Redwood and Cedar
Advantages: Redwood and cedar heartwood has glowing color, handsome straight grains and natural resistance to rot and insects. Boards are easy to cut and can be left untreated to weather naturally. Life span is easily more than 20 years. Disadvantages: Both are expensive. Redwood sapwood - the newer wood closer to the bark - rots when exposed for sustained periods to moisture. Cedar sapwood breaks down quickly in moist conditions. Availability: Redwood and cedar are sold in all standard dimensions. Cedar 5/4x6-in. deck boards are easy to find. Redwood can take a few days for special orders. Recommendations: For redwood, use kiln-dried deck heart or deck common. Clear heart, clear, B heart and B grade redwood are fine for lower budgets. For cedar, clear all heart is the premium choice. Good, lower-cost alternatives include appearance grade and, for dry areas, No. 1 select tight knot (STK). Use hot-dipped galvanized, aluminum or stainless-steel (ring-shanked) nails, screws and other fasteners. Cost: About $18 to $22 per square foot installed for both woods, not including substructure. Decking itself costs about $5 per square foot; the higher grades of redwood cost much more. Tropical Hardwood
Advantages: Now more widely available, ipe (E-pay) is a durable teaklike tropical hardwood sold as Ironwood or Pau Lope (pow LOW-pay). Twice as strong as oak, ipe is more durable than redwood and cedar. It has a life expectancy of 40 years or more, and is resistant to insects and decay. Ironwood is backed by a 25-year transferable warranty, while Pau Lope comes with a 20-year limited warranty. All grades are virtually knot-free, and tight grain patterns make this wood impervious to water. Another tropical hardwood option is cambara; it's less durable than ipe but also knot-free. Disadvantages: Expensive. Requires predrilling for fasteners. Availability: Ipe is available in most standard dimensions, including 5/456 in. for deck tops and 2-by dimensions for handrails, joists and posts. But delivery can take up to three weeks. Recommendations: Treat it just once with a UV-blocking sealer like Penofin ($30 per gallon) and let it weather. Use stainless-steel screws. Cost: About $22 per square foot installed, not including substructure. Decking itself costs about $5 per square foot. Cambara decking costs $3 per square foot.
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