As the holidays approach, you might want to give your home a do-over. One way you might have decided to change how your home looks is by switching up your deck.
Have you decided whether to take it on as a DIY family project? Or you’d rather partner with a licensed contractor to do all the difficult stuff? Either way, before you embark on such a project, you need to know the options that are available to you.
Over the years, decking options have increased. With new technology, many people have the choice of either using composite materials or wood for their decking. Thus many people ask: Composite decking vs wood, which is better?
In this article, we will help you see the pros and cons of composite decking, the pros, and cons of wood decking, and the factors that should influence the material used for decking.
First of all, let us consider what composite decking is and the pros of this decking.
What is composite decking?
Composite decking materials are a combination of plastic and wood fibers. These materials are put together to form a durable product that is used for decking.
Although these materials, even at first glance, aren’t natural per se, and will not give you the natural and warm look of a wood decking, they come in so many options that it is impossible to ignore.
Furthermore, with the improvements in manufacturing techniques, more of these composite deckings look and feel great. No wonder they are becoming more popular by the minute!
Composite decking materials have many benefits. Here are some of them.
Composite Decking Pros
1. Low Maintenance
A major reason why composite decking gets more popular among folks is the low maintenance. Composite decks do not require any refinishing, sanding or staining to look good. If you would rather spend your time doing anything else than periodic replacing, painting or staining, composite decks are a perfect fit.
As noted earlier in the article, composite decking materials come in different textures, colors, and so on. The sheer volume of options makes this alternative to wood decks attractive. You can mix colors to give your space a “wow” factor and be the envy of your guests. Furthermore, linked with low maintenance, these colors last for longer than traditional paint and wood stain.
Aside from the color options, composite decks come in different textures. You can have smooth decks, rough decks, and textured decks. The choice is yours.
3. Long lasting
In case you haven’t already guessed, composite decks are far more durable than other options. The color lasts long, the materials last long, and provides longevity on all fronts. The composite materials do not crack, splinter, or fade even on exposure to adverse conditions
Aside from invulnerability to bad weather conditions, composite decks are resistant against insects and pests. Termites and bees that might normally find rent-free accommodations in your wood decking find no home here.
4 .Environmentally Friendly
If you love the environment, advocate for a greener earth, and want to conserve resources for your children and posterity, composite decking will get your nod of approval. Why?
Because composite decks are made from recyclable materials. Using a mixture of plastics and wood fiber, your composite decking is environmentally friendly.
With all these listed advantages, composite decking seems to be the real deal, right? No surprise it is a choice for so many folks now.
Having seen the numerous, and impressive advantages of composite decks, you might wonder, “if it’s so good, are there any disadvantages?”. Unfortunately, there are. Now, let’s see some of the cons of using a composite deck.
Composite Decking Problems
Despite the sheer variety of composite decks, despite improvements in science and technology, nothing beats the natural look, warmth, and feel of real wood. Composite decks will always be composite decks in looks, except if technology improves.
Therefore, if you are looking to model your home after some of the homes you see in popular magazines, and wish to have that wood decking, you cannot compromise with composite decking.
2. Initial Cost
Composite decking is relatively expensive. This is due to the entire process of production. And considering all the advantages that it offers, there’s no wonder why it comes at a cost.
4. Weight and Installation
Composite decking is heavier than other options available. Moreover, to install composite decks, you will require special fasteners and stuff like that.
5. It can rot
Yeah, we know we listed durability among the pros of composite decking. However, remember that most of these decking is a mixture of wood fibers and plastic. The wood fibers are susceptible to rot.
Hence, to prevent this, companies use preservatives to treat the materials before selling to customers.
Types of Composite Decking
In this section, we will consider the types of composite decking available and the materials that are used to make them.
As composite decking comes in a large variety of options, you need to know the types of decking you can choose from.
In producing the best composite decking, two main materials are employed PVC and recyclable plastic.
This type of decking is also referred to as synthetic decking. The material for decking is made of PVC (cellular polyvinyl chloride). As a result of its constituent material, it is the lightest type of decking. To add a “woody” look to the plastic, a protective shell is added to it.
PVC decking has the same advantages of Wood-Composite decking listed above. However, when it is compared to composite and wood decking, it looks the most unnatural.
Composite decking tiles have been mentioned earlier. It a combination of dense polyethylene and wood fibers. To make it stronger, preservatives and binders are added in the manufacturing process. It is often friendly to the environment since the plastics used are often recyclable.
Since we have seen the pros and cons of Wood-Composite decking, it is only fair we consider Wood Decking.
Wood decking is the more traditional type of decking known to man. It is obviously made of wood. However, there are different types of wood used for wood decking. Let us consider some of them.
1. PT Lumber
PT stands for Pressure Treated. As the name implies, PT Timber is wood that has undergone a special treatment to reduce the invasion of pests like bugs and diseases like fungus and rot.
In most cases, the most used type of wood for PT Timber is the Southern Yellow Pine. This type of wood is suitable for wood decking.
Despite the emergence of Wood-Composite materials, PT Timber accounts for 75% of all new decks in homes across the country.
And no wonder. It is accessible, affordable, and easy to install.
Despite this, it has its flaws. More of the flaws of wood decking will be discussed later in this article. But for now, some of the problems of using PT Timber are the tendency to crack, warp, and split.
Furthermore, regular maintenance is required to keep it in great shape.
2. Redwood and Cedar
For decking enthusiasts, these two types of woods are the premium types of woods. They are appreciated because they are not pumped full of preservatives and chemicals during the packaging and manufacturing process.
Furthermore, these woods have a unique sheen, warmth, and look that screams premium quality. They also contain high levels of oils and tannin, which is an insect repellant.
Redwood and Cedar are significantly more expensive than PT Timber. Also, to retain their color, they require regular maintenance and staining.
3. Tropical Hardwoods
These are exotic woods that are not commonly found. They include woods like Riverwood, Cumaru, and the more popular ipe.
These woods are prized for their very hard, durable nature. They are also very resistant to rot and pests.
This benefits they have are also a disadvantage. Because of their dense nature, it is difficult to cut and drill them. To install these woods as part of your decking, you will need special equipment.
For example, if you want to drive a nail through these woods, you will need to drill a pilot hole. Thus, they require different fasteners.
They are also, when compared with PT Timber, expensive. Their price is on par with woods like Cedar and Redwood.
To maintain the vibrant color of these woods, you need to stain them, although being so dense, staining is hard work. Depending on the exposure to the elements, these woods retain their color for a while before fading.
Having considered the types of woods used in wood decking, let’s now consider the pros and cons of wood decking.
Pros of Wood Decking
Nothing beats the rich, warm look of wood. They are obviously natural and add a certain sophistication and elegance to your home.
Exotic woods and woods like Redwood and Cedar are the real deal. They are 100% authentic and warm.
While other options might smell of artificial odors, wood decking gives you the heady, woody smell of natural wood. A pleasant smell that can lift emotions and make a bad day into a manageable one.
Although Redwoods, Cedar, and exotic woods like Ipe might be relatively expensive, PT treated woods are inexpensive.
When summer comes and everywhere grows hotter, wooden decks absorb and retain little heat. So you do not have to fear blisters on your feet.
Cons of Wood Decking
No matter how much your wood decking costs, and no matter the type of wood it is made from, sooner or later, it will splinter. This isn’t any fault of yours, but it’s simply how wood is.
Furthermore, although PT Timber has been treated with preservatives and pumped full of chemicals, pests and other insects will over time find a way to penetrate it.
The same goes for more expensive woods like Redwoods, Ipe, and Cedar. Although it might take a long time, degradation will eventually occur.
Wood decking requires frequent maintenance. To defend the wood against moisture, to preserve the color, and to generally extend the lifespan, maintenance such as painting, staining and sealing must be done regularly.
3. Environmental Concerns
Since wood decking is obtained from actual trees that have been felled, it slowly depletes resources. Although many manufacturers plant a tree for each one felled and have private forests to fell trees, it is still a source of concern.
After considering the pros and cons of composite decking and wood decking, the next section compares the two types of decking. This comparison will determine which one is better for decking.
Comparison between Composite Decking and Wood Decking
Although all types of decks require some form of maintenance or the other, wood decking requires far more maintenance than composite decking. They need annual refinishing. This might include, painting, staining, removal of previous finishing, sanding, and so on. For folks that do not have time to do all these, composite decking looks very attractive indeed.
However, if you are willing to do all the work, or have enough money to hire people to do it for you, regular maintenance is worth it.
Furthermore, it should be noted that PT Timber wood decking does not require the frequent attention given to natural wood decks like Cedar and Redwood.
Although composite decks do not need maintenance, you will still need to clean at least once every 3 years to prevent the growth of mold.
Composite decking prices are usually more expensive than wood decking. Composite decks generally cost about $30 to $45 per square foot. During installation, composite decks often require special fasteners which can increase the cost. On the other hand, PT Timber costs around $15 to $25 per square foot, and premium woods like cedar and redwood cost $25 to $30 per square foot.
However, in the end, composite decks often cost less. Why? Because although they are initially more expensive, they do not require as much maintenance as wood decks. The cost of staining, and refinishing of wood decks usually offsets that of composite decks.
Furthermore, exotic woods and premium woods like Cedar can cost more than composite decking.
3. Temperature and Convenience
In this section, wood decking has the advantage. When summer comes, and the weather heats up, wood decking absorbs and retain heat far better than composite decking.
Composite decking can become hot to touch, especially if it is in direct sunlight. A research work discovered that at temperatures of around 109 degrees Fahrenheit, soles could start to form blisters.
If your deck will be in direct sunlight and you enjoy walking barefoot, a wooden deck is a smarter and more comfortable choice.
Although technology continues to advance in leaps and bounds, there is simply no beating the natural look of real wood. Real wood, especially natural wood like Cedar, Redwoods, and exotic wood like Ipe, give off an amazing look that no composite decking can currently achieve.
If the decking is going to be a DIY project or a family project, wooden decking is far easier and cheaper to install.
Composite decking requires special fasteners and tools to install.
Factors to Consider when Choosing Decking Materials
There are some factors that you should consider before choosing a Wooden Decking or a Composite Decking.
Is the deck located in the full glare of the sun? Is it in shade? Or is it a mix of both? If it is in the sun, it will experience a lot of heat and can cause blisters if you walk on it barefoot.
Furthermore, if it is in the shade, it is more susceptible to mold and stains.
Therefore, identifying the location can help you choose wisely. Remember, the darker the composite decking, the more heat absorbed. And wooden decking is often better at managing heat than composite decking.
If you will not have the time to maintain your decking, it is better to go for materials that will allow you to put off cleaning and maintenance for as long as possible.
As seen earlier in this article, composite decking requires less maintenance compared to wooden decking. Aside from routine cleaning, wood decking requires staining and refinishing every other year.
If you cannot handle frequent maintenance, go for composite decking.
If you are on a budget and see yourself on a tight budget for the near future, you might be better off going for composite decking. Although it is initially more expensive than wooden decking due to the materials and the extra structural support required, the rare maintenance reduces the cost over time.
If you are going to switch homes in a few years, a wooden decking would be awesome. However, if you are going to be staying for a long time, then a composite decking will save you money.
This aspect is subjective. However, most people definitely prefer the warm natural look of wooden decking. This factor is entirely dependent on your point of view.
There are many choices available to you. We hope that by reading this article, you can make the right choice yourself and your family. Wooden decking has its advantages, but so does Composite Decking. So if it’s composite decking you choose, we hope you choose the best composite decking from all your options.