Deck Types 101: Your Guide to Different Types of Decks

A new natural wood deck in a backyard

Installing a deck is an incredible way to make the most of your outdoor space. They’re a common addition to homes with backyard spaces of all kinds, and provide space where you can relax, entertain, work from home, or enjoy dinner on a warm summer evening.

Decks can vary widely according to size, location, height, privacy screens, and building code requirements. However, the most important variable in your deck is probably the materials. The material impacts the durability of your deck, the amount of annual maintenance you’ll have to put into it, and the aesthetic that your deck and backyard will have.

At Green Side Up Contracting, we make it our mission to make sure that our clients know what they’re getting into. We always create complete 3D renderings that will show you what the design of your deck will look like when it’s complete. We provide detailed quotes and can also make material and design suggestions that will help create the final product you’re looking for.

We put together this guide to different deck types so that you can start thinking about the materials you want to use for your deck. Major home renovations and additions start with inspiration, but the process can be much easier if you walk into it informed. This is everything you need to know about the different types of decks.

Different Types of Decks

Cedar Decks

Cedar wood is one of the most popular natural woods used in decking and fencing for several reasons:

  • Cedar looks great thanks to its straight-grain pattern and satisfies the desire for that natural, rustic look that only wood can deliver.
  • It has a pleasant, woody fragrance.
  • It resists the damage that results from water, insects, and mold better than other types of natural wood (though not better than alternative types of decking materials).

However, there are also some issues with cedar that make it worth exploring alternatives. First of all, it is a weaker type of wood and not suitable for supporting heavy loads. Typically, decks will use pressure-treated pine instead of cedar or other materials to support it.

Cedar can also require a lot more maintenance. Wood decks need to be re-stained every two or three years, in addition to cleaning it with soap and a garden hose on a regular basis. It can be a pain to keep up with the task, and when you don’t, cedar can quickly show signs of wear and tear. Although it is hardier than other types of wood, it still absorbs moisture and starts to split thanks to the freeze/thaw cycle.

Cedar decks are one of the more high-end wood choices you can make, and they can cost a premium. If you’re going to go with the extra costs that come with cedar, you want to make sure that you can take care of it in the future.

Pressure Treated Decks

Pressure treated woods like pine can be more affordable than cedar. Pressure treating involves conditioning wood to remove excess water, then placing the wood in a pressure vessel to vacuum air out of it. Finally, preservatives are injected into the wood to help protect it from rot over time.

The advantage of pressure treated decks is that they can be more economical than composite or premiums woods like cedar. However, pressure treated pine is also very reactive to the sun, which can cause fading, cracking, and warping. Pressure treated pine can also be susceptible to insect damage, mold, and rot.

Maintenance also includes regular stripping, cleaning, and staining to improve your deck’s longevity. It’s also suggested that pressure treated pine decks that get a lot of sun exposure should actually be hosed down several times a week. This process can help prevent cracking due to the sun. Once the process of cracking has begun, it can’t be reversed.

A large furnished deck with cushioned seats and a dining table

Ipe Decks

Ipe hardwood is a less common type of material used in decking, but we recommend Ipe decks to anyone who wants the look and feel of natural wood. Pronounced “ee-pay,” it’s a Brazilian hardwood with rare qualities that make it extremely durable.

Ipe wood is one of the most durable materials you can use for a deck, and it can last up to 50 years without needing to be replaced. By comparison, cedar decks can look worn, unsightly, and even become dangerous after 10 to 20 years. These are some of the qualities that make Ipe stand out:

  • It has a natural colour and beauty that anyone who wants a natural wood deck will appreciate.
  • The wood is extremely dense and hard. In fact, rather than try to saw and nail the wood, contractors need to pre-drill holes and use steel screws to build your deck.
  • Ipe wood stays cool even under the hot sun, which is exactly what you need if you’re worried about a deck that retains too much heat.
  • Ipe wood does not contract and expand the way other types of wood do, preventing splitting and cracking and improving the wood’s durability.

The downside of Ipe hardwood is the cost. Ipe hardwood is a premium material. For the best results, it also benefits from some extra maintenance, including oil treatment and sealing. That said, a well-maintained Ipe deck can last a lifetime without being replaced.

PVC Decks

Polyvinyl-chloride (PVC) decks are a great way to reduce the maintenance you will have to do to keep up your deck. PVC eliminates the thorough cleaning you have to do to get stains out of wood. PVC decks resist rot, don’t need to be stained or repainted, and will look and feel great underfoot for years to come.

Manufacturers have made significant strides in giving PVC decking a “natural wood” look, but the main downside of PVC is that it can’t compete with the aesthetics of real wood. PVC tends to have repeating patterns due to the manufacturing process. Composite decking does a better job of competing with natural wood when it comes to appearance, but PVC decking is more fade-resistant.

Trex Composite Decking

The deck material we recommend above all other materials is Trex composite decking. The reason why we recommend Trex is that it outcompetes every other material as a whole.

Trex comes the closest to the aesthetic beauty of natural wood without all of the maintenance required by cedar or pressure treated pine. Trex is significantly more durable than wood. It doesn’t split, crack, rot, or get infested by insects, and it’s resistant to fading. It comes with all of those benefits without the need to stain, paint, and seal it. All you have to do to keep Trex looking great is clean debris off the surface and wash it thoroughly when it needs it.

Another benefit of Trex is that it’s made from 95% recycled materials. The main components of composite are recycled plastic film and reclaimed sawdust. By comparison, PVC is made from first-use plastic and is not one of the more environmentally friendly types of decks.

In addition to manufacturing the composite boards that make good-looking, long-lasting composite decks, Trex also manufactures an under-deck drainage system that helps divert water from your deck and shields the under-deck area from rain, sun, snow, and all types of weather, protecting the substructure from moisture and improving the longevity of your deck.

The system is called Trex Rainescape, and it allows you to completely open the space underneath your deck. If you have a second-storey deck or balcony, that space beneath could never live up to the full potential of a covered area, as it would be exposed to rain falling through the cracks. With Trex Rainescape, it becomes safe enough to install lights, ceiling fans, or even an entertainment system. It’s a great way to get more out of your backyard.

A wood deck next to a small pool with two lounge chairs and an umbrella

Interlocking Patios and Stone Decks

Concrete and stone pavers are among the more expensive options, but they can create a beautiful patio right on the ground that won’t ever warp or crack the way wood can. Interlocking pavers can last for decades, and while you will want to clean the stone thoroughly to remove stains and debris, it’s generally considered a very low-maintenance material. Interlocking patios can also be used to extend a deck lower to the ground, delineating different spaces, such as a fire pit or dining area, and giving your backyard a cohesive layout.

The Best Types of Decking Material

There’s a lot to consider when you’re deciding on different types of decks and the material you want to use. When you’re choosing a type of deck, consider the initial cost you can budget for, the amount of maintenance you’re prepared to put into it, and how long you want your deck to last. Higher initial costs can reduce maintenance and improve longevity.

Working with Green Side Up Contracting means that we walk you through building a deck every step of the way. Check out our guide for getting a deck building permit in Toronto and the GTA. We encourage all of our clients to get a deck permit before getting started, and we’ve partnered with an architectural firm that can help with the technical and design drawings that you need to get your permit. While it can feel like a pain, getting a permit protects your investment. Building without a permit involves a number of risks, such as an order to comply, which can stop work in its tracks, an order to demolish, and fines. It’s just as important as choosing the right materials.