Why the Best Wood for an Outdoor Deck Isn’t Wood at All

August 5, 2021
HomeOutdoor Living IdeasWhy the Best Wood for an Outdoor Deck Isn’t Wood at All

Traditional wood has historically been the go-to material for residential deck building — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best wood for outdoor deck builds.  

In a true plot twist, your best bet isn’t actually wood at all. It’s composite decking. 

Composite Decking vs Wood: Which Wins?

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

Traditional Wood Options 

Traditional wood 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 resistant to insects and moisture. 

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 dense and 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 options (which differ significantly in terms of performance, costs, and aesthetics).  
  1. Second, learn how premium composite decking surpasses even the ‘top’-tier traditional wood options. 

Less Than the Best Wood for Outdoor Deck: Traditional Options 

Looking only at the three most common traditional wood categories across performance, cost, and aesthetics, here’s how they stack up against one another.  

BUT, REMEMBER:
Being the “best” in the traditional wood category doesn’t actually translate to being the best possible 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 density 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 resistant to moisture and insects.
  • 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 Wood

  • Minimally resistant to moisture and insects due to chemical infusions.
  • Prone to rot, mold, mildew, and other moisture-related issues.

In the wood-only category, hardwoods take the top spot for performance. But that may lead you to think that those dense hardwoods translate to less labor for you (whether install or upkeep). The reality? Not so much.  

They may tend to last longer than their softwood counterparts — but all wood is prone to maintenance in this first category. Hardwoods then tack on a few twists regarding installation: 

Composite decking material cost doesn't include staining

General Wood Deck Maintenance Needs  

Traditional wood deck maintenance often includes:  

Ipe decking is difficult to work with

Hardwood Deck Installation Needs 

Even though exotic hardwoods may be the best wood for outdoor deck builds in terms of performance, they have their downsides:  

Discover the Best Durable Deck Materials

Explore your most durable deck material options to get the highest performance with the least maintenance.  

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 

 Pressure-treated lumber is 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

The most common softwoods, 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

Many hardwoods, especially exotics, are difficult to source and their high demand also drives up costs.  

Pressure-treated lumber is the best wood for outdoor deck projects when it comes to upfront costs because of its easy accessibility.  

However, pressure-treated lumber — and indeed, all types of traditional wood — 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.  

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 the premium grades such as construction heart redwood or architect clear cedar.  

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.  

In terms of aesthetics within the traditional wood category, exotic and domestic hardwoods win out. Hardwoods are prized for their natural beauty and rich colors.  

However, those saturated hues come 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. 

 
The Best Wood for Outdoor Deck Builds? Not Wood at All — But Composite  

When you think “the best wood for outdoor deck projects,” you’re actually likely looking to discover the best material overall. That means that the best wood for outdoor deck projects? Not wood at all. 

TimberTech capped polymer and capped composite decking is designed with far greater durability than wood — but with the same nature-inspired aesthetics.  

TimberTech Composite Decking: Better Than Wood 


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. 

Best Decking Material for High Performance & Low Maintenance   

In terms of performance, even the best wood for outdoor deck designs pales in comparison to engineered decking options. TimberTech capped polymer and capped composite decking features innovative materials science that lends our boards exceptional moisture and weathering resistance.  

TimberTech AZEK decking delivers superior performance

Superior Performance:
TimberTech AZEK Decking 

TimberTech AZEK capped polymer decking is made of premium, engineered material from core to cap — delivering unbeatable durability against the elements.  

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 

Wondering what your maintenance schedule will look like with TimberTech decking? Thanks to its high performance, TimberTech capped polymer and capped composite decking has minimal maintenance needs.  

TimberTech Decking Maintenance Needs 


Your maintenance schedule for a TimberTech deck will look something like this:  

And that’s it — you’re done. Say hello to low-maintenance outdoor living.    

Best Decking Material for Upfront & Long-Term Costs 

TimberTech decking delivers long-term value

While traditional wood options might seem more affordable upfront, their significant maintenance needs will cost you every single year after installation.  

Plus, with a deck lifespan of only about 10-15 years, a traditional wood deck will require a costly full deck replacement sooner rather than later.  

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 options.  

Pressure-Treated Lumber vs TimberTech EDGE Prime+ Collection: Upfront Costs 


Upfront cost comparison between pressure-treated wood and TimberTech EDGE decking

Pressure-Treated Lumber vs TimberTech EDGE Prime+ Collection: Long-Term Costs 


Long-term cost comparison between pressure-treated wood and TimberTech EDGE

Pressure-Treated Lumber vs TimberTech EDGE Prime+ Collection: Long-Term Costs 


Upfront cost comparison between Ipe wood and TimberTech AZEK decking

Ipe Hardwood vs TimberTech AZEK Vintage Collection: Long-Term Costs 


Long-term cost comparison between Ipe wood and TimberTech AZEK decking

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 

Want the beauty of traditional wood without the fading or discoloration? Choose TimberTech.  

Both TimberTech capped polymer decking and capped composite decking boast 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
Ideas for how to finish the ends of composite decking including picture framing

Enjoy Nature-Inspired Beauty That Endures 

With nuanced color blending, detailed wood grain patterns, and realistic finishes, TimberTech decking looks just as good as wood.  

Plus, our decking is protected with industry-leading Fade and Stain Warranties, so your deck will look gorgeous for years to come. 

Choose Better Than the Best Wood for Outdoor Deck Builds — Choose TimberTech 

TimberTech decking is superior to wood

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 traditional wood options in every category — and gives you a highly durable, enduringly beautiful deck.  

Start your deck building journey by ordering up to four free samples of TimberTech decking to see the quality and real wood aesthetics for yourself. Be sure to view each sample in different lighting 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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