#2 Cedar Decking
Cedar is commonly regarded as a higher-quality material than pressure-treated lumber. This natural wood gradually weathers into a soft grey tone through the years. It’s lightweight and easy to work with, which makes it great for DIY projects. Cedar also contains natural tannins, which make it resistant to decay, infestation, and rot.
One important distinction to make if you choose cedar as a decking material is that you must ensure the cedar you use is heartwood as opposed to sapwood. Heartwood is cut from the center of the tree and is considerably denser, whereas sapwood is the softer material on the outside of the tree. The extra density of heartwood makes lumber more resistant to environmental decay.
Similar to pressure-treated wood, cedar will require a fair amount of regular maintenance. But if you select quality cedar and provide annual refinishing, you can expect your cedar deck to outperform standard pressure treated wood decking. You can find cedar around $9 - $11.50 per square foot.
#3 PVC Decking
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics are available in many levels of quality, but nearly all of them are quite resilient. In fact, high-quality PVC decking has almost none of the vulnerabilities of wood. That means you don’t have to worry about sanding or staining plastics, which makes vinyl decking almost maintenance-free.
Aesthetically, vinyl provides a wider range of options than ordinary lumber. You can find color options for brown, gray, white, tan, or even patterns that mimic the grain of wood. Aesthetically, PVC provides a wider range of options than ordinary lumber. You can find color options for brown, gray, white, tan, or even patterns that mimic the grain of wood. Solid PVC decking has been manufactured for over 20 years and has improved in both formulation and aesthetics over that time. It is also lighter than many synthetic decking materials, making it easier to move around the jobsite.
Some of the downsides of PVC decking are cost and recycled content. When compared to wood, PVC decking has a much higher upfront cost, around $10-$12 per square foot, depending on the manufacturer. As with any longer-lasting building material, the increased cost of materials can be mitigated over time by the savings of reduced maintenance. Lastly, most PVC decking has less recycled content than other synthetic decking options (some PVC products are 100% virgin material). This increases the carbon footprint and doesn’t necessarily result in a higher quality deck board.