Naturally resistant wood
Photo by: California Redwood Association
Some species of softwoods harvested in North America resist decay and insects without chemical treatment. They include redwood and several types of cedar. These species are not especially dense or hard; as a result, they are not as scratch or impact resistant as some other options. They range in color from deep red to light yellow, depending on species, and weather to gray.
A variety of grades are available, differing somewhat by species. Choices range from clear vertical grain and clear all heart to grades in which tight knots are permitted. The best grades are relatively expensive. Only the heartwood of these species offers any protection from the elements. Sapwood, which is permitted in some grades, is not decay resistant.
The best redwood, Alaskan yellow cedar, and western red cedar traditionally were harvested in old-growth forests on the West Coast of the United States and in southwest Canada. Today, all redwood lumber comes from young-growth private forests and is managed under the California Forest Practice Act, the most stringent forest-management regime in North America. Studies have shown redwood and cedar to be superior to plastic-based decking in terms of global-warming potential, energy consumption, and pollution.
Pros: Natural wood look; widely available; some grades inexpensive
Cons: Relatively soft; clear grades expensive; needs finish to maintain color and to minimize checking