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Composite vs. Wood Decking: Can We Pick a Winner?

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom

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In 2018, the percentage of houses with no outdoor addition like a deck, patio or porch dropped to 8%. It’s clear most homeowners want some way to enjoy the outdoors, no matter where they live.

That’s because outdoor spaces like decks add value to your home, add extra living space, and lets you show off your design skills.

If a deck best suits your outdoor needs, you’ll need to choose between composite versus wood decking. To help you take some of the guesswork out of the process, we’ve developed this guide.

Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons of plastic decking versus wood decking.

Composite Versus Wood Decking

When deciding between composite and wood decking, it’s important to factor in aesthetics, cost, durability, and your current lifestyle.  You may find that wood is less expensive initially but over the years it requires more maintenance and therefore, more money to keep it in good condition.

Composite may be a smarter choice especially since manufacturers are getting better at making boards that closely resemble natural wood. And while most composites absorb more of the heat in summer, making plastic decking hotter to the feet, there’s new technology available that can drastically reduce heat absorption.

Wood Decking

Wood is a natural product. However, it may be chemically treated.

Also, what types of wood you can find may depend on your geographical location. Here is the type of wood for decks most commonly used:

Pressure-treated Lumber

Most wood decking is made from pressure-treated lumber, including the understructure frame such as posts, joists, and posts. It’s affordable and widely available.

Most treated decking is 5/4 x 6–inch planks. It’s typically cut from southern yellow pine and then treated with chemicals to resist fungus, wood-boring bugs, and decay.

The biggest con is that pine isn’t very dimensionally stable. It can crack, swell, split, and warp.

Redwood & Western Red Cedar

Both redwoods and western red cedar’s are known for their beautiful crimson color, natural beauty, and their natural resistance to decay, rot, and insects. As a result, they’re treated with fewer chemicals.

These trees made great decking because they are:

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to cut
  • Stable
  • Resistant to warping

Most sizes for decking are 2 x 6 and 2 x 4. They come in a variety of grades as well.

To maintain its color, treat with a semitransparent stain every three to four years.

Tropical hardwoods

Tropical hardwoods are new to the decking scene. And they have some great characteristics such as:

  • Dense
  • Hard
  • Heavy
  • Durable
  • Naturally bug and rot-resistant

There are myriad species available so pricing fluctuates. The most common decking sizes are 3/4- and 1-inch-thick boards.

They’re easy to care for but make sure your tropical hardwood decking has been legally and ethically sourced. You’ll ensure that your wood has been grown and harvested in a legal and more sustainable manner.

The Care & Maintenance of Wood

Natural wood requires more care than plastic decks. Every two to five years, you’ll need to perform the following tasks to keep your deck in good shape:

  • Sand
  • Stain
  • Seal
  • Paint

Twice a year you should clean your deck.

Durability & Lifespan

Wood has about a 15-year lifespan to fight off the following problems:

  • Splintering
  • Staining
  • Fading

Wood can last about 20 years.

Possible Problems After 20 Years

Before the following issues begin causing problems such as:

  • Insect and rot
  • Scratching
  • Warping

On average, most wood decks last between 10 and 30 years, if untreated. It can last up to 50 years if it’s treated wood.

However, how well it was maintained, weather conditions and the type of wood used will factor into how long it lasts.

Composite Decking

Composite decking is a hybrid product. It’s composed mainly of wood fibers and recycled plastic. Common names for composite decking are:

  • Trex
  • TimberTech
  • Veranda

Composite decking is dense and heavy. It’s also stain and weather-resistant that doesn’t warp, rot, split or splinter. Its lifespan is 50 years.

Most types of plastic decking have wood-grain patterns molded into their surfaces to give them the look of real wood.

The Care & Maintenance of Composite

Unlike with wood, you don’t have to sand, seal, stain or even paint your composite. It is recommended that you clean your composite deck twice a year to keep it looking clean.

You can do that by using warm, soapy water and scrubbing your deck. Diluted bleach can kill any signs of mold or mildew.

Available in Different Colors & Sizes

Standard composite decking is available in several colors such as brown, gray, and tan. These colors will most likely fade over time, especially areas exposed to direct sunlight.

There are new fade-resistant composites available. They cost more but keep their color longer.

You can buy composite decking in lengths up to 16 feet.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Invest in a New Deck

Before you make the investment, you should ask yourself a few questions to help you decide which type of decking is best for you such as:

  • How will you use the deck?
  • Is the deck in a sunny or shaded area?
  • Will you do your own deck maintenance or hire a company?

You should also factor in how long you plan to live in your home. While a deck can help increase the value of your home, you shouldn’t blow your budget if you’re planning on moving within a few years.

The Price of Decking

It’s important to understand all the costs involved before you make your choice. Here are the typical costs of both composite and wood decking materials:

  • Pressure-treated wood: $1.50-$2.50 per square foot
  • Cedar: $3.75-$5 per square foot
  • Redwood: $6-$8
  • Tropical hardwoods: $8-$12 per square foot
  • Composite: $7-$10

Once you figure out which material you want to use, try the free cost estimator to get an idea of costs. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of maintenance moving forward if you choose wood.

Choose Your Decking Here

Now that you know the differences between composite versus wood decking, it’s time to start shopping. We have a great selection of decking materials.

We offer competitive pricing and materials that can stand the test of time. Click here to start shopping today.

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