What Is the Best Wooden Flooring for Balcony and Wood Terrace?
The wood has that unbeatable warmth that makes it the queen of the floors. It is so versatile that it can be used both inside and outside the house, as long as the right one is chosen. Among its advantages are its unique appearance, its warmth and its softness. But it needs maintenance once or twice a year to protect it from sun and moisture. Let me help you chose the ideal one for your house!
The most common wooden floors for terraces, porches and balconies are those of planks, which are placed on a cement smoothing or on hard wood stays. The boards can come in battens of around 12 feet (c. 3.6 meters) length and 4 to 6 inches (c. 10 to 15 cm) in width, although there are also other measures. Wooden tiles are an interesting alternative though: they combine the desired wooden look and feel with better transportability and are easy to install as they are equipped with a click system that links them together. Find the right wooden decking for your terrace or balcony in 3 easy steps!
Wooden terrace slats and hardwood tiles are aesthetic, resilient to the weather and wearing (provided they are properly maintained), and the great variety allows to create decorative effects by the game of the grid.
In addition, the wood offers true comfort and natural warmth. Who prefers to walk barefoot on ceramic tiles?
1) Which Wood Should You Choose for Your Terrace or Balcony?
The slats and the exterior tiles can be of different materials and the woods of different origin. Among the woods most commonly used in exterior floors are those of cumarú, anchico, curupa, lapacho, pine and eucalyptus. These last two are of less hardness, unlike the lapacho which is very resistant to humidity, fire and insects. Many of these species come from tropical areas and require specific treatment to stand cold winters, snow and ice.
Learn more about the strength of different types of wood in our dedicated article.
All types of wood must be treated to be more resistant to sun and moisture, and also not to be the victim of insects and fungi. There are varnishes with UV filter to increase the resistance to the sun's rays and others with non-slip particles that are ideal in decks or areas near an outdoor pool or shower, to avoid accidents.
To choose well, keep in mind the main characteristics of each one before selecting your favorite(s) and calculating the necessary amount!
Example: To achieve an exotic style, opt for teak terrace slats combined with a set of garden furniture of the same style and a hammock with support!
Wood Types by Origin
Exotic vs. European and North-American woods
The woods of European or exotic origin offer a very good durability. The differences are mostly in the colors, the treatment (for the European ones), and their characteristics.
European wood such as Douglas fir, pine, oak, beech, chestnut has the best price and quality ratio is pine and should be treated for durability with autoclave. Certain types of wood have a greater resistance (hard wood such as oak and chestnut) but are more expensive.
The exotic woods, due to their natural environment, have an excellent resistance to natural moisture and insect protection. The choice of its origin determines its weight and its color - wood from Tali, teak, eucalyptus, Massaranduba, Bangkirai, wood from Itauba, from Ipé, jatoba, iroko, etc.
Your only problem is having to choose! Whichever would you decide to use, keep in mind that the wood turns gray as it ages. The solution? Take care and renew with specific products!
Teak wood is one of the most exotic and the most wanted material. It comes from a tree native to Asia, and its boards placed on a floor can last for 10 to 15 years. It resists the passage of time taking a gray tone, but to extend its useful life it is advisable to apply teak oil twice a year. Another alternative similar to teak, which has a fairly high price, is the iroko, a tropical tree of similar appearance, which earned it the name of African teak.
Wood Types by Treatment
Heat-treated Wood (HT)
This type of wood is heat-treated by being heated to a very high temperature (approximately 200 centigrade). This process makes the wood drier, and allows it to obtain a stronger durability. It is more resistant against the passage of time, insects, and fungi.
An advantage of this method is that there is no chemical treatment required. Thus, your terrace contributes in its own way to the preservation of the environment. However, you still need to apply some wood care to conserve durability and a esthetic of your outdoor floor.
The only disadvantage is that there is not much variation in the color tones: Upon the heating, the tints of the wood have a color similar to candy. Only European and some North-American woods are treated this way, exotic woods are naturally protected.
Wood Treated with Autoclave
Wood that is treated this way received the probably most economical and extended wood treatment and impregnation whereby it is usually pressure-steamed and/or heat-treated. This type of hardwood flooring offers an extra protection from biological threat (insects and fungi) and against the weather changes impact. It gives a shade of green tone to the wood.
Important Wood Standards and Certifications
There are two well-known types of wood certification.
PEFC Certified Wood (Pan-European Forest Certification) certifies compliance with the environmental, social and economic requirements of the forest where the wood is extracted. The label guarantees all the traceability of the wood from exploitation to transformation.
FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certifies the origin of the wood of a socially responsible forest. The wood with this label is controlled from its origin to its distribution.
Synthetic Floor Decking
Although this post focuses on wooden flooring, we will also introduce two synthetic wood alternatives to you that became increasingly popular over the years thanks to their advantages of low maintenance and high durability. However, if you prefer the natural beauty of wood and do not mind the efforts for wood care, you may want to stick to real wood.
The Composite (also known as wood-plastic composite or WPC)
The composite is the simplest of all in terms of care. Its composition of recycled woods and polymers allow it to offer a great variety of colors and tones. The composite does not rot, does not age and has no knots. It is particularly resistant, does not splinter and represents an alternative to solid wood.
Composite slats and tiles have been updated both aesthetically and in a matter of installation in recent years. Their prices are also competitive to mid-range hardwood and the composite is easy to install. This is why they have been becoming popular over the years.
The Rice Husk
The rice husk is a material composed of oil, salt and rice husk. This material is number 1 in terms of strength and durability. As it is not purely wood, it has no splinters or knots and it dilates very little. Its characteristics are as good as those of exotic woods - strength, durability, etc. In addition, the rice husk does not slip and can be painted.
2) Tiles vs. Planks – Choose the Type of Floor According to the Surface to Cover
Once the type of wood (or synthetic decking) has been selected, it is left to choose whether the floor will be slats or tiles.
Besides wood and WPC, terrace tiles are available in a number of other types of material, e. g. stone or glass, while still being compatible with wooden tiles.
To make your choice do not take into account only the aesthetics, consider the size and the existing structure of the surface to be covered: planks are good for rather large areas but maybe hard to install on small balconies. While planks require a rather even surface, tiles are more adaptive to (slightly) uneven grounds and can even be installed on top of concrete, ceramic tiles or other existing surfaces. Have a look at hardwood tiles on Amazon.
Besides the different requirements for the surface, slats and tiles have also different types of fixings. Slats are fixed with traditional bolting. You will need a hole, a screw, then, you can fix it (it is a bit more complicated though – see the details below).
Tiles, on the other hand, are usually equipped with a click system, i. e. they have clips on their bottom side, where the tiles are inserted to each other. The good thing about this system is that the fixing marks are invisible.
3.1) How to Install Wood Slats on Your Terrace
The slats are ideal for large surfaces. There are several lengths of slats between 75 and 100 inches (c. 200 and 240 cm) with the longest exceeding 140 inches (c. 350 cm), often by 3 ½ inches (c. 90 mm) wide, but there can be many variations.
The choice of measure depends on the surface you are going to cover: the larger the terrace, the greater the slats should be. Why? To avoid cuts and couplings. Aesthetically, the slats have a side with grooved finish and a flat bottom to support perfectly on the battens.
Mounting Structure of the Slats
The terrace slats are installed on a batten structure. This platform structure or slats on which the slats are mounted, is fundamental for leveling the ground.
You must fix the base on which to mount the slats, i.e. the battens or strips, at about 20 inches (c. 50 cm) from each other and place the slats on it perpendicularly. It is rather useless if they are closer, and if they are further apart from each other they run the risk of breaking when you walk on them.
Also, consider leaving enough space between the slats to allow good water drainage and good ventilation. If it rains a lot and the water stagnates you will have a pool on your terrace! Small advice, use feet or PVC adjustable bases to level the platform.
Fixing the Slats
The fixing screws can either be hidden or remain visible to give a style. But most importantly, the screw must be three times the size of the board and must be made of stainless steel to prevent it from rusting.
In the side assembly, use a screwdriver in which install a 1/5 inch (5 mm) drill bit with a milling cutter, so that the heads of the screws, which are milled, are flush with the wood of the platform.
Also, it is better to make holes in the slats beforehand!
3.2) How to Install Wooden Tiles on Your Terrace or Your Balcony
Tiles are often used for smaller surfaces, such as balconies, as well as for unprepared but rigid and relatively flat surfaces. Its standard size ranges from around 12 to 20 inches (c. 30 to 50 cm) on each side, up to 40 inches (c. 100 cm) plates for the largest surfaces.
Most tiles nowadays are fitted together with a click system, and it is advisable to put them on a geotextile to prevent the growth of weeds.
However, if the area to be covered is surrounded by walls, it may be necessary to cut or saw the outer row of tiles. Be aware that you should leave a small empty space between flooring and walls as your tiles will expand when exposed to high temperature.
Fixing the Tiles by Clip
Although tiles are simple to install, it is necessary to take into account the quality of the support: the minimum is a stable and relatively flat structure. If this is not the case, the tiles should be installed on a wooden platform or slats.
For aesthetic reasons, most people tend to choose a clip-fixation system on the tiles’ bottom side which is invisible once the tiles are installed. Although you have to pay attention that the tiles do not jump or that the slats take up slack. Different elements and accessories for slats and plates - corners, profiles, or steps - ensure a good look of your terrace.
Read more about the installation of deck tiles in 6 easy steps in our dedicated article.
How to Maintain Wooden Outdoor Flooring?
Upon the installation, you will need to treat your new wooden terrace, depending on the type of wood or material that you have chosen. Oiling your wooden slats or tiles is the minimum treatment though. However, this is not a one-off event, you will have to put some regular – at least annually – effort into maintaining your hardwood decking.
For solid wood, it is essential to clean it with a brush. If you want to slow down the aging of your terrace slats, there are treatment and renovation products that allow you to stop the effect, such as oil, saturator and renovator.
Most woods for outdoor floors come with a treatment that makes them resistant to moisture and insect attack. However, they need maintenance at least once (better twice) a year to help protect them from the onslaught of time and thus prolong their useful life.
There are harder woods such as lapacho and teak that only need this care once a year. For this you can apply an oil for woods or varnishes for decks and outdoor woods, which can be based on both water and turpentine.
Every couple of years you might want to sand and refinish your wooden floor. Read more in our post on floor refinishing (despite its focus on indoor floors, the methods and equipment can also be used for outdoor floors).
While these efforts are necessary to keep wood shiny and beautiful, composite materials do not need special treatment beyond cleaning with a brush and recoloring after a couple of years. It would be useless to apply products intended for the care of wood even if they are to some extent composed of it.
Terrace Hardwood Flooring with Minimum Maintenance
There are people who choose to leave their wood floor untreated, and with the passage of time will take the characteristic grayish color. If this is an intended style, it should not be achieved by letting the wood rot. Oils and paints should be first choice as they increase the durability and lifetime of the wood and allow you to choose the color and style of the “seasoned” wood surface.
To avoid having to care of a wooden floor, today, the market offers various synthetic product made with recycled wood or rice husk and recycled plastics. This material usually does not need maintenance, it does not have splinters, it does not heat up with the sun and at sight it may even give the appearance of natural wood. However, it is not wood. If you want to have a wooden terrace, you will have to commit yourself to maintain it regularly.
Whether you are going for tiles or planks, a wooden decking will enhance the look of your terrace and balcony and, last but not least, increase the value of your property.
If you are like us, there will be no alternative to a hardwood decking of your terrace, balcony or porch. The beauty and warmth of the wood and the thousands of options regarding the material, color, type and pattern of flooring are unchallenged by alternatives made of synthetic material. You might want to think about WPC and such options though if you want to avoid the efforts to maintain wood.
We hope this post is helpful and inspiring. Would you like to use hardwood flooring for your terrace and balconies? Let us know in the comment below and share your photos with us once your project is finished.