The great Australian deck comes in many shapes and sizes – sundecks, pool surrounds, verandahs, private courtyards, gazebos, walkways.

And almost as extensive these days is the range of decking materials they can be made from.

Traditional favourites like Merbau are becoming scarce as the rainforests of South East Asia are cleared more quickly than they can regenerate, and much of the stock brought into Australia has been illegally harvested.

Jarrah, blackbutt and spotted gum are high-density, Australian timbers whose appearance and durability can be enhanced with a range of preservative stains, though they do require re-staining every couple of years.

Treated pine, a softwood that’s pressure-treated with chemical preservatives, is a cheaper alternative but may be less suitable for some projects than a more robust hardwood.

There are also new Australian Standards to be aware of that specifically exclude the use of combustible verandah and decking materials, depending on the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) rating. In any case, minimising the space between boards and sealing with a non-combustible product are sensible measures.

For areas of particularly high fire risk, ‘woodgrain’ aluminium systems may be a good option.

But the most significant development in decking materials has undoubtedly been the emergence of composite timbers, made from a mix of recycled timbers and plastics. Their appeal lies in sustainability and minimal maintenance. The fact that they come pre-coloured saves on labour and ongoing maintenance costs over the life of your deck.

Futurewood is one of the leaders in this category, and their CleverDeck carries a ten year warranty against rotting or termite damage. They also offer an easy to install DIY option in the form of 300mm square deck tiles (product no longer available).

When comparing decking materials, think environment, endurance, expense and easy maintenance. Because decks are for leisure, and there’s nothing relaxing about looking at another chore waiting for your attention.