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Decking comes in a wide range of timbers and it is important to pick the right one for your decking project. This decision is one best made early as timbers not only dictate the finished appearance of the deck but have differing properties that will have an impact on where they can be used.

The first big decision when choosing the timber is whether you want to use a hardwood or a softwood. There are several important differences between the two that you should consider when planning your project:

Lifespan

All softwoods will be pressure treated to protect the timber from rot and decay and will generally come with an in service life expectation of between fifteen and thirty years. Hardwoods are far more durable and can come with a life expectancy in excess of fifty years depending on the species. Hardwoods do not require any form of pressure treatment.

Appearance

Due to the treatment process softwoods will originally have a green or brown tinge to them which will fade to a silver grey over time with exposure to the elements. This same process happens with hardwoods however the original colouring has a larger range owing to the multitude of different species available and the lack of treatment. It is also possible to apply a UV protection oil to maintain the colour of the boards if you prefer this.

Availability

Most merchants will stock a range of softwood decking which will usually include at least one anti slip option, however hardwoods tend to be supplied by a more select group of companies or as special orders. Generally softwoods are available in a wider length range than hardwoods, particularly towards the longer end of the spectrum.

Structure

When planning your substructure it is important to make sure that the thickness of the decking you are using will be enough to span the joists you are using. The main difference between the two types of timber here is that hardwoods are stronger so a thinner section can span the same distance as a much thicker section of softwood.

Specialist uses

Certain species of hardwood are classed as marine timbers, these are particularly durable and last far longer when in contact with water. This makes these timbers particularly good when decking is being installed into particularly wet areas such as pontoons or fishing platforms.

Certification

Softwoods will generally come with either an FSC or PEFC certification meaning that the timber has been sourced from a sustainably managed forest. Both of these certifications are available with hardwoods as well, however depending on the species you are looking at it may be harder to source and therefore increase the cost you will have to pay.

Cost

Softwoods will generally be cheaper than their hardwood equivalents due to many of the factors discussed above. When comparing hardwoods you will find a varied range of pricing depending on the rarity of the species, for example Yellow Balau would come in at the lower end as it is readily available compared to something like Ipe which is much more scarce.

In conclusion it is important to consider what you want from your decking at an early stage and consider the factors above when thinking about what type of timber you would like to use for the project. This will ensure you get the appropriate product for your project and budget accordingly.

If you would like any help or advice in designing your decking please don’t hesitate to contact a member of our team and they will be happy to assist you.