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The Right Wood For Decks

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW FOR YOUR FOUNDATION AND FINISH

There are two types of wood for decks available. Pressure treated – for the posts, floor joists and supports – and wood for railings and flooring. Pressure treated should always be used if it comes in contact with or comes close to the ground as insects and rot will surely attack it if not treated. The railings and flooring, however, need to be hard, durable and attractive.

Pressure treated wood for decks today has been treated with agents that preserve and protect the wood throughout, usually recognized by the small, half inch or so, slits peppered over the surface.

This new treated lumber is so toxic it requires special fasteners (screws and nails) and by code must use these for any construction. Galvanized may work, but what’s called “hot dip” galvanized might be needed to be up to code. The problem is that the chemicals in the modern treated wood actually eats through standard nails and screws! Decks have fallen apart because people simply used the wrong fasteners. This is important, because if your deck collapses in five or ten years and someone gets hurt, you may be liable.

Below you’ll find a brief description of each of these two types of wood for decks. If you are building from the ground up, you’ll have several decisions to make regarding wood types, aesthetics and budgetary concerns as they apply to your situation.

PRESSURE TREATED WOOD FOR DECKS

Treated wood (pressure treated wood) is available at all the lumber yards and big boxes as 2x2s, 2x4s, 2x6s, 2x8s, 2x10s and 2x12s for use as joists, stair stringers, beams and support posts. Floor joists are usually 2x6s or 2x8s unless spanning greater distances than 8 – 10 ft. Posts generally are 4x4s. The most common are:

Southern Yellow Pine
Southern Pine is the most common deck framing material in the eastern part of the United States because of its strength and absorption of the treatment chemicals. This material also has a high proportion of sapwood, which helps to absorb the preservative.

Red and Ponderosa Pine
Harvested in Northern U.S. and Canada, neither of these wood for decks pine varieties are as strong as their cousin Southern Yellow Pine. Although they have many of the properties of SYP, they cannot withstand long spans and extreme weights.

Douglas fir
Doug Fir is very strong and does not tend to warp or split as much as Southern Yellow or the other pines. It is the wood of choice in western and northwestern United States and Canada and is forested there. Slightly more expensive than pine, it holds up to the climate in the Pacific NW better than other materials.

Hem-fir
Its weaker and more apt to warp or split than Douglas fir, but more receptive to treatment and preservation. Hem Fir is used extensively in building and construction, especially regarding interior framing. As an exterior wood, although it accepts treatment well, is the least popular for deck construction.

WOOD FOR RAILINGS AND FLOORING

Western Red Cedar
Western Red Cedar is reddish brown and ages to a silvery gray. The soft wood may splinter more easily than other varieties, but holds up well in rain, sun, heat, and cold. To add beauty and durability to your deck, consider Western Red Cedar using a penetrating stain and as always, use a sealer.

Redwood
Like cedar, redwood is a softer lumber that ages to a
pleasing gray. Prolonged moisture, however, will cause the wood to blacken because of the agent tannin contained in this type. Redwood fences, along with other wood for decks, positioned close to yard sprinklers show the spray pattern as a grayer area. A Redwood deck will resist rot on its own, but will look more attractive if you use a sealer.

Philippine Mahogany
Philippine mahogany is a tight-grained hardwood that resists pests and rot. Treat it with marine oil and it looks like teak. Or, let your mahogany deck age to a silvery hue. Look for the “FSC” trademark to assure that rainforests have not been harvested irresponsibly. A Mahogany deck, if cared for properly, is possibly the most beautiful of all the woods.

Ipé
Ipé (ee-pay) is a hardwood from South America, known by the brand names Pau Lope® and Iron Woods®. The
USDA Forest Service Products Laboratory gives Ipé top marks for insect and rot resistance. This wood is so hard, it’s almost as difficult to burn as rock.

The use of rain forest wood, for decks and other uses is extremely controversial, however. If you choose Ipé for your deck, be certain it has the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) mark on it, which certifies that its been harvested responsibly.

Pressure Treated Pine
Pressure-treated pine, used by some, resists rot and repels pests, but the green-tinge is ugly and the pesticides and other chemicals contained are hazardous. Having children and pets play on the surface can have negative results. In order to build a safer, more attractive deck, choose a durable wood specifically made or the floors, railings, and steps, as detailed above.

For more information, to see the differences in the woods and how they might impact your decision making, search wood for decks or types deck wood, using the Bing Custom Search Box right -> and browse the big boxes and lumber yards. There’s a lot out there!.

… for any questions, concerns or problems on a remodeling or landscaping project, just click the carpenter’s pencil above. We’ll get back to you within 48 hours with solutions or advice on where to get solutions.
We never charge for help or advice!.

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Updated: March 4, 2014 — 9:23 pm

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