If you’re building a deck, there are a number of species which look great, weather beautifully, and require no maintenance. Of course, they’re also more expensive than other woods, and can sometimes be tough to get your hands on.
Pressure-treated lumber is the most popular alternative, as it’s cheaper, very durable, eventually loses its color to the weather, and new developments in pressure treating have given concerned homeowners new alternatives. Then there are composites, which combine the properties of wood and plastic, while helping to preserve the environment. To make your deck a neighborhood standout without blowing your budget, consider combinations of materials. Here are a couple of examples:
Pressure treated/stained. You can paint pressure treated wood, but this requires priming, and may not stand up to heavy traffic. A good semi-transparent stain sinks directly into the wood, bonding well while giving your deck an attractive finish. The grain shows through, and the color of the wood will affect your finished color, so narrow down your choices, and buy a small amount to test on the wood you’ve used. Oil-based is your best bet for new wood, as it penetrates and bonds better than latex, and in fact may be essential depending on the preservative in the wood. But if you can use it, latex cleans up better and can hold color better.
Pressure treated base/Cedar finish. By using pressure treated lumber for hidden posts, beams and joists, you get a durable framework, but you don’t blow your budget on wood no one ever sees. Then, use cedar for your deck boards, trim and railings. You may be able to save more on the cedar by using 5/4″ deckboards instead of the more common 2 x 6, although you’ll need a little more joist material.
Compare costs, and come up with the best combo.