Traditional Wood Decking
While the market certainly seems driven towards synthetic decking, there is nothing wrong with a wood deck. With the proper care, wood decks will deliver many years of good service. When we think of domestic lumber for wood decks, there are three main choices.
Redwood is the most commonly sourced wood for western decks. Most newly harvested redwood comes from tree farms, there is little to no old growth redwood still available for market. As a softwood, it cuts and routes with ease. Splitting seems to be less common with redwood than any other alternative. Redwood is primarily purchased in three grades for residential decks. Construction Common is the base grade, and what one would see available at big box stores. Construction Heart is mid-grade, knots are found less commonly and tend to be tighter when found (resisting fall out better). Bee Grade tends to be top shelf redwood, and cost will be close to man made alternatives.
Cedar is often thought of for exterior trim and fence grade products, it is commonly overlooked for decking applications. Cedar certainly carries more traditional wood tones than redwood, and can be purchased in "STK" applications (select tight knot). It makes a great choice for rough sawn trim or posts, and compliments synthetic decking well as a rail or fascia option. When it comes to wood, cedar is an in-house favorite of ours at Decks Unlimited.
Treated Southern Yellow Pine is the most cost friendly option. Most treated lumber is #2 grade, and it is not considered "appearance" or "finish" grade. Treated lumber is more susceptible to cupping and twisting, and deck boards ends and 4X4 rail posts will split more easily than redwood or cedar. It is extremely dense, stronger than either redwood or cedar. Treated lumber is a good option for a structurally sound deck that will stand up to hard abuse. It won't win any beauty contests, but if price is a major factor, it's hard to overlook. In years past, treated lumber was only available with a greenish tint, making it easy to distinguish from other lumber species. Newer copper based treatments have the boards leaving the factory with a tan or reddish appearance, similar to cedar.