What options are available when it comes to decking?

When you think of decking, you probably think of something that, firstly is made out of timber, and secondly is found in people’s back gardens. Whilst this is often so, it is not always the case.

Decking can be used in a number of places other than garden patios, including jetties, piers, footbridges, walkways, balconies and public spaces. And whilst it always used to be the case that if you wanted decking, you would go for (or at least ended up with) generic “wood”, now there are more options available. We explore some of those key options in this article.  

Softwood timber decking
Softwood decking boards are usually made from pine or spruce. They are the most popular types of decking species with members of the public. This is because they are generally quite cheap, are easy to install and work with, and are easy to source – you can generally find it readily available at your local DIY store. Softwood timber decking is also very versatile, as it can be easily cut to the shape you want and you can often stain it to make it look the way you would like it. However, as can often be the case in many areas, just because an option is popular it doesn’t mean that it is the best solution.

Although softwood decking has advantages, it also has a lot of disadvantages. So, whilst lots of people tend to choose softwood decking because it is cheap, although it means them spending out a lot less initially, it will probably mean that they end up spending more money further down the line. Firstly, because softwood decking boards require a lot of regular maintenance, as they are known to crack, warp, shrink and split, and so you may end up paying out more to look after them, repair them or replace them. Also, in order to protect them from rotting and from fungus, they undergo a chemical treatment process as we explained in a previous article, meaning that the timber decking in your back garden is not just natural timber, but is in reality a sponge full of toxic chemicals that can be harmful to you, your family and pets as well as to the environment. Finally, and in our view crucially, they are not as eco-friendly as other options since people will often just throw away their softwood decking boards and replace them rather than making the effort to maintain and repair them.  However, because these boards are filled with harmful chemicals, they are considered as hazardous waste (grade D) and can’t be easily disposed off. So when you add the low durability with the high disposal cost it becomes evident that cheap pressure impregnated decking is not really the best option for both you, your family and the planet. If budget is a major issue, a suitable alternative is simply to go for untreated decking. Pine and Spruce will last up to 10 years and can be easily burned or recycled afterwards.

Hardwood decking
Hardwood decking boards are more expensive than softwood decking boards, but as with most things in life, you pay more for good quality. As regular visitors to our blog will know, hardwood has a bad reputation, but it is not harmful if you use FSC certified hardwood, as we explained in another article.

The big advantage of hardwood decking boards is that they can be extremely durable and long lasting, and are naturally resistant to rotting. In fact, it is generally expected that hardwood timber decking will last for around 20-30 years if maintained correctly, so whilst the initial cost might be higher, you will have a fantastic product that will last much longer. Therefore, if you are looking for a decking material that will last for many years, and won’t start to look shabby after a short period of time, then hardwood decking is the choice for you.

The other key advantage of hardwood decking is that is naturally beautiful, with organic, warm looking colours such as a reddy-brown or golden-brown. Some people even feel that the appearance of hardwood decking improves with age as it weathers to its natural silvery grey, so rather than deteriorating over the years, the look of it can actually improve.

However, aside from the cost being higher than softwood decking, other downsides are they still require regular maintenance, and that they can be difficult to install. It can be a bit more difficult to cut and drill, which adds to the cost of it, but it certainly can be done by people with the right tools and the right skills.

Modified Wood Decking
If you are wanting timber decking then you might want to consider using modified wood decking. There are two key types of modified wood – thermally modified wood, and chemically changed wood. Thermally modified wood – or Thermowood® – is heat treated to make it resistant to rotting, without having to use chemicals. The wood is slowly heated in a kiln where it stays for several hours, removing the sugars and resin from inside the wood so that that there is nothing left for bacteria or mould to eat. There are, therefore, no nutrients left in the wood, which helps to prevent it from rotting for up to 30 years. As with hardwood decking above, the colour changes with age, but thermally modified wood greys very quickly. Some might like this, some might not.

Chemically changed wood includes Organowood, which we considered as an alternative to chemically treated wood previously in this article. With Organowood, the wood is treated with a mixture of water and silicon which forms a barrier around the wood, preventing the bacteria or mould from eating the wood. This is a safer alternative than using nasty chemicals that consist of heavy metals and are used to kill the fungi rather than just stop them. Both of these are great options if you are wanting wood decking, but don’t want the chemical preservation treatments that often accompanies it.  

Plastic Decking
Plastic decking is, as the name suggests, made entirely from plastic, containing no timber whatsoever. It has a lot of positive attributes, and one of the key ones is that it is low maintenance. In fact, all it needs is the occasional cleaning with soap and water. Unlike timber, it will not warp much, but mainly, it won’t rot or harbour mould and fungus. It also won’t fade in the sun. All of this makes it very long lasting, with its lifespan often being four times that of timber decking.

However, it is not wood, which for us is always a downside! Added to that, some types of plastic decking can look quite artificial – it is plastic and it looks like it is plastic. It is also one of the most expensive options, being more expensive that softwood, WPC composites and hardwood. And we haven’t even touched on the energy and carbon footprint of making and then recycling plastic. So, if you are wanting a decking that is easier to maintain and look after than timber decking, then a better option might be composite WPC decking, as explained below. 

Composite WPC decking
As we said at the beginning, when you think of decking you probably think of timber, but that doesn’t have to be the case. We like to think of timber too, as that is what our heritage is. We were formed to promote FSC certified hardwoods to the UK construction industry, and we love wood as a material because we think that it has a fantastic combination of both performance and purpose. However, we are also keen to engage with what our customers want and are using, as long as it corresponds to our ethos, and composite WPC decking falls into both of those categories.

WPC is an abbreviation of Wood Plastic Composite. When it comes to decking, WPC is a relatively new option. Our WPC decking is very eco as it’s made from a mixture of recycled plastic and FSC® wood fibre. There are a lot of advantages to this type of decking. It is easy to maintain, needing the least maintenance out of all decking options, requiring just a wash with soap and water. It is also incredibly long lasting, with many suppliers offering lifetime guarantees because they are so confident that it will last. So, no worries about rot, fungus, twisting, splintering, warping or fading. It is also very easy to install, and although it is not 100% natural wood, many makes of composite decking look very realistic, coming in lots of different styles, textures and colours. Finally, we like this type of decking because it is made from recycled plastic, along with recycled wood and wood waste products such as sawdust and wood chippings, meaning that it is great for the environment.

However, as with all options, it has its downsides as well as its positives. One of the biggest downsides is that it is expensive. But, as with the hardwood option above, it is worth thinking about the long term – yes, it is a higher, one off initial cost, but it lasts longer meaning that the costs over time are less. You also don’t have the option to change it once it is in place. For example, with hardwood decking if you fancy a change you can sand it down and stain it a different colour, but you don’t have that option with WPC composite decking. But apart from that, it is a great product, and definitely should be considered when you are thinking about decking options.    

Who are EcoChoice?
EcoChoice are specialist suppliers of certified timber and recycled plastic products for exterior works, including decking. We were formed in 2005 with the aim of promoting FSC certified timbers to the UK construction industry, helping customers to engage in a sustainable way instead of turning away from both the deforestation and plastic waste problems. We offer products from a wide range of different timber species, including Greenheart and Pituca.

We are passionate about supplying our clients with independently certified timber products while encouraging responsible and sustainable practices at the source level. To find out how we can help you and to get a quick, no-obligation quote, please call us on 0345 638 1340, email us on info@ecochoice.co.uk or for more information about our sustainable timber products, please visit our website https://ecochoice.co.uk/

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