Composite vs. Wood Decking

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The Benefits of Composite

With the recently increasing popularity of composite decking, the average homeowner may have a lot of questions. Is it more expensive? Is it more difficult to install/repair? How long does it last? These are just a few questions we get asked about composite decking. To answer them, we’d like to take some time to break down the main differences between composite and traditional wood decking. 

First of all, it’s important to be aware of what composite is, exactly. Most composite boards are not 100% plastic, but a hybrid of recycled plastic and sawdust. The main reason for this being that plastic materials tend to swell and contract much more than wood, so manufacturers add sawdust to balance this out.  The sawdust gives the added benefit of making the composite boards a bit more “wood-like,” in the way they can be cut and customized. 

Are they more expensive than wood? The short answer is yes.  The most common material used for wood decks is cedar, which is currently cheaper than composite boards such as Trex.  However, it’s worth mentioning that the price of cedar has increased dramatically over the last year, so it’s not much more expensive to go for composite boards. 

Composite boards differ from wood in a few unique ways. Most brands manufacture their boards with grooved edges, which allow the use of a “hidden fastener” system. This is exactly what it sounds like: no screws! The fasteners slip between the boards, sit in the grooves and tie the boards into the joists.
With composite boards, you can have a perfectly smooth, finished surface that is sleek and modern. To many people this is a big reason to go with composite. 

The other main difference between wood and composite is lifespan. Cedar decks are unlikely to last beyond 20 years without extremely diligent care. On the other hand, most composite manufacturers have 25 year or longer guarantees against any wear or rot whatsoever. In other words, your composite deck will more or less look the same after 25 years as it did on its first day. 

The Benefits of Wood

To many, there is no comparison to the authentic look of a natural wood deck. It can be stained or painted unlike composite, and it is easier to repair.  It is also easier to do custom work or unique deck designs with wood materials.  The material is more affordable, and it also typically costs less in labor, since wood is easier to work with than composite. These are some of the reasons people may prefer wood over composite.

At the end of the day, there’s no wrong decision when it comes to picking out a material. It comes down to personal preference, and what you as the homeowner are looking for in a deck.  We hope we’ve been able to give you ample information to steer you in the right direction in making your choice!

Written by Jeremiah Oropeza, Crew Lead, PHM

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