Traditional wood options have historically been the go-to material for residential deck building. But we all know popularity doesn’t always equal “the best.” If you’re looking for the best wood for decks, you need to look beyond wood decking material altogether.
In a true plot twist, your best bet isn’t wood at all. It’s composite decking.
Traditional Wood Options
Infused with chemicals to make it insect- and moisture-repellant. Typically a softwood like pine.
Such as cedar and redwood. Both are naturally somewhat more resistant to insects and rot than other types of wood thanks to their natural oils.
Include exotic woods (like Ipe), mahogany, and teak. These woods are extremely hard and dense, and so are more durable compared to their traditional lumber counterparts.
But these are far from your only deck material options — and, ultimately, far from the best. To discover the best wood for outdoor deck builds, you need to:
- First, explore your traditional wood decking material options (which differ significantly in terms of performance, costs, and aesthetics).
- Second, learn how premium engineered decking surpasses even the ‘top’-tier traditional wood options.
Less Than the Best Wood for Decks: Traditional Lumber
Here’s how the three most common traditional wood decking material options stack up against one another in terms of:
Being the best wood for decks doesn’t actually translate to being the best possible overall material — we’ll get into that in the next section.
Best Wood for Performance: Hardwoods
1st Place: Hardwoods
- Naturally more resistant to insects and moisture, but subject to cracking and weathering.
- Extreme hardness means a longer-lasting deck compared to other traditional wood options.
2nd Place: Other Softwoods
- Naturally somewhat more resistant to rot and insects than other types of wood.
- Relative softness makes these woods prone to denting and gouging — which means a lot of sanding for you.
3rd Place: Pressure-Treated Lumber
- Requires chemical treatments for protection — which only makes the wood partially resistant to moisture and insects.
- Prone to rot, mold, mildew, and other moisture-related issues.
In the wood-only category, hardwoods are the best wood for outdoor deck builds in terms of performance. That may lead you to believe their durability translates to less labor for you (whether install or upkeep). The reality? Not so much.
While hardwoods may last longer than their softwood counterparts, all wood is prone to fading and damage from the elements, such as cracking and rotting, and so will require regular maintenance
General Wood Deck Maintenance Needs
Typically performed annually, traditional wood deck maintenance often includes:
And in addition to these rigorous maintenance needs? Hardwoods tack on a few extra twists regarding installation.
Hardwood Deck Installation Needs
Even though exotic hardwoods may be the best wood for decks in terms of performance, they have their downsides:
- Difficult to work with due to their heaviness and hardness — so plan on breaking a sweat.
- Many will require pre-drilling during installation and can be challenging to cut, all of which will increase your project’s install timeline (and overall costs).
Best Wood for Upfront Costs: Pressure-Treated Lumber
1st Place: Pressure-Treated Lumber
Readily available and easily sourced, making it the most affordable upfront option.
2nd Place: Other Softwoods
Common softwoods like cedar and redwood are less available in certain areas, making them more expensive.
3rd Place: Pressure-Treated Wood
Hardwoods are often difficult to source, especially exotic species. Plus, their high demand drives up costs.
Pressure-treated lumber is the best wood for outdoor decks when it comes to upfront costs because of its easy accessibility. However, pressure-treated lumber — and indeed, all types of traditional wood decking material — require the aforementioned rigorous, costly maintenance over time.
Best Wood for Premium Aesthetics: Hardwoods
1st Place: Hardwoods
2nd Place: Other Softwoods
Cedar and redwood are attractive options, especially premium grades such as construction heart redwood or architect clear cedar . But their comparative softness means frequent knicks and scrapes.
3rd Place: Pressure-Treated Wood
Pressure-treated lumber readily accepts stain, so you can get just the look you want — but it will require regular staining to maintain its color. And over time, it will still fade.
In terms of aesthetics within the traditional wood decking material category, hardwoods may be the best wood for outdoor deck projects thanks to their rich colors and natural beauty. But that beauty comes with a price.
Exotic hardwoods are the most expensive option, and they will inevitably fade or discolor.
Prized Hardwoods? Beauty at a Cost
After exposure to the elements, all traditional wood options, even exotic hardwoods like Ipe*, will lose their luster. How? Weathering agents like UV rays and moisture cause the pigments in the boards to change, causing discoloration.
Wood deck stain or oil can restore color — but it won’t make them look brand new. Plus, it’s a temporary fix that requires frequent application.
*Ipe exposure test demonstrates results of internal testing whereby the Ipe wood sample was placed on a rooftop and left exposed to the elements continuously for approximately 11 months.
Looking for a better alternative to the so-called best wood for decks in terms of performance, value, and aesthetics? We’ve got just what you’re looking for.
The Best Wood for Decks? Not Wood at All — But Composite Decking
When you think “best wood for decks,” you’re likely looking to discover the best decking material overall. But the best wood for outdoor deck projects isn’t wood at all.
If you’re looking for the very best decking in terms of performance, value, and aesthetics, choose TimberTech® composite decking.
TimberTech® Decking: Better Than the Best Wood for Decks
TimberTech offers two main categories of composite decking, both of which outperform even the best wood for decks and deliver real wood aesthetics.
TimberTech Capped Polymer Decking
TimberTech AZEK® is our capped polymer decking line which features exceptional durability and realistic wood looks from premium hardwoods to reclaimed wood and painted wood options.
TimberTech Capped Composite Decking
TimberTech PRO® and TimberTech EDGE® are our capped composite decking lines with 3- and 4-sided caps for superior durability. Looks range from high board-to-board variation to chic monochrome aesthetics.
Learn About All Your Deck Materials
From traditional wood to engineered options.
Best Decking Material for High-Performance & Low-Maintenance
When it comes to performance, even the best wood for decks pales in comparison to engineered decking options. With our innovative materials science, TimberTech boards boast exceptional weathering and moisture resistance so you can enjoy your deck for decades to come.
TimberTech AZEK Decking
Looking for the best of the best? Durable TimberTech AZEK capped polymer decking is made of a premium blend of polymers from core to cap — with absolutely no wood, which can compromise performance.
That means you enjoy a long-lasting, enduringly beautiful deck — protected by a Lifetime Limited Product Warranty.
Premium Performance: TimberTech PRO Decking
TimberTech PRO capped composite decking is made up of a mixture of non-organic and organic materials.
The non-organic protective 4-sided cap resists moisture, UV rays, and wear and tear — and helps ensure your deck is protected with a 30-Year Limited Product Warranty.
Embrace Low-Maintenance Outdoor Living
High-performance deck materials don’t just translate to a long-lasting deck — they give you back time and money thanks to their low-maintenance needs.
TimberTech Decking Maintenance Needs
The maintenance needs for your TimberTech deck are pretty simple:
- Regularly sweep dirt and debris off your deck.
- Perform a routine scrub and rinse with TimberTech DeckCleaner™.*
And that’s it — you’re done. Say hello to low-maintenance outdoor living.
*For a complete guide to deck cleaning, see our Care & Cleaning Guide.
With this low-maintenance schedule, you’ll be able to spend more time relaxing on your deck rather than working on it.
Best Decking Material for Long-Term Value
While traditional wood decking material may be the best wood for outdoor deck projects in terms of affordable upfront costs, in the long-run, wood will end up costing you more than composite.
Ways Wood Decking Material Costs You
Supplies for maintenance work like sanding, staining, and sealing will cost you year over year.
Expect to pay for materials and possibly hired labor for frequent repairs due to wood’s poor durability.
Prefer to avoid all those extra costs? With a TimberTech capped polymer or capped composite deck, you’ll enjoy minimal maintenance — which means minimal long-term costs.
See for yourself and compare the upfront and long-term costs of TimberTech decking and traditional wood decking material options.
Upfront Costs: Pressure-Treated Lumber vs TimberTech EDGE® Prime+ Collection®
Long-Term Costs: Pressure-Treated Lumber vs TimberTech EDGE Prime+ Collection
Upfront Costs: Ipe Hardwood vs TimberTech AZEK® Vintage Collection®
Long-Term Costs: Ipe Hardwood vs TimberTech AZEK Vintage Collection
NOTE: The estimated average cost of capped polymer deck boards, Ipe hardwood, capped composite deck boards, and pressure-treated lumber decking costs are based on the national average for a 16’ x 20’ deck. Meant for visual representation only. Actual costs may vary.
The bottom line? TimberTech decking is the best decking material for your investment and will end up saving you money in the long-run.
Best Decking Material for Premium Aesthetics
TimberTech capped polymer and capped composite decking boasts nature-inspired aesthetics that mimic the look of real wood. So you get the look you want, without compromise.
See if you can tell the difference between these TimberTech decking and real wood samples.
Enjoy Nature-Inspired Beauty That Endures
With nuanced color blending, detailed wood grain patterns, and realistic finishes, TimberTech decking looks just as good as the best wood for decks.
Plus, our boards are protected with industry-leading Fade and Stain Warranties, so you can rest assured your deck will look gorgeous for years to come.
Choose Better Than the Best Wood for Decks: Choose TimberTech
When it comes to the best wood for outdoor deck builds, it turns out the best isn’t wood at all.
TimberTech capped polymer and capped composite decking outperforms even the best wood for decks in every category — and gives you a highly durable, enduringly beautiful deck.
Start your deck building journey by ordering free samples of TimberTech decking to see the quality and real wood aesthetics for yourself. Be sure to view each sample in different lighting throughout the day to choose the right color for your space and preferences.