All About Hardwood Decking

Keep reading to learn:


● Why the wood on your deck is splitting


● What is the best exterior deck material


● How thermally modified decking is made


● Why Ipe decking is a historic hardwood material


Things to consider


There are a number of reasons you might consider adding an exterior deck to your home. Perhaps you long for an outdoor space where you can entertain guests, or you are looking to increase the square footage of your home. Maybe you simply want a peaceful escape where you can relax in the open air.


Regardless of your reasons, there are plenty of things to consider before you begin building a deck. Even after you’ve successfully installed a deck, you will probably have some questions about maintaining and repairing it.


In this guide, we answer some of the most common questions that homeowners have about exterior decking -- from “What is the best exterior deck material?” to “How is thermally modified decking made?”


If you are thinking about adding a deck to your home, we will help prepare you for the process. Or, if you are experiencing issues with a deck that is already installed, we will do our best to help resolve your frustrations.


Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about hardwood decking.


Why is the wood on my deck splitting?


Has it aged?


Like any item that is kept outdoors year-round and exposed to the climate’s various elements, hardwood decking is destined to deteriorate over time. Sure, you can deter the decay with some annual maintenance (such as cleaning and applying sealers) or by using treated wood. However, even the highest quality, most well-maintained hardwood will suffer if you wear and tear it for long enough.


So if your hardwood decking is, say, older than your dog, it is not uncommon to experience anything from minor cosmetic issues to major structural problems. Remember: Wood constantly moves. It expands and contracts due to heat, humidity and moisture. Long-term exposure to these elements will inevitably cause a couple of floorboards to crack. Repairing the damage every few years is your only reliable defense.


Was it installed properly?


If your deck is brand new and its hardwood is already splitting, that is a different story. Unfortunately, you may be a victim of poor installation.


Poor installation is not uncommon with hardwood decking. Since wood is such a dynamic material, certain species require time to “settle” before they can safely be installed into a deck. The amount of time required varies, as it depends on the moisture of the wood and the location of the deck. However, trying to skip ahead can permanently damage your hardwood decking.


Can you prevent splitting in the future?


In reality, there is no secret to keeping hardwood decking in flawless condition. Some people believe that certain types of wood (such as pressure-treated) are immune to splits. This, however, is wrong. The only sure-fire way to avoid splitting in a hardwood deck is to avoid using wood in the first place.


What is the best exterior deck material?


Get to know your options.


When it comes to selecting materials for your deck, there is unfortunately no rule of thumb to be blindly followed. In fact, if you asked ten contractors, “What is the best exterior deck material?” you would probably receive five or more different answers.


Truthfully, the best material for any home improvement project depends on its homeowners’ style, climate and budget. There are unique advantages and disadvantages that come with every material. So when starting a project, it’s important to learn about every option and make a decision that fits the specific needs of your home.


To help you get started, we’ve included some of the most popular exterior deck materials below.


Ipe Decking


Historically, the most popular and reliable hardwood decking material is Ipe, a Brazilian rainforest hardwood. As one of the hardest wood species in existence, Ipe wood decking is extremely durable and naturally resistant to insects, mold and fungi (these wood predators prefer preying on soft, wet woods). For many years, its innate strength made Ipe decking the go-to choice for contractors seeking longevity from their decks.


Confirming its place is history, Ipe decking has been used to build some of the largest, most famous exterior decks in the country (including the boardwalk at New York’s Coney Island and the pirate ship at the Treasure Island resort in Las Vegas). Since most Ipe trees grow to be around one hundred feet tall, it is a perfect material for such large-scale projects, which usually require long planks.


Ipe decking is also extremely stable. Its high density makes it naturally resistant to warping, making it an ideal material for any hardwood deck facing excess foot traffic.


A solid natural wood option for any exterior deck, Ipe decking is available in a variety of colors, including reddish brown, tan, olive and dark brown.


Thermally Modified Decking


When it comes to outdoor performance, not all woods were created equal. Specifically, American hardwood species Ash (used in hockey sticks and baseball bats) is not as durable as, say, tropical hardwood Ipe. Thankfully though, through a popular treatment known as thermal modification, dozens of naturally flimsy wood species (including Ash) can be turned into reliable exterior hardware.


Through the thermal modification process, weaker woods are essentially cooked. Using a combination of heat, water and steam, their organic compounds are suffocated to remove their capacity for water. The result is a durable, eco-friendly material -- thermally modified wood -- that is totally resistant to moisture, insects and fungi. These characteristics make thermally modified decking one of the toughest, most durable options for your backyard.


Since thermally modified decking does not absorb water, it is nearly immune to the natural decaying that most woods suffer from. In fact, if maintained well, it is not uncommon for porches made with thermally modified decking to last as long as 25 years!




For those willing to move past the allure of real wood, composite is another popular exterior decking material. Similar to wood, composite comes in decking boards and is available in a variety of earthy colors. Yet unlike wood, it does not rot, warp, splinter or even require any annual maintenance.


The most popular brand for composite decking is Trex. Since 1966, Trex has invented, refined and perfected the composite deck category with a full lineup of reliable products. Trex decking solutions are available in a variety of styles and tiers that can fit into any budget. Plus, they are eco-friendly: Trex composites are made from an innovative blend of 95% recycled wood and plastic.


If you are searching for a low-effort, affordable exterior decking material, Trex should definitely be on your radar. Truitt & White is proud to be the Bay Area's #1 source for Trex products.


What are some tips on building a deck?


Choose a great contractor.


Regardless of the material you choose to use for your exterior deck, your project will likely require professional support. If installed improperly, even the highest quality Ipe decking or thermally modified decking will not perform as well as it should. So unless you already have experience building decks, you should consult with an expert before getting started.


Who you choose to build your deck is key to ensuring your desired outcome – a beautiful sanctuary just steps outside your home. So, if you are preparing to begin a decking project, start by searching for the best contractors in your area.


How do I get started?


Once you have finished educating yourself and selecting the best exterior deck material for your home, you may be wondering how in the world you’re going to get started.


At Truitt & White, we are always willing to help homeowners kickstart a new and exciting project. So whether you still have questions about materials or are simply looking for more personalized advice, feel free to come pay us a visit.


Please contact us today to get started on your home’s exterior deck.