what is the best low/no maintenance deck material

gibby2015April 19, 2009

I have a huge wooden deck over a double garage that is badly in need of replacement. I'm sick to death of cleaning and sealing this enormous deck (along with another good sized one at my weekend lake place). What's the best low/no maintenance deck material these days? I want deck and railing that is as low maintenance as possible, looks halfway decent and lasts. Also needs to withstand MN temperature extremes. Is there such a thing?

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    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 8:17AM
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Is one better than the other or is it just the different appearance? Can you just let them go natural - no cleaning and sealing? I've not heard of these - did a little reading - very hard woods with 25-50 year lifespan with no sealing. Is that true? Has this been used for a while or is it something newer that people are using? Good for any climate including MN? I presume not commonly used because it is more expensive? How does it compare with cedar for example?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 9:08PM
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Ipe was installed on the Atlantc city boardwalk, the walking area of the Broklen bridge,there are fence post in the ground in S America that have been there for over 100 years.

No its not new at all. Same with Garapa, Masenramduba and several other S American lumber types.

Left to go silver/gray cleaning is all thats needed.Its a kinda deal how a lot of Folks think their climate is soooooo much more extream than any place else.

Far as money goes a good place to price check S American lumber>> East Teak 800 338 5636

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 10:10PM
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I am working on a deck right now, the plans drawn by an engineering firm, approved by the permit office, where the material selection calls for "...all wood to be preservative treated." That includes the handrails and all the places people will touch with their bare skin. I questioned this call, and the reply I got from the firm is that the new 2007 building code requires it. Well, I knew that was baloney so I sent the same question again through the engineer at the permit office, who contacted the design engineer directly. The reply from the design engineer was the excerpt from the 2007 IBC which said "...all wood to be preservative treated, OR naturally resistant to rot and decay."

That is a pretty big "OR"! The reason the engineer didn't specify it that way is because they know very little about wood species, properties, cost, availability, etc. The other people asked me "What wood is naturally resistant to rot and decay?" I rattled off a list of about 8. They had no idea of how many species meet that criteria.

My point here is that many professional designers, engineers, and builders are pretty much ignorant about wood. So don't think a material is brand new, unproven, or untested, just because the smart people don't know about it. Smart people know mostly what they read in books. It is dummies like us who, through trial and error, figure out the things that are later written as fact.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 11:37AM
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aidan - I hear ya - ignorant professionals are what led me to GW in the first place. I simply to not put blind faith in any of them - construction, medical, etc.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 2:19PM
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I have done way too much research on this subject. I live in Lake Tahoe...probably not as cold as MN, but it's a ski resort town with harsh weather and lots of snow. We were tired of redoing all of our decks every year as well and just ordered Vekadeck. They use Azek decking in the marina in Tahoe...but the colors didn't work for us.

If you truly want maintenance free, cellular PVC decks are the way to go. THey come in several shades with wood grain. Azek, Vekadeck, Fiberon Sensibuilt, Trex Escapes. They look more like painted boards though. It's not a rustic look.

Next would be the composites (made from recycled wood and plastic) like Evergrain, Trex, Certainteed, Fiberon, Timbertech, ....they look more like wood, but can scratch and stain. I know several people who have Trex and Evergrain in Tahoe. In harsh weather can begin degenerating after a couple of years.

John Hyatt and I have met on other porch blogs... he seems to know his woods, so if you want to stay with wood, he's a good source of info.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 6:45PM
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Yo Zom...It goes against the grain to include trex..Junk.. in any listing with manmade quality material like TemberTech,Moisture Shield and a very few others.

Thats like keying in moped and Harley in the same paragraph. J.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 6:56PM
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lol! Just trying to be thorough John :)

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 7:29PM
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My vote would be CorrectDeck.CX - one of the few products that meets your requirements. It's low maintenance, and can be installed over sleepers, for a deck over a garage. PLus the hidden fastener system makes it easy to remove boards to get at the roof.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 9:04PM
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Correct Deck is another brand of composite decking material.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 7:50AM
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I'm thinking I would prefer wood if there is something that will hold up without the resealing every couple years. I don't care if it's gray as long as it's not rotting. The manmade stuff looks pretty good when it's new but I've seen the mold thing after a couple years - which would lead me to believe you have to do the cleaning - with stuff that isn't too good for the vegetation. I will look into the IPE - never heard of it but I haven't done a whole lot of research other than reading here a while back and seeing what other people I know have done. Though I recently replaced the garage roof I would need to be able to get at it if needed - which I guess could be done with most anything. They took my whole deck off to replace the roof - and then put it back on.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 11:11PM
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Okay, I'm still working on my research on this. Do I have the order of price from lowest to highest correct below?

treated lumber
IPE and the like

I'm still considering the synthetic but from what I can tell there is no brand the doesn't require cleaning with some kind of chemical to remove mold, mildew, stains, etc.

I'm also trying to find a local, reputable deck builder who is experienced with IPE. I think I've found a couple but most are not experienced with this - some citing the price. I was also reading some contractor forum and they seemed to think most people are not willing to pay the price required to do IPE right.

So, hopefully I will be able to get an estimate of cost for an IPE deck soon - and then we'll see. Is there any reason I couldn't use IPE over a garage? Could anyone give me an example of price comparison for above? If X size deck was $5000 cedar, $7500 composite, $10000 IPE - so I have some idea? This will be done entirely by someone else - no DIY.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 10:15AM
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I built a gray Trex deck four years ago that has been great. It gets no hotter than wood or concrete out in the sun. I have cleaned mine with a water, bleach, Jomas solution once which brightened it up. I do blow it off every morning. I don't drag anything across it cause it is somewhat soft. I don't drink cranberry juice while on it. I don't get grease around it. I treat it with respect and it treats me good.....no splinters, no twisting, no cracking, no rotting, and oh yes, no NEVER any sealing, sanding, or restaining. Half th posts on here are about maintenance.
Oh, if you ask a wood-working deck builder what material to use, what kind of answer do you think he'll give you?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 12:32PM
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Ipe,South American, and quality man made are about equal in price for the decking.S A hand rail costs are way lower than man made.

I take out samples of man made right along with ipe and garapa,inform the Wallet on the + and- of both , run thru the trex problems from outright stealing, false advertising, mold/mildew to securaty fraud to class action and mention they are the low end of the business, give a price for quality products and business like Moisture Shield,TimberTech as well as the S American lumber. I have Never had a Wallet go with man made after seeing Ipe or Garapa. I have run into Folks who have a mind set for composite after I pick that up I dont even talk about S A stuff I put on material from one of those two outfits. J

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 1:19PM
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Between the "regular" composites and Ipe wood in price there are the all-plastic synthetics such as CorrectDeck CX and TimberTech XLM. I ended up using the XLM last year - both of these supposedly don't mildew and they were much harder than the composites - which seemed to scratch very easily.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 2:26PM
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All he wanted to know about was low maintenance options.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 8:16PM
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sre, will you get the Hell outa here!!!! ghesssssss

You have nothing to add to anything but your stupid trex junk deck and info on wild life. J.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 8:55PM
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John - can you clarify the pricing thing? Are you saying something like TimberTech and IPE are similar price? Is that just materials or also labor? Is the cost of labor the same or is IPE in some way more labor intensive than composite?

I've found my first guy to talk to who does a fair amount of IPE decks. What should I ask so I can tell if he really knows what he's doing? From what I've read it sounds like you could do it sub-optimally if you aren't all that familiar with the material.

Also, are you saying you can get IPE railing as well? I would kind of like a combination of wood and metal - like wrought iron or something.

Also, is there any reason not to put IPE on top of a garage?

Thanks (I'm ignoring all the negativity and hostility - and I'm a she not a he)

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 9:17PM
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Well Howdy Mam, no disrespect intended but that Troll is really beging to...well never mind every site has its jerks.

The price of ipe and say TimberTech earthwood series decking is very close. Garapa is below. The money with the rail system is way below like I said.The Labor depends on the skill of the Contractor and how the material is installed.

Things you should ask any Contractor>> do you have workers comp insu and libality insur, do you have Jobs I can go see and Customers I can talk to, how long have you been in BusinessIt is very possible to mix South American lumber and iron/alum balusters in the rail system. I like the black alum balusters on my site, www.deckmastersllc.com , you can see some jobs done that way. Installing iron/steel rail detail is totaly possible but will require keeping up the paint.

I think it will be fine to put ipe on top of a Garage...or any place else.

South American lumber has a learning curve, I dont recomend using someone who has never put it down.

John Mon

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 10:21PM
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"sre, will you get the Hell outa here!!!!"

In a word....NO.
Who do you think you are? Well, youre not.

I'm here, I'm queer, deal with it.

Trex is the bomb and I will let people know how good it is.
Why would the CEOs of the big box stores stake their reputation on it? You think you have better business sense than them?
I don't spend much time talking about wood products, but you are obsessed with putting down composites.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 5:21AM
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John, you mentioned not using a contractor who has never worked with S American decking. What about the DIY'er? That's a little discouraging. I'm going to go with srecrrcerecrsercr advice on this and throw down a composite or synthetic? What's next? Pole smoking? I have to scrape snow and ice in the winter and I have 2 babies that will later be very hard on the deck. I don't think composites or synthetics are practical for us but maybe I'm wrong.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 9:20AM
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Man there are some Really good Ipe decks built by diy on this site,not kiding,really really good projects. But they did all the homework,took their time, and colected all the cool tools ( with your screen name that wont be an issue )

I defentley sugest you do look around over to the manmande see what you think, the learning curve with them is every bit as complex and more so than the S American lumber and with in your range as well. J.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 5:54PM
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Well, my Ipe guy was here tonight. I really liked this guy - a real professional deck craftsman. Besides his portfolio of Ipe decks - including one in my neighborhood that I can go see in person - he was very knowledgeable about putting a deck on top of an EPDM flat roof. I did not find this guy on Angie's List but I checked it and he has a bunch of glowing recommendations there. I am going to check with the customers he gave me names of and go see a couple of his Ipe decks. So now I'm thinking I should get some more bids on this but I want the good guy - not the cheap guy. Plus I'm having a hard time finding people who do Ipe.

I do have to spend some time deciding if I'm ready to part with the $$$ for this - particularly if I'm going to stay in this house for a while. I doubt I'd recoup the costs if I moved anytime soon. But at least I'm now pretty sure what I'm going to do and what it will cost - just not sure how soon I will pull the trigger.

His opinion was that some man made materials (the ones without wood fiber) will not mold but his opinion was that they weren't very natural looking and were nearly as expensive as Ipe. I live in a very natural, wooded area and I too think a wood deck would fit in better than a giant plastic one.

Anyway, thanks for all your input on this. I'm happy to know there's a solution that meets my needs, albeit an expensive one.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 8:39PM
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You go get em Girl!!! Just from your post I like this Guy, check out the insur thing and his jobs but he sounds like a stand up choice.

Gib,you would not belive how many times I hear" this is not the house I am going to live in forever " factor in-- the chance of you selling in hmmmmm 3 years,the price of a well done outdoor project is still above the return of kitchens and bathrooms, first impersion is the key to selling, how much injoyment are you going to get steping out on that thing with a cool one.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 9:05PM
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Ya John, he gave me copies of contractor license info and insurance info. He also pulls permits etc. and indicated he would get with the inspector ahead of time to look at part of the deck that comes out from my house - since the way it is supported is not typical of how it's apparently done now. It's been there for 37 years though and it's rock solid so he did not think anything different would be required but didn't want to have any surprises. I think he is a very quality guy who is passionate about his work - probably like you are!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 9:11PM
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I know some folks who had a LOT of problems with CorrectDeck. In the company's defense it was when they were new to the market and any problems may have been fixed.

How about aluminum?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2009 at 9:48AM
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My husband and I are building our first deck out of a product called Radiance Wood. It was cheaper than even the cheapest composites- i think around $5 cheaper per board for the size we got. It has a 20 year guarantee on mold, mildew, rot, decay, warping, cupping, etc... I know you were talking about 40 or 50 years but I'm sure as long as we take good care of it it will last much longer than the 20 year guarantee. We purchased it at our Home Depot in Franklin, Tn which is just outside of Nashville. We do have to recoat it in 2 years, and then again every 7 years after that. Its a brush on coating called one time. funny that it's called one time but well probably put it on 3 times in 20 years. Oh, and its has no chemicals and is extremely environmentally friendly. That's what got me hooked, it will be safe for my kids and since it's wood, it won't heat up in the sun and burn feet like composites :) Good luck with your project!


Here is a link that might be useful: Flicker Pictures this Wood

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 4:02PM
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I am many years behind on this post but I am hoping you will respond. I am also interested in using ipe in MN as a low maintenance alternative to cedar. How did your project turn out? Did you find a good installer in MN? Thanks much.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 12:52PM
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Believe it or not I STILL haven't replaced this deck. I just couldn't bring myself to spend 30k on a deck we don't use all that much. We can still use it to grill and now I'm more of the mind to leave it as long as it's functional for that purpose and replace it with something inexpensive when we're ready to sell the place. We just power wash it and it looks okay and it slows the rotting process.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 8:04PM
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