Which is the best decking material pressure-treated, composite lumber or Cedar? The most difficult decision to make when building a deck is probably what type of decking to use. All three choices share similarities. They’re all rot resistant to varying degrees, require 16-in. joist spacing for proper support, bleach out to a silvery gray, and can all be cut and installed using conventional tools and fasteners.

The pros and cons of cedar decking

If you want to get that natural look from the wood then stick to cedar. The heartwood of the tree is rot resistant. Cedar doesn’t absorb moisture easily and since moisture is what creates twisting and splitting, cedar decking tends to lie flat and straight. Most carpenters estimate a cedar decking lifespan from about 15 to 20 but when used for ground-level decks and for shaded decks that are slow to dry out it can deteriorate even faster. Every two years or so you will need to clean it and reseal it to keep its color. Cedar is also pretty soft; so when used for decks where furniture gets dragged around a lot, the edges can get beat up. It’s more affordable than pressure-treated but less than composite.

The pros and cons of pressure-treated decking

If you’re thinking about longevity and most economical you’ll want to go with pressure-treated wood. It’s stainable, hard enough to resist abuse, and many brands carry a limited lifetime warranty. Standard treated decking generally costs less than cedar but inexpensive treated wood is often full of moisture, will shrink unevenly and twist when it dries. It’s recommended that you buy “choice,” “premium” or “select” treated boards. It will cost you more but the boards have fewer knots and straighter grain. There’s less tendency to warp when the higher grade choices are kiln-dried both before and after pressure treatment.

The pros and cons of composite decking

If you don’t have the time to keep up maintenance, buy composite decking. Most of it is actually made from recycled plastic and wood chips or sawdust. It tends to be more expensive than cedar but once it’s down, it won’t rot, splinter or twist. The color change is pretty even and you can even stain most types after four to six months. With defect free material you’re able to use all of it. Maintenance is simple, just spray it off with a hose.