Decking Materials: Know Your Options

Learn about decking materials and the options available for your deck project



By: Sean McEvoy

When planning for a new deck, you should first explore the various decking materials available for your project. You may even find that researching options for deck materials will lead to new decking ideas, resulting in a deck design that improves the appeal of your home's outdoor living areas and value.

Choosing decking materials used to be easy, because there was one choice: wood. It came in a few different species, but apart from that, the choice was simple. These days, you can choose between many different natural surfaces, as well as a range of composite and artificial decking materials that may extend the life and reduce the maintenance costs of your deck.

If you're a traditionalist who's leaning towards wood, however, the most common choice for wood deck materials is pressure-treated or "PT" lumber. This inexpensive, widely available deck material can easily make for a sturdy, attractive structure, but be warned—it's highly susceptible to warping, cracking and splitting, and it must be diligently maintained and treated for weather resistance.

To preserve the look and feel of wood but upgrade in terms of longevity, you might want to consider a redwood or cedar for your decking materials—they make for gorgeous decks and are naturally resistant to warping, cracking and pests. The downside: they're about three times as expensive as pressure treated lumber, In the same price range are tropical woods like ipe (pronounced e-pay), which are extremely dense and pest resistant and considered to be some of the most beautiful decking materials available.

Decks and Patios to Die For

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Party Ready

Festive lighting and ample seating make this traditional backyard pool a fantastic spot to entertain. Seating is grouped into zones for conversation, dining and poolside lounging while ample terraces connect the indoor and outdoor spaces and offer great views of the retreat-like backyard.

Dream Deck

This 600-square-foot wraparound deck from HGTV's Dream Home 2013 is clad in durable garapa wood and features a plunge pool, all-weather outdoor furniture and stellar views of the Kiawah River. See more pictures of this Dream Home deck >>

Photo By: Eric Perry ©2012, Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Stars and Streams

A pebbled stream with twinkling underwater lights flows from the hot tub to the pool in this dreamy outdoor oasis. A curved outdoor fire pit with semiciricle bench extends out from the stone deck, providing a spot to enjoy the stunning view.

Smart Pool

This sun deck from DIY Network's Smart Home 2013 is built from sustainable composite material and is the perfect spot to enjoy nature, sunbathe or entertain friends and family. The refreshing modern pool features frosted glass mosaic tile, a programmable water fountain and two high-intensity swim jets for exercising. See more of this smart pool >>

Photo By: Eric Perry ©2013, Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Beachfront Paradise

Serene and stunning, this grand pool is nestled among palm trees and tropical landscaping. See more of this oceanfront paradise>>

From: EWM Realty International and Luxury Portfolio International®

Photo By: EWM Realty International, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Mixed Materials

This gorgeous mountainside pool deck is built from an eclectic combination of brick, redwood and stone materials.

Southwestern Flair

Bold-colored patio furniture adds style and shade to this classic Southwestern pool patio. 

From: Willis Allen Real Estate and Luxury Portfolio International®

Photo By: Leading Real Estate Companies of the World

French Chateau

The pool and patio area in this luxury home's backyard is the perfect place to unwind on warm evenings. See more photos of this gorgeous chateau >>

From: Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate and Luxury Portfolio International®

Photo By: Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate, a member of Luxury Portfolio International; Shoot2Sell Photography

One With Nature

This stone deck features a raised spa and infinity edge pool overlooking a breathtaking mountain lake. Real boulders and stone coping separate the pool and spa, blending the retreat in with its natural surroundings.

On Edge

This incredible rooftop infinity pool, flanked by a wide wood deck, transforms into a hot tub at the flip of a switch. The pool also features a high-intensity swim jet for a vigorous workout.

Photo By: Courtesy of Sprogis and Neale Real Estate; Photo by Boston Virtual Imaging

Avant-Garde Patio

Reminiscent of scattered puzzle pieces, this unique stone tile patio doubles as a pathway from the luxurious infinity pool and spa to the firepit area in this jaw-dropping backyard.

Small Space Solution

Featuring an infinity edge lap pool, hot tub, concrete stepping pads and ipe decking, this small backyard spares no luxury despite its limited space.

Sleek Design

This breathtaking house has an intimate connection with all of its outdoor spaces. Oversized windows and soaring glass walls overlook the sleek pool patio featuring an infinity pool, elevated hot tub and integrated landscaping.

Miami Beach Penthouse

The posh penthouse at The Setai, a luxury hotel and condominium in South Beach, features a 3,000-square-foot rooftop terrace with a summer kitchen, a hot tub and an infinity-edge pool.

Photo By: Zilbert International Realty

Room to Entertain

A spacious stone patio with ample space for entertaining surrounds a crystal clear pool and stacked stone hot tub in the backyard of this Mediterranean-style home.  

Cape Cod Luxury

A beautiful modern pool, hot tub and firepit can be seen from the diamond-patterned patio of this Cape Cod estate. See more photos of this stunning retreat >>

From: Luxury Portfolio International® and Dilbeck Real Estate

Photo By: Dilbeck Real Estate, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Design on Ice

Featured on season 5 of The Vanilla Ice Project, a herringbone travertine stone deck flanks this gorgeous wet edge and infinity edge pool. Glow-in-the-dark tiles and a swim up bar round out the high-end design. See more of this Palm Beach mansion makeover >>

Photo By: Tom DiPace

Compact Design

With a lap pool, a cascading wall fountain, a limestone deck and a privacy border, this clever backyard design makes the most of its limited space.

North Shore Views

Spectacular views of Kauai's Kalihiwai Bay can be enjoyed from all angles of this luxurious infinity edge pool and deck. See more photos of this gorgeous North Shore home >>

From: Luxury Portfolio International® and Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers

Photo By: Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers, a member of Luxury Portfolio International; Damon Moss Photography

Carolina on My Mind

The stone deck and infinity edge pool of this Western North Carolina chalet blend seamlessly with the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains.

Photo By: Deborah A Scannell

Tiny Terrace

Although small in size, this tiny Los Angeles bungalow is big on luxury. A terraced deck, situated between the main house and the pool house, offers space to lounge, relax and swim in the California sunshine. 

Photo By: Nourmand & Associates Realtors, a member of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World

Tuscan Cabana

A neutral stone patio leads out to a beautiful pool and hot tub in this Tuscan-inspired home. On the far end, an open cabana features a comfortable seating area and rustic stone wall fireplace.

Island Impact

This incredible Maui beachfront home features a 2-story indoor/outdoor living room with 18-foot pocketing doors that open to breathtaking ocean views.

Photo By: Choi International, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Modern Beauty

This spacious modern home boasts an in-ground pool and comfortable outdoor seating, which can be seen from the kitchen through a large wall of windows.

Sun or Shade

With a shaded entertaining area and plush lounging pod, this sunny poolside patio is the ideal summertime retreat.

Photo By: Shannon Faulk / Getty Images ©2012, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Hard Rock

Random pavers, natural stone coping and artificial rock were used around this pool and spa to complement the rustic setting of this mountain retreat. The pool is also accented by a large rock waterfall.

Lodge Lounging

This mountain lodge sits on an exposed ridge at a very high elevation near the tree line. From the stone deck, guests can relax in the pool and enjoy commanding views of the dramatic scenery.

Photo By: Photo Credit: Ralph Kylloe

Beachfront Pool Deck

Lay on the beach or relax poolside at this British Island property where you can watch the ocean waves break from the two-level deck.

Picturesque Patio

The distant sunset illuminates this tropical paradise's sprawling patio and 50-foot saltwater pool. Flanked by a variety of tropical plants, the pool area includes a picturesque waterfall, firepit and lounge chairs for relaxing.

From: Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers and Luxury Portfolio International®

Photo By: Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Property Brothers Pool Party

The property Brothers, Drew and Jonathan Scott, transformed this once foreclosed Las Vegas home into an extravagant estate. The pool area includes a travertine-tiled deck and firepit, drop down movie screen, water slide and outdoor kitchen. Check out the exclusive HGTV Magazine feature of the bros' luxurious fixer upper >>

Photo By: Larry Hanna/AP Images

Palm Springs Inspiration

Inspired by a visit to Palm Springs, this poolside makeover from The Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie makes use of tropical palms, cactus and drought-tolerant plants, plus red tile and natural stone. The newly added poolside benches serve a second function as a fix for the crumbling retainer wall.

Room to Play

Featuring a fully-stocked outdoor kitchen, waterfalls, a spa and more, this expansive outdoor retreat offers plenty of room to relax and play. The lush landscaping, designed for privacy, includes sizable Leyland cypress, cedars and palms.

From: Willis Allen Real Estate and Luxury Portfolio International®

Photo By: Willis Allen Real Estate, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Integrated Pool

This gorgeous swimming pool features mist generation, a wave generator and waterfalls all programmed into the home's integrated control system. See more images of this integrated home >>

Al Capone's Pool House Deck

This two-story poolhouse, formerly owned by gangster, Al Capone, flanks an enormous lap pool and offers stunning views of bordering Biscayne Bay. Tour this incredible 1930's home >>

Photo By: Sotheby's International Realty

Lakeside Party Deck

The tile of this lakeside saltwater pool was carefully grouped to mimic the color of the nearby lake. Luxurious white outdoor drapery frames the entrway to the nearby outdoor kitchen and lounge and allows for privacy or shade if desired.

East Coast Inspiration

With shady pergolas, cozy furnishings and nautical blue accents, this gorgeous backyard retreat was designed to evoke the East Coast's Hamptons.

Midcentury Modern Design

Sleek concrete decking provides a seamless transition from home to pool in this gorgeous midcentury modern residence.

From: Windermere Real Estate and Luxury Portfolio International®

Photo By: Windermere Real Estate Southern California, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Under the Oak Tree

A sleek, 75-foot lap pool, with infinity edges on three sides, slips just under a large oak tree in this breathtaking backyard. The pool's clean-lined design blends beautifully with the home's modern exterior.

Cabana Resort

This gorgeous estate features a backyard resembling a private resort. Relax and grab a bite to eat at the poolside cabana or take a dip in the luxurious swimming pool or spa. 

Photo By: Harold Leidner

Texas Lights

Glowing LED lighting gives this infinity pool and spa a cool and inviting aura—perfect for entertaining on warm Texas evenings. See more of this charming Southwestern home >>

Photo By: By Design Custom Home Concierge

From Home to Pool

LED-lit stairs light the way to a serene, blue pool that features mosaic tile that complements the home's stone aesthetic. 

Geometric Design

A large covered patio with a bar and dining area sits aside this stunning poolhouse. On the spacious lawn, geometric pavers turn the grass into an artistic statement.

Traditional Charm

This Cape Cod home has an inviting backyard space with a traditional pool and seating area great for relaxing and enjoying the summer weather. See more photos of this charming home >>

Rustic Meets Modern

The stacked stone exterior of this Arizona home is a beautiful, rustic contrast to the clean modern lines of the deck and infinity pool. Oversized lounge chairs add an extra contemporary touch and are the perfect spot to relax and watch the poolside television.

Tranquility Pool

This tranquil private pool and patio area features beds of drought tolerant shrubs, sand-finished concrete pavers, statuary and a raised deck for lounging.

Photo By: Falling Waters Landscape Inc.,

Southwestern Views

A terraced swimming pool and sleek tiled deck provide a great place to relax and enjoy the impeccable view from this Southwestern-style home.

Black Stone Pool

This neutral stone tile patio features a gorgeous contemporary infinity pool flanked by concrete fire bowls. An outdoor kitchen with a built-in grilling area is located just next to the pool, while meticulous landscaping—including a wall with climbing plants arranged in a diamond pattern—adds a finishing touch.

From: Luxury Portfolio International® and Greenwood King Properties

Photo By: Greenwood King Properties, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Deck Alternative

In lieu of a traditional deck, these private lounge spaces are artfully set into the pool; the infinity edge merges the cool waters with the private cabanas, creating a unified harmonious experience. White linen canopies provide shade while creating well-defined private retreats. 

Photo By: Jamie Durie

Transitional Beauty

One gorgeous space leads seamlessly to the next in this incredible open-air villa.

Georgian Estate

Covered porches and an elegant brick patio surround the backyard pool of this 1929 Georgian estate in Bel-Air, California. 

From: Hilton & Hyland and Luxury Portfolio International®

Photo By: Hilton & Hyland, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Lush and Serene

A stunning infinity pool with iridescent tile is the focal point of this lush backyard. Tall hedges line the perimeter for privacy, while a comfy lounge area centers around a Gabian bowl fire pit.

Photo By: Jamie Rector

Garden Pool

Entertain or relax pool side in this lush garden pool space. Adirondack chairs centered around a patio table offer a delightful spot to eat or drink while enjoying the warmth of summer.

Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting is tucked into the overhangs of a cantilevered roof, lighting up the sleek, streamlined pool and highlighting the lines of this home's Mid-Century Modern design.

Added Texture

Sleek pebble gullies add interest and depth to this concrete pool deck. See more images of this stunning Corona del Mar home >>

Photo By: Jason Jorgensen

Santa Barbara Elegance

In the backyard of this stunning modern home, a striking infinity pool with a glass perimeter curves down to sparkling views of Santa Barbara. A pergola structure anchors the end of the space, creating a quiet and dream-like place to watch the sunset. 

Nighttime Allure

With cascading fountains, a tile bridge and atmospheric outdoor and underwater lighting, this rectangular pool is mesmerizing at night. 

Venetian Influence

Situated against the side of the house and running the entire length of the residence, this sleek pool concept reflects the intimacy of the water canals of Venice.

Balinese-Inspired Villa

At night, the pool and patio areas of this home in the British Virgin Islands create a soothing and comfortable ambiance. Paired with the picturesque view, it's reason enough to have evening cocktails outdoors. See more photos of this stunning villa >>

Photo By: Smiths Gore Limited, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Liquid Window

This multi-level, multidimensional infinity edge pool features upper and lower sections separated by a thick, acrylic pane called a "liquid window," which gives the illusion of water floating in space.

Secret Garden

A wooden pergola stretches over comfortable lounge chairs while a sprawling perimeter garden, bursting with blue hydrangeas and orange daylilies, adds privacy and color to this gorgeous outdoor space.

If you're willing to sacrifice some of the look and feel of pricey hardwoods, composite wood may be a good option. Composed primarily of wood fibers and recycled plastic, composite wood comes in a wide range of colors and stains, and won't warp, split or crack.

Finally, a rarer option but one that you might want to consider is aluminum decking. It's the strongest and most long-lasting decking material, but it's also the most expensive at around $9 per linear foot.

By exploring the decking material options available to you, you'll be able to find the material that offers the best combination of beauty, durability, maintenance and cost for your home.

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