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Michael Ebner · 205 Twining Road, Oreland, PA 19075 · 215-885-1866 · Contact by Form

If you are planning on building a deck or outdoor living space in 2009, we recommend booking as early as possible. Please contact us sooner rather than later about your project!

Materials Selection Guide and Info

SOFTWOODS

Redwood
This has been the most popular deck material for many years. Hundreds of thousands of redwood decks have been built. However, redwood use in decking is dropping off for several reasons. First, it is more expensive than ever and the cultivation rates have changed while other materials are taking its place.

Cedar
Cedar is very similar to redwood in many ways. Again, the beauty of a new cedar deck is quite temporary in a sunny yard. It can be a good choice in a yard with lots of shade. Two advantages that cedar has over redwood are price (in most markets) and its lack of tannic acid.

Treated Pine or Treated Fir
Most decks in the U.S. and Canada are framed with treated lumber. No matter which deck material you choose for the flooring, fascia, rails, benches, etc., treated lumber will probably be your best choice for the undercarriage and posts. Treated lumber holds up better (for the joists, beams, and posts) than anything else readily available. It is also the least expensive and has excellent strength and spanning characteristics. The warping and twisting problem is rare underneath the deck where it is out of the direct sun.

HARDWOODS

Australian Hardwoods
Jarrah
This is dark brown from the South Western part of Australia. It is known as a very strong and resilient material for exterior construction. Like the South American hardwoods, pre-drilling is necessary and sawing is more difficult than the North American softwoods or most composites.

South American Hardwoods
Ipe, Jatoba, Purple Heart, Haiari, Janka, Cambera, Brazilian Cherry, Goiabão, Maçaranduba, Cumaru, Tauari, Marupá (Caxeta)

It has been reported these hardwoods are difficult to work with as well as heavy. Due to density, ALL nailing and screwing has to be preceded with pre-drilling. Another problem that has been observed is that these woods seem to splinter and get severe hairline cracking after a few years in the direct sun. Due to the pricing and the current availability of other materials, tropical hardwoods are likely to be considered a viable alternative to only a few.

PLASTICS & VINYLS

Poly Lumber

There are recycled plastics, virgin plastics, solid profile, hollow profile, snap together, and even reinforced plastic deck boards on today’s market. The demand for these new materials is high and the competition is blessed with every aspect of the free-market’s effect on manufacturers to keep coming up with something better. Most plastics install very nicely and are not difficult to work with. These materials usually make excellent boat docks or raised decking platforms around aboveground pools. However, a few of the manufacturers have created some beautiful materials that very convincingly look like wood. One consideration that needs to be addressed when looking at using these materials is the expansion and contraction rates. Expansion and contraction with temperature will have an effect on design, trim details, fascia method (i.e., a fascia board installed in January will probably be pushed out a full ½" in July with the expansion of the floorboards). The temperature while building will be an issue and allowance needs to be made for the inevitable expansion and contraction in the materials.

ALUMINUM

LOCKDRY
Similar to some of the plastics, this material doesn’t appeal aesthetically to a homeowner who might have started out looking for a wood deck. However, the practicality of this material is phenomenal. The interlocking deck system by Lockdry is the only aluminum decking we know of so far, but their system for making a balcony that is dry underneath is great. Anyone wanting to quickly and easily install flooring with no water coming through should give this product consideration. It sounds like metal when you walk on it, but it certainly has a lot of staying power. With the proper saw blades, workability is not too bad. It certainly beats the cost and labor involved in trying to make a dry balcony the old traditional way.

FIBERGLASS

E-Z Deck by Pultronix
Like the aluminum, we only know of one manufacturer making fiberglass decking. Actually, it is "pultruded fiber reinforced composite", which means that it is not typical laid-up fiberglass. The reinforcing fibers are stretched with very high tension while the colored resin is applied and extruded. The system is very technical and very effective at creating a material that is not only going to last many, many years with no maintenance - but remain colorfast, too. Compared to the plastics, the expansion/contraction is negligible. Their system has developed over the last few years into an ingenious snap down deck board that really lives up to its name - E-Z Deck. The manufacturer admits that the market for their material is limited to a certain group. It has a look that appeals highly to some, and not at all to others. It may seem expensive to some and the advantages of this deck material will be well worth it in the right situation.

COMPOSITES

Trex, Nexwood, Timber-tech, Smart Deck, Choice-Dek, Choice-Dek Plus, WeatherBest, Excel, Rhino Deck...
Composites are usually composed of 50% plastic and 50% fiber. The plastics are almost always post consumer recycled material and the fiber is usually wood. Sometimes the 50/50 percentage varies among the manufacturers. The fiber used is sometimes oak, pecan, cedar, rice hulls, peanut shells, almond shells, kaneff, flax, etc. The important factor here is how well the plastic bonds the material together. If the fiber (or cellulose) has resin or oil in it, the bond may not be thorough. If the fiber has moisture, then the extrusion might also have a problem with mildew.

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