Favorite Woods for Deck Construction

When considered a ‘Hard-scape’ improvement, the material selection for your deck should be given some thought before going forward. In this article we will examine the pros and cons of various popular wood types most often used in deck construction.

Redwood is a native tree grown throughout the central and northern California coast and along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in central and eastern California.

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Considered a ‘soft’ wood species by builders, redwood is best known for its natural longevity and resistance to insects and decay. Colors range from light shades of pink, to ruddy deep-red, or brown, making redwood a beautiful wood for decking. Sadly, as the wood is exposed to moisture, and sun, the colors fade, and the wood takes on a brown, and eventually a silver-gray tone overall. Once completely aged from exposure (about three-four months) the general appearance is dark brown and will remain so for a few years. However, eventually after several years, the wood turns to a silver-gray.

Uniquely, this color change is very topical to the wood surface, and can be restored by using wood bleach, or sanding the wood surface, renewing the wood to its original color. Also, you can take advantage of the changing color of the redwood, by applying a ‘wood sealer’ or wood ‘water proofing agent’ on the wood to slow down the aging process, and lock-in the color you like. This will allow you to enjoy the lighter colors of the redwood longer, before the wood ultimately ages darker.

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Cedar is another option, also a soft wood. Grown on both coasts, it is a beautiful wood that will naturally age from a golden orange, to brown, to gray color. However Cedar is easily scratched, and can splinter. As a decking material it must be treated very carefully in order to maintain its good look. You might consider using cedar for balustrades, and hand rails to complement a redwood deck, rather than the decking itself.

Hardwood such as Pau Lope also know as ‘Ironwood’ is an excellent choice for its structural integrity, good looks and a smooth, splinter free surface. However Pau Lope is difficult to work with (cut, attach, and sand) and the oily dust it produces can be toxic, so hiring a profession deck builder with Pau Lope experience is a must.

If you’re building near fresh or salt water, Pau Lope is an excellent choice because, unlike redwood or cedar, Pau Lope will easily resist damage caused by moisture for as long as twenty-plus years. Pau Lope is often used in commercial construction of decks, wharfs, and boat docks for this very reason.

Another hardwood, very similar to Pau Lope is ‘Purple Heart”. The color of this wood is amazingly bright purple, and will gradually turn to a black, then gray after months, perhaps years of outdoor exposure. The big plus with Purple Heart is the cost savings compared to the Pau Lope. The down size is you will have a purple deck for several months, until the wood naturally ages to brown or gray. Other than the color issue, Purple Heart is as workable, and as enduring as Pau Lope.

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