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The Pros & Cons of a Pressure Treated Wood Deck

Cover Photo: "The Pros & Cons of a Pressure Treated Deck" w/background photo of a wood deck

Pressure Treated Wood Decking

If you are in the market to replace your existing deck or build a brand new one, you will encounter 3 main types of deck material that you will have to consider using for your new deck. With each type of material there are pros and cons, which is why we have started with the most common type - pressure treated wood, and we have listed the best and worst characteristics of the material.

What is Pressure Treated Wood?

Pressure treated wood is Southern Yellow Pine (abbreviation 'SYP') that has been chemically treated to increase rot resistance and prevent damage from insects.

Where is Pressure Treated Wood Used?

Just about everywhere that wood will be exposed to moisture or to the outside environment. Generally, pressure treated (aka 'PT') wood is used in the construction of decks, pergolas, and sheds.

Typical Dimensions of Pressure Treated Wood?

Varies, but specifically in regards to deck material, here is a general list:

  • Deck Boards: 5/4" x 6" x 8', 12', 16', 20' (for all subsequent dimensions the sizes reference width" x depth" x length')

  • Handrail: 2" x 4" x 8', 10', 12', 16'

  • Balusters: 2" x 2" x 36", 42"

There are many more sizes, but these are the typical sizes used for deck construction.

Pros of Pressure Treated Wood?

Cost-Effective: In comparison to cedar and composite material, PT wood is the most cost-effective option with a price of $15-$20 per square foot for installation, substructure, and decking.

Rot Resistant & Repels Insects: The chemicals used to create pressure treated lumber prevent rot resistant but they also act as an insecticide; so, with PT wood, you receive a 2-for-1 deal.

Ground Contact: In most cases, PT wood (that you would find in Big Box stores) is now ground contact approved (based on newly revised guidelines), which means that the lumber will have twice the treatment and decks that are low to the ground (6" or below) can use PT wood for the fascia, joists, beams, and decking.

Warranty: The good news is that most lumber manufacturers offer a long-term warranty, which generally covers fungal decay and termite infestation. The bad news is that most consumers don't know it.

Cons of Pressure Treated Wood?

Harmful: Even though industry standards have changed, the chemicals applied to treat lumber are harmful to the environment.

Discoloration: Wood is a natural product, so it is going to be affected by the elements, specifically, exposure to the sun. There's a scientific process called photo-oxidation that causes the surface of the boards to gray, but, the process can be slowed through the application of stain or paint.

Checking: If you live in the Midwest, then you experience seasons; i.e., Summer, Winter, etc. Well, for products that live outside all year; e.g., wood decking, the industry calls material seasons - freeze-thaw cycles. In other words, during the Winter we have ice and during the Summer we have rain. What happens to the wood during this time is that water enters the pores of the wood, causing the wood to expand and contract as the water enters and leaves the wood. This process causes splits (or 'checking') in the wood (which occurs with every wood deck). But, applying water sealant will decrease the effects of this natural process.

Upkeep: The biggest downside to PT wood decks is the upkeep. PT wood decks can withstand weather and stand strong for 30+ years, but they must be maintained regularly. This includes applying water sealant every year, staining the deck every two years, and pressure washing the deck twice a year. In all, you will spend approximately 20 hours and $250 every year to maintain a deck. Over a 30 year period, that is 600 hours (or 30 weekends) and $7,500 maintaining a wood deck.


In all, pressure treated wood, like anything, has its good qualities and its not-so-good qualities. But, with excellent features such as its resistant to fungal decay and termites as well as its attractive price-point, pressure treated wood is an outstanding choice to use for the construction of your deck.

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