Everyone wants to get the most bang for their buck, but with the many options you can choose for your deck to be made out of it can be difficult to decide. Check out this guide to compare composite and wood decks and find out which is the best decking material for you!
The biggest question about building a new deck is what material to use.
Most decks have pressure treated wooden frames, so the only material you have to worry about is the surface and railings. And that choice usually comes down to either traditional wood or composite decking.
Keep reading to learn the differences between wood and composite lumber and find out what the best decking material is for your home.
What Is the Difference Between Wood and Composite Decking?
Wood is the most traditional material used for porches and decks, and some studies conclude it’s still the most popular option today. Any wood you’re planning to build with should have a certification from the Forest Stewardship Council, especially hardwoods.
Some softer woods, like Western fir and Southern pine, have gone through a process called pressure treating. This involves being infused with chemical preservatives to protect the wood against insects, the elements, and rot.
You can paint or stain most woods, except for incredibly hard woods like Ipe, a variety of colors, but they will always keep their original wood appearance.
Composite decking contains a blend of real wood and plastic polymers, but this material still looks exactly like real wood (although some cheaper composite decking material can look more like plastic than wood). This type of decking material is an environmentally friendly option, and it doesn’t come with any of the downsides wood has.
In fact, over the past several years, composite decking has turned into the fastest-growing decking material for residential homes.
Which Decking Material Is Better?
There isn’t one easy answer to this question. The right material for your deck depends on what weather conditions you live with, how you plan to use your deck, whether your deck will be in the sun or the shade, how much maintenance you want to give your deck, your aesthetic preferences, etc.
So we’ve put together this guide to help you ask the right questions and figure out what decking material is better for you.
No doubt one of the most important questions on your mind is the cost.
Composite Lumber vs. Wood: Looking at the Prices
Wood is almost always going to be cheaper than composite decking. Many people buy wood for their deck because they like the lower cost. But as soon as you start to look at all the maintenance wood requires, it gets much more expensive.
So think of it this way.
Wood has a lower starting cost, but in the long run, it’ll cost a lot more money than composite decking.
Because wood needs to be re-stained, resealed, and sanded at least once a year, sometimes more. If you hire professionals to do these jobs, you can easily spend upwards of $4,500 over your 10 to 11 years of owning the deck. And even then, your deck could still splinter or crack.
Once a professional installs composite decking, like Decks & Docks Lumber Co., there isn’t much else you have to do for it. You’ll actually be saving money even though you spend more at the beginning.
Now, if you plan to do all the maintenance on your wooden deck yourself (which is possible but does take a lot of work), a wooden deck may still be cheaper than composite decking material.
Comparing Composite Decking to Traditional Wood
Though the price is a big consideration, it isn’t the only one you have to take into account. Composite decking and traditional wood both come with their pros and cons, and a deck that works well in one yard may not be a good fit for another.
That said, many professionals recommend composite decking over natural wood.
But let’s break down some of the benefits and downsides of each one.
Wooden Decks Splinter
No matter what kind of wood you choose, it will always splinter over time. No amount of paint, stain, or sealant can change that. It’s just what happens with natural wood material.
Composite decking is durable, so they never splinter.
Composite Decks Don’t Stain
This might not be a huge concern if you don’t usually eat or drink foods on your deck that will stain. A single spill of red wine, for example, can leave a mark on your wooden deck forever (or at least until you repaint it).
Composite decks are stain resistant. Even if you let the red wine dry out on the deck, it still won’t leave a mark.
Wood Is Sensitive to Sun and Shade
A wooden deck that takes too much sun will fade or warp. But if you place your wooden deck in the shade, it can mold or stain. This can limit the locations you can install a wooden deck.
Sun or shade don’t make much of a difference when it comes to composite decking. You can put this material in direct sunlight or shade and not experience any warping or rotting.
However, even dark composite materials do tend to fade in the sunlight. But most colors will keep their natural hue for the deck’s entire lifetime.
Composite Decking Material Doesn’t Mold
To be clear, mold can grow on composite decking, but it won’t destroy your deck like it would with traditional wood.
When mold grows on a wooden surface, you must remove the mold right away. If you don’t, the mold will penetrate the wood, spread over your deck, and ruin the entire structure. And all it takes is a few months.
If mold grows on your composite decking, you can take your time and clean it off whenever you want. The mold can’t penetrate the material, so it’s essentially harmless.
Wood Involves a lot of Maintenance
We’ve briefly touched on this already, but because it’s such an important part of wooden decks, it deserves another mention. If you decide to get a wooden deck, you must be prepared to sand the whole thing down, re-stain it, and reseal it at least once a year. Not carrying out proper maintenance will make your deck deteriorate much faster than it should.
All you have to do with your composite decking is power-wash it every year. This keeps it clean and in good condition, no other work required.
So What Is the Best Decking Material?
Again, one material isn’t going to be the right answer for every home. The best decking material depends on many things, including the location of your home, the type of weather you get, what you plan to do with it, etc.
But in most cases, composite decking will last longer, take less work, and look just as beautiful as normal wood.
Already have a deck and ready to start decorating? Check out this guide for some outdoor porch design ideas.