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Best Types of Timber for Decking: Decking Guide, 2020 Trends & Tips

Let's talk through the best timber species, tips for installing timber decking, how to protect and maintain it, and a few other helpful hints and tips.

Decking adds a beautiful touch and can enhance your garden in a variety of ways.

It can create ideal space for al fresco dining and socialising, whilst elevated decking can be used to even out a sloping garden terrain.

The right choice of decking is elegant, surprisingly low maintenance and highly durable. So, if you’re here, you probably want to learn even more about it for your project.

This guide covers on-trend timber decking species, installation, protection, maintenance, as well as a few other helpful hints and tips.

Choosing a timber decking species: what qualities does the timber need?

As a general rule, a good timber species for your decking needs to look the part, as well as have properties suiting it to exterior application: high durability and sunlight (UV), water and rot resistance.

It may be helpful to consider the following when making a choice on a species for your decking.

  • What will your decking be used for?
  • Where will your decking be located?
  • What do you want your decking to look like?
  • What is your budget?

Species of timber can vary by aesthetics, levels of durability, water resistance, colour and price per square metre. If, for example, your decking is to surround either a pool or hot tub, you’ll need to select a timber species with good water damage resistance.

If you are using your decking frequently for entertainment, especially with children and pets, you’ll want a hard-wearing timber — a durable hardwood.

If you’re looking to invest in something at the higher-end for that aspirational, designer feel, a luxury tropical hardwood might be more suitable.

Which are the best types of timber for decking?

Here’s our rundown of the top timber species for decking for 2020 and beyond — and why they’re so good.

Whether you’re on a budget or looking to push the boat out with a high-end, luxury deck, these woods each step to the mark as a fine decking timber. Different species will also suit different applications; perhaps you’re after decking in a longer length, or a wooden deck that has water resistance?

1. Finger-jointed European Oak

Finger-jointed European Oak is potentially the least expensive hardwood decking option available, but nevertheless an aesthetically-pleasing, naturally-elegant one!

The finished product, once oiled, is a fine medium-to-light brown colour; the finger joints in the timber will be visible.

Oak is a very durable, beautiful hardwood — giving it those two crucial qualities. However, it’s worth noting that European Oak can tend to move slightly more as compared to tropical hardwoods. Therefore, it’s worth putting a slightly larger gap in between the boards.

This usually comes in a fluted profile, as demonstrated in the above image. With the boarding glued and finger-jointed, this species has the additional benefit of being able to be supplied in longer, more stable lengths.

Good for: Those looking for a strong, elegant, cost-effective timber decking species at a potentially longer length.

2. Siberian Larch

Although Siberian Larch is a light-coloured softwood, it’s also one of the most durable on the market. Due to its slow growth, the wood is dense and straighter grained than its European Larch counterpart — it’s even harder than some hardwoods!

As well as its durability, larch’s resistance to rot and fungal attacks makes it perfect for a decking project that is intended to withstand a lot of wear. It’s worth noting that the species does tend to move more than Thermowood and the other hardwood options, though.

As with the finger-jointed European Oak, longer lengths are available in this species.

Good for: Those in search of an extremely durable, longer lengths and rot-resistant decking species.

3. Thermowood

Thermowood is a dark-coloured softwood. The species is thermo-treated, which makes it extremely durable and weather resistant. Thermowood does not move as much as Siberian Larch or Finger-jointed European Oak.

For those who may be on a budget or in search of a slightly cheaper decking species, Thermowood represents a cost-effective solution. The decking boards can be treated with a deck oil to maintain the dark colour, or can be left to weather naturally.

Good for: Those in search of a stable, durable, longer lengths and cost-effective timber decking species.

4. Iroko

For something luxurious, take a look at Iroko; a top-of-the-range tropical hardwood decking which is extremely durable and stable. Or, you wanted the full name - iroko chlorophora excelsa.

Did you know that Iroko produces its own natural oils protecting it against the outdoor weather?

Sourced from the coasts of Africa, this hardwood’s similarity to teak is noteworthy, as is its variance in colour, but once oiled this variation becomes less profound. With Iroko being a tropical hardwood, it has a warm, dark colour and, once oiled, is even considered as an alternative to teak.

Iroko is a stunning, on-trend timber choice for those wanting to add some flair to their garden space.

  • Good for: Those in search of a beautiful, high-end timber species that also has exceptional technical properties.

5. Balau

If you’re searching for another high-end tropical wood for decking, Balau ticks all the right boxes — beautiful, durable and even water resistant.

Similarly to Iroko, Balau is a top choice when it comes to tropical hardwood decking, and possesses very similar characteristics — impeccable durability and strength.

The main difference between Balau and Iroko is that Balau has a much more consistent reddish brown colour — so your choice between one or the other may come down to aesthetic considerations.

As mentioned, Balau is extremely durable and stable but also resists water well. Perfect for pool parties!

  • Good for: A higher-end timber with fantastic technical properties; decking areas requiring water resistance.

Decking design hints and tips

Creating a deck that stands out is more than choosing the right timber, as important as that is. Your project requires careful thought given to the design, too.

Our decking design trends blog post is perfect for architects, home improvers and self-builders who are looking to create a truly standout, one-of-a-kind timber deck.

Timber decking installations tips from the trade

There’s always the option to hire a professional to help to install your timber decking. However, for all those keen DIY-ers out there, you’ll be pleased to learn that it’s possible to install your own. Here are some handy tips…

  • Ensure that there is a 5mm gap between your decking boards (when using Oak or Larch, you may want to increase this to around 7mm as there will be more movement when using these species).
  • Use protective precautions when installing your sub-frame.
  • Damp protection pads can be purchased to place between your subframe and the ground to stop any water being transferred from the ground and into your subframe.
  • Decking tape can be used to cover the face of your sub frame, ensuring that your decking and sub-frame are not touching and transferring water between the two.
  • Ensure your decking is securely fastened to your sub frame. Use a high-quality, stainless steel decking screw when fixing your deck down.
  • If you use standard wood screw or a poor-quality decking screw, these will eventually break and will allow the boards to move and warp, resulting in your deck bulging up in certain areas.
  • Screws that are not stainless steel will also bleed and stain your timber a dark black brown colour.
  • Just bear in the mind the classic “Buy cheap, buy twice” motto!
  • Make sure air can circulate around your decking, which will help stop your sub-frame from becoming damp, moving and even rotting.
  • Use spacers in between your subframe and decking boards.

How do I protect my timber garden decking?

Unless you’d like your decking to weather naturally, make sure to finish your deck with a high-quality UV protection oil.

The sun is the biggest foe to your beautiful decking; a high-quality deck oil, similar to Owatrol Aquadecks, will give the construct extended weathering life, and guard against the bland-grey colour typical of a weathered deck.

How often does a wooden deck need treating? We’d recommend that you give your decking a coating of deck oil every year — so make sure you can dedicate a sunny afternoon once in a while towards decking treatment.

With some particularly high-quality oils, once every two years may suffice. As an added benefit, some UV oils will sometimes also contain an added grip feature, making your decking safer for the family.

How long does a timber deck last for?

A great question — which obviously depends on many factors, including:

  • Quality of timber used
  • Quality of the build
  • Protective measures taken.

If high-quality timber is used, is well maintained, the design is well-constructed and the correct measures are taken to preserve it, a timber deck can last for well up to 25-30 years.

Take a look at our Decking page for more information on some of the high-quality timber species available at our headquarters in Melmerby - why not pop down and pay us a visit?

Got more questions in the meantime? Our expert team are on-hand to advise you and offer all their expertise on your next decking project - just get in touch!

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