Aside from adding to the utility of your outdoor space, a deck can do wonders for your home’s resale value.
In fact, you may get the full return on your deck expenditure, provided it’s properly maintained. And that’s why many homeowners prefer going for wooden decks, which are durable and easy to maintain. Besides, they come with different colour and finish options to match different decors.
But people often ask, ‘should they go for hardwood or softwood decking?’ And in the following sections, we will help you answer just that!
Softwood vs Hardwood Decking
What Is Softwood?
Softwood timber is derived from fast-growing evergreen (coniferous or gymnosperm) trees, which don’t shed their leaves. Generally used for constructing decks, ceilings, feature walls, doors and windows, softwood timber is quite a versatile material available in different types of finishes.
This is primarily due to its high workability, meaning the timber can be ‘moulded’ for different applications and styles.
Some common species of softwood used for the purposes mentioned above include Cedar, Douglas fir, Juniper, Pine and Hemlock. Besides, softwood is generally considered a more affordable option (compared to hardwood) when it comes to decking.
For instance, installing a softwood deck can cost between $150 and $200 per square metre. But some premium species like Cedar can cost more, usually between $350 and $600 per square metre (depending on its grade).
Since softwood is sourced from fast-growing trees, it’s easily available all year round, making this kind of timber more renewable. However, it’s typically characterised by its low density, especially when compared to hardwood. And the reason behind this lies in its ‘fundamentals.’
Unlike hardwood trees that rely on pores, softwood utilises an intensive network of cellular structures called medullary rays and tracheids to transport water and sap. Your softwood decks may become less durable due to this loss of density.
That said, you will still find some ‘hard’ softwood species with better density, like Juniper and Yew. Additionally, with modern treatments like oiling, you can prolong the life of your softwood deck.
What Is Hardwood?
In contrast to softwood timber, hardwood timber or lumber is extracted from deciduous angiosperm trees, which shed their leaves annually.
As the name may have already told you, hardwood is hard and durable. And there are two reasons behind this. Firstly, these trees grow slowly compared to the evergreen trees, which gives the wood enough time to develop.
Secondly, angiosperm trees use pores on the wood for evenly distributing water and essential nutrients throughout, allowing the lumber to get denser.
Given the durability of hardwood, it’s no surprise that it’s used for various applications like furniture, floor-making and even deck construction. You may have heard about some common hardwood species, such as Eucalyptus, Mahogany, Balsa, Blackbutt, etc.
Remember, though, that softwood is more readily available than hardwood. Additionally, hardwood trees are more difficult to process, and both these factors contribute to their expensive price tag. It can cost you anywhere between $200 and $1,000 per square metre to install a hardwood deck, depending on the type of wood, its grain and the labour charges.
Pros And Cons Of Softwood Decking
- Affordable and easily available year-round
- Can be made with different finishes
- Can be treated for better durability
- Eco-friendly- consumes less energy for cutting and drying processes
- Softwood decks tend to be less durable and may need more maintenance
- Some softwood decks (like Cedar) can be expensive
Pros And Cons Of Hardwood Decking
- Very durable and resistant to pests
- Requires less maintenance
- Comes in different colours and can be stained to achieve different finishes
- Can fit contemporary-style homes with ease
- Sourcing and processing require more energy
Choosing The Right Decking Material
Now that you know hardwood and softwood, you may wonder which material will be best for your outdoor deck. And in the following sections, we will walk you through some essential factors that will help you make the right decision.
Hardwood, in general, is known for its durability over softwood. Not only can it resist the elements in almost any weather conditions, but it can also resist dents and scratches. Further, a hardwood deck is less vulnerable to being damaged by pest infestation of any sort or even fire.
That is not to say a softwood deck will give up under heavy use and the elements, but you may have to spend quite frequently for its repairs and maintenance. However, softwood isn’t really fire-resistant unless it’s heavily treated for the same.
Although hardwood decking is almost always more expensive than softwood decking, it’s durability and low maintenance needs make up for the upfront cost. As such, it can be a good option if you’re looking for a good investment that pays dividends in the long run.
On the other hand, softwood decking is a more budget-friendly option, especially suitable if you want to change the exterior of your home frequently.
Regarding appearance, hardwood and softwood can be treated and stained to achieve different finishes. However, both materials will turn grey over time if not stained.
How To Maintain Your Softwood Or Hardwood Deck?
There are a few tips to help your softwood or hardwood deck stand the test of time and keep it like new.
First, use a clear penetrative oil to keep the deck from cracking and peeling and prevent UV exposure and moisture damage. Do this as soon as you’ve installed the deck. Secondly, get the deck protected with a wood protector (before finishing the deck). This will enhance its durability from within.
But the most important thing you can do is treat the surface at least once a year, depending on the wood the deck is made from. This can include anything from redoing the finishing to applying a wooden protector or re-oiling the surface.
Decking Dilemma: Softwood vs. Hardwood - Which To Choose?
Whether you’re planning to install a new deck or get the existing one repaired and maintained, Final Touch Carpentry and Constructions will help you. As Sydney’s number one timber decking service, our professional and qualified carpenters will suggest the right solution for you. So, contact us today!