Choosing decking timber is an important decision. You’ll need to think about potential wear and tear, maintenance, and look and feel. There are three main types of timber to choose from: softwood, hardwood, and composite.
Softwood decking timber
Treated pine is a popular choice of softwood in New Zealand. That’s because its low-maintenance, nice looking, cheap, and high-quality.
You can choose from two grades of pine: merch and premium. Merch is the economical option, but it has more knots and is known to bend. While pine’s pretty strong, it’s not as tough as hardwood. So you’ll need to think about the load it can take, and be aware that it can dent and scratch easily.
New pine is yellow or white in colour with slightly darker knots. With age, it fades into a rustic, silver shade. Not happy with the colour? No worries! You can stain pine to suit your taste and it paints well. If you build with pine, you will need to oil it every year to keep it looking new, see caring for your deck.
The main type of hardwood for decks in New Zealand is Kwila. It’s more expensive than pine, because it’s stronger and usually imported. It can handle weight, is resistant to termites, and lasts long (so long as you look after it!). Kwila wood will gradually expand in Kiwi weather conditions.
Kwila is an attractive timber – looking more like indoor flooring than outside decking. Its colour ranges from light to a deep reddish brown. However, this vibrant colour can bleed out when exposed to water, staining nearby surfaces. Overtime, sunlight will fade Kwila to a grey shade. To maintain its original colour and make sure it doesn’t split, you’ll need to stain and oil Kwila every year. You can also stain it to change its colour.
Vitex is another hardwood option. With its yellow shade, it looks a lot like pine, but it’s much more durable. In fact, it doesn’t dent like pine and it lasts longer.
It doesn’t have knots and vitex’s finish is a fine, even grain. Its natural colour doesn’t bleed out as much as Kwila, but it will fade to a silver/grey shade with age.
Composite decking is an artificial timber made up of recycled plastic and organic fibers, such as rice husks. It looks like wood, but it’s an eco-friendly alternative that lasts longer and is easier to maintain. It won’t split or dent, and is resistant to water, mould, and mites.
It is more expensive than traditional wood, but composite will outlast a timber deck. And, in the long run, you will spend less time looking after it as it doesn’t require staining and oiling. It comes in a wide range of colours of browns, greys, and blues, that won’t fade out as quickly as wood.