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17 Top Decking Styles, Materials and Patterns

A well-built deck is a thing of beauty for any homeowner. The process of building a deck for the first time or having an existing one rebuilt is a very exciting process but can be daunting. After all, a deck is an investment and will showcase the style of your house. Not only are decks perfect for entertaining guests but it also increased the appeal and value of your home.

Since a deck is generally less expensive than other significant renovations, such as building an addition, it allows for homeowners to experiment a bit and get more involved in the deck design process. A deck may seem like a very straightforward project, and it very well could be if it’s simplicity you desire, but there is a whole world of different deck materials, pattern designs and construction styles.

A. Decking Materials

The classic wood deck never goes out of style, but it certainly isn’t the only option when it comes to materials you can use. There are quite a few different choices, from old wood standbys to high-tech synthetics.

1. Pressure Treated Wood

Pressure treated (PT) wood is one of the most economical material choices for a deck. It’s the most common wood used and can be used for all parts of the deck structure. PT wood comes in various grades, with grade #2 being the most common for the deck surface while higher grades can be used for railings or built-in seating. PT is popular for deck due to its price and ability to resist wear-and-tear.

PT wood has a greenish tint and an exaggerated grain, though appearance can vary from coast to coast and the species of tree the lumber came from. PT wood has been treated with chemicals which give it its ability to resist against weather damage, insects, and aging.

Pros – Easy to work with; Ideal for DIY decks; Good durability and longevity; Accepts nearly any stain; Very easy to find throughout the country and at any lumber yard.

Cons – Requires maintenance in the form of yearly power washing, restaining, resealing, etc; Contains chemicals that can cause illness during construction.

Cost – Approximately $2.35 per sq ft.

2. Redwood or Cedar

Redwood and cedar are often lumped together, though they have their own pros and cons when it comes to decking. Both are softwoods that are higher-end options compared to regular PT treated wood, often a good choice for someone that wants a different look to their deck but still has a budget to consider.

The two major differences between these two are color and durability. Cedar has a yellowish tone to it while redwood, as you’d assume, has a reddish hue. Both are very attractive and with age turn to a silverish color, though many choose to stain and seal to maintain the original color. Redwood is more durable than cedar and can be used for all parts of deck construction. Cedar is still strong but often reserved for finishing touches on the deck, such as railings, seating, planters, etc.

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Pros – Very beautiful, particularly redwood; Naturally stronger than PT wood and with none of the chemicals; A more environment-friendly choice; May not be as expensive as you’d think if on the west coast; Can be beautiful on statement pieces of the deck or within a deck pattern.

Cons – Must use only construction or “heartwood” lumber as sapwood can’t handle the structural needs of a deck; Can be tricky to work with as it is softer, requiring pilot holes and washers.

Cost – Approximately $3.75 per sq ft. for cedar and $7.75 per sq ft. for redwood.

3. Ipe or Exotic Woods

Exotic woods or tropical hardwoods are the most expensive choice but if you have a big budget and want a stunning wood decking you really can’t beat it. Ipe decking, Pau Lope and Ironwood are some examples of more common exotic wood choices. These woods are often sought after for their color as well as how incredibly durable they are. Some may argue that their lifespan is more than enough reason to spend the extra money. While PT wood may last an average of 10-15 years, maybe more with religious maintenance, Ironwood could easily last 40 years. 

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Pros – Very beautiful and unique; Will add more value to your home; The longest lasting wood option; Consistent quality with naturally few knots and streaks.

Cons – Slow delivery time if importing; Difficult in sourcing means it would be best to use these woods for surface or decorative work only, even though it is more than strong enough for structural work; Extremely dense woods need pilot holes as screw and other fasteners may not be able to penetrate it as easily as other woods.

Cost – Approximately $20 to $25 per sq ft, depending on wood species.

4. Modified Wood

If you really prefer wood over synthetics but are hesitant to commit due to maintenance needs, there is a new material on the market to consider called modified wood. Modified wood is a softwood that has been treated with a bio-based liquid to strengthen the boards. This results in a smoother, more durable wood deck that still has all the same characteristics as the classic hardwood that so many love. Modified wood decks require less maintenance than regular wood and are ideal for high traffic area and even for pool decking

Pros – Ages to a silver patina like many other high quality woods; No splinters to worry about; Available in clear or character options for a sleek or classic knotted wood look; More sustainable choice compared to redwood or exotic hardwoods; Naturally resistant to bugs, mildew and rot; Can last up to 30 years.

Cons – Can be more difficult to find compared to normal wood choices; May have limited color choices (though you can stain the boards, if you wish); Typically used just for the deck surface vs entire construction.

Cost – Approximately $7 to $12, depending on manufacturer.

5. Composite

A very popular choice if you’re not completely sold on wood is composite decking. Composite decking are pre-made boards that are made of a blend of wood and plastic, usually a 50% or less wood fiber to plastic fiber ratio. These composite boards are often very eco-friendly as both wood and plastic fibers used are usually from recycled materials. Composite decks require less maintenance and still have a wood look to them. 

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Pros – Requires only yearly washing for upkeep; No worries about splinters or cracking boards; Long life of 25 to 30 years, depending on manufacturer; Often come in numerous color choices; Completely resistant to insect damage.

Cons – Used only for the deck surface, so other lumber will need to be used for structure (usually PT); Some brands look more plastic than wood; Will lose its color over time and you won’t be able to simply re-stain like wood.

Cost  Approximately $8 per sq ft.

6. Vinyl and Plastic

Vinyl or plastic decking has become more popular and is a good choice for those that don’t care for a wood look. It’s fairly similar to composite decking, though it has some differences. Like composite wood, this plastic decking comes in pre-made boards shipped to you from the manufacturer. Many companies now provide matching railings and other deck parts along with the normal surface boards, so you can have everything match seamlessly. Vinyl decking is very similar to composite.

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Pros – Even more color options than composite and less maintenance; Completely safe from insect damage; Lightweight and easy to work with if doing DIY.

Cons – Poor heat dissipation means it can get quite hot on the feet in summer; Is not a convincing substitute for real wood; Can’t be used for structural work; Pure plastic more prone to splitting or cracking in temperature extremes.

Cost  Approximately $7.50 per sq ft.

7. Aluminum

Aluminum decking is foreign to many and may seem like an odd choice but it actually an excellent material choice. First off, despite being metal, aluminum decking is one of the best choices for regions that experience hot temperatures. Grated aluminum decking is excellent for high-traffic decks or those around water, like a pool or lake. It is about as close to maintenance-free as you can get as well. Aluminum decking isn’t super popular but it worth considering if you want a deck that will last a long time with really no work on your part.

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Pros – Practically zero maintenance; Up to four times lighter than other decking materials; Two times stronger than hardwoods; Extremely cool to the touch thanks to lack of heat absorption; Different colors powder-coating choices; Comes in grated panels or decking boards. 

Cons – Doesn’t offer the same warm look of wood or faux woods; Can be difficult to find.

Cost  Approximately $15 to 20 per sq ft.

B. Decking Patterns

Once you’ve decided on the material you’d like your deck to be made out of you can look into some different decking patterns. Even a basic pressure treated wooden deck can give your home a more upscale feel simply by using a unique pattern. This is an easy way of further increasing value with relatively low additional costs. 

1. Parallel or Perpendicular

The most basic you can get with a deck pattern is running the boards either parallel or perpendicular to the house. Typically deck boards run parallel with the face wall of the house. It is possible to instead run boards perpendicular, though it may require changes in construction of the joints and ledger. Parallel boards give the deck a longer appearance as the lines draw the eyes out along the length of the deck. On the other hand perpendicular boards will make a deck seem wider. Both options look nice but one may be a better choice if you’re trying to fool the eye.

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2. Diagonal

A diagonal pattern doesn’t seem like that much of a difference but it actually completely changes the look of a deck. Typically the boards will run at 45 degree angles diagonally. Looks aside, diagonal decks are also sturdier and don’t need sway braces. Diagonal beck boards are limited to full-length boards all the way across. You can also do framed diagonal which looks quite beautiful and still maintains the strength of a classic diagonal deck.

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3. Parquet or Basketweave

Parquet or basketweave are patterns whose names are often used interchangeably. Parquet deck patterns are those that have different patterns, within the same square size, within the deck. For example, you may have different squares of deck, some with boards running parallel while others run perpendicular. Basketweave is the correct name for the specific example give, while modular decks can be anything else or consist of framed modules.

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4. Chevron and Herringbone

The chevron pattern is really nice and tends to work well with larger decks. Chevron deck creates a V-shaped pattern and can be done in a couple ways. You may have the boards run straight across the whole deck or instead have chevron with straight transition boards in the middle. Herringbone, another beautiful design, is often confused with chevron but is slightly different. Herringbone looks complicated but it’s really not that difficult to assemble.


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5. Custom

There really is no limit to deck board patterns, and really it comes down to the skill of the contractor. Custom deck designs include more elaborate patterns like the nested square or decks with a cross, diamonds, or other shapes set within. Another option for some homes that have an Asian landscaping look to them include laying decking boards on their sides rather than on their face like you normally would. This gives a very unique “East meets West” feel to the deck.

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C. Decking Construction/Style

Another important aspect of designing a deck is figuring out how you’d like for it to be constructed. It’s easy to get caught up in the details and forget that there are also choices for deck styling.

1. Platform

Platform decks are those that are ground level and are the most common type for single-level homes. These decks are fairly simple to build, whether you do it yourself or hire a professional. They can be constructed quickly and can be quite a bit less expensive than raised decks or the like. Special care does need to be paid with platform deck material selections, particularly any joints or other lumber under the deck that may come into contact with wet ground. Platform deck usually don’t have rails or steps, which makes them an even more economical choice.

2. Raised

Second in popularity is the classic raised deck. A raised deck can be just a few feet off the ground or raised up to the second story depending on the home. The cost of a raised deck compared to a platform is greater but just how much more expensive depends on the height. Raised decks look very nice and allow for storage or entertaining underneath them as well. If you live in a region where flooding can/does occur from storms, a raised deck could be more of necessity than simple aesthetics.

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3. Two Story

Two story decks are grandiose but not quite as popular due to the construction skill and costs involved. It can also be tricky to design a two story deck that looks good to the eye as it’s easy for it to seem cluttered. Many two story decks begin as a platform or raised deck on the ground and end up being connected to a second story balcony. For large vacation homes with living/entertaining areas on both floors, a two story deck can really be a useful feature when entertaining large groups of people.

4. Multilevel

A multi-level deck can be quite a work of art and extremely visually appealing. Unlike two story decks, multilevel decks are typically designed as a platform deck with additional terraces.  In essence, a multi-level deck combines characteristics of a platform and raised deck together. This style of deck construction is ideal for those that want a deck that really makes a statement. The different levels look very impressive and each level can serve a different function. For example, a separate left off to the side of the deck would be a prime location for a BBQ or outdoor kitchen area.

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5. Freestanding

Freestanding decks are just like platform decks in that they are usually ground level and simple in design. The difference is freestanding decks are separate from the house, popularly located within a garden or other landscape with a pathway from the home. These decks can be covered with a roof and are also ideal as pool decking.

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A deck is a wonderful addition to a home and helps to encourage more time spent outdoors, something every family can benefit from. Once the deck is built you can still improve it even further by considering to cover the whole deck or a portion. Looking into built-in seating, bars or planters are other options that help beautify the deck and make it more inviting.

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