Choosing Rot Resistant Wood For Your Deck

Whether you have braved Toronto housing prices and bought a beautiful old home or are nestling comfortably into your newly built GTA suburban house, you should get to know how rot resistant your exterior wood is. This could be anything from your wood siding, homemade chair, or, in our focus, your backyard deck.

Rot Resistant Decks

Normally, the most expensive external feature added to a new home is a backyard deck. This has been the case for over 50 years and was a decision made regardless of the age of your home. Older decks should be thoroughly examined for any signs of rot. Newer decks should be built sourcing strong, rot resistant lumber in order to maximize the deck’s lifespan. Let’s start with why this is important.

What is Wood Rot?

As decking lumber is from an organic source, it acts in a similar fashion to the foods we eat. A tomato left on the counter for a few days, even a week, will maintain its form and taste. However, if you forgot it there when you went on vacation, it will begin to break down, fall apart, and attract insects.

Wood has the same properties but, through biological and chemical difference, in a much longer time frame. This is why it is important to identify the integrity of your deck.

Wood rot is often used as an umbrella term when also talking about the presence of insects, as one can lead to another. Rot itself is caused by fungi (think of the mold on our tomato) that weakens the wood. These fungi are naturally present in all woods and feed off the organic moisture in the wood. The fungi can be found in both wet and dry forms. Fungi and insects eat away at the wood, causing it to rot, dry out, and, eventually, fall apart.

Using the Right Rot Resistant Deck Wood

When you are building a deck, sourcing the correct material is extremely important in combating the forces of nature, be they rot or insects.

Most older homes had decks built with old-growth woods. These were trees from virgin forests, where each tree had to fight for space and light. This caused the woods to grow slowly, giving their growth rings and fibers the time needed to compact tightly. If your old-growth deck is not rotting, we do not suggest replacing it. However, if it is time to replace or to build a new deck, the availability old old-growth woods is rare from deforestation and substantially more expensive than woods on the market today. It may also be illegal depending where it is being sourced from, so tread lightly.

Top 3 Wood Choices for Rot Resistance

Genuine Mahogany: The go-to choice for most high quality decks. Mahogany is an extremely dense wood that naturally repels water and helps deter insects from calling it home. The benefit of choosing mahogany is the ease in its workability while also remaining structurally strong. This makes it perfect for use when building doors and decks. If kept oiled and cleaned, it can last for over 25 years.

Ipe: When a wood is given the nickname, “ironwood,” you know it is going to be strong. Ipe is one of the strongest and densest woods out there, making it a great choice for keeping rot-inducing moisture and insects away. However, this hardness leads to being difficult to work with when building a deck. Proper care and oiling can help keep ipe decks lasting a long time.

Teak: This wood is most famous for its use in ship building, so it is a proven good choice for rot resistance. However, just as with ipe, it is hard to the point that it is hard to work with and can dull or damage equipment. Pre-drilling is a necessity with this wood. That being said, with periodic oiling, a teak deck will also last for years to come.

Woods to Avoid

Wood rot and insects love softwood. This is because softwoods are often less dense than their hardwood counterparts and don’t resist water as easily. Based on their cell composition and a higher presence of sap, softwoods are an ideal feasting ground for decay-inducing fungi and insects. Trees like pine are cheaper to buy but come with “biological baggage” as they contain a lot of sap and water. Do a lot of research if you plan on using softwoods outside.

Now that you have a bit more of a background of rot resistant decks, contact local hardwood suppliers to see what they recommend for your area and climate. If you are interested in building a genuine mahogany deck, don’t be shy to reach out to Green World Lumber for more information.