When choosing a deck to accompany a project, it is important to know what the options are to ensure that the right choice is being made. Those looking into a bamboo deck are often familiar with other hardwood decking, such as ipe or bangkirai. Often architects and deck builders ask about the differences in materials. To ensure a clear comparison here you can find the pros and cons of hardwood decking as well as bamboo decking.
- Beautiful, natural look
- Durable alternative
- Long deck board lengths
- Scarcity and increasing deforestation problems
- Screwed installation
- High stability
- Sustainable alternative
- Easy installation
- Production in China
- Less colour variety
Discover a complete comparison of decking materials here!
The top 3 pros of hardwood decking
Beautiful natural look
One of the main reasons to go for a hardwood deck is the natural appearance that is brought to a project. As humans, we are naturally drawn to the patterns and grains of natural materials, of which hardwood and bamboo decking is no exception. A variety of colours, difference in grain appearance and variation make for a unique decking for a project every time.
Hardwood is a very dense material which makes it a durable, natural option without the need for impregnation with harmful chemicals, like when choosing softwood, or plastic alternatives. Different hardwood decks have a different density, which means there is a broad choice of woods for different applications. As bamboo is a new alternative to the market, not all testing has been done on bamboo, as with wood and the material is less known in the market. To compare the durability of hardwood and bamboo decking, besides the density, the Durability Class (according to EN350) has been taken to elaborate on the materials and touch on their performance, in terms of lifespan and biological durability. According to this norm, the natural durability of wood is defined as ‘the inherent resistance of wood against various wood-destroying organisms’.
Durability Class (EN350)*
1 Very durable, > 25 years
2 Durable, 15-25 years
1-2 (Very) Durable, > 25 / 15-25 years**
1-2 (Very) Durable, > 25 / 15-25 years**
2 Durable, 15-25 years
3 Moderately durable, 8-15 years
* source: https://www.appropedia.org/Durability_classes_of_wood, ** Durability class depending on the quality of the wood, differs within and between trees
By choosing a hardwood deck you will have a durable solution that will outperform other, cheaper decking solutions, due to the density and natural resistance of the material. A dense and hard material will ensure a long life and minimal fungi infestation.
Variation in deck board lengths
Trees are, in many cases, extremely tall, which means that the decking boards produced are also able to reach these lengths. The boards can reach 5 meters for those who want an endless look to their deck. This also increases the flexibility and freedom of the installers as they are able to cut boards as they please. Additionally, by selecting short or small boards, hardwood can become a more economically interesting option.
The top 3 cons of hardwood decking
Scarcity and increasing deforestation problems
Especially for tropical hardwood from regions in Southern America, Asia, and Africa, deforestation is a known problem. For this reason, chain of custody certifications, like FSC® or PFEC, are needed to ensure a sustainable use of tropical forests. These organisations try to ensure responsible harvesting of selected trees, ensure reforestation, create value in the forests for locals and avoid clear cutting of trees for other types of land use. This means that when opting for a hardwood deck, ensuring that responsible harvesting has been conducted is a must, extra attention must be paid to ensure that no harmful conduct is being done and the forests have a future.
Hardwood is a natural material and does need to be maintained in order to ensure that the warranty conditions are met and the lifespan is prolonged as much as possible. This means that ensuring a deck is oiled, sanded and maintained (as per the manufacturer's instructions) is necessary. By maintaining a deck, not only will you ensure the deck is even more durable and the lifetime is extended, but it also ensures the natural appearance is enhanced.
Hardwood decks are often only planed (or ribbed) on the surface before they are ready to be installed, which means a screwed installation is necessary. At the same time, hardwood decks are so strong that if they shrink and swell, the screws come along with this process which renders edge grooves, for fastener installation, a no go with many hardwoods. The more expensive and luxurious hardwoods do offer the possibility to install with hidden fasteners. Watch Deck builder Dave Fraser as he explains why he choose MOSO® Bamboo X-treme®
The top 3 pros of bamboo decking
MOSO® Bamboo X-treme® & Bamboo N-durance® Decking boards are extremely stable, they hardly shrink and swell. Due to the stability, the decking boards can be installed with hidden fasteners in edge grooves and the boards are profiled with an end-match system to create the endless board look. The high stability allows for installation with relatively low clearance to the ground, which does not get warranted by hardwood deck suppliers.
Unlike trees in tropical areas that provide the common hardwoods, bamboo grows at enormous speeds and collects huge amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. As well as this, bamboo is not susceptible to deforestation as the mother plant has multiple shoots that grow into stems and can be harvested without killing the rhizome. In fact, the Moso bamboo plant becomes stronger and matures through yearly harvesting, thus, the CO2 absorption of the bamboo forest subsequently increases.
MOSO® Bamboo X-treme® & Bamboo N-durance® Decking boards are not only very stable and equipped with an edge groove for easy installation with fasteners, but they are also a size in which it is easy to transport. For the everyday installer who needs to throw everything in the back of their van, to the construction company installing an endless edge pool on a rooftop and needs to get the board to the top in a lift, these boards ensure this is possible. As for the endless edge, the end matched system also ensures that a deck can be easily installed like a floor and looks endless.
Cons of bamboo decking
Production in China
The number one question we get is how can a product that comes from China be sustainable? How is the production process better than harvesting a forest? An abundance of Moso bamboo in the Chinese bamboo forests, along with a booming bamboo industry, means that production in China is inevitable. There have been various ideas about shifting production to Europe but due to climate differences, ergo a lack of bamboo growing potential, it made no sense. Thus, MOSO® has been ensuring and developing a sustainable production of bamboo products in China. Read more about how MOSO® ensures a sustainable production of bamboo in China here.
As with hardwood decking, MOSO® Bamboo X-treme® & Bamboo N-durance® must also be maintained on a yearly basis, at least, according to the MOSO® recommendation. By ensuring a MOSO® deck is well maintained and looked after, the lifetime is prolonged and the beautiful natural bamboo colour is kept. Partnerships with several specialised finish manufacturers has led to special formulas for a beautifully maintained bamboo deck, available around the world. Read more about it in the MOSO® Bamboo X-treme® maintenance document: Woca or Sikkens.
Less colour variety
Compared to the variaty of tropical hardwood looks, MOSO® Bamboo Decking is currently only available in 2 colours, which can be a turn off for some, where a different colour is desired. Ultimately, all natural decking boards grey evenly to become a beautiful weathered colour. To read more about the different bamboo decking colours, have a look at this blog: MOSO® Bamboo decking options.
The ultimate pro and con collection when looking for a new deck
To ensure sufficient research is being done when looking to buy a new deck, this collection of hardwood decking and bamboo decking pros and cons should help with a decision. By understanding what is being bought, we know about the pros and cons beforehand and prevent misunderstandings in the future.
Are you still looking for more information about MOSO® Bamboo Decking? Check out this comparison overview to compare bamboo decking to more decking materials.