Reclaimed Wood Decking – How to Choose the Best Decking Wood

An area of reclaimed wood decking on the side of a lake. Wooden railings surround the decked area with gaps for swimmers to enter and leave the water. Steps and metal handles allow easy access. Across the top are the words "Reclaimed Wood Decking - How to Choose the Best Decking Wood." in the lower center is a cartoon hand pointing to a green tick box with two red boxes with crosses inside to the left and right.

Reclaimed wood decking is an eco-friendly and quintessential way to spruce up your exterior.

However, the success of reclaimed wood decking relies heavily on the type of wood. With so many choices, how do you know which reclaimed wood is the best for your decking needs?

Many factors go into choosing salvaged lumber for your decking – getting any of them wrong will jeopardize the end result. Besides beauty and budget, the wood’s quality is key since the decking will mostly be exposed to the elements.

In the rest of this article, I’ll take you through how to choose the best decking wood. I’ll also discuss the different types of reclaimed wood for decking and their pros and cons.

From this discussion, you’ll be able to make an informed choice about which type of wood is best for your needs. Keep reading!

How to Choose the Best Reclaimed Decking Wood

A woman is choosing wood from a stack leaning against the wall of a workshop. She has her hair tied back and wears protective gloves and dungarees.
Choosing the best reclaimed wood is crucial because you must ensure all nails, screws, and other fastenings have been removed, and it is pest-free.

The longevity of your salvaged wood deck depends heavily on the types of reclaimed wood decking boards you choose. It’s important to consider the wood’s stability and strength and its resistance to temperature fluctuations, moisture, and pests.

Here is a list of factors to consider when choosing the best decking wood.

Type of Reclaimed Wood–Hardwood or Softwood?

Differentiating between reclaimed hardwood and softwood for your decking is the first thing you want to do. This can be incredibly challenging if you’re unfamiliar with wood as a building material.

Contrary to popular belief, the classification of softwood and hardwood has nothing to do with the physical hardness of the wood. The best way to determine whether a tree is hardwood or softwood is by looking at its seeds and leaves.

Hardwoods have their seeds covered by an outer layer like a shell or fruit. Moreover, these trees shed their leaves annually.

On the contrary, softwoods produce bare seeds without any covering. They are also evergreen.

How is this information crucial when choosing reclaimed decking wood?

Hardwoods are generally denser, making them more resistant to moisture and wear. Softwoods, however, are lighter, cheaper, and easier to work with but require more frequent maintenance.

Therefore, reclaimed wood decks made from hardwoods outperform their softwood counterparts in terms of weather resistance, longevity, and toughness.


Pressure-treated lumber is a common option for decking for a good reason; it’s incredibly durable to withstand the elements.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, wood has been preserved with chromated arsenic compounds since the 1940s. This was an excellent approach to protecting the wood from rot and insect damage.

However, research has linked Ammoniacal Copper Arsenate (ACA) and Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) to severe environmental and health effects. Consequently, the use of these products to treat wood for residential use was halted in 2003.

Unfortunately, since reclaimed timber comes from old-age houses, barns, and other structures, it’s hard to tell whether they were treated with these compounds. The best way to be sure is to buy reclaimed lumber from reputable suppliers that can guarantee the wood’s quality.

Look and Feel

The look and feel of the wood are quite subjective. It’s what makes reclaimed timber an attractive decking material, as each board has its own story to tell.

Besides redeemed wood’s aging and rustic nature, the tree species impacts the wood’s look and feel.

For instance, while cedarwood has an uneven, rough texture with slightly interlocked grain patterns, oak wood has a dense, uneven texture, as shown below.

Two photographs of timber. The photo on the left is oak, and the one on the right is cedar. The oak has closer grain and the cedar's grain pattern is wider and wavier.
Oak (left) has a denser grain pattern than cedar (right). This gives them different characters, allowing you to pick your preference.

Therefore, take your time to decide the best salvaged lumber that meets your look and feel preference.

The Repurposing Process

The quality of salvaged wood for decking depends on how it has been repurposed for use.

A poorly repurposed wood is a threat not only to your home but also to your safety.

Reclaimed wood may contain pests, nails, screws, and other metallic fasteners that threaten your home and family when used as decks. Therefore, they must be repurposed to be safer for decks.

Repurposing reclaimed wood involves:

  • Checking and treating for pests
  • De-nailing
  • Brushing or scrubbing

To get the best decking wood, ensure it’s fully de-nailed and treated for pests.

A rule of thumb is to go for kiln-dried reclaimed wood, as this process subjects the wood to high temperatures between 120 and 190°F (48.89 and 87.78°C) to kill pests and their eggs.

Best Types of Reclaimed Wood for Decking

Now that you know how to choose the best decking wood, let’s look at the types of reclaimed wood to consider for your deck.

We shall only discuss reclaimed hardwood species since they’re best suited for decking.

Brazilian Walnut

A closeup of walnut flooring. It is dark brown and has a wide, swirling grain.
Walnut is a premium wood and adds a touch of luxury to a home. Image courtesy of Natural Wood Floor Company Ltd.

Brazilian walnut, also known as Ipe, is one of the best options for reclaimed wood decking boards.

The wood’s dense cell structure deters insects like termites and beetles. The dense nature also helps resist decay and mold.

Because of its almost unparalleled ability to withstand elements, reclaimed Brazilian walnut makes an excellent option for decking.


  • Excellent durability due to its ability to withstand the elements.
  • It can be refinished in intervals of 25-30 years to maintain its aesthetics.
  • Highly resistant to moisture.
  • Radiant-heat tolerant.


  • It’s expensive.
  • Difficult installation due to the wood’s hardy nature.
  • Limited availability.

Brazilian Teak

A closeup of a teak countertop. The color is dark brown with a prominent dark grain pattern.
Teak is a beautiful dark wood and looks great as decking.

With a Janka hardness rating of 3,540 and dimensional stability of 7.6, Brazilian teak (Cumaru) is another great option for decking boards.

The wood has a high oil content, making it resistant to rot and decay even in extreme weather conditions.


  • Highly durable due to its ability to withstand wear and tear.
  • Highly resistant to moisture.
  • Resistant to insects and molds.


  • Difficult to work with due to the high oil content that poses difficulties in gluing.
  • Expensive installations.


A close-up photograph of a tiger wood countertop. The wood is dark brown and has very dark, prominent grain patterns.
Tiger wood has a stunning reddish-orange stripiness to it. It’s moisture-resistant and easy to work with.

With its vibrant-reddish brown tones and prominent black striping, reclaimed tigerwood is an aesthetically pleasing option for outdoor decking.

Due to its high density of 930 kg/m3, salvaged tigerwood is among the hardest options highly resistant to rot and insects. The decking can last more than 25 years when maintained properly.


  • It’s hard enough to withstand extreme elements.
  • Aesthetically pleasing for decks.
  • Highly durable.


  • Difficult to install due to its hardy nature.
  • Not readily available.
  • It can be challenging to get authentic reclaimed tigerwood.

Black Walnut

A photograph of a black walnut countertop with swirling grain patterns and dark brown color.
Black walnut is highly-prized for its swirling grain pattern.

Revered for its toughness and beautiful grain pattern, salvaged black walnut is another excellent option for outdoor decking.

Reclaimed black walnut has a high density of 630 kg/m3 and a Janka hardness rating of 1,010. Therefore, decks made from this wood are highly durable, even if they are not treated.

The wood’s high oil content makes it ideal for decks as it resists decay, rot, and insects like termites.


  • Highly durable due to its hardy nature.
  • Resistant to moisture, decay, and insects.
  • Beautiful grain patterns for a visually appealing deck.


  • Difficult installation due to the wood’s hardness.
  • Expensive.
  • Limited availability.

Angelim Pedra

A closeup photograph of Angelim Pedra decking boards. The wood has a dense grain pattern and is mid-to-dark brown.
Angelim Pedra decking boards. Image courtesy of Fitzgerald Wood Products.

This is a beautiful beige-brown wood with reddish undertones. It’s a high-density, versatile wood that’s perfect for outdoor decking.

Angelim Pedra has a Janka hardness rating of 1,720 and is highly resistant to insects, moisture, and decay.


  • Highly durable due to its ability to withstand wear and tear.
  • Highly resistant to moisture and decay.
  • Resistant to fungi and mold.


  • It’s costly because it’s a rare species.
  • Difficult to work with due to its hardy nature.

Pros and Cons of Using Reclaimed Wood for Decking


  • Aesthetically pleasing and rustic look due to nail holes, saw marks, and color variations.
  • Highly sustainable as it conserves forests.
  • Highly durable because the wood has already withstood the test of time after exposure to elements.
  • Enhances uniqueness because each piece of reclaimed lumber has a unique story and history.


  • Reclaimed wood decking is more expensive than new lumber since it requires additional processing to remove nails, screws, and other metal fasteners.
  • Quality control issues as some wood may have defects or finishes with VOCs.
  • Inconsistent sizes and colors can be a challenge if you’re after a consistent deck.

Is It Cheaper to Use Reclaimed Wood?

Using reclaimed wood is not cheaper due to the tedious repurposing process. Removing the fasteners and treating it for pests makes reclaimed wood costly.

Moreover, the limited availability of salvaged wood and its high demand increases the cost.

Is Reclaimed Wood Cheaper Than New Wood?

Reclaimed wood is not cheaper than new wood. Besides the need for repurposing, the supply of reclaimed wood is limited, making it more expensive than virgin lumber.

What Are the Disadvantages of Reclaimed Wood?

The disadvantages of reclaimed wood include the following.

  • It’s expensive.
  • Requires additional repurposing.
  • The potential of exposure to insects like termites.
  • Inconsistent sizes and color.
  • Limited availability.

Is Reclaimed Wood Good for Outdoors?

Reclaimed wood is good for outdoors because it has already undergone the test of time by being exposed to the elements. Moreover, most salvaged lumber had a longer maturity, leading to the development of denser fibers highly resistant to wear and tear.

How Do You Waterproof Reclaimed Wood?

Dark reclaimed wood decking boards with beads of water on them indicate a high level of waterproofing.
Waterproofed decking boards will cause water droplets to form “beads” on their surface.

You can waterproof reclaimed wood in the following ways:

  • Applying a sealant: Applying thin layers of sealants like polyurethane, varnish, or lacquer adds a protective layer that waterproofs reclaimed timber.
  • Using a waterproofing solution: Waterproofing solutions like linseed oil, tung oil, and beeswax are ideal for waterproofing reclaimed wood. Many of these solutions penetrate the wood fibers, creating a waterproof barrier.

What Is the Best Way to Protect Reclaimed Wood?

The best way to protect reclaimed wood is by applying Renaissance Wax, as it doesn’t obscure the natural tonal variation of the wood. Moreover, Renaissance Wax is colorless and doesn’t penetrate the wood’s fiber.

It’s advisable to apply thin layers of wax regularly for the best results.

Final Thoughts

Although reclaimed wood makes a perfect option for decking, you must be careful to get quality lumber.

Consider using hardwood, which is more expensive but offers many benefits over softwood.

Ensure the wood is fully repurposed by removing nails, screws and other items that can cause injury and damage tools. It’s important to treat the wood for pests as well for your home’s safety.

Moreover, be sure to waterproof your deck to protect it from moisture, decay, and fungi.

With these tips in mind, choose wisely for a rustic look with a unique character.

You can opt for composite decking instead of reclaimed wood decking. Check out this article comparing composite and wood decking.

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