The most common material used for decking is a pressure treated softwood as it is readily available and cost effective. Builders’ merchants will generally stock at least one softwood decking board with some now stocking an anti slip version as well.
While softwood is the most common option there are alternatives on the market, which may be better for your project.
The main advantage that hardwood holds over softwood is its longevity. While most softwood timber decking boards have up to a 15 year in service life expectancy, hardwoods such as Yellow Balau can be expected to last for up to 50 years, and in some cases longer. They are far more durable and hard wearing than softwood products, so consequently come at a larger cost.
Hardwood timber is generally considered higher quality than softwood. It's more colourful and natural timber appearance makes it very popular for decking. The cost of hardwood varies significantly depending on the species, profile size and timber certification you are looking for, but as a very rough rule of thumb, you will be looking at around three or four times the price of softwood.
Requiring minimal maintenance and well suited to a wide variety of projects, hardwood decking is an investment to seriously consider for your decking.
ThermoWood is available in a variety of timbers, including ThermoPine (softwood), ThermoIroko and ThermoAsh (hardwoods). The process of creating ThermoWood involves heating the timber in a low oxygen environment to alter its chemical structure and increase its durability. This is particularly effective for softwoods and can be a more environmentally friendly way to increase the life expectancy than using a chemical treatment.
The thermal process also increases the stability of a decking board. Invisible fixing systems can be used on the ends and sides of the board as the board will expand and contract less than normal. The biggest downside of using a heat treatment is its effect on the strength of the board. Some estimates suggest thermal treating reduces the overall strength of the board by 30%. The price of ThermoWoods varies depending on the species and sizes, but the costs are often comparable or slightly higher than hardwoods.
Accoya is produced from fast growing and sustainably sourced timber which undergoes a chemical process to modify the timber completely. The resulting timber is incredibly stable and comes with a life expectancy of 50 years when installed above contact with the ground and an amazing 25 years when installed in freshwater or in direct contact with the ground. In addition, the timber is virtually rot proof so can be used in virtually any environment. Currently, Accoya is available in a limited selection of lengths and comes in at a high market price, however for the investment you get a phenomenally stable and long lasting timber.
Medite is produced using wood fibres that have undergone the same chemical treatment as Accoya. This creates a panel product which is extremely stable and durable with a 60 year expected life cycle. As with Accoya, Medite can be in water contact with very few negative effects. The biggest downside of using the wood fibre is that the panels are susceptible to abrasion when walked on. Anti slip coatings are recommended to give you an incredibly safe and hard wearing product fit for a wide range of environments. Panels can be machined to smaller lengths or supplied as full panels to suit the area you are working with. This makes Medite truly is a flexible option when considering decking. As with Accoya, the cost of Medite will be towards the top end of the spectrum.
As you can hopefully see there are plenty of options to consider when deciding which timber to choose for your decking. You will need to consider the budget, site considerations such as wet or shaded areas and the appearance of the timber you are looking for. If you interested in any of the timbers featured on this blog or others that you have come across please do not hesitate to contact the Gripsure team and we will be happy to answer any questions or provide further information.