There are several types of hardwood timber that are suitable for decking in the UK - where it is increasing in popularity.
This is not the case in the USA where there is still bias towards softwood timbers for decks.
Hardwoods originate from broadleaf trees and can be classified as either tropical or temperate hardwoods. (Softwood comes from coniferous trees.) Temperate hardwoods -though grown in the UK - are not normally used for decking in the UK, mainly for cost purposes, and the fact that they are often of superior quality to the timber used in decking. Thus, they are saved for furniture making - or interior flooring, where they can command a higher price!
Hardwood decking in the UK tends to be sourced from tropical countries. Notwithstanding the transport costs, they are still more cost-effective than home-produced temperate hardwoods.
The main hardwoods used in decking, are Ipe, Yellow Balau and Massaranduba. Others include Cumaru, Iroko and of course Teak. Other hardwood decking materials are sometimes sold as decking tiles and the like - notably Teak. Each of the hardwoods mentioned for decking has its own unique characteristics, but also of course with the many similarities that make it suitable for use as deck boards.
Initial colour of all hardwoods is an attraction. this colour will soon fade if there is no regular maintenance carried out. hardwood - like softwood - is not maintenance free. Neither is composite decking!
The main thing to bear in mind about hardwood decking projects, is that they require a much greater degree of carpentry skill than does softwood decking. The construction process is more time-consuming - adding to the overall cost - and full professional tools are a requisite for working with hardwood.
Deck board lengths can vary, and often hardwood decking is sold in assorted lengths with and average of say 3.6m per length.
Ipe Hardwood Decking is the 'in' material at the moment. (Fashions and trends come and go!) Ipe (Eeepay) decking is a very hard timber - somewhat harder than the English Oak - and will require expertise and good equipment to work it well. The colours of Ipe hardwood decking vary - depending upon whether from heartwood or sapwood part of the tree. yellow through to greenish brown or even full brown are to be expected - and are desirable. As with all hardwoods suited to decking, it has an interlocking grain, with a slight lustre when fresh. Like all timbers - it fades in exterior use. Said to be guaranteed for 20+ years without further treatment. However, see our page about oiling decks.
A hardwood suitable for outdoor construction use in UK and is to be found in much exterior garden furniture. It is a very durable timber, with high density and fine interlocking grain. It is stated to have a lifespan of around 20 plus years in exterior use. It is a stable timber and very suited to decking as it has minimal twisting or warping tendencies. This makes it ideal for the UK weather conditions where there are considerable changes in climate throughout the year. fades to light grey if untreated or un-cared for!
Massaranduba Hardwood Decking is grown in Central and South America. It is purported to come from sustainable forests. The colour varies between a dull red through to light brown. It has a straight grain, with a very fine texture. The fact that it is a 'strong' wood is used as a selling point, but this is not a practical worry, for all decks will (should) have a suitable sub deck structure that will render even the softest of timbers serviceable. It is available as either grooved, reeded or plain profiles.
It has a fire resistance rating similar to that of concrete and steel! The claim that it is maintenance-free, only stands up if you want to end up with a light grey deck! As with all timbers, it will need regular maintenance to ensure that it remains in pristine condition.
Iroko Hardwood Decking.