What material is right for your deck? Should you choose traditional wood or is composite decking the better option?
Run to your local home improvement store or pop in on an online forum and you’ll discover strong advocates on each side. Some people will try to convince you wood is the only option. Others will tell you that composite decking is the smartest choice you’ll ever make.
It’s hard to know who to listen to.
That’s why we made this guide. We made it easy to see how composite and wood decking stack up. We evaluate all of the factors you want to consider — look, cost, ease of installation, upkeep and durability.
Discover who wins each category and read to the end for our overall recommendation.
An Overview of Materials
Wood is the original and still the most common choice for decking.
There are many different types of wood that can be used. Popular options include pressure-treated, redwood, cedar or tropical hardwoods.
Composite decking is a mixture of plastic and wood fibers.
It was developed in the 90s as an alternative to traditional lumber. Though composite decking has grown in technology over the last few decades, it primarily seeks to be highly durable and easy to maintain. Because of these characteristics, its popularity continues to increase.
Many people prefer the look of natural wood. They argue wood feels more authentic and gives a warmth that just can’t be imitated.
Certain types of wood are valued for their beautiful grain and color. Plus, wood can be stained or painted so the aesthetic options are nearly unlimited.
When it first came out, many rebuffed composite decking as artificial looking. Nowadays there are many color options and buyers can choose from planks resembling a variety of wood types. Composite decking looks clean and professional in your yard. Still, it cannot beat the number of looks available through natural wood.
Price is often the biggest factor in determining whether you go with a composite or wood deck. Decks are sizable projects and so many don’t want to spend more than they need to.
For them, wood is the clear winner.
Unless you get into some of the more exotic varieties, wood is cheaper than composite decking. Prices vary, but in general you can expect composite decking to be about 2x the price. That means that upfront, wood will always look like the more cost-friendly option.
However, it is important to note that over time composite has a much lower maintenance cost.
Ease of Installation
In the battle of composite decking vs wood decks, which is easier to install?
Here there isn’t as clear of an answer. The average person might feel more familiar with wood but composite decking has grown much easier to install in recent years. Brands like Trex Decking even include a simple clip system that makes installation a breeze.
Wood can be cut to any size. Composite decking can be custom cut and ordered as well. It’s also easier to create curved areas.
The edge depends on the quality of materials used and the size and shape of the project.
No matter your material, some people might advocate for a DIY approach to decking. While it’s possible to save money, hiring a professional is usually a much better value.
Once a deck is set up, you should be set to enjoy it for years to come. However, there will be upkeep no matter the material.
Both composite and wood will need to be cleaned. For both, simply start with warm, soapy water.
But that’s where the differences begin.
For composite decks, that’s it. You don’t have to do anything else.
Wood decks however, require more upkeep. The surface will have to be stained and sealed regularly in order to prevent moisture and UV damage. Color will fade over time and the planks will become increasingly worn. This means you’ll have to sand to avoid splinters.
If too much water seeps into the wood, you’ll be vulnerable to rot and warping. You may also have to deal with termite damage.
There is a big difference in how long each type of material lasts.
Typically a wood deck lasts 10 to 30 years. The variability is due to the quality of wood and level of upkeep. If the deck is not regularly sealed, it will absorb water and fade in color. Eventually, the structural integrity of the wood will become suspect.
Composite decks on the other hand can last up to 50 years. The material is highly durable. It doesn’t absorb water, so you won’t have to worry about rotting or warping. And because most composite decks have built-in UV resistance, they won’t fade or lighten until they’ve spent many years in the sun.
Composite vs Wood Decking: Which is Better?
In this article we weighed each category equally. You might not. For example, you might not care about extra work upfront if it saves you time and money and maintenance in later years.
Or perhaps you’re okay with upgrading in a few years but want something cheaper and easy to install right away.
It’s important that you know which factors are most important to you.
With that being said, in the end, we have to pronounce composite decking the winner.
Though wood has an edge in appearance and a lower upfront cost, it’s advantages end there. Composite decking lasts much longer and requires less maintenance, meaning it costs less over time. Plus, with continued advances in technology, composite decking gets better every year.
For the family that wants a deck they can enjoy for a long time, composite decking is the better option.
Its advantages more than justify the price and you’ll love its peace of mind. That’s why we recommend it to our clients at Torchwood Landscaping.
Want to see how a beautiful composite deck can transform your backyard? Schedule a call with us today.