Whether you are thinking about adding a deck to your yard or wondering how long it will be until you have to replace your current deck, chances are you’d rather be enjoying your yard and not worrying about the deck itself. A bit of planning before building or replacing your deck can go a long way in making your deck worry-free for 25 years or more!
When planning your deck, you’ll need to consider what style you what, the environment of your yard, and where to place your deck. All these factors may impact your choice of deck material. In this post, we’ll explore how long different decking materials last and the conditions necessary for your deck to live out its full lifespan.
How Long Do Wood Decks Last?
Wood is perennially the most popular deck material. It’s easy to see why: wood is easy to source, and it has a warm, familiar look that blends with most homes and yards. On the other hand, wood is more high-maintenance than other choices.
Wood can rot and warp, so any situation where it comes in contact with a lot of moisture and takes a long time to dry out can shorten the lifespan of your deck. A platform deck, which is low to or directly on the ground, is at risk for ground moisture and dampness seeping into the wood. Shady yards can mean that decks without full sun exposure take longer to dry after rainy weather, which also increases your chances of having to replace your wood deck sooner. Elevated decks with a lot of air circulation come with a lower risk of moisture damage.
The lifespan of your wood deck may vary based on the type of wood, so let’s go over how long cedar, mahogany, ipe, and pressure-treated wood decks typically last.
Cedar Wood Decks
Cedar is one of the most popular woods for decks and fences alike. It retains less moisture than many other woods, so its rot-resistance factor is high. In order to maintain the original color of cedar, your deck will have to be cleaned often and sealed annually. Cedar can exhibit the downsides of any wood deck. It can scratch easily, which is a concern for those with pets and those who move furniture around often. It is also considered a very high maintenance option. In addition to frequent cleanings and annual sealing, you will want to check the hardware to see if anything needs to be tightened or replaced on an annual basis. Spot buffing and even occasional board replacement might be needed to prolong the life of the entire deck. With lots of care, a cedar deck can last 25 to 40 years. Not maintaining your cedar deck can diminish that length of time to a mere 10 to 15 years.
Mahogany and Ipe Decks
Mahogany and ipe are both very hard woods with beautiful natural color that resist scratches better than cedar and pine. Hard woods are a good option for people with pets, children, and high-traffic yard spaces that prefer the look and feel of wood. Both mahogany and ipe resist rot and mold, though they are not guaranteed to never decay since they are still natural woods. A well-maintained mahogany or ipe deck can last up to 40 years.
Pressure-Treated Wood Decks
Pressure-treated lumber is wood that has had chemical preservatives forced into the grain of the wood using a high-pressure technique. These chemicals help increase rot and insect resistance. Pressure-treated lumber can be made from a huge variety of wood types, but better-quality wood creates a better-quality result. This option still needs to be sealed and maintained for the best life span. Many varieties of pressure-treated wood come with a limited lifetime warranty, but the lifespan referred to under the warranty may mean anything from 20 to 50 years. Cheaper pressure-treated wood needs to dry out once installed and before being sealed, while higher quality options may be kiln-dried before and after the treatment process. As pressure-treated wood dries, either after initial installation or heavy rain, it can warp and shrink, creating less than desirable results.
How Long Do Composite Decks Last?
Looking for an alternative to wood so you don’t have to deal with the maintenance? A composite deck may be your best bet. With minimal maintenance, composite decking can last at least 25 years. Though composite decks have only been around for a few decades, many industry leaders believe they can last a lifetime. Composite decks are made in several different ways. Originally, they were made from wood pieces that were combined with a plastic or vinyl material like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to create a consistent product resembling lumber. Some modern composites are made entirely of plastic or vinyl fibers and may be made from recycled or new materials.
The uniform creation of composite means that you won’t have to throw away or cut down any uneven boards or pieces containing knots or other imperfections. The consistency and materials of composite also mean it is very resistant to warping, rotting, or splintering. If you live in a humid climate or an area prone to flooding where rot or mold are constant problems, the moisture protection of composite is likely right for you. Composite is a very low-maintenance option. Most likely, you’ll just need to hose off the pollen or bird droppings at least once a year, and that can be done in mere minutes while you’re watering the yard or flower beds. Composite decks usually contain built-in UV protection, so the entire deck will wear evenly and resist sun fading. Composite can be heated and shaped into curves to create really unique decks and outdoor features.
Learn More: How to Care for Vinyl and Composite Decking
The only downsides (if you can call them that) of composite decks result from the fact that they aren’t wood. Yes, composite won’t have the exact feel of wood, either visual or physical. It might not be as warm-looking–or even as warm-feeling on your bare feet on a summer day. Still, composite has come a long way in the last twenty years, so it no longer has to look like the plastic material used to make a children’s play set. Most composite is available in nice wood tones, and some even feature natural-looking wood grains. Composite doesn’t need to be painted or sealed, and attempting to apply paint might result in peeling, but we doubt you’ll want to bother anyway!
TimberTech Composite Decking
TimberTech is a high quality composite brand, which offers both decks and rails with no painting, staining, or sealing required. One example of TimberTech’s versatile products is TwinFinish, a double-sided decking solution. The VertiGrain side is slip-resistant, so it’s great to use near pools, steps, or as an everyday walking surface. The Serrated side adds contrasting elements to your deck, and looks great when creating built-ins, like planters and benches. TimberTech offers a limited 25 year warranty.
Trex Composite Decking
Trex is a hugely popular composite deck brand, and for good reason. Aside from offering all the benefits of any composite deck material, Trex contains a patented “capped” coating. With capped composite, the regular composite material is surrounded by a super scratch-resistant surface that can look great for years. Trex Select, Trex Enhance, and Trex Transcend are available at varying price points, and they offer wide variety of colors, patterns, and uses. Trex offers a limited 25 year warranty.
Proper Maintenance Is Key to Making Your Deck Last
If you plan on pumping Spotify through some speakers, firing up the grill, and inviting some friends over for beer and lemonade this summer, you’re probably not thinking of deck maintenance. A deck that lasts for decades might require some staining, sealing, and minor repair each year in the case of a wood deck, or if you use composite, some infrequent washing may be necessary.
Whether you choose a specific kind of wood deck or a composite deck, knowing how each product works best and how to maintain it will go a long way to making your deck last.
In the market for a new deck? Check out The Complete Guide to Selecting a New Deck.