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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Pace

Live Better Outdoors: Discover Eco-Friendly Decking Materials and Finishes for a Healthier Outdoor Space

By Andy Pace

Creating a healthy living environment used to stop at the doors and windows. But with the ongoing trend of turning our decks into an extension of our living space, it’s a good idea to think about the materials we use to do so.

New Wood Decking Materials

Let’s face it, wood decks are beautiful, but require lots of maintenance. As the wood is exposed to the elements, any finish that you want to use should be completely moisture vapor permeable to eliminate the possibility of chipping and peeling. This is why most professionals chose a semi-transparent deck stain with built-in water repellence. After years of research and development, we have brought to market a bio-based deck stain called Highland Wood Oil, which checks all of those boxes. Highland Wool Oil is an effective, robust, agricultural oil-based all-purpose stain and sealer. Utilizing all-natural materials such as tung oil, carnauba wax, and lime juice, it is a high-solids formulation that does not build up or peel off. It has anti-mold, mildew, and algae formulation, without the use of PFAS or formaldehyde-releasing ingredients. It provides exceptional heat resistance and durability and excellent UV protection. It can be used on any exterior wood surfaces, such as decks, fences, or wood siding. It’s also quite nice inside the house too!

Choosing the Right Decking Material

For the deck wood itself, here are some options. Probably the most common material used is pressure-treated pine. While the treatments used no longer contain arsenic, you still have to deal with the use of some synthetic additives that can be problematic for sensitive individuals. Pressure-treated pine is also subject to warping, cracking, and rot after about 15 years. Redwood deck boards are naturally rot-resistant and have a 30+ year lifespan. However, the material itself is becoming scarce and hard to source. It also has some limitations with color and can be tricky to install due to the brittle nature of the board ends. Cedar is much more common than redwood and far more affordable. It doesn’t have the longevity of redwood, but it’s a step up from pressure-treated pine. Cedar can be a bit problematic for sensitive individuals due to its smell derived from tannic acid. But it takes the Highland Wood Oil really well, so it should look good for a long time. Thermory Benchmark wood is a North American Ash or Pine that goes through a heat treating (baking) process that eliminates the components of wood that are subject to rot and warpage. The density and low absorption rate gives it a 50+ year lifespan, which leads to all the wood options. It can be left unfinished and it will patina to a beautiful silver tone over time. But if you would like to maintain color and UV protection, the Highland Wood Oil works great on it. There is also a growing popularity in the use of plastic and wood composite decking. From a practical standpoint, it makes sense. Durable boards that have great UV resistance, reduced water absorption, and require no regular maintenance seem very attractive to many. However, the increased exposure to plastics and the propensity for composite decking to warp due to heat absorption is definitely a reason for us to pause. In the case of decking materials, I strongly believe that natural is best.

About Andrew Pace:

Andrew Pace is a Healthy Home Concierge and Founder of The Green Design Center, a leading resource for homeowners and contractors looking to source products that are healthy and green and receive expert consulting advice on designing and building healthy green homes. Andrew is the host of the Non-Toxic Environments Podcast. He is a worldwide expert on green and healthy building products and services for customers and contractors from around the globe. As founder of the oldest healthy building supply company in the United States, Andrew has become one of the single most helpful and educational experts dealing with the day-to-day concerns of those individuals who suffer from allergies, asthma, and chemical sensitivities. Andrew serves as a board member of the Change the Air Foundation and has been featured in numerous national media outlets. Please follow along at @nontoxicenviornments and

By, Andy Pace

Healthy Home Concierge

Founder of the Green Design Center and Host of the Non-Toxic Environments Podcast

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