A Comprehensive Guide to Decking Timber: Choosing the Best Option for Your Outdoor Space

Importance of Selecting the Right Decking Timber 

Decking is an essential aspect of outdoor spaces in Australia, providing aesthetic appeal and a practical surface for various outdoor activities such as entertaining guests, dining, or simply relaxing in your backyard.

However, selecting suitable timber decking types for your project can be challenging, given the numerous options available in the Australian market. Choosing suitable decking timber requires careful consideration of various factors, including durability, maintenance, aesthetics, and sustainability.

Durable Materials for Harsh Australian Weather Conditions 

Ensuring that your decking timber remains robust and can stand up to the unforgiving Australian climate is paramount. The sun’s unrelenting heat, heavy downpours of rain, and drastic temperature fluctuations make it a challenging environment to thrive in.

Therefore, opting for hardy decking timber that can withstand these harsh elements is vital. You’ll want to select durable hardwoods such as Ironbark, Blackbutt, and Spotted Gum, which possesses natural immunity to rot, decay, and termite infestations.

Composite Decking: Low-Maintenance Alternative 

In addition to durability, maintenance is another critical factor when choosing timber decking options. While decking timber types require regular maintenance, such as sanding, staining, and sealing, composite decking materials offer a low-maintenance alternative to maintain their look and durability. Composite decking is becoming increasingly popular and is made from a blend of wood fibres and recycled plastics, that  provides a beautiful eco-friendly finish  requiring little to no maintenance.

Popular Decking Timber Options 

In the vast lands of Australia, several options for decking timber have garnered popularity, with each having its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most commonly chosen ones:

Treated Pine 

Treated Pine is Australia’s most popular and affordable decking timber option. It is a softwood chemically treated to increase its durability and resistance to rot, termites, and fungal decay. Treated Pine is available in different grades, with higher grades offering fewer knots and a smoother finish. However, it requires regular maintenance to maintain its appearance and prevent decay.

Merbau 

Merbau is a hardwood originating from Southeast Asia and is a popular choice of decking wood types in Australia. It has a beautiful rich, reddish-brown colour and a distinctive grain pattern, giving it a luxurious, exotic look. Perfect for your decking project Merbau is a durable timber resistant to termites and decay, making it ideal for outdoor use. However, it is important to source Merbau from sustainable plantations that adhere to responsible forestry practices.

Spotted Gum 

Spotted Gum is a native Australian hardwood prized for its durability, natural beauty, and versatility. It is available in various colours, from light yellow to dark brown, and has an attractive, distinctive grain pattern. Spotted Gum is resistant to the extreme Australian weather along with termites, plus it will  not rot, and decay, making it a popular easy choice for outdoor decking.

Blackbutt 

Blackbutt is another native Australian hardwood widely used for decking. It has a pale brown colour and a straight grain, giving it a clean, contemporary look. Blackbutt is a durable timber resistant to termites and decay, making it one of the best wooden decking materials available.

Ironbark 

Ironbark is a hardwood native to Australia, known for its exceptional durability and strength. It has a rich, reddish-brown colour and a distinctive grain pattern, giving it a unique, rustic look. Ironbark is resistant to termites, rot, and decay, making it ideal for outdoor use in harsh environments.

Composite Decking 

Composite decking is a modern alternative to traditional hardwood decking timber types. It is made from a combination of wood fibres and recycled plastic, giving it the appearance of natural timber with the added benefits of low maintenance and high durability. Composite decking is available in various colours and finishes, making it a versatile option for any outdoor space.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Decking Timber 

Selecting the optimal decking timber for your outdoor oasis involves weighing many factors. Durability, maintenance, sustainability, and aesthetics all come into play. No single option fits every situation, as each type of decking has pros and cons. Instead, deciding on the right timber requires assessing your preferences, budget, and style. This choice is vital to ensure your outdoor space meets all your requirements.

Sourcing Decking Timber from Reputable Suppliers 

It is also important to note that the quality of the timber can vary depending on the supplier. It is crucial to source your decking timber from a reputable supplier that adheres to responsible forestry practices and can provide information about the source and sustainability of the timber.

Deck Maintenance 

Proper deck maintenance is critical to owning a deck, ensuring it remains in good condition, looks its best, and serves its intended purpose for a long time. Regular maintenance also helps prevent rot, insect infestation, and other damage that can compromise the deck’s structural integrity.

Regular Cleaning of Your Deck 

Regularly cleaning your deck is crucial for maintaining its appearance and prolonging its lifespan. Over time, dirt, debris, and other forms of grime can accumulate on different types of decking timber surfaces, causing it to look unsightly and potentially leading to staining and discolouration. To prevent this, clean your deck regularly, especially after periods of heavy use or exposure to the elements.

Using the Right Materials for Deck Cleaning 

You will need a deck cleaner and a pressure washer to clean your deck. First, remove any furniture or other items from the deck and sweep away any loose debris. Then, apply the deck cleaner according to the manufacturer’s instructions, using a stiff-bristled brush to scrub the surface and loosen any stubborn dirt or grime. Allow the cleaner to sit for the recommended amount of time, usually around 10-15 minutes, before rinsing it off with a pressure washer.

Regular Deck Inspections 

Establishing a routine inspection schedule is essential to ensure your deck’s longevity and safety. Depending on the materials used and the local climate, inspections should be conducted at least once or twice a year, preferably during the spring and fall seasons. This allows you to identify and address any issues before they become more severe or costly to repair. Regular inspections are particularly important for wooden decks, as they are more susceptible to damage caused by weather, insects, and general wear and tear.

Tips for Conducting Thorough Deck Inspections

When conducting your deck inspection, it is important to be thorough and systematic in your approach. Start by examining the visible components of your deck, such as the surface boards, railings, and steps. Look for signs of cracking, warping, or splintering, and check for any loose or corroded fasteners. Pay close attention to areas where the deck connects to the house, as these points can be more vulnerable to water damage and rot.

Next, inspect the underside of your deck, including the support beams, joists, and posts. Look for signs of wood rot, insect damage, or structural issues. Ensure the supports are in good condition and the deck is adequately ventilated to prevent moisture buildup. Additionally, check for any signs of rust or corrosion on metal components, such as brackets and fasteners.

Regularly inspecting your deck and addressing any issues promptly can help extend its lifespan, maintain its structural integrity, and ensure the safety and enjoyment of your outdoor space for years to come.

Sanding and Refinishing 

Deck sanding and refinishing are crucial aspects of deck maintenance, as they play a vital role in preserving the appearance and longevity of your deck. Over time, the deck’s surface may become rough, uneven, or prone to splintering due to exposure to the elements and regular use. Sanding helps to smooth out these imperfections, providing a safer and more comfortable surface for you and your guests. Refinishing, on the other hand, adds a protective layer to the deck, shielding it from moisture, UV rays, and other environmental factors that can cause damage and deterioration.

Protecting Your Deck From Water 

Water can pose a significant threat to timber decks if not properly managed. Excess moisture can seep into the wood, causing it to expand and contract as it absorbs and releases water. Over time, this can lead to rot, decay, and even the development of mould and mildew, which can weaken the deck’s structure and potentially make it unsafe for use. To safeguard your timber deck against water damage, it is essential to implement preventative measures that minimise the risks associated with excess moisture.

Protecting Your Timber Deck from Water Damage

To protect your timber deck from water damage, consider the following strategies:

  1. Install a drainage system: Incorporate a drainage system into your deck’s design to facilitate quick and efficient water removal. This could include installing a gutter system, grading the deck’s surface to promote runoff, or using permeable decking materials that allow water to drain through.
  2. Seal your deck: Apply a high-quality water-repellent sealer to your deck’s surface to create a protective barrier against moisture. As the sealer’s manufacturer recommends, this should be done periodically to maintain the deck’s resistance to water damage.
  3. Ensure proper ventilation: Adequate airflow beneath your deck is crucial in preventing moisture buildup, as it helps to evaporate any excess water. Ensure sufficient space between the deck and the ground, and consider installing vents or lattices to promote air circulation.
  4. Manage standing water: Regularly inspect your deck for areas where water may accumulate, such as low spots or indentations. Remove any standing water and address the underlying cause to prevent future pooling. This may involve levelling the deck surface, clearing debris from drainage systems, or adjusting the deck’s slope to encourage water runoff.

Trimming Trees and Shrubs 

Allowing trees and shrubs to grow unchecked near your deck can lead to various problems that could damage your deck and compromise its structural integrity. Overgrown roots can extend beneath the deck, causing it to lift or become unstable. In addition, branches that come into contact with the deck’s surface can cause scratches, gouges, or other types of damage, detracting from its appearance and potentially necessitating costly repairs. Regularly maintaining nearby trees and shrubs is essential to keep your deck in optimal condition.

Tips for Managing Trees and Shrubs Around Your Deck

Follow these guidelines to manage trees and shrubs growing near your deck effectively:

  1. Plan: When planting new trees or shrubs, consider their mature size and distance them appropriately from your deck to avoid future issues. Also, choose species with non-invasive root systems less likely to cause damage.
  2. Regular trimming: Prune trees and shrubs near your deck periodically to maintain a safe distance between them and the deck surface. Remove any branches overhanging or touching the deck to prevent scratching and other damage.
  3. Monitor root growth: Keep an eye on the root systems of nearby trees and shrubs, especially if you notice any signs of lifting or instability in your deck. Consult with a professional arborist or landscaper to address root-related issues if necessary.
  4. Provide a barrier: Installing a root barrier between your deck and nearby trees or shrubs can help prevent root intrusion beneath the deck. This can be a physical barrier made from metal or plastic or a chemical barrier that inhibits root growth in a specific area.

The Final Word 

While natural wood has advantages, such as its distinctive and organic appearance, it also requires a lot of upkeep to stay in good condition. Regular cleaning, staining, and sealing are required to prevent decay, insect damage, and weathering.

In contrast, composite timber is a better choice for decks because it requires less upkeep and is stain, mould, and mildew resistant. Moreover, it is more resilient and does not splinter, split, or warp like natural wood.

Compared to genuine wood decks, composite timber decks require less maintenance; a quick wash with soap and water is frequently sufficient to keep them looking nice.