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Choosing a Deck: Hardwood vs. Softwood

port orford cedar deckThere’s been a lot of buzz lately about hardwood decking materials. Exotic hardwoods such as Ipe are known for their hardness, density and durability, but does that make them better suited to your construction project than domestic softwood?

Not necessarily. Here are a few reasons why softwoods such as Port Orford cedar decking may still be the preferred building material for you:

Exotic hardwoods such as Ipe can run you a pretty penny, with some retailers charging upwards of $15.00 per square foot. There are a number of different factors that play a part in hardwood’s high price. First, exotic hardwood is very dense, causing it to weigh more and thus cost more to ship. Also, since almost all hardwood comes from overseas, transportation costs are much higher than domestic softwoods. There is also the matter of availability. The sustainable harvesting of Ipe and other exotic hardwoods is still in its infancy, making the supply of the product much lower than the worldwide demand. And, as basic economics tells us, that leads to higher prices.

Environmental Impact
Most exotic hardwoods come from South America, in or around the Amazon rainforest, and it’s hard to know for sure whether the wood you buy was harvested using sustainable practices. Transportation is another factor. Domestic softwoods such as Port Orford cedar travel much smaller distances than exotic hardwoods, cutting down on transportation pollution.

Economic Impact
Buying domestic softwood such as cedar also helps boost the American economy. It’s difficult to tell if a company operating out of South America pays its worker a livable wage. By buying domestic cedar deck, you are guaranteed a locally grown product from a company required by law to treat its workers fairly.

So before you buy an expensive new Ipe deck, consider going with a locally-grown, cost-effective domestic softwood such as Port Orford cedar. You won’t be disappointed.

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