Consider These 5 Woods for Your Next Deck

Bring out the beauty of your deck or porch with these durable materials

sample of grooved wood and a wood screw on top of deck design drawings
Best Hardwood for Decks and Porches. Photo by alienhelix/E+/Getty Images

Will your new deck be an enhancement or an eyesore? The answer depends on the type of decking wood you use. Pressure-treated pine resists rot and repels pests, but the green or yellow-tinged lumber can be unsightly and the pesticides it contains may be unhealthy. For a safer, more attractive deck or porch, choose an attractive yet still durable wood for the floors, railings, and steps. Save the pressure-treated wood for the frame and supports.

Browse these resources to find the most popular and most durable lumber for decks and porch floors. 

01
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Ipé

Ipe Secking with Slate Inserts
Ipe Decking with Slate Inserts. Photo by Ron Sutherland/Photolibrary Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

Ipé (pronounced ee-pay) is an almost magical South American hardwood. The Forest Service Products Laboratory gives ipé top marks for bug- and rot-resistance, and the wood is so hard, it's nearly as difficult to burn as concrete. It is dense and very heavy, which makes it somewhat difficult to work with but a wonderful wood to use with stone and slate accents. With a 25-year warranty, the ipe decking for the famous boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey was provided by Iron Woods.

The use of rain forest woods can be controversial. If you choose ipé for your deck, make sure that it carries the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) trademark, which certifies that the wood has been harvested responsibly. Established importers such as IpeDepot.com use the term  FSC Ipe Decking to describe their products.

02
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Western Red Cedar

Western Red Cedar decking with matching table and chair
Western Red Cedar Decking. Photo © Western Red Cedar Lumber Association

Will your deck be covered or not? The wood you choose should have an excellent resistance to decay, and cedar is one such wood. Western Red Cedar is reddish brown. Within a few years, the cedar ages to a silvery gray. This soft wood splinters easily, but holds up well in rain, sun, heat, and cold. To add beauty and durability to your cedar deck, use a penetrating stain. Real Cedar is the website of the Canadian-based Western Red Cedar Lumber Association. ​Look to organizations like this for more information and a better understanding of cedar products.

03
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Redwood

rich, brownish red deck, simple design
California Redwood Deck. Photo © California Redwood Association (cropped)

Like cedar, redwood is a soft yet durable lumber that ages to a pleasing gray. A redwood deck will resist rot but prolonged moisture will cause the wood to blacken. To maintain the lovely ruddy hue, use a clear sealer on your redwood deck or porch floor.

The California Redwood Association (CRA) represents timber companies in the American northwest. Like other responsible wood harvesters, CRA timberlands are certified as well-managed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

04
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Mahogany

hand with paintbrush staining hardwood
Maintenance of Mahogany Decking. Photo by ClarkandCompany/E+/Getty Images

Mahogany is a tight-grained tropical hardwood that resists pests and rot. Treat it with marine oil and it looks like teak. Or, let your mahogany deck age to a silvery hue. You can choose from several varieties, and each has its pros and cons. Whichever type mahogany you select, make sure it has the "FSC" trademark to assure that rainforests have not been harvested irresponsibly.

"Philippine Mahogany" is not genuine mahogany. The term "Philippine" is a trade name for Shorea woods from southeast Asia sold in North America. In Australia, this wood is sold as "Pacific Maple." Nevertheless, Philippine Mahogany has many of the wonderful features of true mahogany.

05
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Tigerwood

wood deck with potted plants and furniture
Tigerwood Decking, Also Known As Goncalo Alves. Photo by Laurie Black/The Image Bank/Getty Images (cropped)

Gonçalo alves or Tigerwood is a South American wood of great visual variation. The coloring and grain can differ from board-to-board to provide an interesting and rich presentation when used for decking. Some installers find this wood difficult to handle because of its inconsistent nature—one board can exhibit both hardness and softness. BrazilianKoaWood.com has been selling this product since 1992 under yet another name, Brazilian Koa. Tigerwooddecking.com sells the product as Tigerwood.  Although this exotic wood has several names, it is not Zebrawood, which is another striped-liked product. What the U.S. Forest Service calls Astronium graveolens, Tigerwood is also often used to carve knife handles and archery bows.

Other Considerations for Decks and Porches

When considering wood for decks and porches, place and design cannot be ignored. Because any wood is available to order, the climate in which you live should influence your decision. Choose a contractor who has experience with these woods in your area. Also, whether or not the deck is covered and which direction it faces may make a difference. Become familiar with the many options available with online tools such as the wood database and organizations such as the American Wood Council.

Hardness of wood is rated by the Janka hardness test, a number that will be associated with the type of wood you buy. A lower number is softer wood than a higher Janka harness scale number, so you can easily compare between species. Another consideration is how the wood is cut. Preservation Brief 45 discusses wood selection for repairing historic porches, and suggests that "the use of more stable vertical grain [edge grain] lumber is preferable to flat grain [plain sawn] boards."

Wood Pretenders

Wood is a natural product, but it does require using a sealant to preserve its color and sheen. You might be tempted to use a "mock wood" such as plastic polymer or wood-polymer composites. These synthetic and composite materials are virtually bug-proof and rot proof.  However, even the modern materials require maintenance to preserve their wood-like appearance. Unless covered with paint or an opaque  stain, mock woods will always appear artificial.