When considering laying a timber deck, naturally, homeowners and landscapers are always interested to find quality decking that looks great for years to come.
And, when it comes to designing a beautiful outside space, nothing beats the natural and tranquil look of softwood decking. But often one of the first questions for homeowners is; ‘how long does softwood decking last?’
Of course, if you’re looking for decking that will last a while, you’ll want to know how long it can handle being outdoors before you invest time and cost in the materials and installation.
In this blog, we’re providing detail on the lifespan of a softwood deck in addition to tips on how you can increase the longevity of a newly installed deck.
Softwood decking is machined from timber felled from evergreen trees.
Softwood is a versatile and strong timber that lends itself to a range of applications, including decking.
The initial concern that softwood decking may have a short shelf life may manifest from its comparison with hardwood timber decking, which is renowned for its superior strength and durability.
However, softwood timber is also a superb decking material, that when maintained properly can look great and remain strong and durable for many years.
Left untreated, softwood decking will typically last between 10 and 15 years. However, there are a few factors that will contribute to how a softwood deck would fair in your garden.
These factors include:
When building a deck, it is important to get the groundwork right from the offset. And we’re not just talking about prepping the ground underneath your deck; we’re referring to the quality of the installation and the materials used.
Start with good drainage
Building directly on wet or moist ground will speed up the rate at which the softwood components, such as the decking boards and supporting timber, will rot and decay. Instead, you should opt for a foundation with good drainage, such as a concrete base.
Take control of weeds
Weed control is also important. If weeds start growing up and through your deck, it not only looks unsightly, but it puts strain on the deck and creates a point of contact where fungal decay and insects can embed and cause deterioration throughout the timber surface.
Create a strong structure
It goes without saying, the quality of your decking build will also impact the longevity of a softwood deck. Decking boards that are not supported adequately can split and therefore become susceptible to rotting. They can also dip, creating areas of water pooling which increases the rate of timber deterioration. And, if timber components are joined poorly, with gaps between joints, moisture can seep in and compromise the structural integrity of the entire deck.
Use the correct screws
This is such a small detail but it can have huge implications on the structural integrity and longevity of a softwood deck. When building and maintaining your decking, be sure to only use green organic coated screws. Without this superior coating, the screw will induce rot from the outside in.
Treat the timber ends
When cutting your decking boards and other softwood timber components to size, be sure to add a splash of cut end preserve, to protect any freshly-sawn edges that are vulnerable to decay.
Opt for pre-treated decking
The softwood decking available at Equestrian Fencing has all been pressure treated to UC3. This helps to give the softwood a healthy head start in being protected against the elements, insects and fungal damage.
When it comes to building a new deck, some opt to call in professional deck builders, whilst others choose to build a deck themselves. If you’re going down the DIY deck-building route, you can find out more about how to build a strong deck structure how to build a deck here.
We’ve already discussed the ground condition on which a softwood timber deck is built, but it’s also important to take note of what’s going on above a deck.
Decking will inevitably get wet when it rains. But, it’s really important that the timber can dry out and release this moisture through evaporation.
If you place your timber deck in a shady spot, it will take longer for the timber to dry out. That means the moisture is held for longer, making the softwood more susceptible to rapid rotting.
And whilst under a tree may seem like the idyllic spot for your deck, it can actually turn into a bit of a nightmare if you don’t stay on top of maintenance…
When trees drop their leaves and pollen on the deck, the softwood can become stained and the leaves can also work to trap the moisture, which again, can negatively impact the deck’s longevity.
If you are going to build a deck under or around a tree, you need to be prepared to provide the deck with more ongoing maintenance, such as sweeping, cleaning and treating.
Speaking of sweeping, cleaning and treating, the third and final point to cover in answer to ‘how long will softwood decking last?’, is maintenance.
How much time and effort you put into maintaining your deck is up to you. However, you should know that softwood decks do need to be maintained, and your maintenance input will directly affect how long your decking lasts.
So, you’re probably wondering what’s involved in softwood deck maintenance and how often you need to roll your sleeves up and give your deck a little love.
The first, and easiest form of maintenance is sweeping. As we’ve said previously, leaf, pollen and debris build-up can stain your deck and harbour moisture, fungus and bacteria – all of which you want to avoid. Get a bristly broom, and every few weeks, give your deck a sweep.
Cleaning and staining
You’ll also need to give the deck a good clean.
Softwood decking should be thoroughly cleaned at least twice a year. This is much easier with a pressure washer, which will remove top-level dirt and fungus.
This will help to stop the decking from becoming slippery when wet, whilst giving it an aesthetic ‘spruce up’.
Once cleaned, you’ll also need to reapply wood preservatives or oils. This will help to renourish and seal the timber, protecting it from the elements.
Other maintenance requirements may include replacing wonky and unstable screws and replacing decking boards, should they become accidentally damaged.
By doing this, your softwood decking could last 5-20 years, however, failing to maintain your softwood deck will significantly reduce its longevity.
If you’re looking for help and advice on how to maintain your decking, read our decking maintenance guide here.
Lower decking maintenance options
If you’re looking to go down the lower maintenance route, you have a few options.
First, you could build a waterproof roof over your softwood deck. Or, instead, you could opt for a hardwood deck, which can last up to 30 years left untreated.
We’d always advise that any deck, whether that be softwood, hardwood or even artificial decking, requires some level of maintenance, but you’ve got a little more flexibility with the latter options.
Softwood decking really is a fantastic choice if you’re looking to create a visually striking and practical decked area.
Inevitably, it doesn’t last as long as hardwood decking, but it is a strong and durable decking choice, that with a little extra love and care, can look great for many years.
A completely unmaintained softwood deck may only last 5 years, but with the right care from the initial build to ongoing maintenance, a softwood deck can last up to 5-20 years.
Remember to consider the position of your deck, and how surrounding trees and foliage can impact the deck and its maintenance requirements.
And finally, if you’re investing in a softwood deck, you also need to continue to invest your own time in proper maintenance. A sweep every now and then and a deep clean and retreatment twice a year will keep your decking strong and healthy for far longer than if you neglect to carry out such maintenance.