Design & Decor

Timber or Steel Decking?

Story Highlights

  • Weather adjustments
  • Using the steel for support
  • Which timber to use
  • A deck made entirely out of steel
  • Eco-awareness when shopping for timber

No backyard would be complete without a proper deck that is definitely considered as a luxurious addition.

In order to enjoy the deck during the pleasant weather, the support needs to be strong enough.

The usual decking is made either from wood or steel and the homeowner is the one making the final decision which material to use. Although both supporting structures are perfectly safe if installed properly, they do have different traits that require the owner to make the right decision the first time.

The thing is, there will be no second time as decks last for decades and changing the supporting materials means changing the entire deck, which is too expensive.

That is why it is useful to know the advantages of timber and steel alike:

Weather adjustments

Timber is a natural material that adapts to the weather conditions outside.

Like most natural materials, it shrinks in cold weather and it expands when it’s hot outside. In terms of structural support, this does not pose a problem, unless timber is attached to timber.

You see, the desk’s supporting structure should in general match the flooring, so timber on timber ensures that the whole deck will expand and contract together, decreasing the stress that is placed on the boards.

If you used steel support with wooden flooring, the structural integrity would not be compromised, but you could lose a bolt or two during the hot summer months during when timber expands faster than steel.

Furthermore, the wood would be under such stress that boards could split in half due to the tension they are exposed to.

Using the steel for support

An all-steel frame is out of the question because of poor interaction with timber.

However, you can introduce steel at certain sections of the frame, since it provides additional support. Wood might be a natural material, but it’s no match to steel in terms of strength and load-bearing capacity.

The larger the deck in surface and the more elevated it is, the more important role steel gets in its erection. Steel bearers are going to come before the timer joists that the actual decking is attached to.

This combination ensures that timber is joined with timber, all the way using steel as the end support point bedded in the ground and providing the whole deck with unparalleled stability.

Which timber to use

When we say “timber,” we refer to all types of it but not all of them are suitable for your deck.

The timber types used on the deck differ significantly that the materials used for hardwood floors in the living room or the bedroom.

This is because the latter are indoor spaces and the deck is without exception located outside, meaning that it faces a different set of challenges.

That is why cumbersome oak is not used for decks, but rather timbers like merbau, treated pine, jarrah or ironbark, to name but a few. They are more dense and heavier than wood used indoors.

Furthermore, they need to be of the best quality, as distributed by ATS timber, because they have to withstand heavy battering from the elements for decades to come.

A deck made entirely out of steel

So far, we have only discussed how steel can be used in combination with timber but there are deck types that include steel only. They are usually used at higher floors of the house or as roof decking.

In such cases, the installation process is fairly easy and it consists of simply bolting together all the steel elements. However, upkeep of such decks is difficult, as steel does not fare well when exposed to different atmospheric conditions.

It is, therefore, necessary to coat paint it with protective colors. This needs to be waterproof paint and the steel should have as less contact with the ground as possible. Good ventilation is necessary to avoid condensation which could weaken the steel support.

Eco-awareness when shopping for timber

If you opt for timber in the end, as many homeowners do, you need to take care of one thing: so many trees are cut down each year that it becomes your duty to check where the timber is outsourced from.

Ask your supplier where do they get the timber from and whether they are actively combating deforestation by planting new forests. Responsible logging companies plant a new tree for each one they cut down in order to lower the environmental print their industry leaves.

The final choice of timber or steel is going to depend on your preferences and the region you live in.

If your home is exposed to extreme fluctuations in outside temperature throughout the year, then timber boards and support paired up with steel bearers are the right deck type for you.

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