Your Reference Guide To The Best Wood Decking

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If you are planning a wood deck on your home, you have probably realized there is a a lot of real wood decking claiming to be the best. What is the best wood decking? It is always the one that meets the needs of your deck project. So how do you choose? We made a quick and easy reference for you, so you can select with confidence. 

A raised 2nd floor balcony deck with dining and seatingA raised wood balcony deck on the second floor of a home is a shining example of beautiful Ipe decking


What Type of Wood Decking Should I Choose?

Below is a breakdown of popular wood decking materials and the relative pros and cons of each. Check out the comparison charts and free downloads, too, to help you choose the best wood decking for your lifestyle and deck project. 






Pros:  Redwood is popular for its knotty, rustic look and reddish tones. Ages naturally to a weathered gray. Redwood decking is available in low- to high-quality. Redwood can be painted or stained, or just sealed. 

Cons: Redwood decking is very expensive.  Higher grades are very hard to find. 

  • Plan to refinish redwood decking as needed with paint or stain. If you let your Redwood deck gray, the resistance to damage is even lower. For weathered Redwood, plan on more frequent maintenance.
  • Expected lifetime use is up to 20 years (longer with with regular maintenance). 


RELATED: Compare Ipe Hardwood Decking vs Redwood Softwood Decking


Redwood deck with rotted plank pulled out


Western Red Cedar:


Western red cedar Western Red Cedar Decking


Pros: Cedar is popular for its knotty, rustic look and defined grain pattern. Ages naturally to a weathered gray. Cedar decking is readily available in low- to high-quality. Cedar can be painted or stained, or just sealed. 

Cons: Higher grades of Western red cedar are hard to find, and when they are, they are very expensive.  Cedar is a low fiber density softwood.  Very low resistance to moisture, rot, mold, and insect damage - unless it is repainted or stained whenever needed.

  • Plan for higher maintenance needs, including refinishing as needed with paint or stain. If you let your cedar deck gray, its resistance to damage is much lower. F
  • Not appropriate for rooftop decks, can be used with other types of decks.  
  • Expected lifetime use is 10-15 years or longer with regular maintenance. 

Western red cedar wood decing is beautiful. Maintain regularly to prevent rot

RELATED: How Exterior Woods Weather

Grab your copy of The Ultimate Guide to Selecting the Right Decking before you decide, here.



Thermally Modified Wood:

Two really smart choices in wood decking are ThermaWood, a modified Hemlock softwood, and Thermowood, a thermally modified Ash domestic hardwood. Thermally modified woods are created by a special process using heat and steam, sometimes under pressure.  This creates a harder and more stable version of the original wood. Thermally modified wood is a sustainable wood decking material. 

Thermally Modified Wood Thumbnails circular titled 

Pros: Thermally modified wood is a high quality decking material, popular for its durability and  gorgeous, heat-darkened grain pattern. Ages naturally to an weathered gray. Therma Wood Hemlock and Therma Wood Ash wood decking are readily available. 

Cons: The fiber strength of thermally modified woods are usually lower than the original wood species. This may make them slightly more brittle. 

  • Appropriate for rooftop decks, can be used with other types of decks.   
  • Expected lifetime use is 25+ years with regular maintenance. 

RELATED: Thermally Modified Wood Deck Photo Gallery


Mataverde Therma Wood Hemlock decking on lakefrontTherma Wood hemlock deck doubles as a private boat launch on the lakefront


RELATED: Learn More About The Advantages of Thermally Modified Wood Decking


Thermowood Deck with hot tubThermowood was chosen for this deck with a built in hot tub since it can handle strong UV and moisture like a champ.


Hardwood Decking:


Premium exotic hardwood decking material is a smart choice for your deck since it is the strongest and lowest maintenance real wood decking you can find. Premium hardwoods are sustainably harvested. There are several hardwood decking materials in different color range available. 


Hardwood thumbnails  chart circular

  • Garapa wood has a golden blonde to light brown color range with unique, exotic grain patterns. Garapa is the most budget friendly hardwood, comparable to higher quality cedar and redwood decking with much lower maintenance. 
  • Jatoba wood has amazing cherry-red and dark brown tones. 
  • Cumaru wood comes in a color range of medium to dark brown tones. 
  • FSC Machiche wood has stunning chocolate-y brown tones
  • Ipe wood is the highest fiber density of the hardwood decking options, the standard the others are compared to. The natural reddish-brown color range is the most popular wood color for decks, similar to a cedar or redwood  - but without the high maintenance.


    A Cumaru wood backyard deck with steps and varied levels creates a welcoming gathering place 


Pros: Exotic hardwoods are a top choice of builders and homeowners since they have the highest fiber density of all wood decking. Popular for both the durability and exotic color ranges and grain patterns. Maintenance needs are very low, resealing with a high quality UV protectant sealant like Penofin Hardwood Penetrating Oil as needed will keep the like new wood tones fresh. hardwoods have naturally, incredibly high resistance to moisture, rot, mold, splintering, and insect damage. They will not show foot traffic, scratches and dents, or wear and tear easily. All hardwoods weather to a satiny silver gray patina that require almost no maintenance, regular cleaning as needed. Weathered hardwoods do not lose their strength and durability.

Cons:  Since they are so strong, hardwood requires special saw blades for cutting. These blades are readily available. Since hardwoods are not porous, they cannot be painted or stained. 

Appropriate for all types of decks, including rooftop. 

Range of prices, starting at a budget-friendly price point that is comparable to high quality cedar and redwood prices

Expected lifetime use is 30-40 years with regular maintenance.


RELATED: How Exterior Woods Weather


Ready for more? Download the free Ultimate Guide To Selecting The Right Decking for details and more information on the best wood decking for your home.

Premium hardwood may be more affordable than you think. Take a look at this comparison chart and see where your top choices land, compared to other, lower quality, wood decking.

Square Foot pricing for common decking materials March 2023

**Please note: Decking lumber prices can change quickly, frequently, and are based on the market. Please contact your local supplier for current pricing and availability in your area. 


RELATED: View the Wood Decking Photo Gallery

What Is The Best Wood For Backyard Decks? 


FSC Machiche wood decking on a cozy backyard deckA cozy Machiche wood deck with rich brown natural tones complements this home exterior. beautifully. 


Backyard decks get their fair share of running feet, patio furniture, and daily wear and tear. For your  ground level wood deck, consider Thermally Modified Wood or Hardwood for a long lasting deck that is low maintenance and will keep its good looks for years. 


Wood Decking Species Comparison Chart

What are the maintenance needs of popular wood decking? Here's a quick comparison. 


RELATED: Download the 150+ Deck Design Idea 60 page eBook now for more


What Is The Best Wood For Rooftop Decks?

Rooftop decks are exposed to higher UV rays and harsher weather conditions because of their location. For a raised or rooftop deck, a long lasting and highly resistant decking material is key. Hardwoods and Thermally Modified woods are appropriate, and give you a lower maintenance option.  


Ipe rooftop deck with chevron layout over Eurotec Rooftop Decking SystemThis custom Ipe wood rooftop deck takes advantage of an outside corner with a cool layout


RELATED: View the Rooftop Wood Deck Photo Gallery



Garapa hardwood Eurotec rooftop deck in New York City Photo Courtesy @Organic GardenerGarapa hardwood rooftop deck in New York City with built in wood benches and planters.

Photo courtesy @OrganicGardener

The Ultimate Guide To Selecting The Right Decking picks up where this quick reference ends. If you are ready for more information, download it now, for free.

What Is The Best Wood For Pool Decks?

Are you thinking about a deck with a pool or hot tub for your family? Pool decks get a lot of bare foot traffic so high slip and moisture resistance are key. Many homeowners choose Western Red Cedar or Redwood decking for the low upfront investment. Unfortunately, that upfront savings is eaten up by the time and cost of maintenance and repairs from water damage and wear and tear from chairs and tables.  


Mataverde thermowood deck at pool areaThermowood thermally modified decking is budget friendly but gives a designer feel to any deck. 


The best budget friendly wood for pool decks are the thermally modified woods like Thermowood and Therma Wood. These well performing choices have a lower upfront cost than hardwoods but last much longer than the same non-modified wood species, and have higher moisture, insect and decay resistance. 

The best high performance wood for your pool deck are hardwoods. Premium hardwoods have a higher upfront cost, yes,  but very low maintenance needs. Hardwoods have the added benefit of natural slip resistance. And of course the highest resistance to mold, rot, and decay of all the wood decking materials.  Hardwood decking is also the longest lasting, with a higher lifetime return on investment.  

RELATED: Watch the Results of a 15-Year Outdoor Test of Popular Wood Decking Material


decking_hardness_chartA quick look at the hardness level of popular wood decking materials. The softer the wood, the lower the fiber density and the higher the threat of mold, mildew, rot, and insect damage. This is especially important around a pool.

We hope you found helpful information in this article. Please let us know if you have any other questions, would like a decking sample, or need a no-obligation price quote for your wood decking project. We are here to help you get started.




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