Composite vs Wood Decking How to Choose the Right Material

Kevin Brown

Composite and wood both provide a quality deck. Wood offers a natural look and is less expensive. High-quality composites mimic wood and require less maintenance but cost more.

Composite vs Wood Decking How to Choose the Right Material

Composite Decking: An Overview

Composite decking is a durable, low maintenance material made from a blend of wood fibers and plastic. It offers the appearance of natural wood while being highly resistant. Some popular brands of composite decking include DuraLife, Fiberon, Trex Decking, and Envision.

Materials Used in Composite Decks

  • Wood and Plastic: Wood plastic composite (WPC) combines natural fibers with plastic powder. WPC deck boards offer environmental benefits by utilizing waste-derived natural fibers and recycled plastics. They are easy to color and install but are not weather-resistant due to the fiber content.
  • Minerals and Plastics: Mineral-based composite (MBC) combines minerals and plastics. The resulting boards are stable, durable, and resistant to moisture and pests.

Cellular PVC is the primary component of cellular PVC decking. Grain patterns are often added for wood-like properties and paintability. It is resistant to insects, water, and rot, and offers superior environmental benefits compared to plastics.

Pros:

– Doesn’t warp or splinter

– Low maintenance

– Resistant to rotting and termite infestation

Cons:

– Prone to fading

– More expensive than natural wood

Wood decking is a popular choice for outdoor decks, providing natural and rustic aesthetics that complement various architectural styles and landscaping designs.

Which types of wood are ideal for decking?

Choosing the right wood impacts the deck’s lifespan. There are various wood species used for decking, each with unique characteristics.

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Some popular types of wood for decks include:

– Cedar: A naturally rot-resistant softwood with a reddish-brown color and straight-grain pattern. It is also lightweight and easy to work with, making it popular for DIY projects.

– Redwood: A durable softwood that contains natural oils and tannins, making it resistant to rot, decay, and insect damage without the need for chemical treatment. Redwood is also lightweight and easy to work with.

Pressure-treated pine is a more affordable option for decking. The softwood undergoes chemical treatment to resist rot, decay, and insect damage. It’s easy to stain or paint.

Ipe is a durable hardwood that’s resistant to rot, decay, and insect damage. It has a dark brown color and a tight, straight-grain pattern. Ipe is heavy, making it more challenging to work with and pricier than other wood species.

Mahogany is a popular hardwood known for its appeal and durability. It has a reddish-brown color and a straight-grain pattern. Mahogany is also resistant to rot, decay, and insect damage, but it’s expensive.

Pros of Wood Decks:

– Best for DIY projects.

– Less expensive than composite decks.

Pros:

– Offers a classic and natural look

Cons:

– High maintenance costs

– Prone to rot, decay, and insect damage

Composite vs. Wood Decking: Comparison

Maintenance

Wood decking can rot and decay in high humidity or moisture-prone areas. Regular inspections are necessary to identify and repair damage.

Wood decking requires periodic staining and sealing (usually every 3-5 years) to prevent rot and insect damage. The frequency of maintenance depends on the type of wood and local climate.

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Composite decking is not susceptible to rot, decay, or insects like wood decking. It only needs to be cleaned a few times a year with soap and water to maintain its good condition.

Composite decking offers superior durability due to insect and moisture resistance. It does not absorb moisture, preventing warping, splitting, rot, and decay.

The durability of wood decking varies depending on the species. Cedar and redwood are more durable than pine.

The price of composite ranges from $3 to $12 per square foot. Wood prices range from $2 to $8 per square foot.

Homeowners save money on maintenance costs with composite decking due to minimal requirements. Wood decking requires regular staining and sealing to prevent element damage and extend lifespan.

Composite decks have an artificial appearance that some homeowners find unappealing. Wood decking has a natural look and feel. Different wood species have unique grain patterns and colors, adding character to the deck.

Composite decking is available in a limited range of colors, mainly gray and brown shades. Some composite decking brands offer more color options but are more expensive.

Wood decking is available in a wide range of colors, depending on the type of wood used. For example, cedar and redwood have natural reddish-brown hues.

Weather Resistance

Composite is more weather-resistant than wood decking. Wood is porous, so when the sealant wears down, it can absorb moisture. Excess moisture can cause a wood deck to warp, split, crack, or decay.

Direct exposure to sunlight can cause wood and composite decks to fade. Most composite decking comes with a limited warranty for fade resistance.

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Composite decking has a lower environmental impact and is more durable. Its primary components are recycled plastic and wood fibers.

Composite materials reduce waste and conserve natural resources due to their long-lasting nature. However, composite production is energy-intensive and non-biodegradable. Composite decks end up in landfills once they reach the end of their lifespan.

Wood has low energy input and is biodegradable and renewable.

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