Is Redwood Decking Right For You?

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Redwood decking is a highly regarded option among homeowners due to its visual appeal and remarkable properties.

However, that doesn’t mean this decking option will be ideal for everyone.

From essential features to pricing, several factors will play a role in helping you decide if you’re for or against redwood decking.

What Is Redwood Decking?

Redwood is a reddish type of wood that’s considered an exceptional material for decking due to its natural resistance, straightness, and stability.

The wood proves very resilient against weathering and insects even when not treated with chemicals.

When a quality finish is applied, redwood decking will maintain its unique color. On the other hand, it will go black and, eventually, grayish silver if left in its natural state.

Redwood is graded according to its durability and appearance. Yet not every grade of this wood is suitable for decking.

In principle, all redwood grades can be placed in two categories: garden and architectural. Architectural grades are preferable for decking because they contain nothing but heartwood.

The most common grades for decking include Clear Heart, Select Heart, Construction Heart, and Deck Heart.

By contrast, Merchantable Heart, Clear Garden, and Construction Common are poor choices for decks.

Why Use Redwood Decking?

If you choose one of the better redwood grades for decking, the material may only have a few knots or none at all.

However, the wood quality will be only the first in a long list of benefits.

As mentioned, redwood decking is highly resistant to many elements that can compromise wooden surfaces.

Exposure to these elements doesn’t mean this wood type will succumb to wear and tear, especially if it’s finished properly. In addition,, redwood is extremely fire-resistant.

Furthermore, redwood doesn’t warp or cup easily and is superior to treated wood in that regard. It also shrinks very slowly, making it less prone to splitting.

Generally speaking, a redwood deck that’s maintained well and not used excessively might last about three decades.

Redwood Deck Pricing and Installation Costs

Redwood counts among the more expensive materials due to its limited availability. The high price is the result of several factors and a brief explanation can make the price point understandable.

Redwood trees can be found in the Pacific region of the U.S., from California up to Oregon. Because this is a relatively compact area, the yield of redwood is moderate compared to the market demand.

Also, since redwood is primarily grown in this area, it’s much easier to purchase redwood on the West Coast than in other locations.

There’s also the issue of old versus second growth.

Old growth is a historically renowned variant of redwood that has helped establish such a strong reputation for the material.

When we talk about the ideal decking options, we’re talking about old growth.

Unfortunately, this variant of redwood is less available on the market, and when it can be bought, it comes at a particularly high price.

The relatively low supply of redwood drives the cost of the decking material up.

If you use one of the more common grades, a linear foot of redwood decking will generally range from $1.35 to $2.80 per square foot. Heartwood variants will, naturally, be more expensive, going from $1.50 to $5.40 per square foot.

Linear foot prices vary by board width, which, in turn, influences the square foot price. Calculated for square feet, redwood decking material could cost from $4 to $11 per square foot.

The wood itself won’t be the only material used in the decking, though. Instead, the complete material costs will include the necessary substructure, rails, accessories, and steps.

With all of that considered, the cost of materials for redwood decking can be about $11 per square foot at the lower end, while the upper prices reach $26 per square foot.

The cost of labor for redwood decking installation will vary depending on any particular conditions such as additional stairs or seating, size, and the level of the deck.

On average, this expense can range from $5 to $10 per square foot.

In other words, a 100-square feet redwood deck could cost between $1,600 and $3,600 to build.

Did you know? Redwood trees are the largest plants in the world in terms of individual specimens. This information will sound less surprising if you know the other, more popular name for redwood: sequoia.

The giant sequoia can have an average diameter of about 20 feet and reach a height of nearly 280 feet.

The largest among these species can grow to between 380-390 feet. For the sake of comparison, the Statue of Liberty is 305 feet tall.

You can use our Deck Cost Building Calculator to estimate the cost of building a deck.

Redwood vs. Cedar Decking

Cedar decking is a very popular option that offers a natural and sophisticated look. The material is comparable to redwood in many aspects, with certain features being superior and others less so:

Cedar is considerably more available than redwood and costs less as a result.

Both tree types are naturally resistant to decay and insects.

Redwood and cedar require relatively regular maintenance.

Cedar isn’t as strong as redwood and can be scratched more easily.

Both materials are durable, although redwood has an advantage due to its high density.

Looking into the differences in more detail, the first noticeable aspect is the color.

Cedar can range from nearly white to yellow, pink, or pale red. On the other hand, the authentic reddish-brown color of redwood is considered one of its most attractive traits.

The only variant that stands out is the sapwood, which originates from the outer edge of the tree and can have a yellow hue.

Both wood types are prone to similar color changes that come with age, weathering, and a lack of maintenance.

Like redwood, cedar will become silver-gray, which might be the preferred look for some.

In terms of knots, the same rule applies to cedar and redwood: You can get very clear material with little to no knots, but it comes at a higher price. Each wood has a similar, even grain, with redwood’s being a bit more spaced out.

Cedar and redwood are also comparable in their resistance to insects due to the particular extractives that can be found in these trees.

However, when hardness is considered, redwood proves superior because of its density. Ultimately, though, this difference is negligible as both kinds of wood can be considered very soft.

The biggest advantage cedar has over redwood is undoubtedly its availability.

In particular, the Western Red variant is available throughout the U.S., while redwood must be sourced from a single area – the Pacific Northwest.

But with greater availability comes a more affordable price, so cedar can be purchased at about two-thirds of the price of redwood. This means price can be the breaking point when deciding between cedar and redwood.

If a more affordable price is important, most people will opt for cedar. But if that’s not a limiting factor, redwood will likely be the winner.

Pro Tip: While some people might like the aged look of a cedar or redwood decking, others could miss the original color and smoothness.

If you fall into the latter group, you’ll be happy to know that the natural wood making up your decking can be rejuvenated with relative ease.

Wood doesn’t fade in color throughout. Instead, only the surface layer loses its appearance. To restore the decking to its initial hue, all you need to do is sand the deck.

This method will get rid of the worn-out layer and reveal the freshly colored one underneath.

Redwood vs. Pine Wood Decking

Pine is a regular ingredient in pressure-treated wood. In particular, yellow pine is treated with different chemicals that make it resistant to fungi, bacteria, and insects.

Compared to redwood, pressure-treated pine wood has some obvious advantages, as well as shortcomings:

Pressure-treated wood is available in abundance and thus is more affordable than redwood.

Chemically treated pine wood is quite resistant to insects, fungal and other infestations and can compare favorably with redwood’s natural resilience.

Pressure-treated wood is prone to fading under sunlight, prompting proper maintenance and treatment.
Pine pressure-treated wood is quite durable, especially when compared with other types of treated wood.

On average, treated pine wood can last up to a decade longer than redwood.

Unlike redwood, which is an all-natural material, pressure-treated wood is made with certain compounds that might be somewhat unsafe.

There’s a noticeable difference in look and style between pressure-treated wood and redwood. Pine wood has a slightly reddish hue but doesn’t boast quite a distinctive look like redwood.

Still, it can still be very appealing.

Homeowners who aren’t entirely determined to have a redwood deck might find pressure-treated wood the superior option for two reasons.

First, it can outlast redwood by a decade if properly maintained. Second, pine wood is significantly more affordable.

Redwood, on the other hand, has impressive features in terms of natural resilience and sturdiness. For people concerned about using chemically treated materials, the choice between redwood and pine pressure-treated wood should be simple. In that regard, redwood is a completely safe option.

Did you know? Redwood’s fire resistance has earned the wood type a place in history.

In 1906, San Francisco got hit by an early morning earthquake. The quake caused ruptures in the main gas lines, leading to a series of fires which eventually caused the famed Great Fire of San Francisco.

While the fire got so out of hand – to the point that the city had to ask for military assistance – it turned out that redwood made the situation far less severe than it could’ve been.

The role redwood had in the Great Fire earned it nationwide renown and made it an increasingly popular cladding and decking option.

Redwood vs. PVC Decking

PVC decking, such as Trex Decking, has grown more popular due to its exceptional durability and strength. In certain regards, the synthetic material is superior to nearly all organic options, including redwood:

Since it’s a synthetic compound, PVC is vastly more available than most wood types. It also happens to count among the most affordable materials for decking.

Unlike redwood, which can only have slight variants of its natural look, PVC decking can be designed in several ways, with different textures and colors.

PVC is entirely resistant to all the factors that usually plague wood decking. The synthetic material will prove resilient to moisture, weather conditions, decay, and insects.

While redwood is relatively durable compared to other softwood types, PVC can surpass it in that regard, as the material won’t succumb to scratches easily.

When redwood fades due to sunlight exposure, it can be refreshed without issues. PVC is also susceptible to sun-induced fading but can’t be repaired.

Redwood and PVC are comparable in terms of resistance to weather and other external factors, even though redwood gets its resilience purely from the wood’s natural traits.

When it comes to the design, the versatility of PVC wins out. After all, redwood will only look like redwood, regardless of the variety, while PVC can be made to resemble almost any material.

However, people who prefer the authentic, natural look of wood might still choose redwood over the synthetic alternative.

Affordability is another aspect in which PVC decking overtakes redwood. The artificial material is considered one of the most affordable decking options, especially compared to redwood, which falls in the middle-to-high pricing category.

Things turn more in favor of PVC when repairs and maintenance are considered. Wood needs to be maintained more often than PVC, but the process isn’t too demanding and will ensure a refreshed look for a long time.

Despite all its resistance, PVC can still be very vulnerable to UV damage. Not only can the material lose color and become irreparably faded, but it can turn brittle and develop cracks more easily.

When that happens, another downside of PVC becomes apparent. PVC decking is almost impossible to repair by sections.

In case of damage, the entire deck will need to be replaced. In comparison, damaged sections of redwood decking can be replaced, although this will mostly be necessary only when the deck suffers deep physical damage.

Pro Tip: You can rejuvenate your redwood decking by staining it, but the process will be more effective if done correctly.

To prepare the deck for staining, you’ll need to clean the surface thoroughly, potentially using a quality wood cleaner and a pressure washer.

As experienced homeowners know, the next step after cleaning is to use a wood brightener on the deck. However, what many don’t know is that the success of the staining process can largely depend on the weather.

If you want to ensure maximal results, save the staining job for days when the temperature doesn’t go under 45 nor rise above 95 degrees.

Ideally, you should perform the job when the temperature is 70 degrees and there’s no chance of rain for at least 12 hours following the process.

Redwood Decking Options From Lowe’s

When talking about redwood decking, it’s worth mentioning the options available for purchase at one of the world’s leading home improvement retailers, Lowe’s.

The store has redwood lumber for decking in various dimensions and grades. There are also several decking accessories made of redwood, such as deck rails, posts, post caps, and balusters.

Unsurprisingly, Lowe’s has everything you might need to put together a quality redwood deck.

Redwood Decking Pros and Cons

Here are the pros and cons to consider if you want redwood decking.

Pros

-Timeless look
-Unique, warm color
-High resilience to decay
-Naturally occurring wood tannins stave off insects
-Easy to refresh upon fading

Cons

-Relatively expensive
-Wood can stain in contact with metal
-Requires regular maintenance
-Prone to dents due to soft composition
-Harder to find on the market
-Frequently Asked Questions About Redwood

Is Redwood Hardwood or Softwood?

Despite its high density, redwood is, in fact, a softwood. Softwood trees are evergreen or coniferous, and they provide a material that’s both easy to shape and strong.

In other words, softwood isn’t always necessarily soft. Some softwood types can be harder than so-called hardwood.

Is A Redwood Deck Expensive?

While it’s often stated as one of the more expensive decking materials, redwood comes at an overall reasonable price.

Compared to the prices of materials like composite, Ipe, or high-grade plastic, redwood can be considered mid-range. However, that doesn’t mean the material is cheap.

Is Redwood Good For Outdoor Use?

Not only is redwood perfectly suitable for outdoor use, but it counts among the best wood types for that purpose.

Besides the resistance to moisture and insects, redwood is also very responsive to finishes. All this makes it an ideal choice for decking.

Redwood Decking – A Quality Option

Many factors point toward redwood being an excellent decking material. From the protective traits to the distinctive look, this wood type has earned its reputation as one of the most popular decking options.

On the other hand, the material is somewhat harder to come by, although getting redwood is hardly impossible.

There’s also the ecological concern that stems from the limited supply of redwood trees. In that regard, it’s worth mentioning that the sequoia has become a protected species, further limiting its availability.

When everything is considered, redwood decking is a superior option to many others and wins people over with its great quality and unique visual appeal.


About Ilan

Ilan G. has been working in the remodeling and construction industry for over 15 years. His focus is on construction planning and design as well as project cost estimating. Ilan also has a personal interest in interior design, as well as in unique DIY remodeling projects. Read more about Ilan


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