Backyard Building Materials for Longevity and Aesthetic Appeal Pt. 1: Wood

By Jordan Swift

For many of us, our backyards are our private oasis. They provide a space to escape the stresses of the real world and relax. For some people, their backyard is a place for entertaining and gathering with friends and family. For others, it is an area to unwind and reconnect with nature.

Whatever purpose your backyard serves for you, you have likely invested a bit of thought into it. Perhaps you have done some landscaping or work on it. Maybe you have a bunch of future projects laid out. 

Regardless of where you are on your backyard renovation projects, it is good to know how to choose the right materials for all your upcoming plans. Not all materials are created equally or are right for every project. 

How do you know which materials are best for your backyard projects? Let’s get into all the details. 

Wood 

Almost every dreamy backyard includes a large wooden deck or a wood trim pergola of some sort. There is something so rustic and classic about the juxtaposition of wood in a backyard. Our Willow Sanctuary project included several hardwood deck areas that helped seamlessly connect the interior of the home to the backyard area.

Ipe wood was used to create a private deck off the master bedroom at Willow Sanctuary

Selecting a wood type might seem like a pretty straightforward task. Go to the hardwood store, pick up lumber, and go. However, there is no shortage of gorgeous woods and wood finishes available on the market. Cedar and redwood are both fantastic outdoor wood options as they are naturally rot- and insect-resistant. 

Cedar is a terrific option if you live in a high moisture climate because it does not crack quite as easily as other wood types. When it is well maintained, it can last for fifteen to twenty years! Cedar has something called a net-negative greenhouse gas effect; in other words, it removes harmful gasses from the atmosphere rather than contributing to environmental toxins. It is also biodegradable and renewable, making it a fantastic option for the environmentally-conscious.  

Redwood has many of the same benefits as cedar. In addition, it is also heat resistant due to its color and heat absorption rate. This means that walking barefoot on your redwood porch is no problem. Redwood is a softer wood, so it is easier to manipulate and work with. Its softness can also be a downside because furniture can wear it down over time. However, as long as you move your furniture around, it should not wear down. When properly maintained, redwood decks can last as long as thirty years. 

An example of wood being used on the front deck at Red Renaissance

Both redwood and cedar need to be pressure washed annually and stained every couple of years to maintain their luster. They can also be a bit costly.  Redwood is priced around $5-30 per square foot. Cedar sells for around $3-$7 per square foot – not including labor costs.

There are other budget-friendly and lower maintenance options, like pressure-treated wood. It is easy to maintain and can help you cut back on costs substantially. Pressure-treated wood costs around $2-$5 per square foot. The savings become apparent most in upkeep, as pressure-treated wood requires very little ongoing maintenance. They last about ten years on average.

These options are not the only woods, either; there is bamboo, mahogany, pine, reclaimed wood, composite woods, and more. Most woods are a fantastic option for the environment because they are renewable and organic. However, composites and plastic wood alternatives do not offer that same eco-conscious stamp. Despite this, they are often the right choice for people looking for zero-maintenance. 

Ultimately, the right wood choice for your deck and other wood features comes down to personal aesthetic preference, budget, and maintenance goals.  

Jordan Swift is a contributor to the Innovative Materials blog. He is a content writer for the construction and home improvement industries with an interest in landscaping, outdoor remodeling, and interior design. Jordan is focused on educating homeowners, contractors, and architects on innovative materials and methods of construction that increase property value, improve sustainability, and create a warm and welcoming ambiance.