative is to use PT lumber for the framing and get natural lumber for the decking and railing.

Get Top Quality Lumber from a Reputable Company

Ultimately, each type of lumber for decking comes with pros and cons, so there is no fixed answer as to what the best option is. That said, some types may be more suitable based on your needs and preferences. If you need some help selecting wood for your deck, feel free to contact Peninsular Lumber at 813-875-8805 for professional advice. Our store is your one stop shop for all your lumber and wood needs. Check out our inventory and come visit us to get all the lumber you need for decking projects!