When you’re in search of the best decking materials, it’s hard to know which to use. There are great options, like treated wood, cedar, exotic wood and composite decking. Which is the right choice for your Florida deck? In our state, we have some harsh weather conditions, including heat, rain, humidity, hurricanes and winds — all factors that can affect decking material.

Let’s start with a closer look at the pros and cons of each:

Treated Wood

One of the most popular options across the country, treated wood is also known as pressure treated wood because it’s chemically treated to avoid bug infestations and rot or mildew. The woods have different levels of chemical treatment, ranging from use indoors to outside fire protection.

Pros: Pressure treated wood is economical and easily available. You can stain it to the color of your choice and it’s known for longevity, lasting up to 20 years. It’s seen as the best value material for decks.

Cons: Pressure treated wood can warp, split and crack. Wood that’s kiln dried after treatment will hold up better. It also requires a yearly power washing and staining, or application of a wood preservative every two to three years.

Cedar Wood

cedar is a popular decking material choiceThe gorgeous coloration of cedar is a popular deck choice. It’s considered a soft wood, but it’s full of natural preservatives and can last 15-20 years. And pricing is between pressure treated and composite costs, a good median spot for many budgets.

Pros: Cedar doesn’t require chemical treatment to resist bugs, decay and rot. It has natural resistance from its oils and tannins. Cedar wood can come from the center, or heart of the tree, which is the better choice for the protection mentioned above. The outside layer, the sapwood, is less protective.

Cons: Cedar is about three times more expensive than pressure treated wood, so this doesn’t work for all budgets. Cedar also requires some maintenance, with an annual power washing plus finish coating every three to four years. And to protect the beautiful color, you still have to stain it – otherwise it changes over time from red to grey.

Exotic Wood

There are a variety of gorgeous exotic woods, also known as tropical hardwoods.Given their hardwood nature, they last a long time. The Atlantic City boardwalk is made from ipe hardwood!

Pros: In addition to dense durability, these woods (including ipe, tigerwood and mahogany), are resistant to insects and wood rot. The beautifully grained woods are a high end look as well.

Cons: Due to their hardness, installation is more difficult because they’re heavy and hard to cut and drill. They’re also more expensive, costing three to four times more than pressure treated lumber. Staining these woods is difficult, but does protect them from turning grey over the years (another option is oiling the wood every year or two). Also, we recommend applying a clear wood preserver every three to four years.

Composite Decking

composite decking materialWhile purists may want wood, composite decking — made from plastic or PVC materials, sometimes mixed with wood fibers — is a great option.

Pros: Composite decking has a lot of pros, like it’s resistant to insects. It won’t warp and expand and it won’t rot — all things that can happen to wood in humid conditions. It also looks like wood and requires less maintenance (no sanding, staining or sealing). They also don’t hold the heat like wood can, making them cooler on the bare feet.

Cons: Composite decks can still grow mold and mildew in shady, damp areas, and they won’t last forever. If you spill anything that can stain (think red wine or grease), you’ll need to clean it up quickly so it won’t permanently damage the surface. It’s more expensive than pressure treated wood, and requires greater support underneath and installation is more labor intensive.

GreenEarth Can Help You Choose The Best Decking Material

So what is the best decking material? Choosing the best decking material for your North Florida deck involves a lot of choices, including what kind of maintenance you are willing to do, the look you want and your budget. We’re happy to advise you on all your options, whether you’re replacing your current deck, building a new one or also considering a patio.

Give us a call at our Panama City Beach office at (850) 236-1959, or call our Santa Rosa Beach office at (850) 267-0010 to set up an appointment. You can also fill out the online form on our website to schedule a consultation.

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Images: Cedar deck, Composite deck