Composite decking becoming extremely popular in the last few years with less maintenance and more deck enjoyment. Every year more decks are built using composite, soon to surpass wood as the decking of choice.
But there are also many composite decking brands to choose between. Here is a collection of many of the most popular composite decking brands.
These 11 composite decking brands are increasing in popularity every year. In North America, there are 3 that dominate the market. Each brand has its own distinct advantages and look to compliment your home.
Having researched all these brands comparing appearance, durability, traction, price, and warranty, I have created this round-up of composite deck companies. Giving you a quick reference to start your search for the best composite decking.
Hopefully giving you a better idea, which composite decking company is best for you.
A quick introduction to each decking company followed by what makes them distinct compared to other composite decking brands.
- 1 What is Composite Decking
- 2 Armadillo Composite Decking
- 3 Deckorators Composite Decking
- 4 Envision/Evergreen
- 5 Fiberon Composite Decking
- 6 MoistureShield Composite Decking
- 7 NewTechWood Composite Decking
- 8 TimberTech (Azek)
- 9 Trex Composite Decking
- 10 Wolf Composite Decking
- 11 UltraDeck Composite Decking
- 12 Zuri PVC Decking
- 13 Composite Decking Buying Guide to Find the Best Composite Decking
- 13.1 Price (Budget)
- 13.2 Appearance (Color, Woodgrains, Variegation)
- 13.3 Deck Environment (Sun/Moisture)
- 13.4 Decking Traction
- 13.5 Durability
- 13.6 Warranty
- 13.7 Workability
- 13.8 Meeting Code (CCMC or CCRR)
- 13.9 Final Advice of Buying Composite Decking
What is Composite Decking
Composite decking often refers to any synthetic low-maintenance decking, including wood plastic composite and full PVC decking.
Currently, most are capped with a polymer shell. Enhancing the decking appearance and durability.
I usually make a hard distinction between PVC and composite decking. Arguing they are not the same and PVC decking is better.
But here, we will be a little looser in definition. Including a broader range of decking from a blend of recycled plastic and wood fibres to full plastic PVC.
Now to our decking brands.
Armadillo Composite Decking
Armadillo as a Company
Armadillo is a part of Avon plastic which has been manufacturing plastic products since 1966. Started in Paynesville, MN but has grown into an international company.
1996 started manufacture composite decking.
2010, refined the process creating the decking recognize as Armadillo. A capped composite deck board.
Best Qualities of Armadillo Decking?
Currently, Armadillo offers 3 lines, including 9 decking colours. Lifestyle is their largest collection, capped on all 4 sides designed for residential application.
Designed as an economical low maintenance decking, they are all scalloped to reduce material costs. But with Lifestyle include a full cap including inside the groove. Which is unusual with budget composite decking.
For a more in depth Review of Amadillo Decking, click the link.
How Does Armadillo Compare with Other Composite Decking?
Glad you asked. I was curious too. So, I gathered up some decking samples and did a whole pile of research. Then compared Armadillo head-to-head with the following brands. Click the links to learn more about how Armadillo faired against them.
Deckorators Composite Decking
Deckorators as a Company
Started in 1998 in St. Louis, Missouri but was acquired by UFPI in 2005.
“To provide lifestyle-enhancing products that help homeowners personalize and accessorize a deck as an extension of the home.”
In 2012 they consolidated all their deck accessories under the single name of Deckorators.
Best Qualities of Deckorators Decking
Deckorators has 20 colours among their 8 collections.
Their more economical lines (Trailhead, Tropic and Distress, which is only sold at Lowes) are scalloped. The rest of their boards are a solid profile.
The biggest thing that separates Deckorators from all the rest is Mineral-Based Composite.
Introduced in 2016 but is still a game-changer for composite decking. Unlike other composite decking made with a blend of organic material, it is made with non-rotting, swelling, or expanding minerals.
Giving Deckorators some incredible advantages.
- Voyage provides 34% or better surface traction than composite decking.
- Enhanced textured embossing for better traction both when wet or dry
- 35% lighter than traditional composites
- Virtually no thermal expansion or contraction
- Warrantied for installation in the ground or water
Voyage, Vault and Frontier are more expensive but are a league of their own for performance.
If you demand quality and are willing to try something different, check them out. They are a class of their own.
To learn more read a Review of Deckorators Decking, click the link.
How Does Deckorators Compare with Other Composite Decking?
Deckorators having both Mineral and wood-based composites makes comparison a little tricky.
For Trex, the dominant decking on the market, I compared it against Deckorators complete lines. Their mineral and wood composite.
Having separate TimberTech from Azek PVC decking, I strictly compared the two companies’ composite decking. Leaving out their superior PVC and Mineral decking.
Follow the links to whichever series you are more interested in comparing.
Envision as a Company
Little less known than other dominant composite brands. Partly because it is just one brand of many of the Tamko Building Products. Unlike Trex and companies who live or die on composite, Envision is part of a bigger umbrella company, which specialty is not composite.
- Start in 1999, EPOCH Composite Products, a subsidiary of Tamko Building products.
- Introduce Envision premium capped composite decking in 2011.
“high-end, luxury decking featuring unmatched beauty with dramatic colour and bold highlights in each deck board.”
- Became Envision Building Products LLC in 2019
Best Qualities of Envision Composite Decking
Envision has 17 colours which all are built on their Evergrain core. The higher-end lines like Distinction have the look of hardwood.
The Evergrain core is distinct from many other composite deck boards in that it is manufactured using Compression Technology. Similar to how a diamond is made. The material plastic and wood fibres are formed using compression and heat. Unlike most composite, which is extruded.
Non-Repeating Grains, you know exactly what I am talking about if you have installed enough composite decking. A constant repeating of patterns.
Which if you don’t catch it, the odd board with the grains the wrong direction. Creating an eyesore. With some companies, the pattern repeats itself on the same board in less than 4’ (1.2m) really should the lack of originality.
This is not a problem with Envision. They manufacture decking with original grains. Much closer to the appearance of natural wood. Which never repeats itself.
Deep distinct wood grains. Something of the vein of Trex but their own particular depth and patterns.
To read my fuller Review of Envision Composite Decking, click the link.
How Does Envision Compare with Other Composite Decking?
As I said, Envision has a similar texture to Trex, but that is not the only thing that I have compared. Click the link to read the complete comparison of the two brands.
I also researched and wrote a full comparison of Envision and TimberTech. Appearance is the most significant distinction between the two and how they are manufactured but click the link to see the full comparison.
Fiberon Composite Decking
Not new to the market but in the last few years has seen rapid growth in market share. Jockeying with Trex and TimberTech (Azek) to dominate the market.
Fiberon as a Company
Started in 1997in New London, North Carolina. Focussed on selling high-quality composite decking, railing and fencing manufactured in an eco-friendly fashion. Not exclusively a decking company but still their primary focus.
“Decks should be enjoyed, not maintained.”
Not only are they focused on low maintenance but being environmentally sustainable. Being one of the leaders in recycled content in their decking. The percentage varies by line but is as high as 98.5%.
Currently, they have two manufacturing and recycling centres opening a second plant in the West in Meridian, Idaho. Creating efficient continental distribution.
Fiberon is an innovator in composite decking. Laying claim to these impressive firsts and more.
- First capped composite decking with multi-chromatic technology
- First PVC composite railing
- First stain and fade warranty on capped composites
- First moulded and embossed WPC decking
Best Qualities of Fiberon Decking
Fiberon is a mixed company in that they sell both composite and PVC decking. With a total of 31 colours, including 10 PVC boards.
Fiberon also has a mix of scalloped and solid boards along with 3 and 4 sided caps for all your decking designing needs.
Fiberon has done a phenomenal job of making synthetic decking with authentic-looking wood grains and colouring. They are good-looking boards.
Fiberon’s biggest distinction from other composite decking is the length of its warranty.
- Concordia, 50-years
- Sanctuary, 40-years.
- GoodLife Escapes, 30-year
Fifty years is unheard of with composite decking. Competing with PVC decking, which is 100% synthetic.
If you are building your “forever deck” and warranty to match it, Fiberon is a good option.
They also have 25-year warranties which have become standard with composite decking. To the point, if they don’t, I would not recommend purchasing.
Want ot learn more about Fiberon decking, read the full Review of Fiberon Composite Decking.
How Does Fiberon Compare with Other Composite Decking?
With Fiberon being one of the BIG 3, it is quite possible you are trying to decide between them. I was curious myself how they stack up with each other. TimberTech vs Fiberon and, of course, Trex. Click the links below to see my full comparisons.
MoistureShield Composite Decking
Their name says it all. MoistureShield composite decking is designed for moisture. Water the #1 destroyer of decks.
MoistureShield as a Company
Headquartered and manufacturing in Springdale, Arizona.
- Started in 1988 as Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies. This is a very large element of who they are as a company, to the point of calling themselves not a decking company but a recycler that makes decking from reclaimed material.
- Bought by Oldcastle APG, in 2017.
- 2019 changed their name to the name we recognize, MoistureShield.
Best Qualities of MoistureShield Decking
Midrange for colours options with only 18. All are capped except Vantage, which includes 5 colours that will fade with exposure. Something they are very upfront about.
“With a proven history of 30 years with no structural field failures.”
Tim Ortman, President, Oldcastle APG
3 things of note about MoistureShield.
#1 it is designed for water. MoistureShield has gone beyond a protective cap to minimize water damage. Going all the way to the core. Encapsulating every wood fibre in a way that even if soaked in water, it wouldn’t damage.
“Less than 0.06% swelling”
If you build with MoistureShield, water will never be an issue.
Making MoistureShield an ideal candidate for docks or poolside’s as no amount of water will harm it.
With water comes slipping but not with MoistureShield.
#2 it has incredible traction. Better when dry but still excellent when wet. Competing with PVC decking for traction.
#3 is CoolDeck® Technology. Not universal on all their decking, but select boards are designed to reduce heat by up to 35%. There is much debating about which decking is cooler, but building a south-facing deck without shading is something to consider. Their decking claims to do exactly that.
To learn more, read Review of MoistureShield Decking, click the link.
How Does MoistureShield Compare with Other Composite Decking?
MoistureShield has done an excellent job of focusing on what they want to be known for as decking. Making them very distinct from other composite deck boards.
But that doesn’t mean we can compare. Click the links below to do exactly that, Compare MoistureShield with other popular decking brands.
NewTechWood Composite Decking
NewTechWood as a Company
Started in 2004 byHuidong Meixin Plastic Lumber Products Manufacturing Co. Ltd based in the People’s Republic of China.
In 2010 began developing NewTechWood UltraShield®. Seeking to make an attractive, low fading, scratch-resistant composite decking.
Best Qualities of NewTechWood Decking
- 16 colours
- 360° capping
- High-density polyethylene.
Their Voyager Series has six hollow cylinders through the centre of the board. Making them much lighter than solid or even scalloped decking.
Twin finishing of the 4 sides cap. On one side of the decking, you have an embossed woodgrain finish. On the other side, a brushed finish. Two distinctly different looks from the same board.
Which is very rare with composite decking.
Fiberon Concordia has colour and streaking on the underside, improving the appearance of the bottom of the decking but is not designed to be walked on. NewTechWood goes one step by making finishing the appearance and usability of both sides of their decking.
How Does NewTechWood Compare with Other Composite Decking?
NewTechWood’s design separates it from many other composite deck boards. Most are solid or scalloped. Few have hollow cylinders reducing weight and costs.
To better understand how NewTechWood compares to other composites, a good place to start would be Trex vs NewTechWood. Giving you a better picture of NewTechWood by comparing it to one of the leading composite brands on the market.
As the awkward naming shows, we are dealing with a blended company. Attempting to integrate the two while still emphasizing their own distinctions.
TimberTech (Azek) as a Company
TimberTech was started in 1997 manufacturing composite decking.
“Our brand exists to challenge convention. To rage against mediocrity. We believe “Good Enough” is never enough. We are TimberTech.”
Manufacturing facilities, in Wilmington, OH, and Scranton, PA.
Acquired in 2012 by Azek the third-largest manufacturer of PVC products. With their own line of decking, which they integrated into the TimberTech brand. At the same time, highlighting their PVC decking with the Azek name.
So, like Fiberon, they offer both PVC and true composite decking.
Best Qualities of TimberTech (Azek) Decking
A total of 27 colours, of which 10 are PVC. A mix of solid and scallop profiles and entry-level composite capped only on 3 sides. Their premium boards are still capped on all four sides, including in the groove.
Another great quality of Azek decking, specifically Azek PVC decking, is fire rating. It has a Class A (25) flame spread rating. Not quite as much as Type X drywall used in construction to prevent fire from spreading but really close.
This is particularly helpful when building a deck in a WILDLAND URBAN INTERFACE (W.U.I). Which is essential to prevent a wildfire from engulfing your house.
TimberTech (Azek) has longer warranties than most other brands. TimberTech Pro has a 30 years warranty. Five years longer than most other composite decking brands. Fiberon is the exception.
Beauty is very subjective. But TimberTech (Azek) works very hard to make realistic-looking decking. Imitating wood decking better than most. Not exactly, but impressive in appearance.
Of course, as with most things, their premium collection, like the Vintage Collection, is most impressive. But even the more economical boards, TimberTech Edge includes colour variation and streaking.
Contrasting with Trex’s deep embossing TimberTech does a lot of wire brush finishes. Providing a smoother but not slippery decking with a distinctly different look.
For more about TimberTech read Review of Timbertech Decking, click the link.
How Does TimberTech (Azek) Compare with Other Composite Decking?
With TimberTech’s composite decking, you scroll through this list to see each decking brand comparisons and links to fuller articles.
Azek is their PVC line, which is not as common among composite decking brands. Therefore I have compared it with other PVC brands or lines. Click the links below to see how Azek compares to others.
Azek is often portrayed as the premier PVC decking for its outstanding performance and appearances. But before installing Azek, take a few minutes to compare it with Zuri, it has many features, including appearance to be considered.
Trex Composite Decking
Trex is the Kleenex of composite decking. A brand synonym with composite decking. With people often calling all composite decking Trex. Which is to Trex’s advantage and disadvantage.
Trex as a Company
Headquartered in Winchester, Virginia.
One of the original innovators (1996) of composite decking and for years they dominate the market player.
Today, Fiberon and TimberTech, along with Trex, are the majority of composite decking.
“To enhance the lives of people by engineering what’s next in outdoor living.”
Trex has grown into much more than only a composite decking manufacturer. From railing to pergolas, lights and outdoor games, and many other products to enhance your time in your backyard. They even manufacture deck furniture to go with your low-maintenance deck.
Best Qualities of Trex Decking
Trex sells 20 different deck boards. From their premium Transcend line (8) to their Enhance Basics (3). They have a decking board for every budget. Or almost.
Trex is an affordable budget friendly composite decking.
When comparing apples to apples. Or should I say composite to composite?
Boards equal in performance, durability and warranty Trex will cost you less.
Transcend is their most expensive and highest rated. An extremely durable low-maintenance solid decking. Despite being their premium decking, it is still middle range in cost compared to other brands.
Enhance Basics is the other end for pricing.
“Priced to put pressure on Pressure Treated decking.”
Not the cheapest composite decking out there but very close. It is hard to justify installing wood when comparing cost with Trex Enhance Basic. They are that close. Especially when considering maintenance costs which Trex has virtually none.
Consistent Warranties. 25 years on all their decking.
It does not matter if you are comparing their best or lowest price. They back it all the same. Making comparison much more straightforward than with brands that have multiple tiers of warranties and coverage.
Distinct deep wood embossing. This creates a very identifiable look. Trex’s woodgrains are deeper and more pronounced than most. Giving a very clear look and feel to their decking.
How Does Trex Compare with Other Composite Decking?
This is the one that happens all the time. It doesn’t matter which brand you are holding in your hand. In the back of your mind, you are asking. How does this compare to Trex?
Thanks to Trex being the leader and dominant brand for so many years.
Rather than list all the links and comparisons under here, under Trex. Scroll through all the brands listed here, and you will find their comparison with Trex.
For something different, read a more in-depth look at the Pros and Cons of Trex Decking.
Wolf Composite Decking
Wolf Home Products as a Company
Started in 1843 as a single store selling “dry goods and lumber”. So, they have come a long way to composite decking.
Currently headquartered in New York, Pa.
In 2010 they introduced Wolf-branded products.
Similar to Trex in that Wolf Home Products makes composite and many other outdoor home products like lighting and cabinets for your deck kitchen.
Best Qualities of Wolf Decking
Similar to TimberTech (Azek) and Fiberon making both traditional cap composite and PVC decking. Having 16 colours between the two lines with another 7 in their porch line.
Wolf Serenity (PVC) is the larger of the two with a total of 11 colours.
Cost or the lack of. Is Wolf Serenity strongest point.
PVC decking is a premium product often sold a the premium price. Most PVC decking is $5+ many around $7 a lineal foot. Wolf’s PVC is between $3 and $4 lineal foot. Making it very affordable for PVC decking.
On top of that, it is installed using Camo screws. Again, creating more savings for you. Most composite clips are around $1-2 a square foot for a deck. More if you do 12” on centre which is often recommended for PVC decking.
A small saving but helps to make a premium product even more economical.
Wolf includes COLORWATCH100® to help minimize fading. A critical component if your decking is going to look good in 50 years.
For a more in depth Review of Wolf Serenity PVC decking, click the link.
How Does Wolf Compare with Other Composite Decking?
There are many characteristics to compare, but to get you started, check out Wolf Vs Azek.
Which will give you a better idea of what makes Wolf distinct from other decking. Comparing it to one of the leading PVC decking brands.
UltraDeck Composite Decking
UltraDeck [Midwest Manufacturing®] as a company
Another composite decking manufactured by a larger company. UltraDeck is made by Midwest which was started in 1969. Headquartered in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
They patent UltraDeck Fusion in 2005. Which has expanded to 6 lines of composite decking.
Best Qualities of UltraDeck
Its hard to focus on a particular aspect about UltraDeck with a wide variety of decking profiles including, solid, scalloped and hollow core. And even QuickCap with minimal structural strength but designed to lay over existing decking that needs to be spruced up.
UltraDeck has 15 colours, 17 if you include quick cap which I don’t because it’s an overlay not designed as stand-alone decking.
Similar to NewTechWood Natural is reversible with a woodgrain finish on one side, the other brushed.
Inspired and Fusions are look and perform similarly to other composite decking.
A unique part of UltraDeck is their profiles. The solid and scallop boards have a slightly smaller bottom lip on their groove. Creating a smaller gap from the top of the decking.
Beyond that the biggest advantage of UltraDeck is price.
If you want to learn even more read, A Carpenter’s Review of Ultradeck (Mernards) Composite Decking.
How Does UltraDeck Compare with Other Composite Decking?
If you are contemplating UltraDeck, I am guessing something about it has attracted you to this distinct Mid-West composite decking. But how does it compare to two of the leaders in composite decking? Click the links below to see.
Zuri PVC Decking
Not a composite but I included as an excellent synthetic decking.
Zuri [Royal Building Solutions] as a company
Zuri is not part of stand-alone decking company but part of Royal Building Solutions, which is Westlake. Westlake Company is the second-largest producer of PVC in North America and the third-largest worldwide. Which would make it a tie with Azek. So I am not sure which is larger or if it even matters. The point is Zuri is part of a large company with a great deal of experience with PVC products.
Headquartered in Woodbridge, Ontario.
Royal Building Solutions manufactures many different exterior products, including vinyl siding, shingles and composite stone. With a strong focus on low maintenance, durable PVC products.
Which includes Zuri PVC decking.
Best Qualities of Zuri decking
Limited to 6 colours but with many of the benefits of PVC decking like lower heat build-up.
But this is not what stands out about Zuri.
Zuri is made with a photo-realistic wood image protected with a clear acrylic coating.
Which does two things.
Zuri is the most realistic hardwood-looking decking that I have seen. It stands alone in appearance. If you want the look of hardwood outdoors, Zuri is a must.
On top of that realistic image is acrylic. One of the strongest and most durable finishes on the market. Claiming to be 5X more resistant to wear than composite decking. Making this amazing-looking decking, decking that should be enjoyed. With endless footsteps of people enjoying your outdoor living space.
To learn more read a Review of Zuri PVC Decking, click the link.
How Does Zuri Compare with Other Composite Decking?
Just kidding, as much as Zuri is a class of its own, we can still compare it to other decking.
For example, Azek vs Zuri one of the leading brands of PVC decking.
But as we have said at the beginning, it is good to include both PVC and composite decking when comparing decking brands.
Two much more common composite decking brands are TimberTech and Trex. Which I have compared more extensively. Click the links to see how Zuri stacks up to two of the leading composite decking brands.
There are over 10 major brands composite decking brands to select from. Among them with over 50 collections, with multiply boards within those collections to select from. I bet there are over 200 to select from.
But don’t worry.
Composite Decking Buying Guide to Find the Best Composite Decking
Composite decking is a sensible, durable and popular material for making decks of any size, but what’s the right choice for your backyard? In this buying guide, you’ll learn everything you should know about the cost, features, and various buying considerations to keep in mind when you go shopping.
Cost for composite decking can be listed in two ways: square feet or linear feet. Square feet are always higher because there’s more space per unit. Roughly 2′ of decking for every 1 square foot of deck. I say roughly because, of course, a 5 ½” board times too is not quite a foot. That said, mistaking it for linear feet can give the impression that one option is significantly more expensive compared to others than it really is.
Price of Composite Decking
If we are talking strictly decking, composite decking will cost between $2 to $10 a lineal foot, that’s between $4.34 and $27.70 a square foot.
Now that is a significant range. But I am only getting started.
Decking Fasteners Costs
Hidden fasteners are critical for the best performance and appearance of your deck. But this must be included and will vary. On the lower end is Camo Edge screws, which some brands allow for will cost less than a $1 a square foot.
Trex is probably one of the lower-cost biscuit fasteners approved. Trex and many other companies will cost a little over $1 a square foot.
On the higher end, brands like Conceal Lock or Cortex plugs will add an additional cost of around $1.50 a square foot for your deck.
But don’t think you can just buy anyone you like. Many fasteners are specifically designed to work with the exact groove of the composite decking. But more importantly, warranty. Most composite decking warranties are void if the “correct” fasteners are not used.
Don’t’ be foolish and save a couple hundred bucks on fasteners only to void a warranty worth a few thousand.
Cost of Decking Substructure
The composite decking pricing model also hides another cost: the supporting material under the deck itself. Supports are a meaningful increase in the expense of constructing a deck, but they’re also required components. You can reduce the cost of a deck by building it lower and doing some prep work yourself, but there’s a firm maximum on what you can do here.
Realistically, most people will spend between $40 and $60 per square foot for composite deck, usually somewhere in the middle of this range. This number includes the cost of installation and gives us a good range to estimate composite decking costs.
With the cost of lumber in the last few years, don’t be surprised if it will cost even more.
A typical deck is somewhere around 24′ by 12′ deep. That’s 288 square feet of decking. With the price listed above, a structure on the lowest end will cost $11 520, while a deck on the higher side may be closer to $17 280.
For comparison, pressure-treated wood costs between $15 and $25 per square foot to install, while higher-quality cedar wood is usually $30 or more. Composite is highly competitive with cedar, but pressure-treated wood is more affordable.
Don’t forget to think about the long-term costs when you’re installing a decking. Wooden decks, especially pressure-treated wood, require annual maintenance to remain in top condition. Maintenance can easily exceed several hundred dollars a year, which will increase the cost of wood over composite within just a few years.
Composite decking needs significantly less maintenance than any wood, so it’s usually more affordable long-term despite the higher initial cost.
Appearance (Color, Woodgrains, Variegation)
Composite decking comes in a wide variety of colours, textures and widths, many of which mimic genuine wood. Techniques for making composite decking material have improved over time, so many of them are considerably more realistic than they used to be. Obviously, artificial choices are also available, though these aren’t as popular as wood lookalikes.
For colour, composite decking runs the full spectrum of brown. The palest options include white and beige material, while darker hues mimic cedar, tree barks, and other plant life. Gray and red hues are also popular choices and easy to find from most manufacturers. Anything outside this range, including green decks, may be harder to get.
Woodgrains depend on the manufacturer, but these are commonly added to composite decking as part of the production process to ensure appropriate texture and traction (more on that in a bit).
The most realistic-looking composite boards are also the most expensive. Look at the higher-end boards if you want them to look like a million bucks. Colour, streaking and embossing all cost money. This is where you do get what you pay for.
The appearance of composite decking varies significantly based on the overall quality of the deck. Higher-end options are more wood-like, up to the point of having excellent shading and even individual patterns, with no boards two boards the same look.
In summary, you generally have your choice of colour (in the gray-brown-red range), texture, and variation with composite decking.
Deck Environment (Sun/Moisture)
Your deck’s environment also determines what kind of composite decking makes the most sense for your home. Generally, the more exposure your deck has, the better the materials you should use. The ideal environment is a shady, temperate area with minimal rainfall. Any deviation from this starts putting more stress on the deck, affecting its lifespan.
Moisture doesn’t affect composite decking nearly as much as regular wood, but that’s not to say there are no effects. Smoother composite decking can get slippery and unsafe if it’s too wet, which is part of the reason that textures and patterns are so important. Aside from their aesthetic qualities, they help ensure the deck is safe to walk on in the rain.
Similarly, some people install decks near pools. This has the added threat of exposing the deck to pool chemicals, particularly chlorine. Fortunately, most composite materials are highly resistant to chemical staining and certainly better at this than stone or wood. If the deck is too close to the pool, though, you may want to add an extra plastic barrier.
Sun exposure is a more common threat for people, coming in at several levels. UV exposure is not a significant factor because composite decking is made to resist sunlight and won’t fade as quickly as many other materials.
However, dark composite decking tends to absorb heat and can get uncomfortably hot in the summer months, especially in hotter climates. The same qualities mean the decking can absorb heat better in winter and melt snow off faster, however, so it’s essentially a matter of location.
Some brands like Azek and MoistureShield claim lower temperatures in the sun with specially designed boards and caps. Be a little wary, as most claims don’t significantly hold up in the heat. With an only small difference in the sun. But due consider colour the most significant variable in how hot the board will get in the sun.
Plus, the best test for any deck location is order a sample from a brand you like and leave it out in the sun beside a few other samples. Your hand will tell you pretty quickly which one is cooler.
As a general rule, darker composite decks work best in cooler areas, while lighter decking is a wiser choice for warm areas.
Expansion or contraction from heat should also be considered. Most PVC decking and many composite decking will move a lot from the warm afternoon sun to the cool evening. If you want fancy inlays, mitre cuts in your decking pattern are considered boards with minimal impact from heat. Deckorators (MBC) mineral-based and Fortress Bamboo reinforced composite are two off the top of my head.
Composite decks are often cited as being more slippery than other options, but this isn’t entirely true. Older composite decks tended to be smooth, yes, but modern options are significantly better about this thanks to their built-in patterns.
Composite decks are generally safe to walk on while dry, although anybody who’s mobility-impaired should be cautious just in case. The main issue with traction tends to come when the deck is wet, either from rain or splashing from a nearby pool. Occasionally, sprinklers and other watering systems can make decks wet, too.
Rougher decks tend to have better traction than smooth decks, with more bumps and ridges that allow water to drain away. Many deck boards also have a slight curve to them, encouraging water to run off the sides instead of staying on top of the deck.
High-quality boards tend to provide better traction than lower-quality ones, but this can vary by manufacturer.
Often material-wise PVC based decking have the highest ranking for traction. Not directly related to the PVC because the core in most cases is wrapped with a polymer cap, but the higher price boards include the better-designed caps.
Safety is a paramount concern for most people buying decking, and manufacturers are developing many new safety features to their entire product line to help them stay competitive. Don’t write off a brand because your Dad’s deck is slippery. Check out the latest design for traction.
Composite decking is one of the most durable decking options currently on the market, even in areas with a lot of sun and water exposure. It doesn’t require much maintenance, though an occasional washing will help remove the buildup of mould, algae, and similar threats that could actively harm the enjoyment of your deck.
Insects are rarely a significant threat to composite decking because they don’t care about it. It’s not easy to convert into a home, and it’s not edible, so they mostly don’t bother going onto it at all.
The cheapest composite boards will usually last at least 25 years or more without deterioration of the decking. This includes fading and possible food stains. And of course, structural. They will not break under you.
Higher-quality decking will last 50 years or more with proper care.
For context, most traditional wooden decks only last for 15 years at the most, and that’s with regular cleaning, staining, and treatments to prolong their life. Having essentially half the lifespan of composite decking while costing far more in maintenance is why traditional decks are ultimately more expensive despite their lower initial cost.
Cedar is a little more durable than other types of wood, and it’s such a big part of the market that it deserves a separate mention. Well-cared-for cedar will usually last 15 to 20 years in a deck. Cedar deteriorates much faster if it’s moist or close to the ground, so elevated cedar decks with exposure to sunlight will last the longest.
Plastic (PVC) decking are more durable than composites, usually lasting for 50+ years. Many manufacturers will give 50-year warranties on PVC decking requiring only regular cleaning.
Aluminum and steel decks can last 60 years or more, but steel in particular needs more care on top of being quite expensive, comparatively. And the look of a aluminium decking has a institution look, not quite right for a backyard oasis.
Correctly installed concrete pads and patios can last more than 70 years, but they are prone to cracking if they’re not set just right.
As you can see from these guidelines, composite decking is essentially a middle-of-the-road material in overall durability. However, it’s also the longest-lasting material that’s essentially wood-like and provides the aesthetic appearance most homeowners want. Plastic, metal, and concrete decks all have a very different look and feel, and they’re also quite expensive.
Specific Durability Concerns
Along with Longevity, here are a few more deck-specific items to consider.
These are not for everyone and every deck, but they are more important than others in some cases. Largely focus on the use of your deck, but a few quick examples to getting you thinking if they wil matter for you.
Scratch Resistant, is generally not a common problem, but if you have dogs with claws on your deck, some extra thought should be given to the durability of the decking against scratches. Either decking with a strong cap resistant to be scratched or “self-healing” decking.
Expansion and Contraction, composite and PVC decking moves as it warms and cools. Often simple gapping will accommodate this, but if you have an elaborate decking design board with less expansion and contraction will ensure the mitre cuts, etc., look good the day they are constructed and the seasons that follow.
Contact with Water or Ground, docks and decking that will be installed less than 6″ (150mm) from the ground will need not be damaged by high moisture levels.
Fire Rating, the concern is not grills but WILDLAND URBAN INTERFACE (W.U.I). Decking use it in such an environment needs the correct certification to ensure a wildfire doesn’t burn your house.
Just few extra things to consider when decking durability in specific applications.
Warranties vary by manufacturer, but all quality composite decking will have a minimum of 25 years for residential use. The longer, the better. Not that you are going to use it, but if they guarantee it for longer, it’s less likely to fail sooner.
Commercial use with increased traffic and abuse generally only has a 10-year warranty. Not that it can’t last longer, but they are aware of the increased wear that will happen compared to your backyard.
Terms may also vary, but companies typically provide a limiter warranty ensuring that the deck will be free from material defects in the boards and the workmanship under normal use conditions. Note that everyday use usually requires following whatever maintenance guidelines they provide.
Warranties for composite decks generally cover splitting, rotting, splintering, and structural damage, including any that termites or fungi might cause. Many residential warranties can usually transfer to a new homeowner within a few years of installation, but not past that. A possible selling point if you need to sell your home. Buyers will love the idea of still having a warranty with their new favourite part of their home.
Beyond structural most quality brands will include fading and staining.
Fading of the colour will be less than 5 Delta-E, barely noticeable with the naked eye. Ensuring that the colour you loved in the store will be the colour you enjoy for the life of your deck.
Staining is limited to most food spills on your deck. The usual suspects mustard, barbeque sauce and red wine. The one exception is suntan lotion. Almost every warranty will exclude damage from suntan lotion. So enjoy the sun on your deck but apply the lotion somewhere else. Also, food spills will need to be cleaned up within 48 hours or 1 week, depending on the brand.
Exclusions to warranties for composite decking are largely standard and mostly what you’d expect for products like this. Manufacturers won’t cover improper installation, any activities beyond normal use, changes in the terrain, improper handling, or complaints about slight colour variations.
Warranties for composite decks don’t cover Acts of God, either. Despite the religious connotations of the term, Acts of God generally refer to any natural event without human intervention, especially those people could not reasonably foresee or prepare for. Natural disasters like sudden floods and storms fall into this category.
In short, warranties for composite decks cover normal use in typical situations, but they don’t cover abnormal situations.
Workability refers to how easy it is to cut, shape, and generally manipulate decking material. Composites are quite workable, being roughly similar to wood in how easy it is to shape and cut them for the exact design you want. Often installation will require no special tools beside standard woodworking tools.
Composite materials have one distinct advantage over wood when it comes to their workability, however. Heating the boards makes it easier to bend and reshape them without the risk of splintering the wood or weakening it. At least, this is the case if you don’t push the material too far.
The practical benefit here is that you can create curved deck sections with composite materials. Curved sections can be flat and bend around corners, but you can also make bridges and arches with them for people to walk on.
Check out Dr.Decks on YouTube to see the potential for board bending and curving. You will never be satisfied with a rectangle again.
Composite does have one notable disadvantage, though. Most boards aren’t structurally sound enough to be load-bearing, which means you can’t make the frames or understructure out of the same material. Most people end up using wood for these areas, although buyers may occasionally get metal for Longevity.
Choosing the right material for structural support is important for making a deck. All materials supporting the deck are moderately protected from the elements, but they’ll still have some exposure to moisture and, in many cases, a little bit of sun. If the supports wear out, you’ll have to start replacing things even if the rest of the deck is good.
Installers can tell you which support materials make the most sense for your environment. Wood is usually good enough, so don’t be surprised if they recommend that. However, make sure to tell them how you plan to use the deck.
If you plan to have several heavy appliances like hot tub on your deck long-term, for example, you may want a denser and more rigid structure beneath it. It’s always safer to overbuild a structure and have a generous margin of error. You can even use this to justify a higher sale price for the property if you end up needing to move out, so it’s possible to recoup the expense.
Meeting Code (CCMC or CCRR)
Finally, there’s one more consideration to remember when you’re buying composite decking, and that’s whether the material you choose meets local codes. This isn’t as hard as you might think because local retailers should know the codes and only stock options that meet them. It’s important to verify and be sure, though.
Meeting code usually includes demonstrating to an official that your proposed deck meets all relevant codes and standards. Options like Interket’s Code Compliance Research Reports can help ease this process, especially when you need to demonstrate a deck plan’s appropriateness to multiple agencies. Most agencies accept CCRR at face value.
In Canada we have Canadian Construction Material Centre (CCMC). One thing I love about CCMC over CCRR is the readily available decking performance ratings, like traction. Which you can compare decking traction from lab test results. Now that’s helpful. This is just one of many ways that you can compare decking using CCMC Reports.
Super important, but even more critical is permitting. Many jurisdictions will require decking that complies with the national building code. It makes sense. You want decking that is safe to use. But the way they verify it is if the decking was tested by CCMC or CCRC.
In Calgary, where I build decks, all permits applications, including composite decking, must include a CCMC report for the brand of decking. Making everything else irrelevant without it.
Off course, there is many other code requirements for decks like railing, stairs, joists, and footings, but here we are talking decking. Which also must comply with code to be of any value.
Final Advice of Buying Composite Decking
First, Congratulation, you have started this process on the right path. Research is so valuable in buying the right decking, and you are doing that. You are already miles ahead in selecting the right decking.
Decking like everything else in our lives will start with appearance. The colours and texture will catch our eye and ultimately decide which decking we install. If you don’t love how your decking looks, it’s hard to love your deck.
But just like how our future spouse caught our eye across the room, it’s the other things that make our marriage enjoyable. The same with decking, performance (the decking not your spouse) must be evaluated to ensure your buy decking that will make your deck the favourite part of your home. Traction, Durability and Workability are some of key performance metrics that should not be overlooked. There are many important elements about decking, but these are key.
The warranty will help to set your expectation. For you will know how long decking to last and what to wear to expect. Will it fade, stain? What can you expect in the next 20, 30, 40 years. Composite decking is expensive but knowing that it will last a lifetime makes it worth it. But if it won’t, if the warranty is short maybe cheaper is not saving you money if you will have to replace it again, and again.
Speaking of money, yes, you need a budget before shopping for decking. This will guide you in which boards you look at, saving you time and preventing letdowns. Plus make you feel better spending thousands on a deck you will love with the peace of mind that you can afford it.
You can revisit your budget if you need to, but don’t just walk up to the counter and say,
“I want your best composite decking.”
The best may not be the best for you. If you cannot afford it, it is better to compare the decking that fits within your budget. It is even possible that you will be surprised what is available in your price range. The price of composite decking has made huge strides in affordability the last few years.
But make sure that when you are shopping for composite or trying to find something within your budget, you check if the boards are code compliant. No decking is worth its price if it is unsafe to use.
Wow! That final piece of advice was an article in itself, but it’s all of value.
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