Will your new deck be an enhancement or an eyesore? The answer depends on the type of decking wood you use. Pressure-treated pine resists rot and repels pests, but the green or yellow-tinged lumber can be unsightly, and the pesticides it contains may be unhealthy. For a safer, more attractive deck or porch, choose a visually pleasing yet still durable wood for the floors, railings, and steps. Save the pressure-treated wood for the frame and supports.
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Ipé (pronounced ee-pay) is an almost magical South American hardwood. The Forest Service Products Laboratory gives ipé top marks for bug and rot resistance, and the wood is so hard, it's nearly as difficult to burn as concrete. It is dense and very heavy, which makes it somewhat difficult to work with but a wonderful wood to use with stone and slate accents. With a 25-year warranty, the ipe decking for the famous boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey was provided by Iron Woods.
The use of rain forest woods can be controversial. If you choose ipé for your deck, make sure that it carries the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) trademark, which certifies that the wood has been harvested responsibly. Established importers such as IpeDepot use the term FSC Ipe Decking to describe their products.
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Western Red Cedar
Will your deck be covered or not? The wood you choose should have an excellent resistance to decay, and cedar is one such wood. Western red cedar is reddish brown. Within a few years, the cedar ages to a silvery gray. This soft-wood splinters easily, but holds up well in rain, sun, heat, and cold. To add beauty and durability to your cedar deck, use a penetrating stain. Real Cedar is the website of the Canadian-based Western Red Cedar Lumber Association. Look to organizations like this for more information and a better understanding of cedar products.
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Like cedar, redwood is a soft yet durable lumber that ages to a pleasing gray. A redwood deck will resist rot, but prolonged moisture will cause the wood to blacken. To maintain the lovely ruddy hue, use a clear sealer on your redwood deck or porch floor.
The California Redwood Association (CRA) represents timber companies in the American northwest. Like other responsible wood harvesters, CRA timberlands are certified as well-managed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
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Mahogany is a tight-grained tropical hardwood that resists pests and rot. Treat it with marine oil, and it looks like teak. Or, let your mahogany deck age to a silvery hue. You can choose from several varieties, and each has its pros and cons. Whichever type mahogany you select, make sure it has the "FSC" trademark to assure that rainforests have not been harvested irresponsibly.
"Philippine Mahogany" is not genuine mahogany. The term "Philippine" is a trade name for Shorea woods from southeast Asia sold in North America. In Australia, this wood is sold as "Pacific Maple." Nevertheless, Philippine Mahogany has many of the wonderful features of true mahogany.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Gonçalo alves or Tigerwood is a South American wood of great visual variation. The coloring and grain can differ from board-to-board to provide an interesting and rich presentation when used for decking. Some installers find this wood difficult to handle because of its inconsistent nature—one board can exhibit both hardness and softness. Brazilian Koa Wood has been selling this product since 1992 under yet another name, Brazilian Koa. Tigerwood decking sells the product as Tigerwood. Although this exotic wood has several names, it is not Zebrawood, which is another striped-liked product. What the U.S. Forest Service calls Astronium graveolens, Tigerwood is also often used to carve knife handles and archery bows.
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Other Considerations for Decks and Porches
When considering wood for decks and porches, place and design cannot be ignored. Because any wood is available to order, the climate in which you live should influence your decision. Choose a contractor who has experience with these woods in your area. Also, whether or not the deck is covered and which direction it faces may make a difference. Become familiar with the many options available with online tools such as the wood database and organizations such as the American Wood Council.
The hardness of wood is rated by the Janka hardness test, a number that will be associated with the type of wood you buy. A lower number is softer wood than a higher Janka harness scale number, so you can easily compare between species. To get you started, AlansFactoryOutlet.com has created a handy infographic they call 75 Types of Wood Ranked by Janka Hardness and How They Are Used.
Wood is a natural product, but it does require using a sealant to preserve its color and sheen. You might be tempted to use a "mock wood" such as plastic polymer or wood-polymer composites. These synthetic and composite materials are virtually bug-proof and rot proof. However, even modern materials require maintenance to preserve their wood-like appearance. Unless covered with paint or an opaque stain, mock woods will always appear artificial.