How to Lay Out Hardwood Decking for Best Looks and Performance

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"Whether you are building an outdoor deck or other exterior structure, working with wood decking's natural tendencies, rather than against them, works best in the long run."


You may want to know what you can expect with the beautiful color range differences and exotic graining variation often found in tropical hardwood decking species such as Ipe, Cumaru, Machiche, Jatoba, and Garapa.  These hardwood decking and siding species have lots of exotic character that make them breathtakingly unique.  While most wood species from the temperate forests of North America have some graining and color differences, they offer nowhere near the striking figuring and individual character found in tropical hardwood decking and wood siding species. 


The same exceptional growing conditions found in the tropics that are responsible for the rapid growth and remarkable strength and durability of tropical hardwoods also help form the distinctive beauty and individuality of every piece of tropical hardwood decking and siding.  Many designers, craftsmen and professional contractors love to work with and accentuate the inimitable uniqueness of tropical hardwood decking and siding by creating one-of-a-kind works of art with their outdoor decks and siding projects. Artfully arranging the deck boards should be fun and the results can and should be exciting.




Real wood decking is unlike the homogenous look of synthetic decking, composite decking or painted wood decking. Don't be afraid to let the exciting wood graining and color variations of tropical hardwoods become the “star of the show”.  To make best use of the striking contrasts and stunning looks of your tropical hardwood deck boards, it works best if you “think like a hardwood flooring installer” when you are laying out your deck boards. 

That means thinking about the beauty and contrasts of using boards next to each other. Place your deck boards with the best graining in prominent locations.  Don’t worry so much about lining up the deck boards in a repetitive pattern as for the beauty of the wood. Why not go a little wild and have some fun?

All natural wood species will shrink as they dry and expand when they pick up moisture. Once wood fully acclimates, this natural movement is less, but while the decking boards acclimate, you should expect some movement.  Wood expands and contracts almost microscopically along its length, but more so in the “radial” and “tangential” directions.

Quarter sawn boards show less expansion and contraction widthwise than flat-sawn boards. Keep this in mind when laying out your deck boards. Using deck boards with the same grain configuration in the same row will help minimize spacing gaps between deck boards after the initial acclimation process is complete.


Working with the wood’s natural tendencies, rather than against them, works best for your hardwood deck in the long run. By keeping these simple steps in mind while you are laying out your hardwood deck boards, you can create a unique deck with natural beauty that looks terrific, functions great and keeps you happy for many, many years.

Please visit any of the links below to visit our website for additional information about hardwood decking options, decking installation tips, technical information about decking and more:

Hardwood Decking Material Options

Hardwood Decking Installation Guidelines

Technical Information about Hardwood Decking


If you are looking for a comprehensive overview of the best material options for your deck, please download our highly acclaimed white paper, "The Ultimate Guide to Selecting the Right Decking Material."



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