What timber is best for decking?
While there is no best wood for decking, each option has its benefits.
- Treated pine is the most affordable decking material.
- Blackout is a long-lasting, low-maintenance decking timber.
- The Jar-rah decking is beautiful and termite-resistant.
- Tallo-wood is the ideal timber for the deck near water.
- Ironbark is the best wood for decking that will last.
- Stringybark makes a great decking wood.
- Spotted Gum decking timber is very resistant to fire.
- Merbau hardwood decking timber is affordable.
You have decided to build a deck.
There are many options, each with its pros and cons. They range from the cheapest, but softest, treated pine to the most durable Australian hardwoods suitable for decking. These are also more expensive than ironwood, which is of course, too. Planning is the first step. This will help you decide what kind of timber to use.
Planning your timber deck
Before you start any work on your timber deck, it is important to plan. There are many things to consider.
- How much money you have available will affect the amount of timber you can afford to build your project
- The timber you choose, along with its color, durability, and suitability for your location, are important considerations
- How your project will look, including the size and height and whether it will be freestanding.
- You will need to get approvals and red tape, even if your deck must conform to Australian Standards for bushfire zone zones
- You need to choose someone who has the required experience, license, and insurance.
Selecting the best timber to deck
There are many options when it comes to selecting the right timber for decking. Different species have different color and hardness characteristics. There are more than 20 timbers available. However, there are some standouts. Each one has its pros and cons. The most common species that you’ll encounter are:
1. Treated pine for decking
While treated pine is the most affordable timber, it does not have the right qualities to be used for decking. You should ensure that it has been treated and select a good quality timber with an “H” rating. This indicates whether it is suitable for outdoor usage. However, treated pine decking has a shorter life span than other decking materials. Pine is a soft wood so painting or treating it will keep it protected from rot and insects.
Pros for treated pine decks:
- Accessible, affordable, and sustainable
- Easy to be stained or painted
- It is very easy to do
- After treatment, termites and rot resistance
The cons of treated pine decks
- Softwood is easier to damage
- The life expectancy of hardwoods is lower at 15-20 years.
- It is more frequent to reseal than other decking materials.
2. Black-butt for decking
This native Australian species is very popular because it is fire-resistant. However, it can crack if not sealed. It is a beautiful beige-to-pale brown color black-butt decking that is ideal for bushfire-prone regions.
Pros for black-butt decks:
- It is a hard, durable, and long-lasting timber.
- It is a pleasing color in golden brown, but can also take stains well
- Oils are easy to use, so it requires less maintenance than other options
- Fire-resistant naturally
Cons for black-butt decks:
- Not particularly termite resistant
- Surface checking and splitting
3. Jar-rah for decking
Jar-rah decking is a popular choice. It is resistant to insects and fire and can be used in a variety of colors, including light, dark, and red. Jar-rah is a rich, reddish-brown color that will turn into a soft burgundy over time. Jar-rah decking requires regular sanding and finishing to maintain its Colour. However, it looks amazing when it gets weathered and turns silver-grey. Jar-rah, like black-butt, has a durability rating of 2 which is excellent.
Pros for Jar-rah decks:
- A stunning dark red color when it is finished. Or a pleasant grey weathered look
- Durable, yet soft enough to be used with sharp tools
- Termite and rot resistance is naturally present
- Tinnitus leaching is very minimal
Cons of Jar-rah decks
- Timbers with a higher price tag than other timbers
- It is only grown in Western Australia so it can be difficult to find.
- Requires periodic refinishing
4. Tallow-wood for decking
Tallow-wood, a hardwood is prized for its light-brown Colour to slightly olive-green. It is found in the coastal forests of the east coast so it is easily accessible. It has a hardness rating of 8.6 and is easier to work with than the most difficult hardwoods. However, it is extremely durable. Tallow-wood decking resists wet conditions.
Pros for tallow-wood decks:
- Hard, durable timber with a 40+ year life span (above ground).
- Fire and termite resistant
- Resistant against surface checking and splitting
- High resistance to damp and rot
Cons of tallow-wood decks
- Tanning leaching is moderately common
5. Ironbark for decking
Ironbark is the hardest and most dense hardwood timber. It can be difficult to cut, but it is extremely durable for decking. Ironbark is a deck material that can last a lifetime. Both red and grey ironbark have durability ratings of 1 Ironbark can be very heavy and dense so it is not suitable for DIY deck builders.
Pros for ironbark decks:
- It is durable and hardy, with a life expectancy of 40+ years (above ground).
- Resistant to fire, termite, rot
- Avoid tannin leaching
Ironbark decks have cons
- Not suitable for DIY, hard to do.
- Oiling oil can be shortened by reducing its density
- More expensive decking timbers
6. Stringy bark for decking
Stringybark is only rated at durability so it is not recommended for every location Because of its unique grain pattern and wide range of colors it is still very popular. You can choose from yellow stringy bark, white or red. Yellow and white are slightly less durable than red.
Pros for stringy bark decks:
- Accessible and inexpensive
- Termite resistance
- Depends on the variety. Moderately durable
Cons of stringy bark decks
- Gum veins are common
- Some varieties are less durable and have a shorter life expectancy.
7. Spotted gum for decking
Spotted gum, like black butt, is an Australian hardwood that can withstand fire. It is also durable and can last for many years, just like a black butt. Spotted gum is a darker option than black butt and offers many interesting Colour options.
Pros for spotted gum decks:
- Available in a wide range of sustainable sources
- It is durable and hardy and has a life expectancy of 40+ years
Cons of spotted gum decks
- It is hard to work
- Decking timbers that are more expensive than others
- Resistant to fire, termite, rot
- Resistant against tannin leaching
8. Merbau for decking
It is a durable and affordable hardwood that is extremely popular. Merbau decking used to be as popular in the past as treated pine. Merbau should only be purchased from reliable sources that use sustainably harvested timbers. Merbau is a decking hardwood with a durability rating of 2 and is among the most affordable.
Pros for Merbau decks:
- Moderately durable but still very usable
- The attractive Colour of golden-brown
- Resistant to termites and rot
- Hardwood is very affordable
Cons for Merbau decks:
- Unsustainably sourced products cause rainforest destruction throughout Asia
- Highly susceptible to tannin leaching
- Regular staining is required, which can offset the low purchase price
Timber durability and hardness ratings
A class system is used to rate timbers:
- Class 1: High durability and resistance to decay for more than 40 years
- Class 2: is durable with a long life expectancy and decay resistance of between 15-40 years
- Class 3: is moderate durability, with a resistance of 7 to 15 years.
- Class 4: has a low durability rating with a 1 to the 7-year expected resistance
Timbers can also be graded to a hardness rating called Janka. It is expressed in new tons or kilo-newton.
This gives you an idea of how durable each species of timber is to wear and tear. Species in the 4-8 range are classified as medium density, while species above 8+ are considered high density. Australia is blessed with many high-density species such as ironbark (Class 1 to rated 14), spotted gum (Class 1 to rated 11), as well as medium density species such as black-butt (rated 9), and softer species such as Tasmanian oak (rated 5).
How do you choose the right wood for your deck?
Your needs and whereabouts will determine the right wood for your decking. Consider the cost, durability, and fire resistance of the timber decking Melbourne.
Which timber is most resistant to fire?
These seven timbers are best suited for bushfire-prone areas and are considered the most fire-resistant for decking. These timbers include Black-butt and Merbau, Red Ironbark, and River Red Gum.