It’s springtime again in Chicago. It’s time to put away our coats, open up the windows and feel the breeze. It’s also a time for many city dwellers to start thinking about upgrades to their home, such as a new rooftop or backyard deck. A new deck is not only an outdoor oasis that gives you a new way to enjoy the summer, it’s an upgrade that adds value to your home should you decide to sell. Though a simple addition, building a new outdoor space can quickly become a headache with all the options and materials available on the market today. Let’s take a look at your options and determine the one that’s just right for you.

For years natural decking was the only option if you wanted to build a deck. You were going to use wood or nothing at all. The ubiquitous pressure-treated lumber has been used for decades as well as more exotic options such as teak, cedar or, more recently, Ipe. Treated lumber is an inexpensive though certainly less attractive option. Cedar can add character to a deck but its soft wood can create issues of its own. The durability and hardness of Ipe is unquestionable but requires some maintenance.

In addition to these challenges, all natural woods need be treated periodically to maintain their appearance and strength. A wood deck needs to be stained about every two years. Stripping and sanding needs to be done every five to six years. This upkeep can be either time consuming or expensive depending on whether you choose to hire someone for the upkeep or to take on the challenge yourself. Neglecting this upkeep can lead to silvering or dulling of the color of the wood. It can also lead to cracking and warping as water begins to penetrate over time.

The demand for composite decking has skyrocketed over the past decade. It’s a product that we’ve been using for years but with the increased demand we have also seen a large increase of manufacturers in the market with inferior products making it much more difficult to find quality composite decking.

Composite decking is simply wood fiber and plastic bound together with pigment added for color. It sounds simple enough, but where these ingredients are sourced can play a major factor in the quality of the final product as well as the impact on our environment as a whole. Many imported composites or PVC can contain materials that are not friendly to the environment and made from inferior ingredients that cannot stand up to the elements like those from manufacturers that have been in business here for decades.

U.S. manufacturers such as TREX, Fiberon, and AZEK are constantly improving their sources, using earth-friendly materials while giving you endless selections of color and finish. TREX, for example, uses 95% recycled materials that otherwise would end up in landfills. With an eye on responsibility and quality, these companies are dedicated to ensuring your deck will last without labor intensive maintenance. You’ll be enjoying your new Chicago deck that is free of warping, splintering or weathering for decades to come.