Composite wood is a popular choice for decking, but you may be wondering what makes it different from normal wood and whether it is worth paying for. This guide will take you through the pros and cons of composite decking so you can make an informed choice in your yard.
Table of Contents
- What is Composite Decking?
- The Pros of Composite Decking
- The Cons of Composite Decking
- Is Composite Decking Worth the Money?
- What’s the Best Composite Decking?
- Should You Replace Your Wood Deck with Composite?
- Final Thoughts
What is Composite Decking?
Composite decking is a man-made material composed of wood fibers and plastic. It is available in a variety of colors and is more durable than normal wood and more resistant to water damage and rot, which is why it’s often used for outdoor applications.
The Pros of Composite Decking
Resistant to Rot and Decay
Composite decking will not rot or decay, making it a great choice for decks that are constantly exposed to the elements. The plastic in the composite material shields the wood fibers from moisture and pests, preventing damage.
During the winter, standard wood will absorb rainwater and start rotting if it is not treated properly with a stain and sealer. Ultimately, the increased resistance to rot and decay means that composite decking will last much longer before it needs to be replaced. On average, composite decking lasts around 25 years with proper care and maintenance. Standard wood decking, on the other hand, will need to be replaced every 7-10 years.
Resistant to UV
UV rays from the sun can cause wood to fade and turn a greyish color over time. Composite decking is made with a UV protectant that helps to keep the color looking new for many years. If you have had your decking installed for a few years, it can lose some of its UV resistance, so it will need to be treated to protect it. However, composite is still far more resistant to UV rays than standard wood.
Doesn’t Splinter or Crack
One of the most common complaints about standard wood decks is that they tend to splinter and crack over time. This can be a major safety hazard, as walking on a splintered deck can be very painful. Composite decking is made to be more durable and resistant to cracking and splintering, so it is a safer option for your family.
The level of maintenance required is one of the biggest things to consider when deciding on a decking material. Composite decking is made to be low-maintenance because it is naturally resistant to moisture and UV. So, you won’t have to stain and seal the deck every year to keep it in good condition. Composite can be cleaned with a hose or a pressure washer and doesn’t require any special cleaners or chemicals. However, with a traditional wood deck, you need to ensure that you protect it from mildew, rot, and UV, which usually means stripping and applying new deck stain and sealer every year or two at least.
Composite decking will need more maintenance as it gets older, but it is still a lot less work than traditional wood.
Lower Risk of Slipping
If you are safety conscious, composite decking is ideal. The material is slip-resistant, making it a safer choice for areas around pools and hot tubs where people may be walking barefoot. Composite is also a great choice if you have young children and you want to ensure that your yard area is safe for them. Using textured composite decking boards with grooves in them gives you added grip.
Scratches can quickly ruin the look of your decking. Composite decking is made with a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) that is much harder than wood and won’t scratch as easily. However, it’s important that you still take measures to avoid scratches because composite decking isn’t indestructible. Putting rubber feet on the bottom of furniture will help you avoid scratches and regular sweeping will get rid of small debris that can scratch the decking.
If you are looking for an eco-friendly option, composite decking is a great choice. The material is made with recycled wood fibers and plastic, so it requires less energy to produce than standard lumber. And, because it lasts longer, you won’t have to replace the deck as often, which further reduces your carbon footprint.
A Large Range of Colors and Styles
One of the best things about composite decking is that you have a lot of options when it comes to colors and styles. Composite decking is available in a variety of colors, including natural wood grains, so you can find the perfect option for your home. There are also many different textures and finishes to choose from.
The Cons of Composite Decking
Composite decking costs more than traditional wood decking. So, if you are trying to renovate on a budget, it may not be the best option. That said, you should always think about the long term costs of both options because composite decking does not need to be replaced as often and it requires less maintenance.
More Difficult to Change Color
If you decide that you want to change the color of your composite decking, it can be difficult. The material is made with a specific color in mind and it doesn’t always take paint or stain well. You would likely need to replace the entire deck if you wanted to change the color. Traditional wood, on the other hand, can be stripped back and repainted.
Lack of Real Wood Look
Some people don’t like the look of composite decking because it doesn’t have the same rustic charm as real wood. Modern composite products do look very close to real wood but it is still possible to tell that it’s a composite.
Is Composite Decking Worth the Money?
You may be put off by the price of composite decking but it’s important to consider the long term costs, not just the upfront price. Composite decking is made to last so, you won’t have to replace the deck as often as you would with traditional wood. In the long run, composite decking works out cheaper than real wood as long as you look after it properly.
You will also save money on things like cleaners, stains, and sealers, which need to be used every year to keep wooden decking in good condition. Not to mention that you save a lot of time on maintenance each year too.
Even though composite decking is more expensive up front, it’s absolutely worth it because you save time and money in the long run.
What’s the Best Composite Decking?
There are a number of different composite decking brands on the market. So, which one is the best? It really depends on your personal preferences. Some people prefer the natural look and feel of wood grain composite decking while others prefer the more modern look of a smooth deck.
The bottom line is that you should choose the brand that best suits your needs and your budget. Important factors to consider are the climate in your area, the look you’re going for, how the decking will be used, and what you are willing to spend.
If you’re looking for a sustainable option, Fiberon decking is great because they have a strong focus on using recyclable materials. On the other hand, if you want decking around a pool area and you need the best moisture resistance, go for MoistureShield.
You can find more detailed information about the different decking brands and the pros and cons of each in our excellent guide.
Should You Replace Your Wood Deck with Composite?
If you’re wondering whether you should replace your wood deck with composite, the answer is yes! Composite decking is a great alternative to traditional wood because it’s durable, low-maintenance, and eco-friendly. Plus, composite decking comes in a variety of colors and styles so you can find the perfect option for your home.
However, consider when you installed your deck and what condition it’s in. If you’ve only had it for a year or two and it’s still in good condition, there is no need to replace it right away. But once your decking is starting to show signs of wear and you are considering a replacement, composite is definitely the way to go.
Composite decking does have a few downsides, especially the upfront cost. But it also has a lot of benefits over normal wood, so it is definitely worth paying the extra money for it.
Related Composite Decking Articles:
- How Long Does a Composite Deck Last?
- Can You Put Composite Decking Over Wood Frame?
- How Wide Are Composite Deck Boards? (Profile & Size Guide)
- Can You Pressure Wash Composite Decking?
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.