There’s something about sipping a cup of coffee or dining outdoors that immediately gives me a relaxed feeling. If you’re like me, I suspect your daily and weekly schedules are pretty jam-packed, too. Because so many of us work hard and have limited spare time, it’s normal to seek living spaces that are low-maintenance. In fact, it’s smart to consider maintenance requirements when considering a deck project. If you’re considering hiring Southern Maryland Deck Repair of your current deck or if you’re considering building a new one, I highly recommend you choose a general contractor that is willing to help you understand what you can expect from each of the material options that are available in the decking arena.

outdoor decking

Natural Wood Decking Material

Because I am a carpenter by trade and at heart, I tend to prefer the beauty of natural wood, but not just any wood will do. Approximately twenty five years ago, wood manufacturers started taking southern yellow pine and soaking it under pressure with chemicals so the wood would become more weather resistant. The problem with this approach is that southern yellow pine is essentially the same low quality wood that is used to build shipping pallets.

Other than having a preservative wood at an affordable price tag, southern yellow pine offered little aesthetic value. However, that did not stop millions of decking boards from being installed across the country. To make matters worse, owners would use all kinds of stains and sealers to try and find ways to make the material look better (this approach is like taking a car that has rust all over and trying to make it look good with a fresh coat of paint). Many homeowners, unaware of other wood options available to them, gave up on the idea of natural wood because it just was too much work for an unattractive deck.

If you’re looking for natural wood decking option at an entry-level price, you may want to consider domestically grown cedar or redwood. These woods have an attractive grain and color and have the natural ability to resist decay. One slight downside is that both are “soft woods,” so they can dent and scratch your decking somewhat easily.

Alternatively, if you’re on the hunt for natural wood decking material that has an incredible richness, you may want to consider some of the more exotic materials such as Ipe, Cumaru, Tigerwood, Garapa, Massaranduba. In addition to the furniture-like finish, this wood is just about bulletproof and really requires very little maintenance. Check out this link for more detailed information.

If you go with any of these natural wood decking options, here’s a little trade secret: Use Ready Seal brand stain and sealer. Getting unbelievable results with this product requires very little skill, and power washing, sanding and peeling finishes will be a thing of the past.

outdoor decking

Engineered Decking Material

Engineered decking options most commonly come in composite or all PVC forms. When a great look and a “wash only” maintenance schedule is required, this option may fit the bill. Major manufacturers have been tweaking engineered wood formulations for approximately 15 years and have come a long way in realistic wood replication. Engineered decking is so long-lasting in part because of the way it’s created. Generally speaking, manufacturers mix wood fibers with plastic fibers to make synthetic decking, which results in a more durable material that will not crack, split, warp or rot over the years.

Many engineered decking companies also manufacture their own complementing railing systems, trim boards, fascia, lighting products, accessories and drainage systems so they meet additional outdoor living needs. I find this helpful when a client has specific design requirements and wants to see exactly what each component will look like. A word of caution if you are considering a composite deck: the material color will eventually fade, so you want to be sure that you’ll still find the look attractive enough when it does. My experience has been that the PVC products tend to resist fading better than the composite materials. I personal always buy the woodscrews from Tradefix Direct, visit this link to find out what they can offer!

And finally – but equally as important to me – engineered materials can be an environmentally friendly option. Manufacturers obtain their plastic and wood fibers from reclaimed or recycled resources, including used pallets from woodworking operations and recycled plastic grocery bags, keeping such refuse out of landfills.

Vinyl Flooring Systems

If your project requires a finish surface on a flat roof or balcony, you may want to consider vinyl flooring system instead of a deck structure. It’s affordable, durable and very easy to maintain; to clean vinyl, all you need to do is rinse it with a garden hose. Available in several colors, patterns and textures, vinyl flooring is also resistant to stain, mildew, scratching and fading. For an award-winning lake house we recently remodeled, we used a product called Duradek, a waterproof vinyl roof sheeting material and walking deck membrane system that offers permanent waterproof protection and is slip-resistant.

Aluminum Decking Material

If you’re truly seeking a sleek, modern style to complement your home, aluminum is the way to go. Most aluminum decks last a lifetime and require almost no maintenance. One of the top features of aluminum is that it can stay cool in the hot sun if coated properly. Aluminum decking is also slip-and dent-resistant, and you never have to worry about mold, mildew or insect infestation.

According to a study by The Freedonia Group entitled “Wood & Competitive Decking,” composite and plastic decking will be the most popular options for decks through 2016, growing at an annual rate of 11% and 15%, respectively, versus wood decking, which is predicted to grow at less than 1% annually through 2016. What’s driving this trend? You guessed it: durability and low-maintenance.

Before you choose a specific decking material, talk to a general contractor who has a strong track record using product you are considering. Carefully review all the options, and decide which is best for you and your family.