Getting the best deck for your money

SAN ANTONIO - No matter if you live in the city, the suburbs, or the countryside, a deck can add value to your house and enhance your outdoor living space. You may be thinking about building a new one or replacing an older deck. Consumer Reports is currently testing a variety of materials you may want to consider, including yellow pine wood, aluminum, composite, and vinyl.

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You want your deck to last, so CR tests deck boards to see if they resist flexing, slipping, staining, and surface damage. Sharp and blunt objects are dropped onto decking material to assess how it resists denting. Another test determines how well decking material resists bending under a heavy load.

After decking samples are tested at CR’s headquarters in Yonkers, N.Y., they’re sent to Florida and Arizona, where they sit outside under the sun for a year. You’ve got the humidity in Florida and the hot dry heat in Arizona, which are very harsh on materials.

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Then the samples are sent back to CR and put through the same tough lab tests. That cycle is repeated two more times for a total of three years!

Because CR has such a rigorous process, it’s going to be another couple of years before the Overall Scores for the products in our ratings are available. But here’s a sneak peek at how things are stacking up:

The best for your money so far is Southern Yellow Pine. It cost about 70 cents a square foot, doesn’t bend under heavy loads, and is less slippery than most other materials. But it does soak up stains and is prone to surface damage.  And natural wood doesn’t come with a warranty.

On the other hand, today’s composite decking resists stains and stands up to surface damage better than pine. Consider Fiberon Horizon Composite Decking for about $2.90 a square foot.

Also, there’s a vinyl material that’s performing well so far. It’s the CertainTeed EverNew Decking, and it costs about $2.75 per square foot.

Are you considering aluminum decking? CR says it’s tough, rigid, and slip-resistant but extremely expensive, and no one would mistake it for wood.

Consumer Reports expects to wrap up the full testing in 2020.

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