decking materials in SA

Decking is an attractive feature in residential gardens, commercial spaces, hospitality venues etc. With a wide variety of decking materials to choose from, which is the right one for a specific project? Floors delves into the topic, with this easy reference guide on South African decking options. 

Wood decking 

As the most common material in the decking industry, timber offers outdoor spaces the beauty and warmth of nature, while still boasting durability and stability when properly looked after and maintained. 

This material requires annual cleaning and regular maintenance. Over time, wood changes its colour to grey tones. It is therefore important to re-stain wood decking after regular intervals. Wood also has the risk of rotting, splinters and warping if not maintained correctly. 

decking materials in SA

Composite wood decking. Credit: Eva-Last

Popular timber species for decks 

  • Massaranduba: A warm, rich-coloured timber that compliments a rustic or more “traditional” home. The grain can vary from straight to wavy, with a fine texture. There isn’t always much variation between the heartwood and sapwood. Massaranduba weathers well and retains its colour beautifully, meaning less staining of the deck is required. With its origins in South America, this hardwood timber decking material is very durable and hardwearing. It is highly rated against rot and insect attacks. 

 

  • Red Balau: As a hard, heavy, dense timber, Red Balau is usually a warm, reddish brown with a course, interlocking grain pattern. Rated highly against rot and insect attacks, it is one of the most durable decking choices. Red Balau performs very well in warm, dry climates (such as the Highveld), but less so in coastal conditions. However, as with most timbers, if maintained correctly, it will perform well in any climate.  

 

  • Garapa: With a distinct golden yellow to light-brown colour, Garapa has a unique reflective streak within the grain. The colour generally weathers to a grey tone, which is still as beautiful. The grain is usually straight with a consistent, medium texture. Garapa’s origins are in South America, boasting a reputation of being one of the most easy-to-work-with timber decking materials, making it a favourite amongst contractors and installers. It is classed as a hardwood and is reliable, durable and stable as a timber decking option. It is, arguably, one of the best decking timbers in the South African market. 

 

  • Rhodesian Teak: As a dense, strong decking timber, Rhodesian Teak has a very identifiable, rich characteristic colour. The heartwood has black streaks running through a medium, reddish-brown base with distinct contrasting sapwood, which is a pale, pinkish yellow. The texture of Rhodesian Teak is fine and even, with a variable grain that can be straight or interlocking. This well-known and well-loved timber in South Africa has excellent wear resistance and is very durable, making it the perfect choice for decked areas (or internal flooring) with high-traffic areas. Considered one of the most beautiful decking timbers available due to its grain, it is not as readily available as it once was due to unregulated foresting operations, making it very unsustainable.  

 

  • Saligna: Variations in colour from dark pink to reddish brown with a paler sapwood, makes Saligna easily distinguishable from other timber species. With a moderately course texture, the grain is typically straight with occasional interlocking. Originally from Eastern Australia, Saligna is now grown in South Africa as a structural timber, but is also used for doors, windows, decking and internal flooring. It is an affordable, entry-level hardwood deck which, if treated and maintained well, can offer reasonable durability. Saligna is an easy-to-work-with timber decking option that finishes well, offering a neat decking installation. 

 

  • Cumaru (Brazilian Teak): The grain of Cumaru is interlocking with a medium texture, with a beautifully rich medium to dark-brown heartwood, with some yellowish to greenish brown streaks, giving it a wonderful depth. Considered comparable to Ipe timber, the “Rolls-Royce” of timber decking materials, Cumaru can withstand most harsh weather conditions, providing a very long lifespan. With its excellent durability and weathering properties, Cumaru is one of the very best choices for outdoor decking projects, as well as screens and cladding. 

 

  • Pine: Pine has a very distinct colour with a light-brown heartwood and a paler, yellowish-white coloured sapwood, giving the boards a very distinct look. Pine is one of the most commonly used timbers in South Africa, utilised for everything from furniture to decking. It is one of the cheapest materials when looking at building a timber deck. It is not as durable as hardwood decking timbers, as the lifespan of the deck will depend on factors such as the quality of the wood treatment, the climate and how well the deck is maintained over the years. If maintained correctly, a pine deck can last five to ten years, especially when treated with copper chromium arsenic (CCA). 

Composite decking 

This material is a combination of plastic and wood fibres, giving a natural look in a wide range of colours, inspired by hardwoods. It is a popular choice for those looking for a durable and low-maintenance alternative to traditional timber decking. 

decking materials in SA

Cumaru timber decking. Credit: On The Deck

Composite Decking is a good choice for use around swimming pools as many composites are slip resistant, and are tested to international regulations. Many manufactures are also incorporating heat mitigating technology to make them much cooler under-foot. This type of decking is also resistant to rot, warping and splintering, and most brands are also fade-resistant. 

Composite decking is an environmentally friendly material, promoting sustainability through its use of recycled raw materials.  

  • Uncapped bamboo composite: Uncapped bamboo composite is a cost-effective material that offers slip resistance, and it is a low-maintenance alternative to timber. It is long-lasting, and its decay and weather resistance provides protection from insects and harsh weather. 

 

  • Capped bamboo foamed polyvinyl chloride (PVC) composite: A resilient and natural looking composite with a protective cap made from a resilient acrylic polymer coating, for fade, scratch and stain resistance. The product offers glass-fibre reinforcement in its core for increased strength and span capability. This material requires only basic cleaning for optimal longevity. It provides long-term decay and weather protection by resisting insects, moisture and the elements. 
decking materials in SA

MoistureShield Vision with CoolDeck (WPC), colour Mochaccino installed at a lodge in Damaraland Namibia – Credit: On The Deck

  • Capped bamboo composite: A highly durable co-extruded composite decking range. Its streaked colour variation provides a natural look that embodies the essence of timber. The resilient protective cap is made of an advanced polymer that resists scratches, fade, mould and mildew. It is exceptionally low maintenance, with only the most basic cleaning required for optimal longevity. This material offers decay and weather resistance, with protection from insects and harsh weather, and stain and slip resistance. 

 

  • Wood plastic composite (WPC) 

Composite Decking materials which use wood fibres in their composition with polyethylene plastic. When compared to a bamboo flour, it offers greater stability as the wood fibres reinforce the plastic, making it stiffer and reducing its thermal movement.  

Most WPC are extruded and allowed to cure slowly, which means the boards will not twist or warp, also providing additional strength to the board, in comparison to water cooled composites.  

 

  • Mineral-based composite 

Mineral based composites are a new and innovative technology. It is a much lighter weight composite decking material, with superior strength to weight ratio. This unique process starts with a mixture of polypropylene and calcium carbonate that’s pull-extruded for cavitation. Cavitation creates tiny air pockets that keep the boards lightweight but with a fibre-like structure similar to wood, giving it unmatched strength. 

It’s a very stable decking material, it doesn’t absorb moisture, and it can be installed on, or in contact with the ground, or water. The durable polymer cap stock won’t stain, or fade, and the superior slip resistant surface provides enhanced traction. 

Aluminium decking 

decking materials in SA

Deckorators Venture Decking (WPC), colour Saltwater installed at a private residence in Middleburg – Credit: On The Deck

Aluminium decking is a relatively new addition to the decking market. It is made from interlocking panels of aluminium, and is available in a range of colours, textures and finishes. The material is resistant to fading, cracking, warping, rust and corrosion, and it is fire-resistant and termite-proof. Aluminium decking requires only occasional cleaning with soap and water. 

It is more expensive than traditional wood decking, but the minimal maintenance and longer lifespan than wood give benefits over the long term. Aluminium decking is made from recycled materials and is 100% recyclable. 

Being lighter than traditional wood decking, aluminium decking expands and contracts with temperature changes, so it is important to allow for proper spacing between the boards. Additionally, the material is slippery when wet, so it is important to choose a texture that provides good traction. 

decking materials in SA

Massaranduba Timber decking installed at a Lodge in Klaserie Private Nature Reserve – Credit: On The Deck

Issue: Which decking materials are available in South Africa? 

Solution: This reference guide covers the most popular types of timber, composite decking, PCV plastic and aluminium decking options. 

 

Full thanks go to Bamboo Warehouse, Eva-Last, On The Deck and The Composite Company for the information in this article. 

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