We’re picking up this week with our two-part series on adding a deck to your home. Check out last week’s post to learn about the importance of choosing the right placement for your deck and sizing it to fit your lifestyle and complement your property. Read on for an overview of the types of materials you can choose from to make sure your deck fits your family’s needs and your budget.

What Material Is Right for My New Deck?

With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to figure out which type of decking will work best for your home. Cost, geographical location, and primary uses for your deck are all factors to keep in mind when working with a contractor to design your perfect outdoor space.

Wood Decking

Whether we’re talking about wood doors, wood shutters, or wood decking, the scoop is the same: this is a beautiful, classic option that imparts a timeless look. But the drawbacks are always the same, too: wood is a high-maintenance material, and exposure to the elements will require ongoing efforts to keep your deck from cracking and splintering. You’ll need to stain your deck and take steps to shield it from excess moisture. Different types of wood will also discolor over time without proper maintenance. If you live in a particularly rainy or humid climate, wood decking might be a poor choice for your home.

Price wise, cedar and redwood decking materials are toward the moderate end of the scale. Select grades of wood will, of course, be more costly; tropical hardwoods are the most expensive (and the most luxurious) wood decking option.

Composite and Synthetic Decking

Composite decking materials are made up of a combination of wood fiber, recycled plastic, and other materials. Synthetic decking is 100% plastic–vinyl or cellular PVC. These options are wonderful for families who plan to use their deck often for entertaining because they stand up well to heavy traffic and have a structural integrity that surpasses wood decking.

Both composite and synthetic decking offer some freedom from the chores required to maintain wood decking. They both resist warping and rot, and insects have no interest in them. Composite decking is still vulnerable to mold, but not nearly as vulnerable as wood decking. Composite decking looks a little more like wood decking than the synthetic options do, but both types of decking are quite attractive. The additional benefit to composite decking is cost. Synthetic decking options, on the other hand, are more expensive. This is due to the fact that they have no wood whatsoever, so their life is undoubtedly longer. Synthetic decking offers some additional benefits; aesthetically, there is a greater variety of colors and textures to choose from on the market. Functionally, synthetic decking surfaces don’t retain heat and are not slippery, making them a real benefit for families with children or those looking for a decking option that will work well with a pool. It’s also a benefit for those who live in warmer or more humid climates.

Pressure-Treated Natural Wood Decking

Pressure-treated wood (PTW) is among the least costly decking options, but it comes with some downsides. John Riha, writing for the DIY Network, points out that pressure-treated wood is “chemically treated to resist rot, mold, and insects. However, it usually made from inferior-grades of pine or fir that tend to crack and warp over time, making maintenance an ongoing chore.” He also points out that this material used to be treated with a chemical suspected to be a carcinogen, but today’s PTW contains less-toxic chemicals. In any case, if you have young children or pets, or would just prefer to avoid chemically-treated wood, this might be a drawback for your family.

Here’s another way to think of PTW’s role in your new deck: We recommend using this wood strategically to frame the structure of your deck and then choosing choose a different, complementary material for decking and railings.

So, what type of decking material will work best for your new addition? We’re here to discuss your options if you aren’t sure what direction is right for you.