Going Beyond Cedar: Lumber Choices for Long-lasting Decks

Deck builders have a large selection of materials to work with, but not all is as it seems when it comes to wood. Pressure-treated woods last a lot longer than non-treated varieties, or so the common wisdom goes, but this is wholly dependent on the type of wood. It's also a concern for those who value wildlife and wetland plants around their deck. Arsenic is no longer used in treatment, but other chemicals can leach and present a danger.

Cedar Quality Decline

Though still a popular choice for decks, cedar is not what it was twenty years ago. This wood is often seen as the most versatile choice. Many builders hold that it resists decay and rot, easily lasting 30 years or longer with only surface coating. However, not all cedar is created equally. The trees used in the past were primarily from old-growth forests. The heart wood of these large, old trees was excellent at resisting moisture decay and insects.

Modern cedar is harvested from second-growth stands. The trees do not thrive without the companion plants found in their natural environment, and they are harvested well before they reach a proper size. The result of decades of unsustainable harvesting is a lower quality wood. According to the US Forest Lab in Wisconsin, sapwood cedar lasts only 11 years on average.

High Quality Lumber for Decking

Most harvesting operations for old-growth forests are now sustainably managed to prevent loss in quality. It is worthwhile for buyers to inquire about forest management techniques. The following lumber choices have benefits well beyond modern cedar, and they are fine choices for decking without the worry of chemical leaching.

Ipe Lumber

From the forests of South America, this wood has a fire resistance rating close to concrete and is one of the densest woods on the market. With almost no warping, bending, or knots to deal with, this lumber has a 25-year durability rating in commercial applications. That makes it perfect for the home deck.

Teak Lumber

This beautiful option is commonly used in outdoor applications. It produces a natural oil that overrides any need for sealants or preservatives. Water and slip resistance makes it a great choice around hot tubs.

Redwood Decking

An aesthetic choice for its natural color and even grain, this lumber is also highly resistant to weather and insects. It is a soft wood and easier to work with, so some type of sealant is necessary. It will hold up over time and is the best managed option.

Start-up costs for a deck are directly related to the quality. Better wood makes for a longer-lasting deck. Cedar is still an option, but other choices are known to outperform this old standby.