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Composite vs. Wood Decking: Which one is right for you?

by | Dec 13, 2021

A deck is one of the best features of a home and can be the centerpiece of your outdoor landscaping. You’ll spend countless hours there relaxing, stargazing, entertaining guests, and so on. It only stands to reason, then, that when you’re building or replacing a deck, you want quality materials that will look great and last a long time. So that brings up a conundrum: composite vs. wood decking.

Natural wood has a great look, and it comes in many choices. Some of the most popular are cedar, pine, and redwood, though more exotic options may be available. Composite decking is a wood-plastic mix that consists of wood fibers encased in plastic. It was invented in the 1980s as an alternative to wood decking, and it’s widely available today at both big-box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s and at local lumber yards. When choosing composite vs. wood decking, there are a lot of different things to consider, so let’s look at them one by one.

Appearance

Composite decking used to have an artificial look that didn’t appeal to a lot of people, but today there are varieties that look more like real wood. Real wood still has that authentic traditional wood look, though; however, the colors fade over time.

Care and Maintenance

Both styles only require cleaning every 2 years on average, but after that, wood decking requires much more maintenance. Wood decking requires sanding, painting, staining, and sealing every 2-5 years; composite decking never requires them.

Cost

It costs quite a bit more to install composite decking than it does to install wood decking. The costs flip when it comes to yearly maintenance.

Durability

Wood decking lasts 10-30 years before needing replacement, but composite decking lasts up to 50 years. Composite decking is also more resistant to UV rays and thus will fade less over time, and it can be repainted. Also, composite decking can’t splinter. Composite decking is also more resistant to scratching, staining, and warping than wood decking is.

Surface Temperatures

Ever burned the bottom of your feet from stepping out barefoot on a deck on a hot summer day? Sure, maybe you should have put on shoes, but come on, it’s summer! Wood decking stays cooler under direct sun than composite does; the good news for composite here is that newer technology can reduce composite’s hear absorption by up to 35%.

Susceptibility to Insects and Moisture

Wood Composite DeckWood decking, even after being treated, is always vulnerable to damage from insects such as termites and rot from excessive exposure to water. Sealing the deck helps protect it from water, but that adds to maintenance costs and time. Composite decking, on the other hand, is not vulnerable to insects and moisture. If you live in Arizona, moisture damage may not be much of a concern, but here in North Carolina, it’s something you have to consider.

Workability

For the majority of decks that have straight planks, both composite and wood work just as well. However, if you are looking at curved decking, you’ll need composite because you can’t bend wood decking.

Ultimately, the choice is yours to make. At LandArt, we have over 30 years of experience in landscaping design, so we know a little bit about composite vs. wood decking! We’re here to work with you every step of the way in planning, designing, and installing your dream deck. Contact us today to get started!

Matthew Horn

Vice President of LandArt solutions since 2008, Matt Horn brings unrivaled experience and training to his work. Matt has multiple certifications from the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) and in stormwater management that cover installation, maintenance, and inspection. Among his specialties is the installation of residential and permeable pavers and retaining walls, but his quiver contains many more skills. These include landscape design and renovation, green building, site planning, drainage solutions, and many more. Matt’s experience in landscape design includes but is hardly limited to patios, turf (natural and synthetic), hardscaping, lighting, and irrigation. As an influential part of LandArt deeply invested in its success, reputation, and client satisfaction, Matt has played a principal role in adding beauty, function, and value to multitudes of North Carolina homes and businesses.

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