HomeOutdoor Living IdeasWhy the Best Wood for Decks Isn’t Wood at All

Why the Best Wood for Decks Isn’t Wood at All

April 22, 2022
Best wood for decks and best wood for outdoor deck builds isn't wood at all

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. 

Composite Decking vs Wood: Which Wins?

Discover how TimberTech® composite decking compares to traditional wood — and which one wins out as the better choice.

Traditional Wood Options 

Traditional wood decking material comes in many different forms, from pressure-treated lumber to exotic hardwoods like Ipe. Common traditional wood categories include:

Pressure-treated lumber is not the best wood for outdoor deck builds

Pressure-Treated Lumber

Infused with chemicals to make it insect- and moisture-repellant. Typically a softwood like pine.

Cedar wood is not the best wood for outdoor deck builds

Other Softwoods 

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.

Ipe is the best wood for outdoor deck builds but not as good as composite

Hardwoods 

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:

  1. First, explore your traditional wood decking material options (which differ significantly in terms of performance, costs, and aesthetics).  
  1. 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:

  • Performance
  • Cost
  • Aesthetics

BUT, REMEMBER:
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


Ipe is the best wood for outdoor deck builds but not as good as composite

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.
Cedar wood is not the best wood for outdoor deck builds

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.
Pressure-treated lumber is not the best wood for outdoor deck builds

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

Composite decking material cost doesn't include staining

General Wood Deck Maintenance Needs  

Typically performed annually, traditional wood deck maintenance often includes:

  • A deck inspection
  • Using potent cleaning solutions to kill mold and mildew. 
  • Rinsing the deck with a costly power-washer. 
  • Sanding, staining, and sealing. 
  • Frequent deck board replacements.

And in addition to these rigorous maintenance needs? Hardwoods tack on a few extra twists regarding installation.

Ipe decking is difficult to work with

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.

Want Durable Decking Without the Labor?

Get the beauty of premium hardwoods with greater durability, easier installation, and far less maintenance with TimberTech® AZEK®.

Best Wood for Upfront Costs: Pressure-Treated Lumber


Pressure-treated lumber is not the best wood for outdoor deck builds

1st Place: Pressure-Treated Lumber 

Readily available and easily sourced, making it the most affordable upfront option.

Cedar wood is not the best wood for outdoor deck builds

2nd Place: Other Softwoods

Common softwoods like cedar and redwood are less available in certain areas, making them more expensive.

Ipe is the best wood for outdoor deck builds but not as good as composite

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.

So, even when you spend less upfront on traditional wood, it’ll end up costing you more long-term than lower maintenance decking options.

Best Wood for Premium Aesthetics: Hardwoods 


Ipe is the best wood for outdoor deck builds but not as good as composite

1st Place: Hardwoods

Exotic and domestic hardwoods are prized for their natural beauty and rich colors, making them highly sought-after — but it takes frequent work to maintain that sought-after look.  

Cedar wood is not the best wood for outdoor deck builds

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.

Pressure-treated lumber is not the best wood for outdoor deck builds

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.

The best wood for outdoor deck builds will 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

The best wood for outdoor deck builds isn't wood but composite

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 is better than the best wood for outdoor deck builds

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 is better than the best wood for outdoor deck builds

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. 

Discover deck materials that are better than the best wood for decks and the best wood for outdoor deck builds

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 delivers superior performance

Superior Performance:
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.

TimberTech PRO decking delivers premium performance

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:

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

Composite decking delivers greater long-term value than the best wood for outdoor deck builds

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

Supplies for maintenance work like sanding, staining, and sealing will cost you year over year.

Repairs

Expect to pay for materials and possibly hired labor for frequent repairs due to wood’s poor durability.

Replacement

At about 10 to 15 years, you’ll likely need to shell out funds for materials and hired labor for a full deck replacement.

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.

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.

TimberTech AZEK decking and traditional wood samples in comparison
Composite decking delivers more beauty than the best wood for outdoor deck builds

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 

TimberTech is better than the best wood for decks and the best wood for outdoor deck builds

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.

See & Feel the TimberTech Advantage

Our capped polymer and capped composite decking lines combine recycled material with all the beauty of traditional wood.

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