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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.