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Focus On: Decking – Part One – Decking Materials

As the sun begins to make the odd tentative appearance and we start making plans for outdoor entertaining, many homeowners and businesses are approaching their local carpenters, landscapers or builders for quotes on creating versatile, all-weather outdoor space. If there ever was a time to invest in decking, this is probably it. In this series, we talk about what you need to know – from decking materials to different ways of constructing decking.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that choosing which decking material to use is the easy bit – with an array of products available, it is good to understand the basics – this will help you to realise the benefits of different materials, and why they can differ in price so dramatically.

Softwood decking

Softwood decking is the cheapest type of decking. Formed from fast-growing, softwood trees such as pine, it can also be argued that it is a relatively sustainable choice, too. Softwood decking is easy to install and very versatile – you can revarnish or repaint it as your tastes evolve over the years. And, while it may be the cheapest choice, if taken care of, softwood decking will last for up to 25 years. Cheap, versatile and easy to install: what is not to love? Of course, there is a catch; softwood decking needs more maintenance than other materials and benefits from regular (at least annual) treatment.

Hardwood decking

Hardwood comes from slower growing trees such as oak and, as such, tend to be a little bit more expensive. Hardwood tends to be harder to work with, too as it is (literally) harder. However, there is no denying that hardwood looks incredible. Add the fact that it requires less maintenance AND lasts for up to 50 years, and it is a good investment if you are improving your forever home.

Composite decking

The relative new kid on the decking block is composite decking. Formed from a combination of wood and plastic it has the appearance of wood and the durability of plastic. Composite decking literally offers the best of both worlds; waterproof, versatile, resistant to algae and mould and easy to maintain. The only downside is that you can’t change the appearance of composite, so once you commit to a finish, you are stuck with it for the life of the decking. This, of course, comes with the flip side that you never have to paint, oil or varnish it. Composite decking can come in tiles or planks, so is relatively easy to lay yourself or with the help of a handyman or landscaper. It’s also in the middle when it comes to price – generally somewhere between the cheaper softwood and the more costly hardwood.

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