My friend has spent almost all of her life living in the heart of the city, and on the fast track in school and in her career. Now that she’s bought her first home, the sensibilities that kept a one bedroom apartment downtown tightly organized, clean, and livable have turned a three bedroom two bath home on the city outskirts into something that resembles an empty warehouse more than a living space.
When I finally got the chance to visit I suggested that she open up the blinds to enjoy the woods surrounding her property, and consider adding rustic-look decking to better enjoy the view which was the reason she bought her house. She looked at me funny and told me that she wasn’t the type to collect and display spoons.
What Makes the Rustic Look?
My friend thought that I was talking about adopting a country or farmhouse style. While these looks share some touch points with rustic style, they also have a much greater emphasis on displaying knick-knacks and collectibles. That’s not to say that there isn’t any room in the rustic style for kitsch, but it just isn’t what defines the style. What does define rustic decor is its emphasis on putting structural elements like beams and thick wooden planks on display, and, most importantly, opening up the home to the light and natural views of the outdoors. This means that rustic style homes range from cluttered with Americana to Nordic “everything tucked away in a beech wood drawer.” Often, rustic-look guides rule out synthetic materials as part of the look, and for some people, like my friend, this could pose a problem as they look for low maintenance, barefoot-friendly decking with a rustic flair.
Traditional Rustic-Look Decking Options
There are several “natural” options to look at when choosing rustic-look decking. Each material has its advantages and disadvantages, but they all require upkeep of one kind or another:
- Pressure treated lumber is what the majority of decks–rustic or otherwise–are made of. Its biggest advantages are that it’s freely available at any home improvement store and that it’s cheap. It has several drawbacks. First, it generally comes wet with copper compounds which gives it a greenish tint. As it dries, it shrinks and twists, which can give a deck an uneven surface, and it doesn’t hold up very well to moisture and sunlight, requiring constant maintenance to keep a deck looking good. It also doesn’t match up with the rustic aesthetic very well, looking distinctly mass-produced, and it requires some serious work and design know-how–via staining, distressing, and choosing just the right deck furniture–to bring it in line with the rustic aesthetic.
- Reclaimed wood comes from a variety of sources. Cargo pallets, crates, old buildings, and even sunken ships have all been used as sources of reclaimed wood. Reclaimed wood has two great advantages: it’s recycled and spares old growth trees from cutting. It also has a history that is reflected in visible wear and markings like stamps which fits the rustic look. Its disadvantages are that it can be difficult to find enough matching wood to complete a large project like a deck, and that it has to be reclaimed by hand, creating a markup for labor before building even starts.
- Hardwoods are dense woods that are naturally resistant to moisture, insects, and rot, and are naturally superior to the softwoods used to create pressure treated lumber. There are three issues with hardwoods. The first is that they are more expensive than standard lumber. They are also often harvested from slow-growing trees in remote areas, which makes sustainability a question mark. Finally, they do require maintenance in the form washing and oiling, and many of these types of woods have their own specific maintenance requirements. Moreover, as a whole, hardwoods tend to have distinctive patterns and a clean elegance which doesn’t always adapt well to the rustic look.
Of the three, hardwoods hold up the best over time, but usually don’t match the rustic look well. And, despite their durability, they still require regular upkeep to maintain their appearance. While reclaimed wood has a trendy look and fits with the rustic theme well, it’s also the least viable option. So if none of these options are ideal, what’s the best choice for rustic-look decking? In my opinion, it’s composite.
The Rustic Look Is About Living Comfortably in Your Home’s Outer Spaces
Natural materials aren’t all there are to consider when it comes to creating a rustic style porch or deck. After all, what the rustic look is really about is opening your home up to the outdoors, and enjoying it. Composite decking has some advantages with that last part, and some companies are making composite decking that looks like real wood, as well as composites designed to look like reclaimed, distressed lumber. Composite decking has some other benefits as well:
- Durability: High-quality composites tend to be tougher against the elements than traditional structural materials, and they do a better job of resisting moisture, insects, and rot than wood. They also don’t splinter, and scratches aren’t as noticeable since they don’t penetrate through the finish. This means far less maintenance for the homeowner.
- Color options: Good manufacturers offer color choices that range from simulated light unstained wood to the darker browns and reds that match hardwoods. Some companies also offer gray and silver shades that resemble the color of wood that has been exposed to the elements over time, with the added plus of not including splinters or popped screws.
- Capping: The cap is the coating that surrounds each composite board, keeping it smooth and comfortable to walk on, and protecting it from UV rays and moisture (the capping is also what makes it possible to have decking that doesn’t mold). Capping also comes in multiple textures. Most manufacturers offer composites with a wood grain-textured surface which gives the boards a smooth look, but it is also possible to find composite boards with a distressed texture designed to look like aged, reclaimed wood. This style of composite is the perfect fit for rustic decor.
As someone who grew up in the city and lived in apartments for most of her life, my friend isn’t very handy with tools. Maintaining a wood deck would definitely be a learning experience for her. She’ll likely also lean towards the cleaner lines of the industrial rustic look. Composite decking fits her needs best, and offers options that complement a rustic style. It’s also a better choice for those who prefer enjoying their decks to laboring over them.
I suggested that my friend look to Fortress Deck’s Infinity composite boards for building her deck. They’re produced to exacting specifications and slow cooled for consistently high quality, and, unusually, they offer a choice of two different surfaces on every board: a smooth exotic hardwood face, and a rustic face on the flip side that brings the look of distressed wood to your deck. If you’re looking for more inspiration on turning your home’s outdoor space into a living area, check out Fortress Building’s other product lines, like railing and fence.