Published: Apr 21, 2021 | Updated: Apr 21, 2021

What Is the Best Decking Material for Luxury Decks?

Before designing your dream deck, choose the best deck material for your project and lifestyle. Let's look at the pros and cons of the available options.

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If there is anything we have learned in the past year is that we all need some outside living space to enjoy at home.

As you dream about a new luxury deck for your home, you’ll think about design, how many square feet you want, and all the practical ways you want to use the space for family and friends, entertaining, and relaxing.

Will you include an outdoor dining area, an outdoor kitchen, or a fire pit? Will it primarily be an outdoor living room or a place to watch the big games?

But before you can build your dream deck, you’ll need to decide what is the best decking material for your project and lifestyle. You have several popular deck options for materials: wood, metal, plastic, or composite. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Be sure to think about aesthetics, maintenance, initial costs, long-term expenses, durability, and functionality before committing to a specific material.

The best wood decking material

Overall, wood decking can be some of the most beautiful material for your backyard oasis. You have plenty of design and a wide range of types of wood and finishes from which to choose. 

The downside with wood is that some maintenance is required. This means, every few years, the deck may need to be deep-cleaned, sanded, stained, and sealed. Or if it is an exotic hardwood, it may need to be oiled regularly. (Also remember that power washing can create splintering if not done properly on real wood.)

If you are looking for the best wood decking boards, consider these options:

Pressure-treated wood luxury deck with modern home at twilight

Pressure-treated wood

Pressure-treated wood is the most common decking material in use today. It’s used on about 75% of decks and is, historically, the cheapest material available.

Advantages

  • Less expensive than other options
  • Resistant to mold, rot, and insects
  • Most contractors are very familiar with handling it
  • Versatility with design
  • Stainable/paintable

Disadvantages

  • Tends to crack, splinter, and warp over time
  • Needs a lot of maintenance and upkeep
  • Sawdust is an eye-irritant because of chemical treatment
  • Chemicals make it less environmentally friendly
  • Usually has a shorter lifespan than other materials (about 15-20 years, could be longer with proper maintenance)

Cedar decking 

Cedar deck boards, over time, turn from beige to a gray color with weathering. This can be important to remember as you choose your color palette for the space and exterior of your home.

Advantages

  • Lightweight and strong
  • Beautiful
  • Over 10 grades to choose from
  • Somewhat naturally weather and insect resistant
  • Sustainable
  • No chemicals
  • Less expensive than redwood or other woods
  • More environmentally friendly than composite brands
  • Generally more easily available than redwood or tropical hardwoods
  • Lasts 25-40 years

Disadvantages

  • Needs to be stained and sealed
  • Must do maintenance and upkeep
  • More expensive than pressure-treated lumber usually
  • Can splinter or warp

Redwood decking

Redwood is a gorgeous wood with a natural red color, hence the name. It has a whole lot of natural durability and weather resistance.

Advantages

  • Over 30 grades to choose from
  • Smoother than cedar
  • No chemicals
  • More environmentally friendly than composite brands
  • 23% stronger than cedar
  • More durable than cedar
  • Lasts about 30 years, untreated

Disadvantages

  • More expensive than cedar or pressure-treated wood usually
  • Requires maintenance and upkeep
  • Can splinter or warp

Tropical hardwoods

Tropical hardwoods include Ipe, Cambara, Cumaru, Red Balau, Massaranduba, Tigerwood, Brazilian Apitong, Thermory, and more.

Advantages

  • Gorgeous aesthetics with striking color patterns
  • Luxury grade
  • Deep, rich colors
  • Very dense and durable
  • Insect and rot-resistant
  • Durable (scratch resistant, weather-resistant, stiletto resistant)
  • Natural oils prevent rot and pest invasion
  • Some can last up to a century
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Ipe has the same fire rating as concrete or steel

Disadvantages

  • Very expensive
  • Difficult to install
  • Darker woods are much hotter on bare feet in the summer
  • Requires oiling and maintenance
  • Could possibly splinter or warp eventually
Composite Deck And Stamped Concrete Patio With Sunken Fire Pit

Composite decking

Composite decking is made from plastic and wood, even having a wood grain appearance to mimic natural wood. Wood composite is growing in popularity due to its low maintenance and durability. (Our composite deck above is complemented by a custom stamped concrete patio with sunken wood fire pit.)

Advantages

  • No warping, rotting, or splintering
  • Mold and mildew proof
  • Insect-proof
  • Maintenance-free
  • Could last up to 35-50 years
  • Wide variety of colors and styles
  • Textured slip-resistant finishes

Disadvantages

  • More expensive than treated wood, cedar, or redwood
  • Can scratch (and then can’t be sanded and refinished)
  • Made with wood fibers and recycled plastic which is not 100% recyclable

Plastic decking (PVC) or Polystyrene

Plastic decking (PVC) is completely recyclable and looks more wood-like now than in earlier iterations.

Advantages

  • Splinter-free
  • Almost no maintenance required
  • Easy installation
  • Screws are hidden
  • Woodgrain appearance
  • No-slip surface for better traction
  • Environmentally friendly

Disadvantages

  • Could expand or contract, becoming unstable in certain climates
  • Very hot in sunny places

Metal decking

These days, you can think outside the "wood" box. Metal decking options are becoming more interesting, especially if there are lumber shortages in your area.

Steel decking

Steel deck framing and steel decking sheets can provide a very sturdy deck material with many styling options.

Advantages

  • Modern, industrial look
  • Very strong and durable
  • Totally rot and insect-proof
  • Will never splinter or warp
  • Easy cleaning and care
  • Lasts 60+ years 
  • May be more easily available during a lumbar shortage
  • Can use for durable framing that is safer than wood
  • A fantastic option for stairs and railings
  • Quicker to install than other options
  • May be able to install tiles over the steel planks

Disadvantages

  • Could dent or scratch
  • Hot in the summer
  • Not a good choice near saltwater (due to rusting)
  • May not match the style and aesthetic of certain homes
  • Could be more expensive than other options
  • Not all contractors have as much experience with steel framing or decking

Aluminum decking

Pre-finished Aluminum is an extremely durable material that may suit a modern home well.

Advantages

  • Weatherproof, insect-proof, rust-proof
  • Will not rot
  • Durable, lasting 30+ years 
  • Lightweight
  • Slip-resistant coating
  • Many colors available
  • Maintenance-free
  • Built-in water control system
  • Fire-resistant
  • Recyclable
  • Stays cool even in hot weather
  • Create water drainage channels under the decking boards to keep a patio below completely dry

Disadvantages

  • Can get icy in winter
  • Has a hollow sound when walking on it
  • The most expensive decking material
  • Could dent or scratch
  • Hot in the summer
  • Not a good choice near saltwater (rust)
  • May not match the aesthetic of some homes
  • Not all contractors have experience with aluminum decking
overhead shot of a deck with furniture and planters

And the winner for your project is…. completely up to you.

You can even opt for a concrete, tile, or stone-covered deck if you like. You don't settle for just one material. Design your own fantastic combination of multiple materials and levels.

There are several unique options you could look into with your designer or custom home builder’s help if you want something like glass deck flooring, glass inserts, glass blocks, or even a grass deck.

Still not sure about a deck?

That’s okay, you can still enjoy the advantages of an outdoor living space with even less maintenance by opting for a concrete or stone patio.

Another great choice? Choose a large screened-in back porch, which is a type of covered deck, to get fresh air and enjoy the outdoors without the pests or any worries about rain or too much sun. Many of our clients love to have a fireplace and outdoor TV on their back porches.

Ready to build your dream deck with the best decking material with an experienced custom home builder in Lexington, SC?

At Blythe Building Company, we have years of experience building luxury homes for discriminating customers in Lexington and the Greater Columbia area. If you are ready to build your dream home, we’d love to hear from you to see if we can help.

Check out our work in our gallery.

Please contact us today.

We build in areas like Lake Carolina, Lake Murray, Pine Ridge, West Columbia, Chapin, Lexington, Ballentine, downtown Columbia, and more.

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