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How to Choose the Right Wood for Your Deck – Color of the Wood

In choosing the species of lumber for exterior decking, one of the important considerations is the initial colour of the wood. Maybe you have solid wood hardwood flooring indoors and wish to create a smooth transition to the exterior space. In this case you would probably want to use a similar colour species on you deck. Or maybe you have a particular theme in mind for your deck which requires a bold statement and dark timber color. Or maybe it’s a small courtyard where a light timber color is required so as not to overwhelm the proportions or make the space look even smaller.

Fortunately there’s a wide range of suitable timber species available with excellent durability characteristics that span the entire colour spectrum - from light straw, to pinks, to light browns, chocolate browns, dark brown, orange red and dark red/brown - even purple. Just some of the hardwood species in these various color ranges that could be considered include:

  • Light straw – Tallowwood, Blackbutt
  • Light/mid brown – Teak, Selangan batu, Cumaru, Spotted gum. Merbau
  • Olive brown – Ipe, Grey Ironbark
  • Chocolate brown - Bongossi
  • Red brown –, Jarrah, Karri
  • Dark red – River red Gum, Red Ironbark, Forest Red Gum, Jatoba
  • Purple - Purpleheart

Note however that for some species the colour of the timber can vary quite significantly, even along a single plank – Spotted Gum is one such example. In other species such as Jatoba for example, the colour variation is not so great. And other species may have grain flecked with yellow, such a Cumaru for example. And the source of the timber can have bearing on the timber color as well as the age of the actual trees. Jarrah from young trees for example is generally a salmon pink color compared with a darker red brown from more mature trees.

Remember also that several of the species can change color quite rapidly on exposure to sunlight - generally turning darker in color. Whilst Purpleheart for example is initially purple in color, it will change to a brown colour on extended exposure to sunlight.

And of course no lumber species will retain its original color forever. Without a regular regime of coating with a good quality decking oil, the UV in sunlight will gradually cause the timber to fade to a soft grey colour; some species more rapidly than others.

 But even with the application of a good quality decking oil at regular intervals, you can only slow down this fading process. The only way to restore the colour of your decking is to sand back the surface to remove the weathered top layer of the wood. Some chemical based restoration preparations are available, but generally they will be unable to bring the wood color back to its original brightness, but leave a somewhat grey undertone.