Decking 101: Choosing the right timber
There’s nothing more relaxing than spending a weekend afternoon entertaining friends and family on the back deck with a few beers and a barbecue. In fact, if you’re lucky enough to live in a home with a deck, your home is in the unique 6% of all Aussie homes according to Archicentre. It’s something the lucky few take for granted, but it doesn’t have to be out of our reach.
Attaching a deck or veranda is relatively easy, as long as you have the correct professional guidance to ensure it’s structurally safe, the only big decisions to make are the design and the materials to use.
What a lot of us don’t realise, is that the type of timber decks are made from is actually a serious issue. And depending on the location, weather conditions, usage and style, there are some big differences in how long it will stay safe for.
There are three key types of timber used in decking; Softwood, Hardwood and Composite.
Softwood is a popular choice for decking as it’s cheaper than the other varieties and is easily available. It’s easy to work with and when it is treated properly, it has great resistance to weathering, rot and termites. There are some downsides, it’s not as resilient as hardwoods and it has been known to discolour. The modern treatment methods like ACQ finish clear and avoid the discolouration while still allowing the timber to be stained. As long as it’s used it areas that will dry out easily and won’t consistently damp, you’ll get decades out of it.
Overall, softwood is highly cost effective and a great decking option if you’re happy to forgo a little bit of long-term wear and keep up regular maintenance to avoid rot.
Cost: $5.93 per linear metre (bunnings.com.au)
There’s nothing better than a good hardwood timber deck. It’s highly durable, highly resilient to rot, fungi and pests and looks fantastic. Rich in colour and grain, stains should be kept to something similar to the natural colour, but it will last a long time. The hardy nature of the timber means it withstands all kinds of climates and is easy to care for.
The downside, is that with all the benefits comes a greater cost. But like anything, investment in the right materials goes a long way in resale value. Something to note is that hardwoods like Blackout have higher fire resistance than softwoods, so if you live in a bushfire risk area, you should always factor this into your building.
Cost: $15+ per linear metre
Types: Kwilla, Jarrah, Spotted Gum, Blackbutt
Composite decking is somewhat disruptive to traditional decking materials. Some people are impartial to it and believe it’s the best option, while others are wary of it. It comes in a variety of sizes and colours and is made from recycled materials like timber fibres and plastic. It’s considered highly environmentally friendly so it’s great for those who are looking to reduce the ecological footprint of a renovation. Most types are also stain resistant, lightweight and weather resistant, so if you’re happy to move outside of the traditional material domain, it’s a great product.
Cost: $72 for 5.4m set of Ecologix Composite Decking
So there you have it, the three mainstream types of decking that DIYers or professional builds should consider. Remember, when you’re choosing your materials, think about these things:
- How will you be using the deck?
- What colour boards will suit your area?
- How protected from the elements will it be?
- Are you in a bushfire high-risk area?
- What is the budget?
Ultimately, the type of decking you use will come down to your own preferences and cost-effectiveness weight up. But most importantly, you don’t want to get a deck wrong. There’s a large number of Australian standards that decks should comply with so if in doubt, speak to a professional. Even if it’s a DIY job, there’s no harm in running your plans by an architect or builder, they can also help you making the decision on what materials to use. For a small cost, you can save yourself big in the long run.
Do you have a deck? What materials is it made from and how have you found them?