Adding a deck to your home is a great way to make outdoor dining more feasible and enjoyable. And when it comes to putting in a deck, you have a number of choices. You can opt for a classic wooden deck, or go with a composite material like Trex that looks similar to wood but is virtually maintenance-free.
But not everyone likes the look of composite decking or the price tag involved. While wood generally costs $15 to $25 per square foot, composite material can cost $30 to $45 per square foot. For a larger deck, that's a huge difference.
As such, you may be inclined to choose a wooden deck, even if that means signing up for more maintenance. But don't kid yourself -- you'll really need to perform that maintenance to avoid problems with your deck. That maintenance includes, but may not be limited to:
- Sanding your deck every year or two
- Sealing your deck every other year
- Staining or painting your deck every few years (sometimes every year)
- Pressure-washing your deck every year
That may seem like a lot of work, but if you don't perform these maintenance tasks, here's what might happen:
1. The wood can become discolored
In the grand scheme of things that could go wrong with a wooden deck, this is really the least of your problems. But aesthetically speaking, putting off staining or painting your deck can lead to it turning into a major eyesore.
2. The wood can splinter
There's a reason you're supposed to sand and seal your deck regularly. If you don't, it can splinter, causing injury to anyone who tends to walk on it with bare feet (say, your kids). The same holds true for your deck's railings; someone can put a hand on a railing and wind up hurt.
3. The wood can rot
Rotting wood doesn't just look bad; it can make your deck structurally unsound. When wood rots, it weakens, which means it has the potential to break. That's dangerous for any type of deck, but it's particularly hazardous for a deck that's many feet off the ground.
Don't ignore wooden deck maintenance
Wooden decks require commitment -- namely, you'll need to perform the above-mentioned tasks, tedious and time-consuming as they may be. If you're really not willing to do that work, you may be better off with composite decking. Though it'll cost more up front, it will cost a lot less to maintain through the years, and then you won't have to put in the time or sweat necessary to keep a wooden deck in top shape.
If you buy a house with a wooden deck attached to it already and you're not keen on maintaining it, you have a few choices:
- Take the deck down.
- Replace the top of the deck with composite so you only have to maintain the frame, which isn't as much work.
- Keep the deck, and find a contractor each year to perform the maintenance needed.
Wooden decks can be a great home feature, but they need care and attention. Keep that in mind before you install one so you don't wind up regretting your decision.