Over the last decade, choices for deck material have grown dramatically.
In the past, you had one choice: wood. Then you had to decide on which species of wood. Now, there’s a wide variety of composites, synthetics, treatments, species, and even aluminum. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences and what we believe is best suited to withstand Colorado weather.
As anyone who has navigated the potholes of Colorado roads, you quickly begin to understand the impact changing weather has on our building materials. While warm winter days reaching into the mid 60s in Colorado Springs is a selling point, each year we also await the exciting prospect of a white Christmas and snow days filled with sledding for the kids. These drastic changes in temperatures wreak havoc on the exterior of your home. As explained in our article of blowing out your sprinkling system, expansion and contraction due to continual freezing and thawing exposes materials to tremendous force. If roads made of concrete and tar are buckling and splitting under the pressure, imagine what is happening to the wood of your deck.
We’ll get straight to the point. Composite, or full synthetic PVC decking, is by far our recommendation and the most common type of deck that we install throughout Colorado Springs. Commonly known as Trex or Fiberon (composite), or TimberTech (PVC), these materials first came on the scene about 15 years ago and have solved some of the industry’s most troubling problems. It is also the fastest growing segment of decking materials used today.
Composite decking is made from a blend of wood dust (saw dust from mills) and recycled plastic that is molded into long, dense boards. Full synthetic PVC decking is pure plastic. The advantages of these materials are that they absorb virtually no water, making them extremely weather resistant and resilient to the freezing and thawing process explained above. These materials are also easy to clean, never splinter, warp, or rot. There’s virtually no maintenance, and they don’t require sanding or staining.
There is an appearance difference between composite materials and natural wood, however they have come a long way in recent years and these products can be virtually indistinguishable at a distance. They also come in a variety of color options / finishes, and most manufactures offer matching handrails, balusters, and facia.
Composite decking generally runs about three times more expensive than pressure-treated wood (the most affordable decking option), and pure PVC is about 15% more than that. The advantage of pure PVC over composite is weight, PVC being much lighter. This can make a difference depending on where the deck is being installed and is much easier on the installer if you happen to be the one doing the work.
Redwood and Cedar
If we build a wood deck in Colorado Springs, it’s generally out of redwood. Both species offer a rich natural color and are not pumped full of chemicals or preservatives, like pressure-treated wood. Redwood and cedar contain organic tannins and oils that make them naturally resistant to rot, decay, and invasive insects.
There are multiple grades of these woods, we recommend B-grade which offers the most weather resilience through its abundance of natural tannins and oils, and the least amount of knots. Keep in mind that a wood deck requires sanding and a protective coating, yearly power washing, and further bi-yearly staining / sealing. Redwood is generally two to three times more expensive than pressure-treated wood.
We’ll also mention exotic tropical hardwoods under this section, though they only seem to be popular for specific, custom applications. These species of hardwoods offer superior natural weather resilience over redwood because they are extremely dense–in fact, most screws can’t penetrate the boards and special pilot holes need to be drilled in order to secure them. These species can very expensive, but offer a beauty unmatched in their grains and color.
Pressure-treated wood is the least expensive of all decking materials, but also requires the most maintenance and is most susceptible to weathering. PT decking is made from yellow pine and then chemically treated to resist rot and insects. Off the shelf, PT has a green tint but is generally stainable to any color.
The downside of PT decking is that it is the least stable of all of the materials on this list. When exposed to the elements, PT swells, splits, shrinks, and warps significantly, and it’s common that a few boards will need to be replaced each year. This material needs to be sanded and sealed, pressure washed each year, and re-sealed every couple of years. PT requires the most maintenance compared to its competitors, and performs the worst in extreme Colorado weather. We do not recommend this material for most projects as customers tend to be unsatisfied with its longevity and required upkeep.
The final decking material on our list is Aluminum. This material is the least common, most expensive, but overall best choice for extreme weather resistance and longevity. Aluminum does not rust, warp, splinter, or crack and is 100% recyclable. It is mold and insect resistant, and is does not absorb any water. It can be powder-coated to any color you choose, and this finish will virtually last forever. Also, aluminum cannot catch fire, which extremely important around the foothills of Colorado Springs and Black Forest.
Aluminum is a great choice for second-story decks, with possible three-season rooms or interior livable spaces underneath because the way the material is designed and installed is completely watertight. Aluminum also does not absorb heat from sunlight, making your deck and home cooler in the summer. With all of these advantages, cost is usually the only reason why this material isn’t more commonly found.
What Decking Material Are You Going To Choose?
No matter which material you choose, Alpine Contracting is equipped to install your new deck with professionalism and in a timely manner. We’re here to help you with the design, suggest a few features you may not have considered, and do it all for a fair price that you’ll be satisfied with. Give us a call today and one of our Project Managers will be happy to listen to your needs and exceed your desires.