What kind of wood is my deck made of?
March 23, 2013 10:36 AM   Subscribe

We bought a new house, and it came with a deck. I want to clean it and perhaps stain or seal it, but I am a novice and don't know what kind of wood it is, which apparently matters. I have posted pictures (one, two, three) so perhaps you recognize it and can help me out. I suspect it isn't anything fancy - maybe pine?

For context, the deck was built sometime after 1971. It has a roof, so the wood is shaded. The past owner had an outdoor carpet down, so there are some color changes are a result of sun exposure - I tried to take photos along the edge of the changes. Each board is about 3" across.

I would also welcome recommendations for what to do to treat it. We like the woodgrain, so don't want to use a heavy stain that will conceal it. Looking on line reviews, apparently every single kind of transparent or semi-transparent wood stain sucks. We are outside DC.
posted by procrastination to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Looks like Douglas fir. Waaay better than pine. It will stay hard as a rock for at least 50 years--maybe a hundred--as long as it's kept mostly dry. You may not be able to buy wood of that quality now, unless you pay a fortune.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:45 AM on March 23, 2013

Maybe Southern yellow pine?
posted by Knappster at 10:48 AM on March 23, 2013

It looks to me like you have two different species. Even if the color difference is wholly attributable to the recently removed carpet, there are still differences in texture and contrast.

In pictures 1 and 2, I think southern yellow pine is a good guess for the one on the right, given the wider rings and the very high contrast between the early and late wood. I think Douglas fir is a reasonable guess for the wood on the left, but other species may be more likely in DC.
posted by Bruce H. at 10:58 AM on March 23, 2013

The deck is made of a single species - the color just changes across the width due to where the carpet was and due to shading of the roof - here is a wider shot.

How could I tell the difference between yellow pine and douglas fir?

Edit: Ok, I am leaning towards it being yellow pine, unless someone else can see something in it to indicate otherwise. It is very yellow in color, and from what I read about Douglas fir, it is more pink.
posted by procrastination at 11:36 AM on March 23, 2013

Fir is a hardwood. Pine is much softer and more prone to "dents". Look in the traffic areas where there was no carpet, do you see any "dents" in the wood?

You may want to sand a small inconspicuous spot and sniff it. Pine and fir smell very different.
posted by JujuB at 11:56 AM on March 23, 2013

Douglas fir is definitely not a hardwood. It's relatively hard for a softwood, but a softwood it is. And it dents like a mofo, as anyone who has used it for wood floors can attest. It's orangish red, and yellow fir is very yellow with a tinge of green. The grain on your wood looks much more like yellow fir to me.
posted by HotToddy at 12:01 PM on March 23, 2013

There are definitely dents where furniture legs used to rest. As yellow pine is much more common in this area, and I know the last owners were not the type of people to do anything too fancy, like importing wood across the country, I am going to assume that it is yellow pine.

Thanks for the help!
posted by procrastination at 12:13 PM on March 23, 2013

Yellow pine, I meant.
posted by HotToddy at 1:38 PM on March 23, 2013

Look for Sikkens wood stain. Absolutely the best as far as I have experienced it. It comes in a one-coat translucent. It really works great. It also comes in a two-coat variety where you stain even the underside. I am to lazy for that. So I use Sikkens DRG (one coat).
posted by JayRwv at 2:33 PM on March 23, 2013

SYP is the standard species used for treated wood, and the most common wood used for decks.
posted by jon1270 at 4:19 PM on March 23, 2013

Softwood and Hardwood mean coniferous and deciduous and, really, don't ahve much to do with how tough a wood is. Southern yellow pine is about as hard as beech while white pine is on par with a down comforter.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:37 PM on March 23, 2013

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