Growing up, every time I swam in a pool that contained chlorine or bromine I found myself becoming violently ill, and soon discovered that I had a mild allergy to both substances. Some years later, as chance would have it, a friend and mentor offered me a deal–I could use his salt water pool as much as I liked, at any hour of the day, in exchange for my handyman skills.
The first order on the agenda was building a new deck around the pool, as the old cedar deck was more than a little worse for the wear. Our goal was to create a deck that would stay in great shape for a long time and could go for long periods with little maintenance, as my friend lived elsewhere during the time of the year that the pool wouldn’t be used. It was my first poolside deck project, and I ended up doing a lot of research on what would be the best decking for a salt water pool.
My friend was open to having another wood deck, but he was also wary because of how (relatively) quickly his previous wood deck had worn out, so I focused on looking for the best composite decking materials instead. I found a high-quality composite decking board that seemed to stand head and shoulders over the others. It looked beautiful, remained beautiful, and didn’t require a great deal of work to keep it that way. So, just what qualities are needed to create an awesome deck by a salt water pool?
The Best Decking for a Salt Water Pool Is Highly Moisture Resistant
It probably goes without saying that some serious moisture resistance is very important when it comes to poolside decking. Wood is well known for its tendency to absorb water, and water is equally well known for its capacity to deteriorate wood, even if the wood is treated, stained, and sealed regularly (which is absolutely necessary to keep any wood deck in good shape, especially those by water). Composite decking, on the other hand, is designed to deal with water, though some types are better at this than others. My favored composite decking uses two key features to keep the moisture out:
- A Bamboo-Based Core: A great way to keep moisture out of decking boards is to utilize materials that are much more hydrophobic than wood. Among the more recent developments in composite decking is a unique decking board made from recycled plastic and bamboo flour. This combination of materials forms a dense board that prevents water penetration, and actually does so very well even without protective capping (though it does have a cap for extra protection). While not all composite materials work so well, I’ve found that this kind of water-resistant composite decking is extremely effective in a poolside setting.
- An Advanced Protective Cap: If you’re looking for poolside decking, you’ll absolutely need a decking board that’s completely encased in a protective cap for extra moisture resistance. But not all protective caps are created equal. Some have been prone to scratching, peeling, and denting, which can allow salt to enter the board and cause damage. On the stronger end of the capping spectrum are caps made of an enhanced resin material that’s strongly attached to the core of the board to prevent peeling. Some caps even utilize technology borrowed from the tire industry. These caps are tough as well as a bit rubbery, and have a lot more play than many of the more brittle caps out there. This helps them grip the feet better for a more non-slip deck surface, which is always important in any pool area.
Resistance to Salt Corrosion
Wooden decks that are consistently exposed to salt will begin to wick the salt water into the decking boards. Exposure to the sun evaporates the water, leaving the salt behind. The salt crystals build up within the cellular structure of the wood, and ultimately begin to damage the wood, giving the wood a fuzzy look, often referred to as “salt-kill.” While pressure treating can be effective against this to an extent, using a material that keeps the salt out altogether is even more effective. The key to avoiding “salt-kill” is to keep the salt water from penetrating the board to begin with, which keeps the salt crystals from getting lodged in the wood (or composite). This is why a composite decking system using bamboo and advanced capping was my pick when it came to finding a decking system that would stand up to the saltiness of my friend’s pool.
Whenever I’m in town, I still have access to my friend’s pool. Actually, the poolside deck turned out so well that I am not compelled to do any more handyman work in exchange for the pool use! And if he and I end up teaming up on a remodel with a salt water pool, we’ll most likely be laying down another composite deck–fully capped and bamboo based. One of our top picks is the Infinity Decking manufactured by Fortress Deck. Made with bamboo and using an enhanced resin capping system, I’ve found it to be super tough where heavy moisture is concerned. And if I need other building products that have a beautiful, quality look to them and are tough against moisture, I always browse Fortress’ full range of products. They’ve got corrosion-resistant, stylish fencing, railings, and ornamental hardware to go with your beautiful new deck.