What type of wood is the best for outdoor decking?

What type of wood is the best for outdoor decking?

When you’re considering getting an outdoor deck, three key considerations come into play: price, aesthetics, and practicality. Typically, aesthetics take the top spot — who doesn’t want a deck that’s easy on the eyes? Following closely behind is price; there’s a budget to stick to, after all. But neglecting practicality, while tempting, is not the wisest approach. Understanding the different wood options available for decking in Canada is crucial to making the best choice.

Outdoor decks face a barrage of challenges, from pesky insects and heavy rains to scorching sun and the wear and tear of everyday use. Without careful consideration, your deck could succumbe to decay, fungus, and even unpleasant odours. Planning ahead is key to avoiding these pitfalls.

For longevity and durability, hardwoods are the way to go. With an average lifespan of around 40 years, wood decking can withstand sun exposure, moisture, and insects with minimal maintenance. In contrast, softwoods fall short, requiring more care and offering less resistance to UV damage, rot, fungus, and pests.

Beyond durability, hardwoods also win in the looks department. Thanks to their higher density and unique cell structure, hardwoods offer a refined appearance that stands out from softwoods. Tropical hardwoods like:

  • IPE,
  • Balau Bangkirai, 
  • Cumaru, 
  • Merbau, 
  • Meranti,

are particularly best wood for outdoor deck projects.

While there are various hardwood options available, IPE is the top winner as the most purchased decking lumber. Now, let’s delve into the characteristics of each species to help you make an informed decision.


When it comes to decking, IPE wood stands out as the top contender. Known by over 20 different names, including Brazilian Walnut and Lapacho, this wood boasts a stunning range of colours, from dark brown with green hues to rich red-brown tones. With a density of 900 kg/m3, IPE ranks among the strongest woods globally, making it virtually impervious to moisture, sunlight, pests, and impact damage.

IPE – best lumber for decks but beyond decking finds its place in prestigious industries like mansion wood siding, shipbuilding, where its resilience shines. It’s even a favorite in crafting exclusive yachts, adorning private airplanes, and gracing the interiors of luxury cars. With its captivating appearance, IPE has earned its spot as a favorite among the elite.

While IPE’s qualities leave little room for competition, individual taste preferences still come into play, leading some to explore other wood options. However, with its unparalleled durability and stunning aesthetics, IPE often overshadows its competitors. The only drawbacks? Processing IPE can be challenging, and its price tends to be on the higher side. Yet, for those who prioritize quality and are willing to invest, IPE is a choice that leaves little room for regret.

Balau Bangkirai

In the realm of decking, Balau Bangkirai emerges as a strong competitor to IPE. Possessing similar exceptional qualities, this wood is unyielding against various natural elements. With a density slightly surpassing that of IPE at 930 kg/m3, Balau Bangkirai also offers enhanced processing and drying capabilities. Plus, perhaps most enticingly, it comes at a lower price point compared to IPE.

Widely revered in America, Balau Bangkirai has earned its reputation as the gold standard in decking materials. But what’s the catch? On one hand, there’s not much to fault — it’s a fantastic choice. However, compared to IPE, Balau Bangkirai may lack the premium look some desire. Its colour spectrum ranges from light brown to yellowish, which, while beautiful, might not boast the same depth and texture as IPE.

Ultimately, the decision boils down to personal preference. If you’re captivated by the allure of IPE, nothing else may suffice. But if you’re open to alternatives, Balau Bangkirai presents itself as an excellent option that combines quality, affordability, and practicality.


In the quest for the best wood for decks in Canada, IPE often steals the spotlight with its beauty and durability, albeit at a premium price. But fear not, for there’s a worthy contender that comes remarkably close in aesthetics while offering a more budget-friendly option: Cumaru.

With Cumaru, you don’t have to compromise on aesthetics. Available in light and dark brown hues with striking texture and depth, Cumaru rivals the visual appeal of IPE. What’s more, it boasts a density of 1100 kg/m3, surpassing that of both IPE and Balau Bangkirai.

However, no review would be complete without addressing the concept of wood stability. While Cumaru excels in many aspects, its stability over time may not match that of IPE. Like any natural material, Cumaru is subject to aging and wear, making it slightly less stable in the long run. But don’t mistake this for a lack of durability — Cumaru remains a resilient and beautiful option, offering exceptional value without compromising too much on quality.


Among the array of options for decking, Merbau stands out as a frequently chosen tropical wood. Renowned for its warm golden brown hue and affordability relative to other tropical woods, Merbau holds its own in the decking arena.

One of the distinctive features of Merbau harwood is its aging process, which sees the wood darken with use, lending it a more robust appearance over time. However, it’s essential to note that Merbau’s longevity falls slightly short compared to other hardwoods mentioned earlier. After approximately five years of use, its resistance to moisture begins to diminish, attributed to the release of water-soluble mineral substances. Some minor splits may also become evident.

Despite these considerations, Merbau remains a durable hardwood in its own right. While it may not match the longevity of its counterparts, its affordability and inherent toughness make it a popular choice for decking projects, particularly among those seeking a tropical aesthetic without breaking the bank.


In the realm of decking choices, Meranti emerges as a distinct option worth considering. With its rich, dark red colour, Meranti bears a striking resemblance to mahogany, often earning it the nickname “mahogany.”

However, despite its aesthetic appeal, Meranti falls a little short in terms of durability compared to the other hardwoods discussed. Additionally, when compared to softwoods, it doesn’t lag far behind in density. While Meranti may not boast the same longevity or resilience as its counterparts, its unparalleled appearance ensures its place in decking projects, albeit less frequently utilized due to its inferior durability. Nevertheless, for those who prioritize aesthetics above all else, Meranti remains a compelling choice for decking with its inimitable allure and distinctively beautiful hue.

Conclusions: сhoosing the best wood for decks

After examining five varieties of tropical hardwoods commonly used for decking, it’s clear that IPE stands out as the top choice among our customers and within the American market. Renowned for its exceptional durability and stunning aesthetics, IPE sets the standard for quality decking wood.

However, recognizing that IPE may come with a higher price tag, Cumaru emerges as a worthy alternative that offers similar beauty and durability at a more affordable price point.

For those seeking a balanced option that combines aesthetics, durability, and price, Balau Bangkirai presents itself as a viable option, providing a satisfying compromise across all fronts.

While Merbau and Meranti offer their own unique appeal with their rich colours, they fall slightly short in terms of durability compared to the top three contenders.

Ultimately, the choice of outdoor decking wood depends on individual preferences, budget constraints, and desired characteristics. But for those prioritizing longevity, aesthetics, and overall quality, IPE remains the undisputed champion, with Cumaru and Balau Bangkirai following closely behind as compelling alternatives.

author avatar
Kayu Team
We are recognized as the leading authority on tropical hardwoods, boasting over 30 years of expertise in this domain.
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