Redwood Decking vs. Pressure Treated Decking

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California Redwood Association

“You want to touch my deck?” That was the last thing I said before I got slapped in the face. Note to self: never use that as a pick up line again. It’s probably not a good idea to use your deck as a pick up line, (“does this rag smell like chloroform?” is also not recommended). Offensive pick up lines notwithstanding, a deck is a great place to bring the ladies, enjoy a cookout with friends, or just to enjoy some alone time to work on your pick up lines. One of the first things to consider when building a deck is what type of material to use. While many opt for synthetic deck materials in various forms, they often just can’t completely match the look and feel of real wood. In this article, we’re discussing two of the more commonly used real wood decking materials: redwood and pressure treated.

Wood decks can come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and levels, but more often than not, it’s covered by just one of two materials—redwood or pressure treated pine. Here in south Florida, we most commonly use pressure treated southern yellow pine as it’s the cheapest and easiest to get a hold of. And with the constant sunshine and the occasional downpour, it makes the most sense. But out west, it’s a whole other story. Redwood is used very frequently and works best for looks, longevity and, I assume, to pick up women.

Courtesy of California Redwood Association
Photos – California Redwood Association

So which decking material is best for your home? Use this comparative guide to redwood vs. pressure treated decking and find out for yourself which decking material is going to do the best in your neck of the woods.

Redwood Decking

I can’t say I know a whole lot about this material, but I have used it on occasion here in Florida (as well as magnolia, ipe and a host of composites). So I did a little detective work and got into contact with the good people over at the California Redwood Association. Their kind PR leader (Rachel) helped me find out all about the fancy red stuff.

Courtesy of California Redwood Association
Photos – California Redwood Association

She turned me on to a study headed by the good doctor Elaine Oneil, executive director of the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials (CORRIM). The study (The Comparative Life-Cycle Assessment of California Redwood Decking) compares other decking materials to redwood. This ten page study is chock full of info on this great decking material. While it is a bit technical and lengthy, the gist of it is this:

  • Super-Mega Ecofriendly- Redwood stores more carbon than it produces. In fact, redwood can store more than half a ton of carbon throughout its life. Yellow pine doesn’t store as much carbon simply because it is harvested much sooner than redwood.
  • Fire Hates the Stuff- Redwood has a natural resistance to fire and doesn’t need a bunch of toxic fire retardant chemicals to keep it from going up in flames. It’s even listed in the California Fire Marshall’s guide of approved building materials. Pressure treated yellow pine tends to burn like a teenage flame war on Facebook.
  • Durable- It’s naturally resistant to bugs and rot – unlike pressure treated yellow pine that needs some funky stuff (copper chromium arsenate) to keep the bugs at bay.
  • Easy to Maintain- Whether it’s finished with a sealant or left as is, redwood is fairly easy to clean. A little TSP, household detergent or Simple Green is all it takes to get it looking good as new. Oxalic acid based products can help restore it to its original color. Pressure treated decking can only be painted or stained to restore a weather beaten deck.

Pressure Treated Yellow Pine

Working on a Deck
Workers Building a Deck

For me, there’s no comparison when it comes to decking materials. But that’s just me – I like weird stuff. Pressure treated decking is what I cut my deck building teeth on, so it’s easy to see why I love this stuff so much. It’s cheap, easy to install and doesn’t take much work to maintain.

Cheap and Easy Pressure Treated Deck
Cheap and Easy Pressure Treated Deck

Most of the pressure treated decking materials I’ve come into contact with come from Georgia Pacific, but there are a wide variety of distributors from various regions that offer this type of wood material. Here’s what I’ve found when it comes to using pressure treated decking materials:

  • Environmentally Sound- While pine doesn’t sequester as much carbon as the long living redwood; it is an easy to grow wood that can be sustainably harvested.
  • Price- Nothing beats the affordability of pressure treated pine decking and that’s probably why it’s used for nearly 80 percent of the decking materials in the United States. Prices average around $15 per square foot while redwood tends to be about twice the cost. In my area, redwood isn’t widely available so it can easily cost three times the price of PT yellow pine.
  • You can paint a pressure treated deck too--although I wouldn't recomend this color
    You can paint a pressure treated deck too – although I wouldn’t recommend this color

    Termites- Here in the south, we have some serious issues with termites and there’s only one type of wood I’ve never seen a termite munch on, and that’s pressure treated pine.

  • Installation- With some quality woodscrews, a circular saw and a few strong backs, a pressure treated deck can be completed in hours. Redwood often needs to be predrilled, sanded and finished to bring a deck to completion.

All in all, I prefer pressure treated decking over redwood for affordability, but I love the look that redwood has to offer. Leave your comments below about your redwood/yellow pine decking experiences and let us know – what’s your favorite decking material?

Photo of author

About Eric

Since Eric built his first skateboard ramp in his parents driveway; he’s breathed, slept and eaten DIY construction. As a second generation master carpenter who runs two Florida-based construction firms, Eric’s had the chance to work on everything from Mcmansions to your local mall to the cat lady’s bathroom. So when it comes to dealing with construction s@#t; he’s the man—literally. There isn’t a tool or construction material that Eric hasn’t used and abused, and if there is; it’s rocking in a dark corner nervously waiting for him to show up for work.

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4 thoughts on “Redwood Decking vs. Pressure Treated Decking”

  1. I just checked on the price of redwood here in Central Florida…thinking…(THOUGHT) about simply making me a picnic table. GeeZus…the cost of 2×6 Redwood 4 pack at Lowes is $175 vs $24 for treated pine. WTF??

  2. You failed to mention that heart redwood is resistant to rot and moisture. Sap wood is not. So unless you are buying a higher grade ($$) it will not hold up like pressure treated

  3. Redwood is so beautiful! Made my deck from it and some times I just look out the window and smile like an idiot. It is so pretty.


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