Spring into a new deck or patio: How to choose the right material for your project

From porcelain tile to traditional cedar, here’s what you need to know

So you’re ready to greet spring with a new deck or patio … the question is, what material are you going to use?

From a new-to-the-Island option to tried-and-true favourites, you have a variety of materials to choose from, each with its own look and price point, but also with unique durability properties – especially important in our West Coast climate.

“Vancouver Island has some of the most beautiful weather in Canada, but the proximity to the ocean and the mix of sun and rain makes it one of the hardest climates for exterior materials,” explains Joshua Farquharson, manager of Windsor Plywood at Keating Cross Road.

1. Porcelain tile

A longstanding favourite in Europe, porcelain tile is gaining a following on the Island, where it holds up well without fading. Tiles are essentially an alternative to concrete paving stones, and can go directly on a prepared ground surface, like pavers, or in a floating system on a deck. Should a tile crack from a direct impact, it can be replaced, Farquharson says.

2. Composite/PVC

Popular in the last decade for its durability and easy maintenance, composite decking is created from a mixture of plastic and wood fibre. While it doesn’t rot and only requires cleaning once a year, its downside has been a lack of colour/tone variation.

“Capstock” – composite wrapped in PVC – provides greater colour and texture flexibility compared to composite alone, but several brands have failed in Vancouver Island’s unique conditions, so it’s important to research the product you are buying. “A deck is a large investment and you want it to last,” Farquharson notes.

“An even more durable option is pure PVC decking, although this will be the highest price point among decking options.”

3. Cedar decking

In many West Coast areas, red cedar is the traditional choice for wood decks.

“With great insect and rot resistance, cedar is a great choice for real wood decking,” Farquharson says.

However, while cedar can be left untreated to turn to a grey patina, this greatly affects the wood’s lifespan.

“The wood should be treated with an exterior finish,” he says. “Hardcoat varnish-type finishes like Sico Proluxe last for three to five years before needing to be sanded to bare wood and refinished. Softcoat oil finishes such as Penofin need to be reapplied every other year but only require a simple cleaning between coats.

“There is no perfect finish. It’s a balance of what you want your deck to look like and how much work you’re willing to do.”

4. Hardwood decking

Arguably the most beautiful looking deck option, hardwood decking is limited in the West Coast climate to tropical hardwood. No other hardwoods really hold up.

Boasting similar properties, Ipe, Cumaru (Brazilian teak) and Pedra decking all have great decay and insect resistance, it’s just the colour and price that fluctuates.

5. Treated decking

The most economical choice, treated wood traditionally comes in green, although several brands now offer brown. Treated with pressure and typically alkaline copper, manufacturers seek to give it the properties of cedar and finish it in a similar way.

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Windsor Plywood, 2120 Keating X Rd., specializes in interior and exterior home finishing products including flooring, doors, mouldings, wood products and hard-to-source products. Any questions? Just ask! The Windsor experts are happy to help.

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