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Best Wood for Decks and Porches

What type of wood is best for decks and porches?

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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-tinged lumber is unsightly and the pesticides it contains are unhealthy.

To build a safer, more attractive deck, choose a prettier yet still durable wood for the floors, railings, and steps. Save the pressure-treated wood for the frame and supports.

If you purchase a tropical rainforest wood, make sure it carries the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) trademark, which certifies that the wood has been harvested responsibly.

1. Ipé

Ipe decking with slate
Ipe decking with slate. Photographer: Ron Sutherland / Collection: Photolibrary / Getty Image
Ipé (pronounced ee-pay) is an almost magical South American hardwood. The USDA 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 a wonderful wood to use with stone and slate accents. The use of rain forest woods is controversial, however. If you choose Ipé for your deck, make sure that it has been harvested responsibly.
Learn More:
IpeDepot.com
Timber Holdings USA
Everwood Decking Partners, Ltd.

2. Western Red Cedar

Western Red Cedar decking
Photo © Western Red Cedar Lumber Association
Western Red Cedar is reddish brown and ages to silvery gray. The 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.
Learn More: Western Red Cedar Lumber Association

3. Redwood

California Redwood deck and bench
Photo © California Redwood Association
Like cedar, redwood is a soft lumber that ages to a pleasing gray. Prolonged moisture will cause the wood to blacken. A redwood deck will resist rot, but will look more attractive if you use a sealer.
Learn More: California Redwood Association (CRA)

4. Mahogany

Woman with green gloves and paint brush maintaining mahogany deck
Photo ©Frienductions, Inc., http://mahoganydecking.net

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.
Learn More: Mahogany Decking

5. Mock Lumber

Modern alternatives for outdoor decking include plastic polymer and wood-polymer composites. Synthetic materials are virtually bug-proof and rot proof, but even the most realistic imitation will always be just that – an imitation.
Learn More: Plastic Deck Lumber: An Alternative to Wood
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