What is Timber Decking?

B. Turner

Timber decking is a type of construction material used to build outdoor decks and patios. This material can be manufactured using a wide variety of hard and soft wood species, depending on the desired appearance and properties of the finished structure. Timber decking gives outdoor structures a natural rustic look that cannot be achieved with metal or composite materials. Homeowners who build a timber deck will increase their available living space and create an outdoor spot for meals and gatherings.

Cedar decking is attractive and resistant to water damage and insect infestations.
Cedar decking is attractive and resistant to water damage and insect infestations.

Hardwood species such as cedar, teak, and ipe are among the most popular materials used for timber decking. These woods offer natural resistance to mold and moisture that enhance the deck's strength and durability. While these species tend to be fairly expensive, they last longer and require less maintenance than more affordable materials such as oak. These exotic hardwoods also offer rich natural coloring without the need for stains or sealants.

Galvanized lag screws, which have coarse threading and a hexagonal head, can be used to secure wooden planks, such as those used for building decks.
Galvanized lag screws, which have coarse threading and a hexagonal head, can be used to secure wooden planks, such as those used for building decks.

Some homeowners choose softwood timber decking made from pine or fir for its low cost and natural beauty. These softwoods are easy to work with, and often feature knots and other flaws that some buyers find appealing. Softwood timber decks don't offer the same level of strength and durability as hardwoods, and may not last as long. They are also more prone to rot and swelling due to moisture and humidity changes over time.

Many ground-level decks and patios offer fairly easy installation for do-it-yourself installers. When timber decking is used to build elevated decks, the structure often requires engineering and professional installation to maximize safety and reduce the risk of collapse. While professional installation adds to the cost of timber decks, it may be required by local building codes in some areas depending on the complexity of the structure. Most new decks and patios also require builders to obtain a permit before beginning construction.

Timber decking components can be joined together using a variety of fasteners, including screws, nails, and bolts. Some steel plates or specialty fasteners may be required for heavy-duty applications, or for decks that will bear heavy loads. When timber decks are elevated, timber guard rails should be added to reduce falls and keep occupants safe.

Depending on the type of timber decking used, installers may add protective seals or stains to maintain the deck's appearance. Clear sealers help prevent moisture damage, while colored stains can change the appearance of the wood while adding protection. Pressure-treated timbers can minimize problems with swelling or warping over time, though they tend to cost more than standard timbers.

Ground level timber decks can make a good do-it-yourself home improvement project.
Ground level timber decks can make a good do-it-yourself home improvement project.

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