Whether you are building a new home or thinking of doing some extension, adding a wooden deck to your home is a great idea to relax, entertain, or simply enjoy the outdoors and get your daily dose of the sunshine Vitamin. However, like everything else, zeroing in on the right type of wood needs careful analysis of certain factors to make sure your deck lasts a number of years before needing repairs. After all, it involves considerable expense and you don’t want to make costly mistakes. Here’s a look at the best timber for decking.
Top 5 Woods for Decking
There are a number of options available locally for timber decking with different levels of suitability for different climate conditions. Let’s take a look at the top 5 woods for making the best deck for your home:
- Spotted Gum: One of the best decking timber options in Australia is the locally planted spotted gum. This premium hardwood is highly durable with a rating of 2 making it perfect for outdoor application. It s heartwood occurs in a range of colors varying from light brown to dark reddish-brown hues while the sapwood may be white to light brown in color. Its wavy grain makes it an attractive choice for your deck and builders love it as it is easy to cut and shape. It also does not require much staining, as it is not prone to tannin bleeding. Its fire resistant capacity makes it especially suited to areas that are prone to bush fires.
- Blackbutt: Another Australian hardwood, the tall blackbutt is a sustainable timber option as it grows quite fast. Its heartwood occurs in a wide range of colors, from pale brown to golden yellow, and sometimes even a slightly pinkish shade while the sapwood is pale in comparison. The wood usually has a straight grain and an even texture. It’s also recommended for use in areas falling in the bushfires risk zone due to its fire resistant properties. The sapwood is also quite resistant to attack by lyctid borer. However, it is better to use young wood instead of mature one as the latter has high extractives that can cause issues with certain adhesives.
- Jarrah: Another Australian hardwood, jarrah is one of the best decking timbers suited to the continent’s unpredictable climate with a class 2 durability rating and termite and marine borer resistance. The heartwood comes in hues of rich red to dark brown and the sapwood ranges from pale yellow to orange shades. It has an even or sometimes wavy grain and a coarse texture, which is quite appealing as a design material. Some of its other pros include fire resistance and weather resistance making it perhaps the best timber for decking.
- Merbau: Grown mostly in South East Asia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Philippines, Merbau is a good decking option, as it’s highly durable even when exposed to the elements continuously. The wood has light to dark reddish brown color with small yellow mineral deposits that greatly enhance its appearance when finished. It has a moderately coarse texture and a natural luster. Its grain can be straight to wavy to interlocked. Other qualities include termite and marine borer resistance. What also makes it a popular choice is its price advantage over Australian hardwoods.
- Treated Pine: Pine is a soft wood and includes a huge variety of species, which are further divided into groups. Though softwoods are generally not good for outdoors as they are prone to faster decay when exposed to harsh sun or rains, treated pine has enhanced durability and resistance to fungi growth and insect attacks as it responds well to chemical treatments. The sapwood of pine is a pale yellowish white and the heartwood is light brown. It has a closed grain, which is usually knot free and has a medium and uneven texture. Using pine as decking timber is becoming popular in Australia due to its easy availability in large quantities, ease of working, and low cost. The tree is fast growing so it’s also highly sustainable.
Factors to be considered before deciding on the type of wood to use:
Weather: Living in Australia where whether can go to extremes in many areas or be totally predictable and also change from state to state, it is important to consider the weather of the area you live in. While a few states are quite cold, others get quite hot, especially in summer months. Also, since you require the wood for outdoor use, it would be continually exposed to the elements. It is important to remember that different types of woods respond differently to the vagaries of nature.
Pest Attack and Fungal Growth: Some woods are naturally resistant to insects like termites and wood bees, others are prone to them. Similarly, some varieties of wood are prone to fungal attacks. It is better to research well beforehand to make sure the type of wood you use is either naturally resistant or responds well to pest control treatments.
Your Budget: Not all woods are created equal. Hardwoods look richer and last longer than soft woods; however, they are also more expensive. Another advantage of hardwoods is that they are less prone to attack by wood pests. On the other hand, some types of softwoods may be treated to make them suitable for outdoor use and going for them can save you a lot of money. You need to find a balance between your budget and your requirements before you make your final decision.
Wood Qualities: Each wood is different in terms of grain, texture, color, durability, strength, resistance to fire and pests, fungal growth, etc. Understand the qualities and properties of each type of wood before deciding on one. You also need to consider the ease and expense of installation and frequency and cost of future maintenance work. Some wood factors that need a closer look include:
- Hardwood or Softwood: As discussed above, you need to consider what type of wood you want to go for. Though soft woods are easier to cut and shape and also less expensive, hardwoods take more time to mature and hence, are denser and stronger than softwoods. Naturally, they are also more expensive.
- Seasoned Vs. New Wood: Longevity of your deck will depend on a number of factors including the age of the timber. Younger wood would have more moisture content than seasoned one and as the moisture dries up over time, it may leave the wood warped and damage the deck. So, you need to ensure that the wood you choose is seasoned and seasoned properly.
- Hazard Treatments: Wood needs to be treated for expected hazards over its lifetime. These hazards include attack by insects, fungal growth, decay, etc. The chemical treatments done to protect the wood against these dangers are termed H level treatments. You need to select wood which has been subjected to the level of treatment (Ranges from H1 to H6) that corresponds to the usage you want to put it to, in this case for outdoor construction.
- Other Wood Quality Ratings: You should also look at the natural durability ratings of the wood species you choose. For the purpose of building a deck, make sure you choose a Class 1 or 2 timbers to ensure longevity. Another wood rating is F and MGP rating which is related to the strength of the wood under stress.
A Little about Wood Finishes, Paints, and Sealers
Regardless of the wood you go for, keep in mind that unfinished wood would decay faster and it is only practical to apply protective finishes to prolong its color and enhance durability. Options include clear water sealer, tinted water-proofer, semi-transparent stains, solid stains, or even paint if you are using a less expensive wood like pine.
Taking Care of your Wooden Deck
A wooden deck requires maintenance to ensure you enjoy it for a longer time. It can be as basic as cleaning it with a broom to clear away dust, leaves, water collected in corners that may lead to mildew growth. Once or twice a year, use a stiff brush and detergent to remove stubborn dirt and allow it to dry for 2-3 days and then apply a coating of stain followed by a waterproof sealer.
In case you are planning to build your dream deck yourself, it would require doing research on the basics of designing a deck that matches the architecture of your home and adds to its appeal as also on the type of materials you are going to use to achieve desired results. It would also require above average DIY skills On the other hand, if you decide on hiring a professional, you would still need to be involved in the decision making process before the actual work begins. So make sure that you do your homework well before finalizing the deck design and purchasing the best timber for decking.